By Cherno Omar Bobb
The acting country representative for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in the Gambia, Madi Jobarteh, has said that elections are sometimes won or lost on voter registration day instead of on voting day.
Speaking on Thursday, the human rights activist, who focuses on promoting democracy and human rights in the Gambia, stated that for that reason, under-aged citizens and non-Gambians must not be allowed to register to vote in the forthcoming elections. He described elections as one of the greatest sources of peace, saying therefore that people should take everything around elections seriously.
Jobarteh, who is also a member of the Foundation for Legal Aid Research and Empowerment (FLARE), said that elections have to be inclusive, credible, fair, free and peaceful, noting that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has to be seen to be independent. He further said that political parties should have policies that address inclusion, participation and representation, adding that women, young people, minorities and persons with disabilities should also be included by political parties in their executives.
On his part, the first vice president of the Gambia Federation for Persons with Disabilities, Lamin Ceesay, said building ramps alone for persons with disabilities during voter registration is not enough but that there needs to be other support mechanisms put in place. He lamented that persons with disabilities were excluded by the IEC during the voter registration process.
The deputy spokesperson for the opposition Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) Dodou Jah, urged the IEC to consider extending the voter registration period for the benefit of all citizens.
Ansumana Ceesay, senior programs officer of the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) called on political parties not to only stop at sensitizing their supporters to register but also teach them the importance of elections and democracy as well as voter registration and the need to vote. He stated that this is the time for political parties to gauge if they stand any chance of winning or not.
Bubacarr Sambou, President of the Peace Ambassadors – The Gambia called on the political parties set to observe the voter registration process to avoid causing chaos but rather report any suspected foul play to the IEC. He also urged the IEC to take swift action of any complaint they receive.
Barwudu W. Johnson, consultant of the National Democratic Institute in the Gambia said the report will boost public interest on the electoral process in the Gambia.
The Peace Ambassadors – The Gambia also used the occasion to present their monthly situational analysis report on the voter registration process and the Election Bill 2021 as well as discussed recommendations to address current challenges in the political climate of the presidential elections 2021 to stakeholders.