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Diaspora Receives IEC Electoral Calendar with Mixed-Feelings

Gambians living in the diaspora will for the first time exercise their right to vote in the presidential election slated for 4th December 2021, according to the information released by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on Wednesday.

While this was a glad-tiding, they are not satisfied with the IEC for writing them off from participating in the constitutional referendum that will be conducted prior to the presidential election.  

In the electoral calendar, the voter registration period starts from 14th January to 26th February, 2021, display of provisional list of voters starts from 15th -24th March, 2021, objection and appeals commences from 15th to 28th March, 2021, sitting of revising courts is scheduled for 5th April to 3rd June, 2021 while diaspora voter registration will hold between 1st to 31st July, 2021. 

The constitutional referendum will be held on the 5th June 2021. 

Nominations days for presidential candidates starts from 30th October to 5th November, 2021, public scrutiny day 6th November, 2021, last day of withdrawal of candidature – 26th November, 2021, campaign period begins from 9th November to 2nd December, 2021 while the election day is 4th December 2021. 

But the electoral body notes that the electoral calendar is formulated based on the existing laws and shall be subject to review as and when the laws of The Gambia change.  

“It’s a welcome development,” says Pa Samba Jow, a Gambian political activist based in the United States.

      Pa Samba Jow

However, he said they are perplexed by the decision to deny the diaspora the right to vote in the potential referendum on the draft constitution. 

“Even though we are cautiously optimistic about voting, we will not rest on our laurels just because a statement of intent is made by the IEC.”  

Jow says diaspora will continue to be unwavering in making sure that they are enfranchised, citing the importance of the community in the socio-economic and political life of The Gambia. 

“Hence the need for our full and unalloyed participation in determining our manner of government.”

Banka Manneh, another prominent Gambian diaspora in the United States says it’s a significant development in Gambia’s history, having been the first time the diaspora is not only mentioned as a voting block but also being enfranchised.

He said the diaspora “segment has been the most disenfranchised, underappreciated, and the most forgotten despite the tremendous contributions it makes towards the country’s advancement – whether in terms of the economy through remittances, medical aid, philanthropy, infrastructural development, and even the liberation of the country from the clutches of tyranny.”

According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in 2017, Gambian migrants contributed 22% of GDP in 2016. The report also confirms Gambia as the 2nd country in Africa that relies on remittance for GDP, just below Liberia (31%).

 Gambia received US$318 million in direct diaspora remittances between January and November 2019, a senior official of the Central Bank of the Gambia said to Gambiana.com. 

 “So even in terms of economic development alone, one can neither dismiss nor ignore such a contributor,” Banka says, adding that it’s a wonderful first step. 

     Banka Manneh

 However, he said the challenge now is to make sure it goes from being a scheduled promise to becoming a reality.  

 “The only concern we now have is the absence of the diaspora participation in the referendum for the new constitution. The scheduled voting date for that is June 5th, 2021 which is prior to diaspora voter registration.  

“This we believe should be revised because just like the consultation phase, the diaspora should have a chance to express approval or disapproval of this sacred document,” he said. 

 Madi Jobarteh, a right activist has earlier reacted on social media asking the IEC to revise and include the diaspora in the constitutional referendum process.

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