By Cherno Omar Bobb
Peace Ambassadors – The Gambia (PAG), a voluntary non-profit peace education and advocacy organisation observing the voter registration process, has acknowledged that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has registered some improvement in some aspects of its operations resulting in fewer instances of malfunctioning equipment as compared to the first week of the registration exercise.
Bubacarr Sambou, PAG President said during a press conference held at its office in Kanifing last Thursday that registration officers are following most of the registration procedures. However, he said while most registration centers are opening on time, PAG observers noted that some registration officials are reporting to registration centers late and closing earlier than the stipulated time. He also said that enforcement of Covid-19 safety protocols remain lax, adding that their observer reports also showed a decline of registration staff present when centers were opened.
Sambou further said that 140 of 158 observer reports showed that centers were accessible by all claimants while 18 of 158 reports showed that centers were not accessible with applicants being required to go upstairs to register, which potentially posed a problem for some persons with disabilities. He also noted a decline in the adherence to Ministry of Health and World Health Organisation Covid-19 safety guidelines.
Sambou went on to say that PAG observers also witnessed fewer instances of disruption, intimidation and harassment at some registration centers. He however said other critical incidents of note reported by PAG observers included turning away of applicants by IEC officials even when they were in the queue before 5pm; IEC registration officials reporting to registration centers late; and the unsuccessful attempts of under-aged applicants to register through the seyfo and alkalo attestations.
Therefore, Sambou said the PAG encourages IEC to employ concrete measures to address the issues of registration centers closing before 5pm when there are people still on the queue. It also encouraged security personnel to consistently enforce the Covid-19 regulations at various registration centers assigned in order to ensure the public is protected during the conduct of the voter registration exercise.
Sambou went on to admonish political parties to adhere to IEC regulations stipulated in its recent public statement to have only one agent per center. He finally encouraged party supporters to stop spreading false information, hate speech and violent actions during this period.
PAG trained and deployed 53 observers and 6 coordinators across the country to observe the IEC voter registration exercise.
Peace Ambassadors – The Gambia has since 2006 monitored every election held in this country including presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.