GAMBIA DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS (GDC) RECOGNIZES AND ADDRESSES A VISIBLE STAND-BY ELECTORAL FRAUD MACHINERY AHEAD OF THE 2023 GAMBIAN LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS
A Matter of Grave Concern for All Gambians, Both At Home and in The Diaspora
Is the Gambian government’s party complicit or guilty in the alleged Senegalese criminal interference in Gambian elections? As we approach the 2023 Local government elections, the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) views with utter disgust and suspicion, the lackadaisical manner in which our government is handling the serious allegation levelled by a Senegalese Member of Parliament (MP) regarding the use of Gambian ID and voters’ cards by Senegalese nationals living in the Casamance region during our elections. Since the revelation was made, we of the GDC have watched with extreme patience in waiting for an official statement and call for a participatory investigation into the issue; involving representatives of all political parties and the government. Rather, till date, what we witness is an attitude of passivity and mute indifference over the matter by the government of this country, despite the threat it poses to our national security and the credibility of our elections, especially, as we approach the 2023 local government elections. One is therefore constrained to believe that the government’s attitude tantamount to a complicity in the midst of the prevalence of this manner of a bizarre national embarrassment. So, what does this portend? One is forced to believe that, there is a hanging need to use this Senegalese’ voters cards during the forthcoming Local Government election by a particular political party to ensure its victory in the forthcoming local government elections.
It is thus out-rightly absurd, useless and extremely oxymoronic for the opposition political parties to think of participating in an election which one of the competing parties has already won through the instrument of a standing electoral malpractice machinery. One can thus rightly say that, the forthcoming local government elections is devoid of a level-playing field, and in fact, a particular political party in this country has already mischievously swept the polls even before the said Local government election is held!
So far, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of The Gambia has announced the dates for the 2023 Local Government elections that will witness the election of Ward Councilors, Chairman of Area Councils, and Mayors across the country. According to the Commission, the elections will be held as viz: April 15th, 2023, will be the election of ward councilors, while 20th May 2023, will host the election of Mayors and Chairman of the Area Council.
In line with the Gambian electoral Act, election for Councilors will be for the 120 wards and that of Chairpersons/Mayors will be in the eight (8) Local Government Areas.
As noted by the IEC Chairman, “The Commission would like to re-assure the electorates and all its stakeholders of its continued commitment and resolve to deliver free, fair, and credible elections to the Gambians at all times’’.
It is noteworthy that, this very assurance by the IEC Chairman can be deemed as fraudulent and misleading, as it stands untrue and lacks practical merit, because there are allegations of heinous interference by foreigners carrying Gambian voters’ card in our elections which the IEC is aware of, and has maintained a blind eye over it.
It is a well-known fact, that, the Standard Newspaper publications of November 29, 2022, published an article titled: ‘Most Casamance indigens hold Gambian ID Cards: Senegalese MP claims Gambian ID easy during election time’. In the publication, and as observed by the Standard Newspaper, a Senegalese parliamentarian, Oumar Cissé Souvané, alleged that majority of people in his community in the Casamance region of Senegal have Gambian identity cards because it is very easy to get. In addressing the Senegalese Assembly in this regard, the MP, Oumar Cissé Souvané, stated: “I am from Casamance, we are at the Gambian border. Our entire community have the Gambian identity card. The Gambian ID Card is very easy to get during their electoral process. You just bring two witnesses and if they know them, they prepare an ID card for you. We should have special ID Cards for our citizens living along the border, if not all of us will be Gambians. I will list some of our communities that have majority Gambian ID Cards. Kanjalon, Kanjon Mangana, Gonani, Njamalachel, Njamakuta, Bona, Jaakunda etc,” MP Oumar Cissé said’’.
Also, according to the Standard Newspaper report, ‘’Two years ago, the Minister of Health Ahmadou Samateh said most of the Government imported medicines at public hospitals go to people living across the border who report to facilities with Gambian ID Cards’’. This is another case of foreigners causing socio-economic leakages and hardship that threaten our national security, and multiplying the strain on our meagre resources, as well as a backing evidence to the assertions of the Senegalese MP.
This allegation cannot therefore be untrue as both the Minister of Health, Dr. Samateh, as observed in the Standard Newspaper publication, and a Senegalese MP have attested to its veracity. Worse still, till date, the government has not made known to the Gambian public any result of an investigation into the allegations of the Senegalese MP regarding how many of these alien voters voted in the last Presidential elections, and how many of them will vote in the forthcoming Local Government elections, and who are benefitting from their votes among the Gambian political parties?
One may be compelled to believe that, the government is a beneficiary of this tragic issue of crime and electoral fraud. This is because, if the government is not a beneficiary of the possession of Gambian ID and voters’ cards by foreigners living in the nooks and crannies of the Casamance region of Senegal, one would expect them to act swiftly to investigate the allegations, as it is an issue of very grave national concern, that carries severe consequence on our national security as well as on the credibility of our elections.
This central allegation from both the Senegalese MP and Dr. Samateh tend to solve the puzzle of foreign interference in our last presidential elections which has been described by so many Gambians as being flawed with heinous electoral fraud, allied electoral malpractices and irregularities, as evident in the rampant cases of imbalance between the number of registered voters and total number of votes cast observed during the last Presidential elections. Sometimes, the votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters, and vice versa. Till today, some of the opposition party members have refused to accept the results of the elections, and one can rightly say that they are justified in their actions, because, going by the revelations of the Senegalese MP, among others, the Presidential of elections could not have been free and fair, as it vividly carries an alleged ‘dark hand’ working behind the scene.
Now, with this allegation unresolved on the heels of the forthcoming Local Government Elections slated for 15th April, 2023 and 20th May, 2023, most Gambian citizens are worried over the credibility of the forthcoming local government elections with hundreds of thousands of Gambian voters’ cards and ID cards in the hands of foreigners who also have easy access to The Gambia. What has the government of the Gambia done to investigate cum checkmate this ugly scenario? Or, is the government of The Gambia allowing it to lie low because, the criminal-natured development is in their favor?
Also, what is the role of the IEC in the design, formulation and implementation of this electoral fraud cum crime? Why is the IEC not concerned with the proliferation of Gambian voters’ cards in a neighboring country? Why are we in this state of national mess? Why is the IEC sounding deaf over the issue? Why is the government treating such a serious issue that affects our national security and credibility of our elections with a clear manner of passivity and docility? Does this not imply, taking Gambians for granted?
The government should clearly carry out a joint investigation comprising members of the opposition political parties and representatives of the government to establish the veracity of the serious allegation, and if proven as true, find ways of remediating the issue. As at now, we all are forced to believe that, the allegations is true – that hundreds of thousands of Gambian voters’ cards and ID cards are in the hands of foreigners surrounding us, and are standing in-waiting, in preparedness to vote in the forthcoming Local Government elections.
With this sad scenario in operation and as a sequel, our national sovereignty, security and credibility of our elections being under torments and grave abuse, we, of the GDC, are therefore demanding that, the government should engage representatives from all the political parties and its own representatives to investigate this serious allegation, which carries a huge capacity of thwarting and ruining our hard-earned democracy; if the government is really sincere and guiltless in this trending demeaning saga. If this is not put in place, it will boil down to the fact that, the government and its political party are taking Gambians for a ride, and as well, disposed towards destroying the credibility of the Gambian electoral process, and the members of the opposition parties will resist this with all their strength and might.
It is dangerous for foreigners to interfere in our electoral process, especially at the criminal level of illegal voting. Also, I am sure that the government of The Gambia understands the fact that, it is criminal for any citizen of this nation to aid and abate foreign intervention or interference in our electoral process. It is also vital for the government of The Gambia to understand that, interference by foreign entities in other nations’ domestic elections have shaken and in fact wrecked many democracies around the world. Following its outrageous effects, nations that have struggled with similar questions of foreigners’ interference in their elections have always worked their way toward a common set of solutions, such as: investigating the root sources of the interference, better educating citizens about the perils of foreign interference, increasing transparency about who is voting in national elections, and building better barriers to exclude foreign electoral influence. Has the government of The Gambia done any of these, since the onset of the Senegalese MP’s horrifying and terrifying allegations? The government of The Gambia ought to know that, a stich in time saves nine! Thus, all Gambians should wake up to the realities of this trending allegation on ground, that, hundreds of thousands of foreigners from a country that surrounds us, are carrying Gambian voters’ cards. This is a dangerous sign!
Hon. Abdoulie Jallow