By Nelson Manneh
The CSOs Coalition on Elections-The Gambia, spearheaded and coordinated by WANEP-The Gambia, has on Wednesday 9th June 2021, indicated in their preliminary statement that some Alkalolu have been charging fees for signing the attestation forms from applicants.
These Alkalolu, according to the Coalition, include the Alkalo of Bundung. Also, the Coalition has received information that some Alkalolu were issuing attestations to individuals not born within their jurisdictions.
The CSOs Coalition on Elections-The Gambia spearheaded and coordinated by WANEP-The Gambia is a homegrown national platform established in 2006 to facilitate and enhance CSOs’ participation in elections and electioneering, democracy and good governance. With a membership of 30 Civil Society Organizations, the CSOs Coalition on Elections continues to participate and influence public policy through election observation and conflict monitoring.
A team of 53 observers have been deployed in all the seven administrative regions to observe the general voter registration exercise. In this preliminary statement, the Coalition offers a summary of key observations in the first ten days of the general voter registration exercise.
Laman Jahateh, a member of the steering committee who read the Coalition’s preliminary statement on behalf of the coalition, said since the start of the registration exercise, the CSOs Coalition have observed the opening and closing in urban and rural registration centres.
“So far, the registration exercise is taking place in a generally peaceful and calm environment with no incidents of violence and restrictions of political party agents at registration centres.
“The majority of registration centres visited opened on time, except for the first day where most centres opened about half an hour late due to delay in setting up the registration centres,” he said.
The Coalition’s findings indicated that the voter registration exercise was also delayed in the first two days by technical issues, notably the difficulty in printing of voter’s cards.
“In some registration centres, other equipment such as generators were temporarily faulty. On June 2nd, which is the 5th day after the start of registration, the exercise was stopped in Somita,” it stated.
CSOs report also indicated that in Foni Bintang constituency, West Coast Region, the printer could not function well and it had to be transported to Brikama for replacement.
“A number of registrants were seen turned away in some registration centres we visited due to various reasons, including being in possession of conflicting documents, expired ID cards and photocopied Alkalo attestations.
“The majority of registration centres visited had a number of party agents present – mostly representing APRC, PDOIS, GDC, NPP, and UDP, and were given access to observe, which demonstrates transparency. However, the Coalition observed that party agents are not sufficiently oriented and are poorly equipped.
“In some registration centres, some party agents were found to be recording the details of each card printed by IEC officials The Coalition believes this could undermine the process. Party agents should request the number of registered voters at the end of the day,” Jahateh stated.
He said they have observed intimidation and discrimination of some registrants by political party agents. Similarly, at Tallinding Buffer Zone, the ward councillor was said to have attacked the IEC officials for registering an applicant who is believed to understand only one of the national languages, justifying his statement that despite the applicant’s national ID, he should not be granted a voter’s card because of his mother tongue and colour of his skin.
“There have been incidents of attempted interference in the registration centresby elected ward councillors. At the Latrikunda Sabiji mosque, the elected councillor could be heard asking IEC officials not to register anyone from the said community since the centre is under Fajikunda ward; this resulted in the exchange of words with a resident of the community,” he said.
Reading the statement further, Jahateh said the presence of unauthorized persons was observed in some registration centres. In one of the registration centres, precisely at Banjul mini-stadium, he said individuals could be seen brewing China green tea (Attaya) within the vicinity of the registration centre.
Jahateh said the Coalition indicated that security personnel on IEC duty were visibly present inside the registration centres visited and their conduct and comportment have been professional.
“In Bantanding Wollof, Jokadou District a party agent was said to be helping the Alkalo to issue attestations which the Coalition considers to be unlawful and a conflict of interest for a party agent to facilitate the signing of attestations. According to other reports we have received, it was Alkalo’s decision since he could not write.
“There have been allegations of issuance of attestation and registration of ineligible persons including minors. Photos emerged on social media of a group of minors registered in Niamina West Constituency, Central River Region,” he stated.
Jahateh said a registration centre in Bakoteh was inaccessible to persons with disabilities using wheelchairs.
Meanwhile, IEC has reported that a total of 191,509 were registered within a week. Of these, 81,834 are males and 109,675 are females.