On CA’s accusations against IEC’s CEO: The timing is dangerous

On CA's accusations against IEC’s CEO: The timing is dangerous

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The whole of last week was about Samboujang Njie. He is the Chief Electoral Officer at the Independent Electoral Commission. It is interesting why he is attracting so much public attention when we have the chairman, Alieu Momarr Njai and his deputy, Joseph Colley or even the spokesman, Pa Makhan Khan, who know normally should be the face of the electoral body on media headlines. But Samboujang was the only personality at the Election House spoken about like never before.

What really happened? What we know so far is on 6 November 2021, the IEC rejected 15 candidates, including those of Citizens’ Alliance and Gambia Moral Congress. Both parties filed petitions at the High Court, challenging the decision of the electoral body to reject their nominations. The judge ruled in their favour, ordering the IEC to issue fresh nomination forms for them to submit new or additional signatures. Then, even though IEC didn’t make this public, it became clear that CA’s new submission was rejected too. That was the fire starter. 

“Samboujang needs to be restrained or he will single-handedly jeopardise peace of this country,” CA candidate Dr Ismaila Ceesay said at a presser. However, restraining Samboujang wasn’t all he said. He added that his party, CA, has credible evidence that Samboujang is leaning towards a particular political party and that they will call names in due course. Intentional or not, that was dangerous to come from CA. There is no time for “due course”. If there is evidence, bring it out because we cannot head into a high-stake election with a compromised electoral officer. But, if CA has no evidence whatsoever linking Samboujang to any political party, then it should withdraw the accusations and apologise. That would be the honourable thing to do. 

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In fact, since CA’s accusations that Samboujang is compromised, a section of the Gambian society has been calling for his removal. Gambia For 5 Years, a pro-Barrow movement famous for its counter protest against the 3 Years Jotna, has reportedly even applied for police permit to protest.

We are voting on Saturday. It is clear that any protest right now, especially regarding an electoral issue, is a recipe for disaster. As we head into the final few days of the campaign, we call on political leaders to be measured in their utterances. We have all been witnesses to the trauma of the 2016/2017 impasse. We will do ourselves well by avoiding any word or action that has the potential to repeat that history.