By Omar Bah
At least three opposition parties have demanded an independent investigation into the rampant discovery in the streets of designed blank Gambian voters’ cards last weekend.
About 50 blank cards strikingly similar to Gambian voter cards were found by one Molamin Gikineh at his Kanifing Estate compound gate on Saturday.
The cards bear the name and logo of the Independent Electoral Commission as the issuing authority though they don’t have any pictures, names, addresses, dates or any other details of a voter. The blank cards though have what looks like the signature of the IEC chairman.
Yesterday, the IEC issued a statement clarifying that the blank voters’ cards were remainder of the old stock of the 2011 and 2016 voter registration exercises, which are presently being disposed of to provide space for the arrival of new stock of voters’ cards due in The Gambia in a few weeks. “The IEC wishes to inform everyone that these blank voters’ cards were never in the database of the IEC. It may interest the general public to note that these cards are going to be obsolete upon the commencement of the general voter registration on 29th May 2021. The new voters’ cards for the 2021 General Voter Registration bear some features that are different from these old and obsolete blank cards,” IEC said.
However, leader of the Citizens’ Alliance Dr Ismaila Ceesay, said: “I think an independent investigation panel should be set up or the matter be handed to the police to investigate because it is a serious criminal offence and somebody must be held liable for negligence. We cannot just let these things go just like that – it is a very serious case. It is unprecedented. I never heard of anything like this happening in any country especially in an election year. This is a serious cause for concern that people will really find blank voters’ cards randomly on the street just like that in an election year. What it does is that it amplifies those voices who question the credibility of the IEC. The manner in which they are doing things can undermine the entire electoral process. We have already made a call to the IEC to be very vigilant and make sure they do things rightly.”
Dr Ceesay argued that the commission’s claims that “the voters’ cards were old and don’t have any bearing with the new ones is no excuse. I think the IEC should have a proper mode of destroying old voters’ cards”.
The spokesperson of the United Democratic Party, Almamy Taal, said: “I wish this matter be thoroughly investigated and the IEC be more transparent in their process. Even if you are disposing these things, you could notify stakeholders about it. Now the issue is blank voters’ cards cannot expire because they don’t have any details. This is not a positive sign for the December election because having these kinds of mistakes now and then is not only embarrassing but also makes us look like we are immature”.
The APRC deputy spokesperson, Dodou Jah, said: “I believe an independent investigation should be conducted to ascertain the facts. We cannot trust the IEC statement by itself.”
Jah said the discovery of the blank voters’ cards has only increased his party’s worries about the capability of the IEC to conduct a free and fair election in December.
He added that the electoral commission should be transparent enough to tell Gambians where these cards were disposed of. He said now that some of these cards are leaked, the IEC should come up with new voters’ cards that are completely different from the old ones.
Sheikh Tijan Hydara, the leader of The Gambia Alliance for National Unity GANU, said the matter should be investigated with the participation of the police, political parties and the national assembly. ”It does not entirely make sense that a sensitive document like the Voters Card, used or not, destined for destruction should find its way into the streets. The process of destroying the cards should be protected like every other aspect of the entire election process to everyone’s satisfaction and trust,” he added.