By Omar Bah & Mariama Jallow
Minister of Interior Yankuba Sonko has called on political parties, CSOs and all stakeholders to join hands to ensure that the December presidential election is conducted in a violent-free environment.
In a statement read on his behalf at the launching of WANEP and GIZ electoral violence monitoring, analysis and mitigation (EMAM) project, Minister Sonko said: “We urge all partners to work closely with the government in ensuring trouble-free election.”
The EMAM project is designed to support inclusive and sustainable dispute resolution architecture that prevents or mitigates political or election related violence in West Africa.
The project’s overall objective is to enhance response mechanisms for electoral dispute management and resolution in West Africa with focus on seven countries conducting presidential elections in 2020-2022. These includes: Cote d’ Ivoire, Guinea, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin and The Gambia.
The project, Minister Sonko added, will complement the government’s efforts towards strengthening peace and security especially in the 2021 presidential election.
“It is important to note the significant roles the CSOs, political parties, and other private organisations can play towards the prevention and mitigation of election-related violence,” Minister Sonko added.
He said the Ministry of the Interior will take proactive measures towards the management of electoral processes in advance.
The IEC chairman, Alieu Momarr Njai assured the civil society of the electoral commission’s commitment to conduct free and fair polls in December.
“All political parties will be given equal treatment throughout the electoral process to ensure checks and balances,” he said.
Commenting on the contentious diaspora voting, chairman Njai said the IEC is working on a bill in collaboration with the National Assembly on diaspora voting. “If this bill passes, a two-voting system will be adopted where Gambians in the country will continue voting by marble and those outside the country will be voting by paper,” he added.
Addressing the meeting on behalf of the CSO coalition on election, Adama Cooper Jah, said: “It is important to note that the responsibility of ensuring peaceful, fair and free election cannot be fully shouldered by the IEC alone, it is a collective responsibility which requires concerted efforts from civil society, national and international partners. As a result, the launching and implementation of this election project will definitely go a long way towards complementing the efforts of the CSOs coalition on election in promoting transparent, credible, and peaceful election in The Gambia.”
The WANEP deputy executive director, Levinia Addae Mensah, said: “Through the E-MAM projects WANEP has been able to bring valuable contributions to mitigate electoral violence in Senegal, Mali, Togo, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, and many more.”
Madam Mensah expressed gratitude for funding and expanding the project from the initial seven countries to eleven countries in West Africa.
The EU ambassador to Banjul, Corrado Pampaloni, said the importance of launching such a project cannot be overemphasized, given that the December presidential election will take place in unprecedented circumstances, especially with the number of political parties and youthful voters anticipated to take part in the election.
“The delivery of the TRRC report in July will also coincide with the campaign in a full swing which will risk the politicisation of its outcome which instead of bringing the country together could achieve the opposite,” he said.
The resident program director at International Republican Institute, Robina Namusisi said her institute has a total of eight grants to enhance transparency in elections which will cover voter mobilisation and education, short and long-term observation and activities to support mitigation of the impact of covid-19 on the election.