By Mustapha Jallow
At least one hundred and fifty (150) observers were deployed at various polling stations across the country to observe the voting process of the 2021 December 4th presidential election.
The election was being observed by West Africa Network for Peace-building (WANEP) in partnership with ECOWAS, UNOWAS, the Civil Society Coalition on Election (CCE) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
Other international observers such as Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo, ex-Nigerian President and human right defenders joined and supported the CSOs in the observing process at their base at a local hotel in Bijilo.
The observation was organised by WANEP with funding from the European Union (EU).
Reading the reports received from the observers, Mr Emmanuel Daniel Joof, Chairperson of NHRC, said 150 observers have been deployed to 43 prioritised risk areas across the seven regions of the country. He said 26 observers were also deployed by the NHRC to complement election observers deployed by NAWEP and CCE.
Joof said in the report that there was fair representation of females present at the polling station either as IEC officials or party agents, adding it was also reported by the observers team that consideration was given to persons with disabilities, pregnant and nursing mothers and elderly persons.
According to NHRC chairperson in the report, at the opening of polls, many of the stations recorded long queues and there were cases of no clear instructions to direct voters to their specific voting booths.
Mr Joof further explained in the observation report that, at Jalambereh polling station in Jarra Central Constituency, there was no posting of the voters’ list at the opening of the polls and in Jimara Demba Kunda, Upper River Region, the marbles could not fit into the mouths of the ballot drums.
He said the presiding officer and security agents filed the mouth of the ballot drums to enable the marbles to pass through, stating that the observers were informed but they were not allowed to closely witness the procedure.
According to preliminary data received from field observers, Mr Joof explained that 83 per cent of party agents were not present at the time of the opening of polls.
In their recommendations, the NHRC chairperson said IEC should strictly enforce COVID-19 safety protocols and voters are encouraged to comply. IEC was encouraged by observers to effectively direct voters to their respective polling booths at polling stations and also IEC security agents should continue to be vigilant to ensure election security.
“We will continue to monitor the voting process and provide updates in collaboration with stakeholders,” Mr Joof said.
In similar activity
Gambia Participates’ election observation mission, The Gambia Bar Association, University of The Gambia and Transitional Justice Working Group deployed 463 trained stationary observers and 56 mobile observers across the 7 regions and 53 constituencies, to observe the voting, counting and posting of results at the polling stations.
This was disclosed by Marr Nyang, Executive Director of Gambia Participates who also doubles as the head of election observation mission, during a press conference held at a local at Kololi.
Briefing the press about their findings, Mr. Nyang said The Gambia Participates commended the inclusivity of women in the deployment of security and polling officials, saying they are concerned that some polling stations visited were not set up in locations to guarantee access to persons with disabilities.
“We call on the IEC to ensure an inclusive process by making voting locations more accessible for persons with disabilities as voting progresses. The IEC must also ensure unhindered access for every aspect of the process to election observers and the media in order to promote electoral transparency,” Nyang said.
“100% of the polling stations observed had security agents present, 54% of these were women.”
Reading the preliminary recommendations, Salieu Taal, President of The Gambia Bar Association, said: “We call on the IEC to ensure strict compliance with the application of the election procedures in the results counting and collation process. Polling officials should avoid errors in the reporting of election results. Inconsistent results could destabilise the country given the sensitivity of elections.”
According to Taal, the IEC should remain vigilant and independent in the announcement of election results without external influence, saying security personnel should also remain professional and non-partisan throughout the election.
“We urge the IEC to ensure the results collation centres are known and accessible to observers, media and party agents,” he urged.