Op-ed to Adama Barrow: Disenfranchisement of 200,000 Diaspora Gambians Cannot be Allowed
OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA
Your Excellency President Adama Barrow
President of the Republic of the Gambia
No 1 Anne Marie Javouhey Ave, The State House Banjul
24th May 2021
Your Excellency, President Adama Barrow,
The disenfranchisement of 200,000 Diaspora Gambians cannot be allowed to continue under your watch.
The undersigned Gambian diaspora organizations and individual citizens in foreign countries are deeply concerned about the slow pace of preparedness of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to actualize diaspora voting for the Presidential Election scheduled for December 2021.
We are equally worried that barely seven months to the said Presidential Election, the apparent lack of commitment on the part of other relevant stakeholders, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), responsible for diaspora affairs, and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the line Ministry overseeing the IEC, have evidently failed to show reasonable haste, to coordinate their efforts to expedite the necessary processes that will ensure that the diaspora’s right to vote in compliance with both existing laws and government policy, materializes in good time for the scheduled election.
Your Excellency, we respectfully draw your attention to the policy statement contained in your government’s flagship policy documents, the National Development Plan (NDP), 2018-2021, specifically under the heading of ‘Diaspora in Development,’ as one of the seven (7) critical enablers of the NDP, in which your government gave a cast-iron guarantee to actualize the enfranchisement of the Gambian Diaspora, per sections 39(1) and 26 of the 1997 Constitution. We also call your attention to the recent Supreme Court ruling in the case of Bakary Bunja Dabo and others vs. Attorney General of the 27th January 2021, in which the country’s apex court reaffirmed the right of Gambians living abroad to be registered and to vote in all elections and referenda amongst other rights.
Your Excellency, continuing to tolerate the disenfranchisement of the Gambian Diaspora is proven to be difficult because it is the same as disenfranchising the whole of Kerewan Local Area Council, which has a similar population size to the Gambian Diaspora. It will also amount to deliberate and direct discrimination of around 9% of the Gambian population, in clear violation of constitutional provisions (Sections 17 and 33) of the 1997 Constitution, based merely on where a citizen resides. The supreme laws of the Gambia prohibit such actions. The Gambian people abhor it, and so should you, Your Excellency.
As the 2021 presidential elections draw closer, the Gambian Diaspora and their supporters at the home front continue to demand the Gambian Diaspora’s legal right to be registered and vote. We call on Your Excellency to leave no stone unturned to ensure that the promise you made to the 8th region of the Gambia (The Diaspora) in your NDP is respected and fulfilled. The implementation of this legitimate demand will be in keeping with the obligations of your government to respect the Constitution of the Gambia, project a culture of sound democratic practice, promote the principles of popular and inclusive participation, and demonstrate respect for the rule of law.
Your Excellency, the implications of doing anything less, by continuing the illegal policy of deliberate inaction on the part of your government, and the continuing disenfranchisement of bona fide Gambian citizens, who happen to live abroad, will prolong the more than a two-decade-long policy of marginalization by the ousted dictatorship, that deprived the Gambia Diaspora of their constitutional entitlement to participate in national affairs since the advent of the second republic. In fact, anything short of registering the Gambian Diaspora, in line with constitutional stipulations, to actualize the Gambian Diaspora’s right to vote in the December election will call into question the legitimacy and credibility of the Presidential Election; and could trigger further unintended consequences. It will also, no doubt, Your Excellency, negatively impact your legacy.
So, as we endeavor to find an expeditious path to realizing our full legal entitlement to participate in national decision-making at the highest level, along with our brothers and sisters and our larger Gambian family, please be assured, Your Excellency, of our highest consideration and respect.
For and on behalf of the under-mentioned signatories.
Right to Know (R2K)
Democratic Union of Gambian Activists (DUGA)
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Ministry of Justice (MOJ)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA)
Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA)
Joint Committees of the FASC and LGRA of the National Assembly of the Gambia African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights
British High Commissioner to The Gambia EU Delegation to The Gambia