This is a victory for all Gambians, at home and especially abroad, as much as it is for all Africans
Banjul, 27 January 2021- the Supreme Court of the The Gambia made a landmark ruling, yesterday, 27 January 2021, on the legality of the Elections Amendment Act 2015, which barred Gambians in the Diaspora from becoming members of Executive Committees of political parties. It also reaffirmed a second principle, under section 39 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right of every eligible Gambian residing in and outside of the country to a vote in elections and referenda. The ruling is a victory for democracy, and a demonstration of the credibility and independence of the judiciary to uphold the tenets of the constitution and respect for the rule of law.
We decided to take the Independent Commission (IEC), and the Gambia Government to court on 11th September, 2020 to have our rights, and the rights of over 250,000 Gambians living abroad, to fully participate in the electoral processes of our country, which were denied since 1997, when the Second Republic came into being, upheld and reaffirmed. The Supreme Court, yesterday, granted us that request. The ruling has far-reaching implications for democracy and poplar participation. It means that there are greater possibilities for all Gambians to take an active role in nation building through the most fundamental of rights- the right to vote and take up roles and positions of leadership at the political level.
In the same vein, we were not successful in obtaining a ruling on the issue of political party discrimination. We had asked the court to pronounce on the decision to increase the political party registration fees for new political parties, as was done under the 2015 Elections Amendment Act (under former president Jammeh and promoted and effected under president Barrow), which we believe is illegal, because of its arbitrariness, illogical and inconsistent application. The rule of the one million dalasi registration fee is only enforced on new parties; older parties are exempt.
However, the Supreme Court has decided not to rule on this, because it does not have jurisdiction to make such determination. We believe that the door has been left open, for further legal exploration by respective political parties who feel that they are unjustly penalized for wishing to register a political party in the country. We encourage them to test this assumption in the High Court.
Nevertheless, we believe that the ruling by the Supreme Court to affirm the rights of the Diaspora to vote, and also seek and hold leadership positions in any political party of its choosing is a historical milestone for all Gambians. They must now take advantage of this opportunity and endeavor to involve themselves fully in the political processes of the country. It is also strong precedent for the African continent and her citizens, many of whom face the same challenges of electoral injustice and discrimination, simply because their conditions (by choice or by necessity) led them to leave their country of origin to reside abroad.
R2K & GAMCORD had communicated the anomaly of the disenfranchisement and general discriminatory practices metted out to Gambians n the diaspora, to the Chairman of the IEC, Mr. Njie, in September 2019. In that letter, the group stated that: ‘We request the IEC to take up its rightful role as the Elections Regulator, and rectify this anomaly by drafting sound proposals that reflect the principles and values of free and fair elections, popular participation, elections integrity, good governance and democracy for our ‘New Gambia’. We request that the IEC puts in place a sound plan of action to ensure that Gambians living abroad are accorded their right to attain universal adult suffrage as a matter of urgency’. The group had also stated in writing, and in subsequent meetings with the IEC officials, that they were open to further discussions as to how to assist and work with the IEC in deploying its legitimate mandate in the service of the nation. The letter and offer of partnership to rectify the monumental disenfranchisement of Gambians living abroad was ignored.
The Plaintiffs in this case are: Bakary Darbo-former Vice President and minister of Finance and leader of Gambia for All; Cherno Njie- a businessman and president of Songhai Development Company- Texas; Pa Samba Jow- DUGA; Jeggan Grey-Johnson- R2K; Sidi Sanneh-R2K. All are members of Gambia Conference on Reforms and Democracy –GAMCORD.
The lawyer for the plaintiffs: Mrs. Hawa Sissay- Sabally, who has championed this fight with dignity and dedicated professionalism. This victory is a victory for all Gambians, at home and especially abroad, as much as it is for all Africans
This statement issued on behalf of the Plaintiffs by:
R2K Gambia is a non-partisan entity that focuses on democracy and the rule of law, good governance, human rights and the principles of access to information. Our group is comprised of professionals with diverse backgrounds ranging from geology, demographics, economics, international relations and law, communications, and academia. All group members are human rights activists, and are located in US, UK, West and Southern Africa.
The Democratic Union of Gambian Activists (DUGA)- is an umbrella movement to unite Gambians in North America (US and Canada), Europe and Africa, mobilizing citizens to achieving the goal a sustainable democracy in The Gambia.
A virtual press conference will be held on Thurday 28 January 2021, at: 16H00 GMT;
Meeting ID: 830 1178 1516