Findings on Irregularities in the Election Process 13 January, 2019
The Peoples Progressive Party held its Sixth National Congress at the YMCA, Kanifing, from the 28th to 30the December 2018 in accordance with the Party’s Constitution and as required by the IEC for all parties to hold their national congress before 31st December 2018. This was the first national congress convened by the National Executive Committee of the Party since 1992.
In the preparation to the congress two factions emerged proposing different dates, venues and type of the Congress. Through mediation, facilitated by the Independent Electoral Commission, a compromise was reached and the two sides come together and agreed on the date, form and venue of the congress. The working committees set up by the two factions were to be merged.
An important agenda item of the congress was the election of Secretary General and Leader of the Party. Two candidates expressed interest:
1) Bakary B. Dabo, Member of the National Executive Committee, Member of the Central Committee, and national Treasurer; and
2) Papa Njie, whose candidature as a bona-fide member of the PPP has yet to be approved by the National Executive Committee.
The Election Process
The electoral process started with the selection of delegates to the congress who are registered upon arrival and therefore become eligible to vote. The voting took place on Sunday 30th December 2018 around 5PM.
In the immediate aftermath of the elections a number of delegates raised serious complaints about the registration and the voting process which necessitated the Party Leadership to authorize investigations in to the conduct and procedures of the election. The following are the findings:
1.0 Irregularities Identified before the Congress
1.1 Failure to meet the Eligibility Criteria for Party Membership
Section one of the PPP 1959 constitution defined individual membership to the party as: Any person who is of the age of 18 or above and accepts the objects, policy, programme and discipline of the Party shall be eligible for membership provided that:
a), he or she is not a member of any other political party or of any organization whose policy is inconsistent with that of the Party
b), his or her membership is approved by the National Executive Committee. Papa Njie claimed to have joined the PPP early November, 2018 after contesting, as an independent candidate, in the KMC mayoral election. However, Alhagie Yahya Ceesay, the Interim Chairman of the PPP National Executive Committee said that Papa Njie’s membership application has neither reached him nor the National Executive Central Committee, the sole organ empowered to approve applications for membership.
1.2 Lack Clarification of Papa Njie’s membership Status with UDP
Section 1a of the Party Constitution requires aspiring members to the PPP not to be members of another party. The fact is that up to early 2018, Papa Njie was a member of the United Democratic Party under whose banner he applied to contest in the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) mayoral election. Having failed to get the Party’s endorsement Mr. Njie went ahead and contested as an independent candidate. After losing the elections Mr. Papa Njie, after several months, announced he has joined the PPP. However, Papa Njie never presented his letter of resignation from the UDP to the National Executive Committee or the Chairman of the PPP at the time of his application to join the Party.
1.3 Questions raised on the membership and candidature of Mr. Papa Njie. At a meeting of the PPP National Executive Committee at Alhagie Yahya Ceesay’s compound on 27th December 2018 Mr. Papa Njie’s eligibility to contest the position of Secretary General of the PPP was questioned as it was at variance with the Party Constitution. However, both Omar Jallow and Kebba Jallow insisted otherwise with Omar Jallow saying he has received the application. It was pointed out that this was not enough, the approval has to be approved by the National Executive Committee. The meeting was adjourned with a decision to have one of the party elders and Omar Jallow talk to Papa Njie to withdraw his candidature. Having been under IEC constrain to conduct a congress, the PPP National Executive Committee proceeded to hastily conduct the party congress before the deadline of 31st December, 2018 with expectation that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) elders would prevail on Mr. Njie to withdraw his candidature for reasons already mentioned above.
2.0 IRREGULARITIES DURING THE CONGRESS
2.1 Organisation and Conduct of the PPP 2018 Congress In keeping with the tradition and practice, PPP Congresses always elects Congress Officials which comprises a Chairman, a Vice Chairmen and Commission Chairmen. These officials are required to officiate the conduct of the congress in a transparent and objective manner. No such Bureau was elected and instead Omar Jallow and Kebba Jallow who have already clearly shown their support openly for Mr. Papa Njie assume the functions of the bureau and used the platform to campaign openly for Papa Njie thus giving him an unfair advantage.
2.2 Failure to Respect the Programme of the Congress
Before the two groups agreed to join and host one Congress each group had prepared its programme. At the meeting of the National Executive Committee of 26th December 2018 it was agreed to integrate the two programmes which would have allowed a more substantive discussions of critical issues facing the Party such as reconquering the political space in the low light of the abysmal performance of the Party in the last legislative and area council elections. These proposals were never implemented as the total focus was providing musical entertainment and ensuring the election of Papa Njie.
2.3 Presentation of Financial statement and audited accounts
Although a scanty financial report for the 22years of stewardship was presented at the Congress, no audited accounts were presented as required by Article 9 (ii) of the Constitution. It can therefore be concluded that both in manner, conduct and content the Congress has fallen short of the expected standards which questions the validity of decisions emanating from such an organ.
3.0 ELECTION PROCESS: Campaign malpractices
Similar to all other things handled by it, the Congress was characterized by an unprecedented abuse at the different stages of the electoral process which characterized by fraud.
3.1 Delegate Misinformation and Coercion
Although the Party had been engaged in fund raising to hold the congress the investigations revealed that delegates were told that Papa Njie was the sole financier of the entire congress and not the party, hence, skewing the perception of the delegates. Funds for the congress activities including those for feeding, transportation, lodging, and equipment rentals were all dispensed through Papa Njie himself. Perceived opponents among delegates were denied food as in the case of the delegates from Kantora, and Wulis and Jarra Central and it was only through the intervention of Hon BB Dabo, who gave them some money to buy food, that resolve the matter was resolved.
3.2 Direct threats aimed at Delegates
Similar incidents of coercion were reported at the lodge where delegates stayed. An individual from Jokadu reported that on Sunday afternoon, prior to voting, a security personnel (a lady) threatened an old man into vote for Papa Njie in view of a crowd. The security personnel, according to the source told the old man that because Papa Njie was providing the congress food and drink, he (the old man) must vote for the candidate. The source indicated that a scuffle broke within the crowd before the issue was quelled.
3.3 Attempted punishment of delegates suspected of having voted against Papa Njie.
An after-election visit to the delegates lodge at the Friendship hostel in Bakau on Sunday night by a member of the Secretariat (30 December, 2018) revealed that many delegates complained that they were given only D300 for their return fare to their various constituencies and were told that Papa Njie will provide the rest of the money at a later date after they (the delegates) reached their destination. The next morning, on Monday, a member of the Secretariat was called to the delegates’ lodge and informed about stranded delegates who were furiously complaining about maltreatment. The delegates concerned were from Kantora, Wuli East and west, and the Jarras who were suspected to have voted against Papa Njie. Information about the situation reached Hon BB Dabo who dispatched a representative with money to address the incident. Similar incidents also affected delegates from Baddibu who had to be given as transport fare.
3.4 Bribery and Corruption of Delegates
During the visit, some delegates also informed a member of the Secretariat that several of the delegates from their constituencies were given D3000 from the Papa Njie Campaign to encourage them to vote for Papa Njie even though in doing so some of these delegates would be going the instructions received from their constituencies. Such incidents were reported by a delegate from Foni Kansala Constituency who indicated that he was approached with an offer of D3000 for the delegates from his constituency to vote for Papa Njie; an offer he said he and all those from his constituency refused. However, he said several people he observed took the money. Likewise, a delegate from Wuli East also said that although he was personally not approached with an offer, he saw and heard of such offer being made to other constituencies. The delegate said that Ebrima Jefang, a security personnel working for the congress approached him and asked him to vote for Papa Njie. Sources from the Jokadu delegates indicated that they were offered D2400, by OJ to vote for Papa Njie and were promised that more money will be given if Papa Njie wins. The source indicated that OJ gave D2000 to the Jokadu delegates when Papa Njie won. Several other individuals made the same statement about the D3000 offer from the Papa Njie Campaign.
3.5 Fund Mishandling
The party investigations also revealed that monies donated to the party were redirected to the Papa Njie Campaign rather than to the party coffers. One example of such incident was the $3000 sent by the PPP USA team was given to Hon Gomez, but was never surrendered to the party finance committee, although the finance committee was informed about the funds. No account was provided to the party leadership on the manner in which the funds were used. Funds that were supposed to come from the party’s coffers came from Papa Njie directly instead. This begs the question, the intent for diverting donations away from the party designated financial committee tasked to handle all financial transactions related to the congress.
4.0 Election Irregularities
The processes of registering constituency delegates as well as the accreditation of delegates were marred by serious irregularities which came to light after the election. These irregularities included:
4.1 Delegate Registration and Accreditation Irregularities The delegates to the congress started arriving on Thursday 27th December, 2018 with delegates from far way constituencies such as Wuli and Kantora coming on Thursday and the rest on Friday. The opening ceremony for the congress happened on Friday afternoon, while delegate registration and accreditation which began on Friday morning and continued to Saturday. The accreditation process helped verify that the delegates taking part in the Congress and in the voting were in fact from the constituency which they claimed to represent. It is the most important process in the congress proceedings because it ensures credibility of delegates representing the constituencies and helps eliminate fraud in the voting process and ensures that only bona fide members of the Party are taking part in the congress. Elections lack credibility once delegate accreditation becomes flawed.
Evidence of irregularity in the accreditation process began surfacing early Friday when Mr. Faal, one of the election officers and member of the Secretariat, asked to have the delegate listed compiled by the OJ and Papa Njie team correlated against the delegate lists received from the constituency chairmen by Mr. Faal weeks before. The request to align the two lists was immediately rejected by the Mr. Bah of the OJ and Papa Njie team. It was only when Mr. Faal protested that Mr. Bah relented and allowed his team to sit with Mr. Faal to correlate the two lists. Unfortunately, even though Mr. Faal was allowed to work with the O.J team, Mr. Bah and his colleagues continued to resist validations of delegate names when inconsistencies arose between the two lists. Mr. Bah claimed that the list his team processed is the right list because he obtained the list by writing the names of all the people residing at the lodges. The matter was not conclusively resolved and Mr. Faal resorted to noting on his spreadsheet the names of those he could not verify.
Despite the many difficulties Mr. Faal faced in working with the OJ and Papa Njie team, he continued to work with them to ensure that he recorded all the names from the Mr. Bah list on to his spreadsheet. Mr. Faal continued to work with Ms. Jallow until Friday evening before leaving. The names of the delegates were transferred to name cards and laminated. Delegate voting was scheduled for Saturday. Mr. Faal returned to the YMCA late Saturday morning and found OJ and several other individuals there. After greeting Mr. Jallow, and proceeded to the delegate registration desk, he found Mr. Bah and Ms. Jallow (daughter of OJ) distributing the delegate cards. For a valid accreditation process, delegate cards were supposed to be matched against the delegate names listed on both Mr. Faal’s spreadsheet and Mr. Bah’s list. Nothing like that took place and a scuffle ensued when Mr. Faal protested to have the delegate card distribution halted and the delegate cards already distributed be returned. Ms. Jallow and Mr. Bah were emphatically refused and continued the distribution of the delegate cards without any verification process of the recipients of those cards. Despite numerous protests by Mr. Faal, the two and the interventions by other people such as Mr. Gaye, Mr. Sonko and Mr. Suso they continued.
To prevent chaos, Mr. Faal decided to relent and the accreditation process was stopped, although the OJ and Papa Njie team continued to register delegates. Throughout the day on Saturday, situations continued to occur. Valid delegates suspected of not being in the Papa Njie camp were stripped of their delegate cards. Examples of such delegates are Gaye, Jawara, Dabo, and Jobe of Serekunda West who were denied their delegate cards. The reason for the denial according to Ms. Jallow was that Constituency Chairman, Jallow, had removed her name (Ms. Jallow) from the Serekunda West delegate list which according to her Chairman Jallow had no right to do. In protest, Ms. Jallow threw out the Serekunda West reconciled and accredited list and replaced it with her own. Protests by Mr. Faal and the removed delegates proved futile. Ms. Jallow was rudely relentless to heed the protest. In another such instant, delegate Njie of Jarra West was stripped of his delegate card by OJ and Papa Njie team claiming that the delegate was unqualified. Although, delegate Njie was a replacement for another delegate who could not come from the constituency, he was a valid delegate. Fighting almost ensued when Mr. Faal protested the validity of their claim. Delegate Njie was finally allowed to retain his delegate card.
4.2 Illegal Delegate Registration
Throughout Saturday, the modality of the voting was not communicated by OJ until late vening. It eventually became apparent that voting will be done through show of hand. Saturday voting had to be rescheduled to Sunday, when Hon Dabo insisted on secret balloting. According to sources, the rescheduling created fear within Papa Njie campaign that they may face defeat in the election. It was then that plans were put into gear to visit delegate lodges and offer money for votes. Fake delegates were planted into constituencies that did not participate in the congress.
For example, although no delegates were registered from the Janjanbure constituency on Saturday, ten delegates showed up during voting on Sunday. It was later discovered that seven of the ten delegates who voted in the Janjanbure constituency were in fact from Bwiam and were paid to vote. The seven individuals were identified by Mr. Sanyang from Bwian. Mr Sanyang told the investigating team that he gave the seven individuals ride from Bwian to Bakau and that he personally knew all of them (Omar Touray, Muhamed Jaiteh, Nday Hydara, Jula Njie, Mama Camara, Fatou Camara, Halima Mbaye). The investigators also uncovered that the remaining three individuals (Alagie Dem, Momodou Bah, Muhammed Jaiteh) who voted for the Janjanbure constituency were in fact from OJ’s household but they voted under pseudonyms.
Delegates from the Bakau constituency were denied entry on Sunday, according to the Bakau constituency chairman (Mr. Fatty). The delegates that voted on Sunday were different from the delegate names in Mr. Faal’s spreadsheet. Further investigation into the Bakau matter revealed that a delegate name Modou S Barry was in fact Sheriff Barry from Kafuta. Similarly, a delegate name Ousman Sanneh who voted in the Busumbala constituency was in fact from Brufut. According to sources, five delegates from the Jokadu constituency were replaced on Sunday and were denied entry into the YMCA. The original list from Jokadu was a compromised one agreed upon by both OJ and Amadou Lowe (a former representative from Jokadu). Upon arrival at the congress, according to one of the delegates, the five names placed in the list. Three of the five replacements (Omar Jobe, Isatou Deammeh, and Bai Nyass), in the Jokadu list were in fact planted as none of the delegates from the constituency knew them. Likewise, only four delegates that voted in the Sandu constituency could be verified by the constituency coordinator. The rest were added to the list of delegates on Saturday.
On Saturday afternoon, an individual claiming to be a resident of Fatoto approached Mr. Faal and asked to partake in the congress as a delegate. Mr. Faal informed the individual that his constituency of Kantora already has its ten delegates and that he (the individual) cannot vote but could become a member of the Kantora constituency committee. Mr. Faal linked the individual with the Kantora chairman. To Mr. Faal’s surprise, the individual showed up in the voting line with the Sandu constituency delegates. He had a delegate card over his neck bearing the pseudonym Muhamed Manjang. The individual rushed into the voting booth and voted before Mr. Faal could intercept him. The individual later told the Kantora constituency chairman that he actually voted.
Sunday Afternoon, prior to voting, Mr. Faal was informed by four individuals who had their delegate cards confiscated that Ms. Jallow was directing people into the office by the YMCA entrance and providing them with delegate cards. Mr. Faal told them that delegate cards were not supposed to be issued that Sunday. Although when Mr. Faal walked into the office, there was no cards machine, the individual standing by the door was acting suspiciously. When asked, the four eyewitnesses attested to have seen the process, and without a double, cards were being issued from the office. Their testimony explained how Muhamed Manjang was able to have a delegate card to vote.
In the Tumana constituency, there were only two delegate names verified in Mr. Faal’s spreadsheet. However, ten delegates voted for the constituency. Where the eight delegates who voted in the constituency came from remained a mystery. Likewise, sources indicated that delegates who voted in the Jimara constituency were all from the Serekunda area. Delegates from the old Yundum constituency seem to be selected within tribal lines. The suspicion is that four delegates bear the last name Bah, two with the last name Baldeh, and one with the last name Jallow. It is hard to imagine that in a diverse constituency such as old Yundum, eight of the ten delegates will bear similar last names.
4.3 Ballots cast in the contested constituencies
The inconsistencies and irregularities in the balloting and voting process are sufficiently serious to undermine the credibility of the election process.