Friday, November 11, 2016

UN and others sound alarm bells ahead of elections

Mohammed Ibn Chambas, UN Represntative for West Africa 
At a pre-election mission press conference in the Gambian capital of Banjul, The United Nations' Secretary General's Special Representative in West Africa reminded the Gambian dictator that he must release not only the titular leader of country's leading opposition party but all political prisoners before the December 1st elections.

This demand is consistent with the demands of  the United States government as well as international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW).  In the case of non-compliance HRW is calling for sanctions against the regime of Yaya Jammeh.

Mr. Ibn Chambas's Banjul mission is to consult with government, leaders of political parties and the development partners on the round with the view of assessing the ground conditions to determine whether they lend themselves to a free, fair and credible elections.  Among the areas stressed by the UN official was the indispensability of an an independent and professional electoral commission that would guarantee the credibility of the elections.

The regime was reminded of its commitment and obligation to the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance as well as the AU's African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

It is clear from the start that most of the conditions necessary for a free, fair and credible elections have not been met.  The independence of the electoral commission continues to be an area of concern because it depends on Jammeh and his business cronies who continue to finance the commission's work in the absence of significant donor financing.  The Chairman of the IEC publicly thanked Jammeh for his contribution in providing it with transport, furniture and the like for the proper functioning of the commission.

Although Mr. Ibn Chambas implored members of civil society to get involved by playing the oversight role expected of them.  Unfortunately, the regime dismantled all such organization immediately following the coup d'etat of July 1994 that ushered in the present regime.  We therefore see this appeal as a hallow one that has no relevance in Jammeh's Gambia.

The regime has been very slow is approving requests of representatives/reporters of news organizations to cover the elections as well as the pre-election activities which, we believe, is a deliberate attempt by Jammeh to limit access that would otherwise provide an unbiased reporting of pre-election activities of the government leading up to the December elections. Already, mass arrests are taking place and other intimidation tactics are being employed by Jammeh's security forces to alienate the opposition.