By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
At a recent town hall meeting in Norway, Hon. Halifa Sallah highlighted the significance of the diaspora community in the development of the economy and the government’s determination to extend the franchise to the Gambian diaspora.
The National Assembly Member said “What possibilities does Gambia have for actual development without the diaspora? Clearly, you cannot exclude the diaspora from the development of The Gambia. The statistics from government documents which in 2015 indicated that the diaspora was giving, this is just official figures published in the budget speech, contributed $1.7 Million Dollars. And obviously it’s much more than that but it is contributing, the Diaspora is contributing immensely to the economic prosperity of the country. And therefore as we say no taxation without representation. And you cannot contribute to the Economy of your country without also the right to represent and the right to determine representation.”
“So I am sure one of the principal reforms, constitutional reforms, institutional reforms and legal reforms that will be affected is ensuring that the Diaspora has the right to vote. That I have no doubt will be affected. All of us are committed to that it was part of the Recommendations of the Gambia Opposition for Electoral Reforms. And they constitute the bulk of the coalition so I can’t see how any of us can object to the Diaspora voting. And then you can demand further for Diaspora representation all that will come Ambassador level, representation levels in Ministerial level. But to do that you must have a very organized Diaspora community.”
Hon. Halifa Sallah “To do this you must have a very organised Diaspora community”
The issue of the diaspora vote has gained significant attention in the wake of Senegal’s historic National Assembly elections which voted in 15 diaspora deputies in their National Assembly. 12 of the 15 seats went to the ruling coalition “Benno Bokk Yakarr” with the remaining 3 claimed by the opposition coalition “Wattu”. Senegal’s new National Assembly has allocated 3 representatives for West Africa, 7 for the rest of Africa and 5 for the rest of the world. Although President Barrow made no mention of Diaspora voting in his speech to the National Assembly one of his campaign promises was to enfranchise the diaspora. To date the National Assembly is yet to pass a bill enabling Diaspora votes, however, in an interview with Eye Africa TV, he said that “there will be a complete overhaul of the constitution, we will have a referendum. I cannot give a timeline, this is Government, things take time, it’s a process.”
If there will be a Referendum, as it stands Diaspora Gambians cannot vote from abroad. It remains to be seen if Gambians in the Diaspora will be able to vote in the referendum, in what must be a historic moment in the Gambia’s democratic history. Another issue affecting Gambians in the diaspora is the issue of dual citizenship. President Barrow indicated that the “Jammeh Era” clause banning Gambians of dual citizenship from taking up cabinet positions will be repealed. “I think it should be repealed but Jammeh doesn’t care about those clauses. He was employing people who are citizens of other countries. We care about the laws, we respect the laws. There will be an overhaul of the laws. We want good laws for this country we don’t want to discriminate anybody. And to me personally, I believe that most of this dual citizenship is for Economic reasons, it’s not real, they believe in The Gambia. So I think they should change these laws so that Gambians will have equal opportunities.”
President Adama Barrow “There will be a complete overhaul of the constitution, we will have a referendum”
Foreign Minister, Ousainou Darboe also touched on the topic of diaspora voting. According to an article published by Shepherd’s Broadcasting Network, the Foreign Minister indicated that the government will put in place the process to enfranchise the Diaspora.
“We will do electoral reforms for Gambians in the diaspora to be able to vote. There is a law in place for that, the process on how it needs to be done, is what we are going to put in place. Diaspora Gambians are actively contributing to the economy, so to decide who should be the President is their right. Next elections Gambians in the diaspora will vote.”
Foreign Minister, Ousainou Darboe “Next elections Gambians in the Diaspora will vote.”