By D. A. Jawo: Draft Constitution 2020 Debate Still Rages On

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The debate about the Draft Constitution Bill 2020, which failed at the second reading in the National Assembly about two weeks ago, is still raging on, with the supporters of the Bill and its opponents throwing aspersions and blame at each other. However, the outgoing Chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow has urged supporters of the draft not to despair saying that “the Draft Constitution that Gambians worked so hard on, expending invaluable time, energy and resources, is not dead; it has merely hit a snag and is placed in cold storage.” He seems to have the confidence that someone would one day revive the Bill and get it passed into law.
While everyone seems to have had their own interpretation as to why the Draft failed to get through, despite all the resources and efforts put into the process, but it is quite obvious to any genuine analyst that it tantamount to a serious policy failure by the government, and in any democracy, such policy failure should have attracted some consequences.
However, considering the obvious fact that President Adama Barrow and his administration were not quite enthusiastic about the passage of the Bill, one would be excused for assuming that the scheme to kill the Bill was hatched at State House, with the full connivance of some members of the executive. There is a general consensus that apart from the members of the APRC, whose sole objective was to protect the legacy of their Supreme Leader, the other members who voted against the Bill had their own vested political interest in doing so. Why would only those who have expressed their full support for President Barrow’s agenda vote against the Bill as if they were cleverer than the rest of the National Assembly members in seeing the negative clauses of the Draft?
As regards the role of the Attorney General, who had been accused by some people of putting up a lackluster defense of the Bill during his intervention after the debate, it would not be quite fair to accuse him of connivance in the scheme to kill it. Apart from him being a brand new player in the process, he may have also lacked the experience and institutional memory to do more than he did. There is no doubt that his predecessor, Baa Tambadou, the initiator of the process, would have done a much better job in defending it.
However, from the debate, one could clearly discern that President Barrow’s supporters had already made up their minds to kill the Bill and no matter what anyone said, they were not likely to change their minds. It was quite obvious from the shallowness of their arguments that a majority of them either did not care to read the Bill and the accompanying justification submitted by the CRC or they did not have the capacity to understand what was in it.
In his intervention however, while the Attorney General tried to be as objective and fair as possible, but in an apparent reaction to the attempt by some Western diplomats to influence the vote in the National Assembly, he told the members that apart from two vehicles donated to the CRC by UNDP, the government financed the whole process. He was apparently indirectly telling them not to allow themselves to be swayed by the Western diplomats, as they did not have much stake in the process.
However, during the CRC’s last press conference on 1st October, the Chairman, Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow seems to have contradicted the Attorney General’s position that apart from the two vehicles from the UNDP, the whole process was funded by the government. “In July 2018, through the benevolence of the UNDP in partnership with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), the Commissioners and the Secretary were invited to a one week orientation programme at The Hague at no cost to the Gambia government.” He also went on to say that the UNDP later again provided the CRC the necessary furniture, including “desks, chairs and a conference table- desktop computers, printers (including two heavy duty printers), stationary and filing cabinets.” He added, “I thank our external partners: the UNDP who, apart from the assistance I mentioned earlier, also provided funding in excess of D10 million dalasis to undertake our internal public consultations, US$40,000 to our external consultants and D3.8 million to support our technical committees; they also provided us with one vehicle (a Toyota Prado) and paid the first year’s rent of the CRC’s premises. Their assistance has been invaluable to our work.
“We also thank the European Union for their support and outreach to the CRC and for placing The Gambia’s transitional justice in relation to constitutional review high on their agenda. I thank the Government of Qatar for the financial support they gave to the Government, of which the CRC became a beneficiary. I thank ECOWAS for the financial support they provided which enabled us to launch and continue with our periodic CRC Newsletter,” he said.
Therefore, from the above quotations, it is quite clear that the UNDP, in particular contributed much more than two vehicles and several other donors also contributed to the process. There is however a possibility that as a new comer, the Attorney General was not given the correct picture, probably by people who had some vested interests in seeing the Bill defeated.
Among the areas contested by opponents of the Bill were its alleged retroactive nature, which they said denied President Barrow the opportunity to go for a third term if he wins the 2021 elections. However, there is another area that no one seems to talk about but which could have been an important factor in President Barrow wanting to stay with the 1997 Constitution. That is the power of the President to nominate five members of the National Assembly. We can recall the humiliation that he suffered in the courts when he attempted to remove Ya Kumba Jaiteh as a nominated member and replaced her with one of his supporters. It is therefore possible that he would like to once again get the opportunity to remove Ya Kumba at the end of her term and deny her the opportunity to get back to the National Assembly in that capacity, and with the 1997 Constitution, he is assured of such a power. Of course, if the Draft Constitution had passed, it would have done away with nominated members, but it is possible that President Barrow would get more satisfaction in replacing Ya Kumba with a person of his choice.
Elections Bill 2020 Puts IEC On The Spotlight
By D. A. Jawo
Barely two days after the acrimonious debate in the National Assembly that led to the rejection of the 2020 Draft Constitution by supporters of President Adama Barrow, no doubt in cahoots with members of the APRC of former President Yahya Jammeh, stakeholders were summoned to a validation workshop for a draft Elections Bill, 2020. While there may not be direct connection between the two events, but obviously, the outcome of the former has some bearing on how most people view the latter.
It is therefore not surprising that conspiracy theorists have begun to accuse the government of trying to manipulate the law in order to further perpetuate themselves in power. As they say in Wollof, “if a ndobin (black bird) kills your grandma, you would be scared of anything black.” It seems people are now quite wary of the Barrow administration’s constant scheming of self-perpetuation and they tend to be suspicious of anything initiated by the regime. It is therefore not surprising to see some aspects of the Bill being vilified on social media, with some people accusing the government of attempting to do away with on-the-spot counting of votes, which was one of the things credited for the defeat of former President Jammeh in 2016.
While it may not be quite true that the Elections Bill, 2020 has proposed discarding of the on-the-spot counting, but it is certain that the confusion may have been caused by sub-sections (1) and (2) of Clause 74 of the Bill which read; (1) When the Presiding Officer completes the requirements of section 72, he or she shall make adequate arrangements for the security and transportation of the ballot boxes to the counting centres designated by the Commission.
(2) The Presiding Officer and polling agents shall accompany the vehicle transporting the ballot boxes in accordance with such arrangements as the Presiding Officer may determine, but such that the vehicle transporting the ballot boxes shall be within the view of the polling agents.
It however went on to indicate in sub-section (1) of Clause 75 that; “(1) The counting of votes shall take place at polling stations under the direction of the Presiding officer in accordance with the provisions of this Act.”
May be, if they had not already done so, the drafters of the Bill should try to harmonise the apparent contradictions of those two clauses in order to re-assure members of the public that there is no intention to prevent on-the-spot counting.
Another area of the Bill that is not quite clear is the decision to reduce the number of constituencies from 53 to 52 by amalgamating certain constituencies, mainly up-country. While the amalgamation of certain constituencies is quite good, considering the disparity in size of the various constituencies, but in view of the likely fact that the Gambia’s electoral roll is likely to surpass one million voters after the next general registration, one would have expected that the number of constituencies would increase rather than decrease. The proposal to re-demarcate certain constituencies as contained in the First Schedule of the proposed Elections Bill 2020 is quite confusing to the layperson, at least. For example, prior to its division into three constituencies (Sanementereng, Busumbala and Old Yundum), Kombo North Constituency was the biggest with over 120, 000 registered voters (2016 roll). However, in the new proposals in the First Schedule of the Bill, it is back as a single constituency comprising the District of Kombo North.
This situation certainly looks like a big retrogression because we did not expect the number of registered voters to decrease, but instead, we expect them to increase drastically. Where then is the equity in representation, which should be the hallmark of democracy? In such a situation, we will then get a scenario where a constituency like Kombo North with likely more than 100, 000 registered voters being more than 50 times bigger than Janjanbureh with less than 2000 registered voters. That certainly does not make any sense to expect the representatives of those two constituencies to get the same salary and treatment in the National Assembly or even in the eyes of the general public when there is such population disparity of their constituencies. Obviously, such a system is not compatible with the most basic tenets of democracy as the votes of the people of Janjanbureh seem to have 50 times more value and weight than those of the people of Kombo North, and yet the two representatives are expected to have the same voice in the National Assembly, which certainly does not make any political sense. Even in the most primitive societies, such a situation is quite inimical to equal representation and therefore it is unacceptable in a country like the Gambia that claims to be a budding democracy.
We can recall that prior to the 2002 National Assembly elections, the then Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Bishop Solomon Tilewa Johnson, initiated a constituency demarcation exercise, which was done in such a way that all the constituencies would have contained nearly as equal populations as practically possible. However, before it received the backing of the National Assembly, he was removed from office. The government did not stop there but went on to amend Section 50 of the 1997 Constitution, which had empowered the IEC to demarcate constituencies and instead transferred that power to the National Assembly. That amendment stated that; “An Act of the National Assembly shall establish a Boundaries Commission which shall be responsible for demarcating constituency boundaries for the purpose of elections to the National Assembly”.
Since then however, no such bill had been brought before the National Assembly to establish the Constituency Boundaries Commission. What we saw instead was the transformation of the chieftaincy districts into Constituencies. This created an absurd form of Constituency demarcation which enabled the Janjanbureh Chieftaincy district, for instance, with slightly over 1,500 registered voters then to have the equal right to elect one member of the National Assembly as Kombo North which then had about 60, 000 registered voters, or Serekunda Central and Serekunda East, both of which then had over 30, 000 registered voters each.
It is unfortunate however that despite the IEC having all the time in the world to rectify that anomaly, they still did virtually nothing about it. Here we are in 2020, almost a year to the next Presidential elections, still stuck with that inequitable electoral system, with the biggest population disparity of electoral constituencies found anywhere else in the world.
We can also recall that it was one of the areas in our electoral system that the Commonwealth Observer Group, led by former Nigerian leader Abdusalami Abubakar during the presidential elections in 2006, criticized and recommended its correction before the 2012 National Assembly elections.
In its report, the Commonwealth said; “The Group noted a significant disparity amongst the 48 constituencies in terms of their population composition. The number of voters registered for each constituency ranged from 1,651 registered for the Janjanbureh constituency through to 57,960 registered for the Kombo North constituency.”
It further went on to say; “Following the 1996 Presidential and National Assembly Elections the then Chairperson of the IEC (Bishop Solomon Tilewa Johnson) had commissioned a report to revise the constituency boundaries so as to better reflect demographic changes and population movements that had occurred since the boundaries were last set. The recommended changes were not implemented after the Chairperson was removed from office.
“However, the Group sees a clear need for the constituency boundaries to be reviewed in order to better align the numbers of voters in each constituency, and hence to bring them more into line with the ‘one vote, one value’ principle that is fundamental to a modern democratic structure. Whilst it is probably too late to do this in time for the 2007 National Assembly elections, the boundaries should be reviewed as soon as possible thereafter.”
It appears however that the IEC never had the courage to do anything about it, knowing how passionate President Jammeh and his APRC administration were in maintaining such a system to their advantage. And of course, taking a cue from what happened to Bishop Johnson when he made such a bold attempt to correct the anomaly, his successors thought it wise not to do anything that would provoke President Jammeh.
However, with the new dispensation, everyone expected that correcting such an anomaly would have been the IEC’s very first priorities, but that was not to be. Instead, hardly anyone had seen what the Commission had been doing since December 2016. Now, with the connivance of the Attorney General’s Chambers, they are giving us a half-baked solution in the proposed Elections Bill, with the unacceptable population disparity between the constituencies as big as they had ever been. Instead of moving forward to an equitable electoral system, we seem to be still groping in the dark tunnel of poor judgement and indecision.
September 23. at 2:04 AM

Battle Lines Drawn After National Assembly Debate

By D. A. Jawo
The battle lines have now been clearly drawn between supporters of President Adama Barrow and the rest of the members of the National Assembly, and indeed the whole country, after the Draft 2020 Constitution Bill was defeated on Tuesday by 31 members in favour, with 23 against, with the ‘Yes’ camp failing to meet the required threshold of 42 votes to move it to the next stage.
After quite an acrimonious debate, which clearly showed from the very beginning that supporters of President Barrow had adopted quite an uncompromising stance with regards to the Bill, but it was hard to imagine that anyone of them would stoop this low just for their own personal aggrandizement. There were however clear indications from the word go that regardless of what anyone said during the debate, the Barrow supporters were bent on killing the Bill, using all types of trivial excuses to vote against it, such as the retroactive nature of the draft that they said would deny President Barrow the right to vie for a third term if he wins the next presidential elections.
While there were no doubt certain clauses of the Draft that genuinely attracted criticism, but that was certainly not enough reason to vote against it and in the process, not only throw away the more than 100 million Dalasis of public money spent on providing the Draft, but also denying Gambians the opportunity to determine whether or not they wanted it promulgated.
An analysis of the vote shows quite clearly that a majority of those who voted against the Bill were the estranged members of the United Democratic Party (UDP) who were expelled by the party for shifting their allegiance to President Barrow after his split with the UDP. While it may not be quite obvious as to why they chose to vote against the Draft against the wishes of many Gambians, but it appears that apart from their unflinching support for President Barrow, their main motivation for voting against the Bill could have been the pleasure of humiliating the UDP regardless of the negative consequences of their actions. It appears that their only satisfaction was to make sure that the Bill, which was mainly supported by members of the UDP, failed. They did not seem to care what consequences it meant for this country.
Another revelation of the vote was the fact that some of the political parties represented in the National Assembly are not as united as they had been projecting to the public. For instance, we have seen that the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) members were split in half, with two voting for and two voting against. Also, one of the two members of the PPP voted against the Bill while his colleague, who was said to have travelled abroad, indicated in her Facebook postings that she supported the Bill, an indication that the PPP was also split.
Due to the failure of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to hold the long over-due by-election for Niamina West, more than eight months after the death of their National Assembly member, the Constituency was among three who were absent during the vote. The other two were the Member for Banjul South, Touma Njie, who was said to have been out of the country, and the member for Wuli West, Sidia Jatta, who was surprising absent from the chamber during the vote.
Now that the National Assembly has thrown out the Draft 2020 Constitution Bill, after the huge amount of money and all the hard work that had gone into providing what most Gambians have said was a good document, everyone is watching what the Chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow and his team would do. It would certainly not be surprising if they decide to tender their immediate resignation because it is hard to see how they would continue to serve in their positions after such humiliation by the National Assembly, with the apparent connivance of President Barrow and the executive.
Many people are wondering why it is only those who have manifested their support to President Barrow that have voted against the Draft Constitution. Was it by coincidence or by design, some people tend to ask. There are however others who are convinced that not only was President Barrow aware of the scheme to throw out the Draft, but that the whole thing was orchestrated from State House. We can all recall how the members of the cabinet were said to have expressed opposition to some aspects of the Draft when it was submitted to the President. Among their objections was the clause that denied President Barrow the opportunity to go for a third term as well as requiring the National Assembly to confirm the President’s appointments for cabinet and other senior positions, all of which were also among the reasons given by the opponents of the Draft Constitution. Even the very fact that President Barrow had conspicuously avoided talking about the Draft Constitution tends to give credence to allegations that he never wanted it to succeed.
With the premature death of the Draft Constitution, what next for our constitutional development and when will the Gambia transition to the Third Republic? There appears to be few options now open to the government; either stay put with the 1997 Constitution, review and amend some of its sections (which was initially proposed by Halifa Sallah but rejected by the government), re-submit the rejected draft or start the whole process of drafting another Constitution. In any event, however, more than D100 million Dalasis have already been wasted on the process, which amount could have gone a very long way in addressing the problems confronting our almost collapsed health system.
However, with the acrimony of the debate that led to the rejection of the Draft and the obvious fact that the National Assembly is seriously divided along party lines, it would henceforth be quite hard for the executive to have its bills passed. The battle lines between the various opposing factions have been clearly drawn and that is likely to have negative impact on getting any sort of consensus in their work. It is hard to see how the Attorney General’s Chambers and indeed the executive would now get the support and cooperation of those members who voted for the Bill, especially when it comes to anything to do with another new Constitution.
While the supporters of President Barrow are jubilating over their pyrrhic victory in the National Assembly, but it appears that they are not quite aware of the serious consequences of their actions on the very credibility of the government that they support. Even the very fact that over 100 million Dalasis spent on the process have been thrown into the drain, has its own consequences, especially amongst our development partners. It is hard to see how the government would convince them that it deserves any development support when it has been seen to encourage such wastage of public funds.

Demba A. Jawo

September 17 at 2:16 PM
National Assembly under scrutiny over handling of Draft Constitution
By D. A. Jawo
The whole country is watching with anxiety and trepidation the ongoing debate in the National Assembly for the promulgation of the proposed new Constitution. Some people are however quite worried about the stance and comportment of some National Assembly Members who seem to reduce the whole thing into a simple political debate; the supporters of President Adama Barrow versus the rest, thus revealing the apparent low level of political and social awareness of some of our representatives.
Of course, no one would expect everyone to be quite happy and satisfied with everything in the Draft Constitution, and no doubt would wish to get certain clauses either removed or changed. However, that is not a good enough reason to threaten to vote against its promulgation as some members have been doing with a sort of crudeness not expected from those claiming to represent people of different political and social backgrounds.
The question that does not seem to be quite clear to most Members of the National Assembly as well as the vast majority of Gambians is what the members are supposed to do with the draft; should they have the free hand to dissect and amend it as they would normally do with ordinary bills that come before them, or are they only expected to examine and pass it onto the people for a referendum, probably with just a few extremely necessary changes? We have heard a few of them asking what would be the point of bringing the draft to the National Assembly if the members are not allowed to change it to suit their own perception of how it should look like.
It appears that both the law and the Standing Orders of the National Assembly are silent about what the members are expected to do in such a situation, but simple logic dictates that any drastic changes to the draft would tend to abrogate the very purpose of setting up a Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), consult with Gambians both at home and abroad and spend over 100 million Dalasis on the process. If members were to be given the power to change the draft as they wished, then it would have made much more sense to just get the Attorney General’s Chambers prepare and submit the constitutional review bill before them and get them to debate and make the necessary amendments instead of spending all those millions of public funds to get the views of the people and prepare the draft.
This is the biggest test for members of the National Assembly and its outcome would have a great impact on how the Gambian public would henceforth view their representatives in the legislature. Are they interested in the welfare of the people of their constituencies and the country at large or are they just concerned about their own narrow socio-political interests?
Of course, there are quite a number of things that we all as individuals and interest groups would like to see changed in the draft, but if we all were to want to get a draft that addresses all those concerns, then we would never come up with an acceptable draft. Therefore, common sense dictates that while National Assembly Members are at liberty to make their concerns known, but they should accept the reality that this is a national project that should not be tailor-made to meet any particular individual’s or group’s concerns. Under the circumstances, this is the best document that Gambians can get and if for whatever reason, the members of the National Assembly decide to vote against it, then apart from throwing away millions of Dalasis of public money down the drain, it would also mean beginning the process all over again and probably spending far much more to prepare another draft. Can this country really afford such waste of resources just because a few unscrupulous members choose to promote their own narrow political interests at the expense of the national good?
Let us therefore hope and pray that at the end of the day, common sense would prevail and our representatives would not fail us.
September 16 at 1:45 PM


This well crafted statement below, predicting a landslide victory for former President Yahya Jammeh in 2016, was culled from a Facebook page of one of his most passionate supporters, can anyone guess who it is?

The first person to get it right (with the exception of the author him/herself) would win an autographed copy of my book, “A Date With Destiny”.
No insults or any obscenities please.
The Gambian people showed it all when His Excellency Sheikh Professor Doctor Alhagie Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh, Babillimansa came out on Thursday, November 9, 2016 for his nomination as the APRC flag bearer in the upcoming December presidential election. The huge crowd from all over the country in solidarity with the president no doubt dwarfed the combined number of supporters who showed up for the GDC and Coalition Parties’ nominees earlier in the week.
In the absence of a scientific polling system often used in the west to predict election outcomes, the Gambia’s only barometer of measuring pivotal demographics depends largely on such attendances especially on nomination day and, of course, in subsequent party rallies; therefore, based on what we saw last week and even with a miracle on their side, I found it practically impossible to see any chance of the opposition parties securing enough votes to shake up the foundation of the APRC, let alone taking the Statehouse from President Jammeh. Unquestionably, the overwhelming majority of the Gambian electorate will cast their vote for the APRC government, translating to President Jammeh’s victory, PERIOD.
Social media, the GRTS and even world cable news servers such as the BBC, all transmitted what was viewed as a very convincing gathering that cheered the Gambian leader and the beautiful first lady on their motorcade from the kombos right through to Banjul. It was not only a show of strength but also an evidence of absolute loyalty to a remarkable leader.
I will however once again share my concern over the disingenuous propaganda by mainly Gambian dissidents living abroad peddling the garbage that only active members of the Gambia Armed Forces constituted the multitude of supporters for the president. To look at that massive number of men, women, young and old people happily jubilating and say that they were all soldiers is tantamount to cataloging most Gambians as military personnel. But even if they were, I would still but commend the men and women in uniform for leaning on where their interest lies best. Members of the security forces are fully aware of the disaster that awaits their careers, future and livelihoods in an opposition party victory in December. And while it is their constitutional right to support any party of their choice, going APRC is as good as going for the leader who will respect them, honor them and above all treat them as noble citizens shouldering the ultimate responsibility of safeguarding the national integrity of a great country.
It is however not a secret that our venomous dissidents out here with their ill-conceived-and-relentless conspiracies are once again asking their colleagues to empty their hard-earned pocketbooks to fund the dead-ended campaign of the opposition parties; but trust me folks, it’s going to be another waste of meagerly-raised resources with another unfortunate scheme of cajoling low IQ hooligans into resorting to political violence in the absence of an opposition party victory on December 2nd.
Well, President Jammeh is no longer wasting his breath warning troublemakers paid and incited from abroad to be mindful of the consequences of flouting the laws of the country because in hindsight, the drastic measures awaiting offenders are no longer a secret to the public. His main concern now is to share his vision for the nation after his inevitable victory next month.
Unlike the opposition candidates promising the Gambians to take them back to some lost golden age, the president continues to remind Gambians about the currency of his politics that has been transforming a decadent old order into a sustainable one far better and more prosperous. For the past two decades, he has been consistently affording the Gambian people with phenomenal and unprecedented economic, social, environmental and educational developments.
After overhauling the educational system in the country from what was a stagnant state of underperformance, His Excellency President Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh on Thursday laid out his next development objective in the next two to three years of providing free education for all Gambians up to university level. And I have no doubt in my mind that he will again deliver that promise on time.
Courtesy of the Minister of Education (MOE), the Honorable, Dr. Fatou Lamin Faye, I am recently privy to the great work the president has been doing to improve the Gambia’s education sector since 1994.
For instance, in a comprehensive compilation of data published by the MOE this year, it shows that at the time of the revolution in 1994 to 2016 the number of lower basic schools in the country broadly increased from 250 to 667, upper basic schools, 22 to 240 and senior secondary schools 12 to 123. In other words, we are, within two decades, looking at an increment in number of schools in the country from a mere 284 to a whopping 1,038, a drastic reduction in the average distance previously traveled by the child to school from 7 kilometers to 2 kilometers now.
Statistically, the report further indicates that where there was only one school in the country in 1994, there are now 10 schools covering every level of education in all regions. This has essentially increased the enrollment numbers of school children from 132,591 in 1994 to 455,568 in 2016.
And get this; as from 2013/14 and 2014/15 academic years, President Jammeh’s government effectively lifted the burden from all families paying school fees for their children in lower basic, upper basic and senior secondary schools throughout the country.
If he therefore promises the Gambian people that in two years-time his government will provide free education up to university level, Gambians might as well take that message as the gospel truth.
Is it not amazing that in 1994 there were only 4,284 teachers in the whole country and in 2016 that number grew exponentially to 14,943?
Plus, in 1994 the education system seriously depended on foreign teachers with only 34% of them being Gambians; but in 2016, thanks to President Jammeh, 77% of teachers are well-trained-qualified Gambians.
President Jammeh, for all I can say about him now is that he deeply understands the importance of investing heavily in education as the best guarantor of sustainable development, especially in third-world countries endowed with minimal or no natural resources. We will continue to pray for his long life, good health and ever creative foresight to lead the Islamic Republic of The Gambia through its cherished orbit of success and progress.
Long live the Islamic Republic of The Gambia!
Long live the Gambian people!
Long live His Excellency Sheikh Professor Doctor Alhagie Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh, Babillimansa, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed and Security Forces.
September 14 at 11:46 PM
Unjustifiable Delay for Niamina West Bye-Election
By D. A. Jawo
The government of President Adama Barrow has been accused by some people in Niamina West of being unfair to the constituency by denying them representation for almost a year since their National Assembly Member Demba Sowe died in January 2020. “If other countries with far more COVID 19 cases can successfully hold general elections, why can the Gambia not hold bye-elections for a single constituency of less than 10, 000 voters?” asked a resident of Niamina West, speaking on condition of anonymity. He accused the government of using the COVID 19 pandemic as an excuse but he said there were other sinister reasons for the failure of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to hold the elections than meets the eye.
Indeed, there have recently been several calls by the people in Niamina West Constituency for the IEC to hold the bye-elections without any further delay, with some accusing the electoral commission of succumbing to some manipulative tactics by the government in order to give chance to the newly formed National People’s Party (NPP) of President Barrow to adequately prepare for it. “The Niamina West bye-elections is quite crucial for the NPP, being their first test at the polls, and they would do whatever it takes to win the seat,” said another Niaminanka. He said there was no justification for the IEC’s failure to hold the elections, with the constituency being left without anyone to represent and speak for them at the legislature for about a year.
On the alleged manipulative tactics by the government, one of the critics accused them of using certain unconventional tactics to achieve their objectives. He said one of those tactics was to use the recent NAFA project being managed by the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) to dish out cash handouts to families up-country as a package aimed at contributing to the mitigation of the social and economic impact of the COVID 19 pandemic for political propaganda. We can recall that recently, families in Niamina West and some other parts of the country were given D3000 per household, with a promise of another D3000 in the next two months. It is alleged that some supporters of the NPP have been using those funds to campaign in the constituency by telling the people that the money was provided by President Barrow, when the bulk of the amount was said to have been given by the World Bank.
“However, I will not be surprised if the IEC soon announces a date for the bye-elections, now that the NPP are confident of making in-roads in the constituency, unfairly using the disbursement of those funds as a campaign strategy,” he said.
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