Supreme court – Five Gambians sue IEC and Attorney general for discrimination
In a civil suit defended by Hawa Sisay-Sabally Counsel for the Plaintiffs, five Gambian seek that the Supreme Court declares null, void and of no effect changes made in 2015 by the parliament upon request of the former regime of Yahya Jammeh. The plaintiffs contend that the legislative authority “extensively” made “excess” and “discriminatory” changes of the Elections Act of the Laws of the Gambia in 2015.
Conditions for Party registration are discriminatory
The first Plaintiff, Bakary Bunja Dabo states that he had to give up residence in the United Kingdom in order to qualify to be an executive member of Gambia For All (GFA) political party. B.B Darboe contends that it is an onerous condition to require all political parties applying for registration after the commencement of the Elections (Amendment) Act, 2015 to pay a registration fee of D1, 000,000 and to submit a declaration signed by at least ten thousand registered voters with at least one thousand members from each Administrative Area pledging their support to the party and requesting for its registration. “This condition does not apply to parties that have previously been registered and is therefore discriminatory. According to B.B Darboe, though Gambia for All party was registered under protest he is not even permitted by Law to be ordinarily resident in The Gambia to be an executive member of the Party“.
There is electoral discrimination against expatriate Gambians
Cherno Njie, the second Plaintiff is a resident in Texas, United States of America. He is a real estate developer and claims to have been disenfranchised since 1997 to date even though the Independent Electoral Commission is mandated under section ll (1) of the Elections Act to prepare, compile and maintain a register of voters in foreign countries. Cherno Njie says that he is interested in the governance of the country and would like to exercise his political rights either as an independent or a member of a political party. He wants to be eligible to contest for position in the executive of the political party of his choice, enjoying ali the rights of a Gambian resident in The Gambia under the electoral laws of the country.
Pa Samba Sadaga Jow, the third Plaintiff is a political activist and a member of the Democratic Union of Gambia Activists (DUGA). The case of Coach as he is called is that he has been disenfranchised since 1996 because he lives in United States of America since 1996, and is currently living in Maryland, Silver Spring. Pa Samba Jow is desirous of participating in the governance of this country using politics as vehicle to achieve his goal. He would like to participate either in his personal capacity as an independent or as a member of a political party and is desirous of being eligible to be a member of the executive committee or body of the political party he may choose to belong.
Jeggan Grey Johnson, the fourth Plaintiff is an advocacy and communications coordinator and works outside The Gambia as a result of which he is resident abroad. Like in the case lodged by Sidi Sanneh, Jeggan has been disenfranchised since 1997 on account of being resident abroad. He too is desirous of participating in the politics of The Gambia either in his personal capacity or as a member of a political party and wants to be eligible to be a member of the executive of the party he may choose to join.
Sidi Mohammed Sanneh, the fifth Plaintiff is retired, having worked both in the public service of The Gambia and with an international organization. He has been disenfranchised since 1997 on account of being resident abroad and would like to participate in the politics of the country enjoying the same rights and privileges given to Gambians resident in The Gambia. He is an active member of a civil society group named The Right 2 know.
The right to vote and contest elections for all Gambians
Though they live abroad, all the plaintiffs have strongly asserted their Gambian citizenship in their complaint to the Supreme Court. They emphasize that The Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia guarantees fundamental rights and freedom. Political rights and the right to freedom of association are equally guaranteed as well as protection from discrimination in the same text that lay the basis of the case submitted by the plaintiffs.
In seeking redress from the Supreme Court, these Gambians submit that they are desirous of actively participating in the governance of The Gambia either in their own rights or in associations with other Gambians. Should they be members of political parties, they would like to be eligible to be members of the executive organs of the parties they wish to form or join.