By Tabora Bojang
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has said it has no plans to include prisoners in preparations for the December election, arguing serving inmates do not have a full constitutional right to vote.
Pa Makan Khan, director of communications at the IEC, told The Standard that prisoners have forfeited their civil rights and that is why there is no provision in the law books guaranteeing their participation in elections.
“At the moment, there are no plans for the prisoners to vote. They are disqualified by the law and unless the laws are revised, they cannot take part in the elections,” Mr Khan said.
According to him, the IEC is conducting the looming December polls under the Elections Act of 2009 which covers all technical aspects of the electoral process.
“So, as it stands, they are not going to vote in December as we are relying on the Elections Act of 2009 which disqualifies prisoners,” Khan argued.
The communications director added that the involvement of prisoners would require changes to electoral laws, but was quick to add that the 2020 Elections Bill under review before lawmakers did not even have a provision guaranteeing prisoner participation in future elections.
Mr Khan’s revelation clashed with the argument given by members of the National Human Rights Commission who appeared before a parliamentary committee on human rights and constitutional matters tasked to meet stakeholders on the Elections Bill.
The commission was concerned about the disentrancement of prisoners despite a constitutional provision granting them voting rights.
“The constitution has not even excluded them. In other words, by excluding them we are violating their fundamental rights,” NHRC chairman Emmanuel Joof told deputies.
Commissioner Njundu Drammeh also told lawmakers that the right to vote is an “inalienable element” of citizenship in a functioning democracy, stating that disenfranchising prisoners would tantamount to excluding them from having a say in the running of the country.