18 July 2011

The Gambia: Why the opposition ought to boycott November elections; unless……

By Mathew K Jallow
The opposition parties have ten days in which to mount the campaign of a life time. Yahya Jammeh has embarked on a de-facto two-week whirlwind campaign tour. The November 2011 elections are just round the corner. And IEC's voter registration of 869,000 is out of sync with the theory of possibility. This preamble is the preface of the upcoming elections. And as the election date draws closer and a cloud of doubt hangs over the voter registration numbers, the angst and discomfort among Gambia's voting population at home and abroad is palpable.
At the core of this disquiet is the possible registration of Gambian minors and non-citizens from Senegal, Casamance, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone and Mauritania to name just a few. To a doubting public, the election results have already been predetermined by the fraudulent maneuvering of IEC; a move designed to advantage the regime. And as of now, no party except Yahya Jammeh and his Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) appear ready for an election, which calls into question the credibility of the electoral process before it even begins. So far, what has transpired or is ongoing, suggests that the opposition is being duped, outflanked and taken for fools by both the IEC and Yahya Jammeh and his regime.

To begin, the general public was taken by surprise when both UDP party leader Ousainou Darboe and PDOIS's Halifa Sallah absolved Yahya Jammeh of culpability for undertaking the "Meet the People" tour at this particular time, even quoting a Constitutional requirement that empower Yahya Jammeh to embark on this de-factor campaign tour. And equally surprising, their admonition of Yahya Jammeh against campaigning on the tour was ridiculously lame and laughable for the simple reason that Yahya Jammeh is not bound by our laws and Constitution and certainly does not play by the rules. Additionally, the anomaly in the voter registration process is sufficiently serious to warrant a united opposition dialogue for the purpose of boycotting the elections. It is out of fear of this possible eventuality that the IEC has extended an invitation for a public review of its voter register. But the move is only a smokescreen intended to make voters feel confident that the daring invitation somehow demonstrates the preclusion of fraud in the voter registration process.

With only four months to left before the first ballots are cast, it is clear that this election too will be a repetition of the past three election cycles, when the acute imbalance in access to resources put the opposition at a chronic disadvantage. More seriously still, this is a script that the regime has perfected over time for the purpose of denying the opposition an opportunity to ever prevail in an election. For anyone bewildered by the huge Yahya Jammeh posters infecting our cities, towns and countryside, and who believe that Yahya Jammeh's regime is a dictatorship, also knows from empirical evidence that dictatorships never lose elections. With this in mind, Gambians will be in denial and deluding ourselves if we foolishly, and against our better judgments, latch onto the false believe that the opposition can remove Yahya Jammeh from power under the guise of an election.
Given the prevailing hostile political climate the opposition is operating under and the gaping imbalance in the access and availability of resources between the regime and the opposition, the likelihood that the opposition can pull out a victory from the jaws of the beast are at best slim and at worst impossible. The logical conclusion to be drawn, given these circumstances, is that the elections will not be free and fair, and this is grounds for the opposition to coalesce around the theme of boycotting elections to avoid legitimizing Yahya Jammeh's criminal regime for yet one more term. Boycotting the elections will in some quarters be viewed as an extreme measure, but the alternative of legitimizing Yahya Jammeh and his regime, given the history of murders, summary executions, tortures, forced disappearances of citizens and the underlying turmoil festering within the country is far worst. If the opposition cares about the plight of the Gambian people, which there is no doubt they do, there are ten reasons why consideration for boycotting the election should be discussed with the urgency and seriousness it deserves. The real physical lives of people are a stake as Yahya Jammeh's tenure at the helm of our government means a continuation of the murders, the executions, the tortures, the forced disappearances of citizens, not to mention the continued incarcerations among a host of other tyrannical forms of governance. The opposition should make certain demands as a precondition to participating in the November 2011 elections. These include;
1. Demand an extension of the campaign period from ten days to two/three months
2. Demand opposition have equal access to Gambia Radio and Television Services
3. Prohibit public employees, divisional commissioners, chiefs, military, police, and teachers campaigning for the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council party 
4. End the use of government resources; vehicles, building facilities and finances in campaigning for the regime
5. Stop hounding the opposition with agents and spies who monitor their activities
6. Demand the removal of any imposed restriction and barrier to the opposition's effectiveness
7. Demand that opposition supporter be protected from the regime's hooligans
8. Demand the strict neutrality of all security forces
9. Demand that a robust force of international election monitors be allowed to watch the election process
10. Demand the complete independence of the Independent Electoral Commission or that the Electoral Commissioner comprise representatives nominated from the different political parties
Unless all these demands are met, the opposition should seriously consider boycotting the elections. The fairness of the elections is already in doubt and no amount of gimmicks and trickery will temper the public's perception. The opposition is disadvantaged in a way and to a level that will make the elections a mockery of the tenets of electoral democracy and the rule of law. The opposition should not allow to be used to legitimize the Jammeh regime by participating and an election that is unfavorably skewed and which they have no chance of winning. The time to cut their losses and maintain their dignity in the eyes of the Gambian people is now. BOYCOTT THE NOVEMBER 2011 ELECTIONS UNLESS THE TEN CONDITIONS ABOVE ARE MET.
Also coming soon: 
The Gambia: The paradoxical oxymoron; peace and stability and the underlying turmoil and national insecurity: a special July 22 anniversary edition

1 comment:

  1. Am sceptic to see Jammeh remove bye votes, he live by the gun believe me he will leave/die by the guns