Civil Society To Diaspora Gambians “Take advantage Of Your Right To Vote And Be Voted For”
Gambian civil society organizations, namely the Gambia Conference on Reforms and Democracy- GAMCORD and the Right To Know Gambia (R2K Gambia) as well as The Democratic Union of Gambian Activists (DUGA) have deemed the Supreme Court’s ruling on the diaspora Gambians right to vote and be voted for “A victory for democracy, and a demonstration of the credibility and independence of the judiciary to uphold the tenets of the constitution and respect for the rule of law”.
With the Supreme Court’s ruling to affirm the rights of the Diaspora to vote, and also seek and hold leadership positions in political parties, R2K Gambia, GAMCORD and DUGA encourage Gambians in the diaspora to “now take advantage of this opportunity and endeavor to involve themselves fully in the political processes of The Gambia”.
The Supreme Court of The Gambia made a landmark ruling on 27th January 2021 on the legality of the Elections Amendment Act 2015, which barred Gambians in the Diaspora from becoming members of Executive Committees of political parties. The highest Court of The Gambia also reaffirmed a second principle, under section 39 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right of every eligible Gambian residing in and outside of the country to a vote in elections and referenda.
According to R2K Gambia and GAMCORD, the Supreme Court’s ruling is an affirmation of “the rights, of over 250,000 Gambians living abroad, to fully participate in the electoral processes of our country, which were denied since 1997”.
The whole issue began brewing in September 2019 when R2K & GAMCORD had communicated the anomaly of the disenfranchisement and general discriminatory practices meted out to Gambians n the diaspora, to the Chairman of the IEC, Mr. Alieu Momarr Njie, . In that letter, the Civil society group said: “We request the IEC to take up its rightful role as the Elections Regulator, and rectify this anomaly by drafting sound proposals that reflect the principles and values of free and fair elections, popular participation, elections integrity, good governance and democracy for our ‘New Gambia’. We request that the IEC puts in place a sound plan of action to ensure that Gambians living abroad are accorded their right to attain universal adult suffrage as a matter of urgency”.
To seek redress and rectify what they consider to be a “monumental disenfranchisement of Gambians living abroad”, Bakary Darbo-former Vice President and minister of Finance and leader of Gambia for All, Cherno Njie- a businessman and president of Songhai Development Company- Texas, Pa Samba Jow- DUGA, Jeggan Grey-Johnson- R2K, Sidi Sanneh-R2K, all members of Gambia Conference on Reforms and Democracy (GAMCORD) filed the victorious civil suit that resulted to the land mark Supreme Court ruling.
While the Civil society group says “The Supreme Court, yesterday, granted that request”, it also acknowledges that it has been successful in obtaining a ruling on the issue of political party discrimination. “We had asked the court to pronounce on the decision to increase the political party registration fees for new political parties, as was done under the 2015 Elections Amendment Act (under former president Jammeh and promoted and effected under president Barrow), which we believe is illegal, because of its arbitrariness, illogical and inconsistent application. The rule of the one million dalasi registration fee is only enforced on new parties; older parties are exempt”.
The Civil society group still consider that the door has been left open, for further legal exploration. They encourage “the political parties who feel that they are unjustly penalized for wishing to register a political party in The Gambia to test this assumption in the High Court”.