Pressure group urges release of key information ahead of Gambia’s presidential polls

Pressure group urges release of key information ahead of Gambia’s presidential polls

Right to Know (R2K) Gambia made a request to The Gambia’s electoral chief to make public information on population data, supplementary voter registration results, and utilization of Elections Act to funding, budgets, procurement of the BVR system and gifts received by the IEC and its Commissioners from President Yahya Jammeh.

R2K Gambia has demanded the independent Electoral Commission and the Gambia Bureau of Statistics to voluntarily disclose data, statistics, finance and funding model being utilized to conduct the 2016 presidential and 2017 National Assembly elections in the West African nation of The Gambia.

The group is lobbying The Gambia’s government to pass the access to information law and to pressure key institutions to voluntarily disclose data, statistics, finances and other information for public use.

The Gambia is heading to the polls in December to vote for a new president or retain incumbent President Yahya Jammeh. The electoral commission said it registered nearly a million voters but statisticians argued that the number is disproportionate, looking at the provisional census data.

Campaigners say presidential elections in the West African nation are unfair and are customized to keep President Yahya Jammeh in power and R2K Gambia says the personalization of the polls has resulted in increased abuse of rights and disregard of the rule of law, while state institutions and public enterprises have weakened.

“State and democratic institutions that are supposed to ensure transparency and be accountable to the people, remain under the firm grip of the President who has subverted all democratic processes to serve only his political and commercial interests. Thus the space for popular participation, access to information and freedom of association have been severely curtailed by legislative repression and enforced by military and police brutality,” said a spokesperson for the group.

The group believes that the retrieval of information, which in other countries is normal routine, is actually near impossible in The Gambia, given the heightened levels of illegality by the state, whose actions are often shrouded in secrecy.

The Gambia is known as the North Korea of Africa. It is an information black hole for the press. Although leakages are frequent, The Gambia’s government has a culture of secrecy, and abuse of regulatory frameworks by a paranoid regime, say the R2K-Gambia, that they will confront.

It is unlikely that state entities will release information requested.

“If they refuse to respond to the requests being made by the R2K Gambia Coalition, who are Gambians, then it means that they have absolutely no respect for our Constitution, the ECOWAS Protocol, AU treaty mechanisms and the citizenry. That alone is evidence that something is not right in this election process and therefore they have something to hide,” a statement from the group said.

ECOWAS has ruled the country’s 2011 presidential polls as not free and fair. Six other opposition parties boycotted local government and parliamentary polls the following year, giving Jammeh’s ruling APRC a majority in parliament and amending the electoral regulations with tighter financial requirements without hindrance.

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