Voters’ Registration – Diaspora Gambians Sue IEC, AG to Enforce Supreme Court Ruling
Five Gambians of the Diaspora have filed an Ex parte motion before the High Court of Banjul seeking an Order of Mandamus from the court that compels the Attorney General and the Independent Electoral Commission to comply with the Judgment of the Supreme Court that orders the IEC and the State of The Gambia to provide equal access to Gambians in the Diaspora for registering as voters and participate in all public or general elections held in The Gambia particularly, the coming December 2021 Presidential election.
The petition to High Court seeking a writ of mandamus for Gambians in the Diaspora to register, to vote and be voted for, if they so desire provided they meet the legal requirements, is filed by Lawyer Abdoulie Fatty on behalf of Bakary Bunja Dabo, Cherno M. N’jie, Pa Samba Sadaga Jow, Jeggan Gerald Grey-Johnson And Sidi Mohammed Sanneh.
On behalf of these complainants, lawyer Fatty seeks that the High court orders the IEC and the Attorney General to correct their abuse of discretion and comply with the Supreme Court’s order as these government institutions have not acted in any way to ensure that the Diaspora Gambians rights to register and vote is fulfilled pursuant to section 39 of the Constitution that states that “Every Gambian, including those residing outside the jurisdiction, is entitled to be registered and to vote in an election to the offices of President, members of the National Assembly for local government offices and traditional rulers as well as in referenda.”
In fine, the five complainants seek that the IEC and the Attorney General properly fulfill their official duties without hindering the rights of Gambians abroad as ruled by the Supreme Court on 17th March 2021.
The Diaspora Gambian complainants lament in the petition that since the judgment of the Supreme Court on 17th March 2021, neither the IEC nor the Attorney General “Have taken any tangible steps to put in place mechanisms that would enable the Applicants to be registered as voters in compliance with the judgment and the Constitution.”
Lawyer Abdoulie Fatty on behalf of Bakary Bunja Dabo, Cherno M. N’jie, Pa Samba Sadaga Jow, Jeggan Gerald Grey-Johnson, and Sidi Mohammed Sanneh argues in the petition that although the “Independent Electoral Commission has, well before the judgment of the Court, announced publicly that Gambians living in the diaspora who were eligible to vote, would be registered to enable them to participate in public elections to be held in The Gambia,” yet IEC did nothing to make it happen.
The petition recalls that IEC should have demarcated the boundaries for the Diaspora or worked out proper mechanisms for their registration and determined how or where they would vote. On the other hand, the Attorney General should have introduced an amendment of the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia 1997 to change the number of constituencies as soon as the IEC demarcates additional constituencies.
Bakary Bunja Dabo, Cherno M. N’jie, Pa Samba Sadaga Jow, Jeggan Gerald Grey-Johnson, and Sidi Mohammed Sanneh believe that the IEC and the Attorney general “have deliberately disregarded the judgment of the Supreme Court and section 39 of the Constitution“, consequently violating and infringing upon Gambians in the Diaspora fundamental rights to register and vote in elections in The Gambia.
As such, the complainants believe that “There cannot be free, fair and transparent elections in The Gambia if the Supreme Court judgment of 17th March 2021 and section (1) of the Constitution are ignored or disobeyed, and not enforced and implemented“.
Concluding their petition, the complainants state their view that courts are the last bastion of hope for citizens and that as such, “Decisions of the court must be complied with and not left to discretionary application and enforcement. That not only erodes public trust in the courts, but it also undermines the fair and just administration of the law in particular and justice in general.”