By Alagie Manneh
The Independent Electoral Commission has reacted to comments made by opposition UDP leader Ousainu Darboe that elections in The Gambia since 1996 have been stained by credibility and transparency issues. The IEC said the comments are “false and misleading”.
Last Wednesday, whilst addressing a gathering commemorating the 27th anniversary of the founding of the United Democratic Party Darboe, amongst other things, intimated that the absence of an inclusive and transparent elections could be attributable to “weak electoral administrators” who he added “lack credibility and the moral fibre” to stand up for what is right and just. He also said even the 2016 election that brought about the change of government had been queried by the former president Yahya Jammeh.
Responding to these claims in a Standard interview yesterday, Sulayman Joof, the director of admin at the IEC, said: “We the IEC know very well who we are, and we know very well how respectable, and how respected we are within and outside of The Gambia. So, the reputation of the IEC cannot be injured by a statement made by an individual who has a right to his personal opinion. So, to suggest that elections conducted by IEC from 1996 to date have been marred, or stained with credibility questions is false and misleading.”
Joof maintained that as an institution mandated by law to conduct public elections and referenda, the IEC is guided by laws and legal instruments which must never be violated or disregarded.
“The IEC will never, at any time, in the slightest way, depart from the provisions or laws guiding elections in The Gambia. We are proud of the men and women of integrity that we have here and will continue to have here. We know that our mandate is to conduct elections, and we will always be accountable to the people. The will of the people is what we will always return,” he said.
He said the IEC was not established to “concoct” the outcome of elections in The Gambia, dismissing suggestions to the contrary as baseless.
“I believe if you go to the wider society, their statements will differ from the statement made by an individual,” Mr Joof added. “I know very well that the reputation of the IEC will always be upheld as a result of how we conduct ourselves in a free, fair and transparent manner. How can the IEC manipulate the results of the elections in the presence of your agents? I can tell you with confidence that I will resign from my job anytime anybody wants to use whatever means or force to make the IEC return results that are not reflective of the will of the people. We know very well that elections are sensitive, and if we at any time depart from pronouncing the will of the people will definitely lead to chaos in this country.”
Darboe is among a handful of political actors and other stakeholders who continue to question the integrity and credibility of the IEC. When asked if there was a need for the IEC to work on rebuilding its image and regain its credibility, Mr Joof stated: “There’s no element of a lost glory, or credibility. What we will do is to maintain it [our current image] and even enhance it to higher heights. We haven’t lost any part of it [our integrity]. We will continue to sensitise people, and the relationship between us and those that we are answerable to will be maintained for peace to continue to reign in this country.