IEC warns GDC over Jammeh speaking at rallies

IEC warns GDC over Jammeh speaking at rallies

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By Omar Bah

The Independent Electoral Commission has told the Gambia Democratic Congress that former president Yahya Jammeh’s speeches at the party’s rallies should not lead to disturbances which could result in the suspension of its campaign.

The electoral commission statement came after President Adama Barrow’s National People’s Party filed a complaint against Mamma Kandeh’s GDC accusing it of “violating campaign rules” by giving a platform to Jammeh.

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In a letter signed by IEC chairman Alieu Momar Njai dated 19th November and seen by The Standard, the commission declared: “It has come to the notice of the Independent Electoral Commission that the GDC has been using another political party’s (APRC) registered political materials with the IEC in the GDC’s presidential candidate election campaign. The IEC hereby entreats you to stop using any other political party’s political material that you do not form an alliance with and to use your registered political party’s materials.

“Furthermore, I have received complaints that you allowed former president Yahya Jammeh to speak during your campaign rallies via telephone which could cause some disturbances in the country. I am therefore reminding you that whatever can cause disturbances contravenes the Code on Campaign Ethics and such could lead to the suspension of the permission given to you to engage in political campaigning,” IEC said. 

GDC reacts

However, in response, GDC administrative secretary Samba Baldeh wrote in a letter dated 24th November: “I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 19th November, 2021 outlining issues of an unfounded allegation against the GDC party over the use of APRC party’s materials. On the allegation of using APRC emblem, the GDC has neither knowingly used nor caused the use of APRC emblem, colour, or name with a view to confuse or misrepresent voters. Colours worn by those supporting GDC, as members of APRC, do not breach the relevant rules.

“Having said that, and for ease of clarity, GDC does not endorse the use of APRC emblem as a substitution for its own. We want to draw your attention to the fact that the GDC does not bear any responsibility for this act and under no circumstances did we ever promote the use of APRC’s materials in our campaign trail. The party has no control over people using APRC’s materials to grace our campaigns and it is categorically clear that the GDC is running for the election under its party ticket with an endorsement from the former president supporters, Gambia Action Party and Sheikh Matarr Nyang an independent candidate,” the party said.

The GDC letter added: “APRC members are entitled to openly endorse any party. The right to associate, guaranteed under the Constitution, permits these individuals to support any party they wished to support. The law does not refrain them from wearing their party colours to show solidarity with GDC. After all, it is common knowledge that a fractured APRC has endorsed both GDC and NPP. It’s inherent, therefore, these individuals exercise their right to associate and maintain allegiance to their party of membership”.

On the issue of the ex-president, the party added: “The former president has a right, like any Gambian, to engage in political discourse in The Gambia. His right to freedom of speech has not been curtailed for simply living outside of the country. For that reason, he is entitled to contribute to the debate on pressing contemporary issues facing the country; security, the economy, health and employment.

“To advocate that he should not speak at a GDC rally, therefore, equates to concluding that he has lost his constitutional right to freedom of speech. That said, like any of us, the former president is prohibited, for public interest reasons, from advocating for violence or inciting hatred. This, of course, is not the case in this instance. In sum, we take account of your concerns but we can assure you that the GDC is acting within the confines of the law,” the statement concluded.

Since the exchange of these letters, Jammeh has continued to address GDC meetings.