By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
An early warning report published by the West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) highlighted that “growing tension in mainstream and social media platforms also contributes to a waning social cohesion in the country”. According to WANEP “the manipulation of social media as a tool for ethnic exploitation and violent communication to stoke violent attacks against political opponents is a potential threat ahead of the 2021 Presidential election”.
The report commences by contextualising “the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC)”, as an investigation on the “human rights violations during the 22-year rule of former President Jammeh”. In this regard, the TRRC report is expected to be submitted to the Executive in July 2021. Most worrying is the reference to “inter and intra-political party disagreements” which “continue to generate tension, protests and violence”.
The failed Draft Constitution and pending Electoral Reforms were also identified as issues of “growing concerns” especially on the “key sticking point around the Draft Constitution” which “seeks to prevent President Barrow from resetting the clock to make him eligible for two more terms”.
Political Stability ahead of Presidential Elections
On Political Stability, the WANEP report highlights that the Voter Registration process was “postponed due to logistical challenges relating to the procurement of materials for the registration exercise in addition to disagreements among members of parliament over the Draft Elections Bill 2020 which seeks to replace the “marble-drum and bell” voting system”.
It must be noted that the IEC has announced that the 2021 Presidential Elections will be conducted using Marbles instead of Paper Ballots. Although this has been welcome news to some stakeholders concerned with the limited time to implement a transition from Marbles to Ballot Paper, it has raised concerns over the feasibility of the Diaspora voting in the 2021 Presidential Elections.
The WANEP report published in March 2021, features other West African countries such as Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Senegal. On the Gambia, the report states that the tensions and acrimony among competing political interests have heightened the stakes ahead of the December Presidential elections. The report explains how “a critical dynamic in the December 2021 election is that President Adama Barrow contests under his own National People’s Party (NPP) following disputes with the United Democratic Party (UDP)”.
Three Years Jotna and Sedition Charges
Some of the underlying reasons include President Barrow “reneging on his promise to step down after three years in power to allow a transitional government to organise fresh elections This has heightened the stakes ahead of the elections in 2021, as relationship among ruling coalition has been characterised by tensions, acrimony and competing political interests”.
Turning its attention to the wave of protests organised by “grassroots movement” Operation Three Years Jotna (Three Years is Enough), the WANEP report details their demand for “President Barrow and the Coalition partners [to] honour the three years coalition agreement made before the elections in December 2016”. According to the report “Civil Society Organisations and international partners intervened through dialogue with the group and political actors leading to the signing of a peace communiqué. This gain needs to be consolidated and sustained among the parties ahead of the December 2021 election.”
However, it must be noted that Operation Three Years Jotna leader, Yankuba Dabo, commonly known as Yanks Dabo, has continued to face anti-free speech charges. According to Mr Dabo he has been “charged with Insulting the Judiciary and Sedition”. His social media post went on to explain that Security Officers who had detained him for a prolonged time were “waiting for orders from the top”.
Prolonged ECOMIG Mission
On Security Sector Reforms, the report notes that “gains have been made in reform processes”, however, “delays associated with the implementation of the new National Security Policy developed in 2019 and the extension of the mandate of ECOWAS Mission in The Gambia (ECOMIG) portend significant challenges to internal security”.
“Significant shortcomings are present in the area of law enforcement, both in terms of institutional operations and national infrastructure. Also, allegation of institutional corruption and acts of impunity in the Police have left citizens to reportedly pay for security services to facilitate investigations in cases, arrests and protection. This undermines trust and state-citizens relations which is key to fostering social cohesion and stability ahead of the December 2021 presidential elections.”
“WANEP is a network of peacebuilding civil society organizations with structural presence in all the countries of ECOWAS, including Cameroun and Chad. The network seeks to build collaborative relationship among peacebuilding organizations towards conflict prevention and resolution.”
A follow-up article to this publication will focus on the Human Security Challenges and the Recommendations from the early warning report.