By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Chairperson of the Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Alieu Momar Njai, informed Gainako in an exclusive interview that Diaspora Gambians will vote in the upcoming presidential elections to be held in December 2021. Asked if Diaspora voters will have to register at their nearest embassies or at polling stations he replied “we have to conduct a study tour” to determine that “and we have done two so far, we’ve been to Cape Verde and Sierra Leone and hopefully we will do another study tour in Europe and the States”.
According to Mr Njai “first we have to determine where they are and how many of them will be willing to come with legal documents and register”. When asked if he was aware of a recent study by C. Omar Kebbeh detailing the geographical dispersion of 140,000 Gambians in the Diaspora, Mr Njai explained that the information obtained by the IEC indicates that there are 300,000 Gambians in the Diaspora. Asked if the difference between the two could be Gambians not legally registered, he responded, that could be a factor.
Constitutional Referendum in 2020
One of the key questions which also impact on elections is the Constitutional Referendum. Holding two major elections in one year could prove a logistical nightmare for the IEC and most importantly some electoral laws which impact on elections are in the constitution like when elections should be held.
According to Provision 46 of the 1997 Constitution “There shall be an election for the office of the President in the three month before the expiration of the term of the incumbent President.” The CRC Draft Constitution provides in section 90 (2) that “Election to the Office of President shall be held three weeks before the end of the term of the incumbent President.”
When asked when the IEC will hold a Referendum for the New Constitution, Chairperson Njai explained that by the end of March the CRC will complete its final draft pertaining to the new constitution, “and hopefully it may spend some months with the executive and it goes to parliament”. According to him the IEC is planning to conduct the referendum for the new constitution by November or December this year .
- March 2020 – Draft Constitution Submitted to President
- Few Months 2020 – With Executive
- Few Months 2020 – With National Assembly
- November – December 2020 – IEC plan for Constitutional Referendum
The interview was conducted during a lunch break at a two day workshop on Electoral Laws held on the 26th and 27th of February. The workshop saw Political Stakeholders from Political Parties, Civil Society and Electoral Expert observers from overseas converge to validate a set of electoral recommendations.
Asked whether the amendments done to the electoral laws will go on to be rules for the upcoming presidential elections he answered saying “correct! correct! That’s why we have so much [stakeholder] input in it and now this is the final stage. And hopefully of course whatever we discuss here will go to the CRC for them to input it in the system”. It is expected that the Attorney General’s office will now receive the validated recommendations for electoral reforms and then submit them to the National Assembly for approval.
If 2016 elections changed for Jammeh, TRRC violations would continue…
During the Justice Minister, Abubacarr Tambedu’s opening speech at the Validation Workshop for Electoral Reforms, he highlighted that “the 2016 Elections results which ousted Dictator Yahya Jammeh came at a cost. He recalled how “Uncle Momar had his grand boubou at the start of giving the results of the elections that night. And then as the results trickled in and it was looking increasingly likely that the former president was going to lose then he started taking off the grand boubou because then I believe it started getting hotter.”
This was a light hearted reference to the dangers that the IEC Chairperson had to resist during and after the declaration of results. According to him “up to two occasions they came to stop the declaration of results”. Mr Njai intimated to Gainako how he managed to escape in a tinted vehicle to Senegal. Asked if he was ready to die for his country he responded “yes, how long can I live? I just stood my ground”.
In fact, listening to him speak its apparent that he views the revelations at the TRRC as validation for his resolve in refusing to change the 2016 Elections results under pressure from Jammeh. “Can you imagine what am hearing from this TRRC now? There are so many things that I didn’t believe that Gambians would do that to fellow Gambians. I always thank Allah because if I had changed it and it continues another five years.”
Moses Emmanuel Mendy contributed to this article