The Supreme Court of The Gambia has on Wednesday ruled that every Gambian, including those residing outside the jurisdiction, are entitled to register for and vote in the elections to the offices of president, members of the National Assembly as well as local government offices, traditional rulers and referenda.
The Supreme Court’s decision is in response to a civil suit in which five Gambians, Bakary Bunja Dabo, Cherno M Njie, Pa Samba Sadaga Jow, Jeggan Gerald Grey-Johnson and Sidi Mohammed Sanneh sued the Attorney General and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). These Gambians sought an order from the Supreme Court directing the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to register Gambians, living outside The Gambia, to enable them participate in all public elections and referenda.
Despite living away from The Gambia, the five plaintiffs asserting their Gambian citizenship submitted that they are desirous of actively participating in the governance of The Gambia, either in their own rights, or in associations with other Gambians. They also demanded to be eligible to the executive organs of the parties they wish to form or join.
Bakary Bunja Dabo, Cherno M Njie, Pa Samba Sadaga Jow, Jeggan Gerald Grey-Johnson and Sidi Mohammed Sanneh also asked that the Supreme Court reaffirms that The Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia guarantees political rights and the right to freedom of association as well as protection from discrimination.
In its historic ruling, the Supreme Court not only declared that every Gambian, including those residing outside the jurisdiction, are entitled to register for and vote in the elections, but the five judges ruled that section 17(1) (e) of the Elections (Amendment) Act 2015 requiring all members of the executive of a political party to be resident of The Gambia is beyond one’s legal power like asserted in section 41 and 60 of the Constitution. The judges ruled that the contentious section of the Elections (Amendment)
Act is not only invalid null and void, but that it is henceforth severed from the Elections Act.
The Court also struck out, on the basis of lack of jurisdiction, the declarations sought by the plaintiffs on the alleged violations of their constitutional rights guaranteed under chapter IV sections 17 to 38 of the Constitution.