Gambians Puts IEC Under Microscope!
As They Are Calling for the IEC to Secure the Gambia’s Election Integrity and Securing the Gambia’s Democracy.
Alagi Yorro Jallow.
Fatoumatta: I am shocked and appalled at the very grave allegations and successive revelations of incompetence and a series of a scandalous fiasco, especially in a ludicrous or shameful episode against the impartiality and independence of the Independent Electoral Commission by a cross-section of Gambians on social media. The most prominent and outspoken critic against the electoral Commission’s lack of independence, impartiality, and neutrality in conducting elections came in the wake of a legal tussle between the leader of the Citizen Alliance party Dr.Ismaila Ceesay and the IEC before the High Court in Banjul and won his lawsuit after his presidential nomination was unlawfully rejected to contest the presidential elections.
Fatoumatta: In this dire situation, government and governance must be reinvented, and the Gambia must be reconfigured. The Gambia’s independent institutions, security, law enforcement, and criminal justice administration must be reworked. However, more importantly, the socio-economic and political system of the Gambia must be rearranged. Equity, justice, and fairness must be made to reign. Equal opportunities must be guaranteed to all. The business of politics must be taken seriously while the politics as business mindset must be jettisoned. Want, poverty, misery, diseases, and illiteracy must be tackled.
Furthermore, corrupt practices must be genuinely fought, while those engaged in corrupt practices must be brought to justice. Other lessons include how to organize a protest that will not be hijacked by “hoodlums “whose nefarious activities taint the protest culture and cause. However, those lessons are to be taken together with my “fellow revolutionaries “in the closet. A better Gambia is possible in our lifetime.
Fatoumatta: As a result, the current Independent National Electoral Commission (IEC) is under attack by people of all walks of life, including prominent party leaders, commentators, and some Gambian voters online and offline, barely two weeks before the presidential election. People are questioning the level of independence and impartiality of the Chairman and some members of the commissioners at the IEC. Perhaps the greatest threat to the growth, flowering, and faith in Gambia’s electoral process. This is not flippant hyperbole. So the IEC is out and away from the most incompetent and most compromised electoral management commission the Gambia has had since the rebirth of democracy.
Fatoumatta: Given the well-known, inherent weakness of institutions in the Gambia, particularly government agencies, habitually assume the character and temperaments of their heads. For example, the Independent Electoral Commission has been vibrant, visible, and virile because of the vivaciousness and vitality of predecessor Chairpersons. Now, ordinary Gambians and politicians started to cast doubt and lack public confidence in the IEC’s honesty, questioning the Commission’s independence, impartiality paradox, integrity, and political neutrality, especially perceptions of stakeholders regarding wilderness and dishonesty from stakeholders belief fraud in the wake of presidential nominations. Those who trusted the Independence Electoral Commission I(EC) no longer have any faith in what it does. There are concerns, worries, and examples of a legion, but the critical point is that in the absence of enduring self-sustaining structures to nurture institutions in the Gambia, the personal attributes of heads of agencies have come to define the character and performance of institutions. Weak and compromised people reflect— or, more correctly, infect—their moral failings on the institutions they lead. Most importantly, though, the leader’s moral deficiencies, absolute lack of principles, and right-down incompetence have come to define the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). As a result, the once relatively transparent and effective IEC has now assumed its Chairman and commissioner’s morally questionable personality makeup.
However, the Chairman of the IEC, Alieu Momar Njie, had a chance to write his name in gold to redeem himself by doing the right thing. However, he blew it following allegations of incompetence from his staff. The judgment of history, which he studied and taught, will be harsh on him. In spite of the colossal resources at his disposal and the technology he purported to deploy during elections, the conduct of the IEC election management under his tenure is the most dismal we have ever had. As a result, no one, except minions, believes elections mean anything in the Gambia again. That is a tremendous disservice to democracy.
Fatoumatta: It will be suicidal not to address wild allegations and rumors against the electoral body, which deserve merit of response from the IEC since an election with profound incredibility, exclusivity, and integrity deficit. It will be tragically reckless for the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to hold an election in a highly polarized toxic environment both ethnically and politically. It can only conduct an election in such an environment if its objective is to plunge the country into civil war. Serious integrity concerns have been raised against the IEC and its personnel and some commissioners, staff of the Independent Electoral Commission( IEC) being accused of being compromised and partisan with widespread systemic fraud or irregularities in rules governing voting ad tabulations. An actual commission will take a couple of years to address these allegations fully. It will not be significant if it is stacked by the exact, reliable political cutouts used historically in election commissions. It should be formed on a commitment of absolute transparency with public hearings and public archiving of underlying material before elections. Like any other citizen of this country, the Chairman and Commissioners of the IEC are entitled to the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the Constitution until proved otherwise. They should be accorded the opportunity to face any accusers and defend themselves in accordance with the laws of the Gambia. Just because they hold the position of Chairman and commissioners does not mean they are not entitled to fair and accurate comments. It has even been suggested that they have been guilty. No law works on such cut-and-paste presumptions.
Fatoumatta: Democracy being the essential feature of the Gambia’s constitutional setup, there can be no two opinions that free, credible, and fair election alone would guarantee the growth of a healthy democracy, stability, and human security in the country. It is fundamental to note that when elections are credible, accessible, and fair, they promote democracy, human rights, and security. However, when elections are fraudulent, they trigger political instability. Thus, for democracy to fulfill its potential to resolve social and political conflict peacefully, the integrity of elections is cardinal. Election with integrity produces a government with a legitimate authority to govern. Therefore, the electoral process leading to the election day must enjoy the highest degree of confidence among all Kenyans. Moreover, it currently enjoys a minor level of public confidence, legitimacy, and trust.
It is remembered that the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Alhagie Alieu Momar Njie announced two final vote counts in the highly contested 2016 presidential election. Still, he failed to listen with serious consequences. It will be an unforgivable mistake to repeat a similar fate. Therefore, the IEC must seek a structured dialogue consensus that leads to holding fair, free, independent, and impartial elections inconsistent with the Constitution and laws governing the conduct of the election.
Fatoumatta: It has emerged that IEC has messed up the entire process of holding a fresh, credible election by sidestepping crucial legal requirements and procedures. There is an unlawful objection and rejection of presidential candidates from the election because IEC has wholly failed to respect and hold nominations in accordance with the direction of the electoral act and the Constitution. It is foolhardy to go on with an election where specific presidential candidates are excluded barely two weeks to the polls. The Independent Electoral Commission ( IEC) currently faces a battle of survival and continuity as an indissoluble entity. This is a fact. In these circumstances, many may simplistically conclude that the electoral management body should and must be resorted to conducting fair and free elections intact. However, the fact that IEC, which ordinarily ought to be preoccupied with the task of securing election integrity from political threats, attacks, or sustained criticism, been enmeshed, not only in seemingly intractable internal operations but also in grueling blame, without recording any swift competence, must tell us all, leaders and the followers in the Gambia are facing an existential crisis.
The IEC cannot realistically be the force that will forever keep the Gambia from breaking down and falling apart. However, the collective will and desire of our peoples-across their ethnic and nationality divide, socio-economic interests, class divisions, religious groupings, and political pursuits- are the force that can keep us in peace, harmony, and development.
Fatoumatta: Finally, the rule of law and human rights must be respected in this pre-electoral period. Accordingly, the State respects Constitutional provisions to build genuinely inclusive and resilient constitutional democracy, the foundation for durable economic and social development.