We all felt something like this could happen. And it indeed happened. The High Court has ruled that the Mayor of Banjul has no authority to issue attestation to prospective voters. The issuance caused quite a stir and it ended up in the courts.
Then, Gambia Participates and Centre for Research and Policy Development and the Councilor for Box Bar Ward, Banjul North (Councilor Abdou Aziz Gaye) jointly filed a suit before the High Court against the Mayor, the Independent Electoral Commission and the Attorney General, challenging the legality of the mandate accorded to the Mayor of Banjul to issue attestations in the just ended general voter registration.
The group have asked the court to declare the issued voter cards that were attested by the Banjul Mayor as null and void. They also asked the court to issue a declaration that the conduct of the Mayor and the IEC was not only unconstitutional but illegal.
The group argued that there is no legislation that mandates a mayor to issue attestation to constituents in order to apply for a voter’s card as this power and authority is only vested to a village alkalo or a district chief (seyfo).
Two weeks after the suit, the High Court has now ruled that the mayor does not have authority to issue attestations. While we rejoice in the strength of our justice system, we need a serious legal reform to correct the ills of the past.
We have only two mayors in the country; in Kanifing and in Banjul. Even though Kanifing has a mayor, it also has numerous alkalolu who do the necessary attestations for prospective voters in their areas. With Banjul, however, there is no alkalo or chief, every ward is under the mayor. Therefore, the law should have been clear and we ought to make it clear that the mayor, regardless of party affiliation, should issue attestations to voters.
Banjul has over 21,000 voters, a significant number of them acquired the cards through attestations. Throwing all that into chaos isn’t a good start to our electoral calendar. If the Revising Courts eventually reject those voters, what will the IEC do then? Will it extend the registration exercise to allow them to get proper documentation? What will happen to them?