By Yankuba Jallow & Louise Jobe
Some residents of Tallinding and Jeshwang have criticised the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for changing registration centres without making an announcement.
The electoral commission issued their work schedule for the voter registration indicating venues, dates and time of their respective team movements countrywide.
The centre at Buffer Zone has been moved inside the Ahmadiyya Hospital whereas the one at Kandiba School in New Jeshwang is moved to a mosque.
Some of the centres are doing the registration under verandas of mosques and shops.
The Chairperson of IEC, Alieu M. Njie, said they target to register a million people. The registration process began on the 29th May 2021 and will last for 45 days. So far, the Commission has registered 556,766 voters, as of June 21.
Recently, the turnout at many centres has dropped according to IEC officials on the ground. Foroyaa did a Vox pop in order to know what is responsible for the low turnout. We spoke to supervisors at centres in Tallinding and Jeshwang constituencies as well as residents found sitting in the street.
Buba Sanneh, supervisor of the Buffer Zone centre, said his team has been there since May 29 and would remain there till the end of the process.
Despite the team being called the Buffer Zone team, they are not at Buffer Zone. Instead, they were found at a corner inside the Ahmadiyya Hospital. Foroyaa interviewed some residents randomly who said they are still waiting for IEC to send a team at Buffer Zone to register them. They said they don’t know about the team movement to Ahmadiyya Hospital.
“We were at the Buffer Zone, but because it started to become windy and rain started coming, we felt that place was not proper [to be],” he said on Saturday.
Sanneh said the role of a supervisor is to find a suitable place for his or her team.
“This is why we chose to come here (the Ahmadiyaa Hospital). Here (the Ahmadiyya Hospital) is more suitable than there (Buffer Zone). We have a tent but here it is more conducive than there,” he said. “The turnout before was impressive, but now it is going down. People are coming bit by bit, but not as I expect it to be.”
Sanneh said as of last Thursday, they registered 2646 people. He said he does not issue attestation forms to people who do not bring old or invalid national documents.
“You have to bring an old document that is to show that you were once having it, if not, you come with the documents of one of your parents, if not, for me I don’t give it out,” he said.
He said he has rejected some people who came with birth certificates bearing the information born to “non-Gambian parents.”
Lamin Conteh, a man found sitting at the Buffer Zone, said he did not register yet because IEC hadn’t sent a team to Buffer Zone yet.
“I have my documents. I am waiting for them to come,” he said.
The reporters interviewed many people at random places in the vicinity of Buffer Zone to ask them about the registration process. Like Lamin, most of them haven’t registered as they claimed they were waiting for IEC to dispatch a team to Buffer Zone. Some said they registered at the Talliding Madina centre because they were not sure whether Buffer Zone will have a centre this time around.
Mariama Hydara, a registration staff at the Kandiba School registration centre which has now been moved to a veranda at a mosque in New Jeshwang, said they should be at the school, but because the students are learning they cannot have a crowd there, while the students are learning. She said they had been transferred to the mosque since last Sunday.
“We decided to transfer to the mosque here now,” she said. “For yesterday (Thursday) and today (Friday) people are coming one by one. Even at that the turnout has been good.”
It was put to her that there were no people to register at the time of the reporters’ visit and her response was “currently it is a slow process because since Sunday we have been here and we have been registering people. As time goes on it is going to reduce every day.”
In response to the question on whether the change venue has an effect on the voter turnout, she admitted that the change would have an impact on the turnout.
“For us, we are not impacted much, maybe with the other teams,” she said.
She said from the previous centre to the centre they are now, as of Friday, they registered 2464 voters.
Lamin Yabo, senior supervisor at Tallinding Madina, said they came there on the 19th June and they will be there till July 11. He said his team registered 4091 people, as of Thursday, from the Tallinding kunjang centre and the Tallinding Madina centres.
“We are not satisfied with the turnout because what we were expecting we are not seeing,” he said.
He took time to encourage people to come out and register on time in order to avoid rushing to come in the last days when the crowd is expected to become large.
Musa Touray, a registration staff who spoke on behalf of the Supervisor at the Tallinding Islamic Institute, said the turnout in the first three days was good, but it is not impressive now. They came to the centre on the 12th June 2021 and have registered 712 people in 13 days, as of Thursday.
“Our turnout is very poor,” he said.
The centre is at a clinic attached to the Islamic Institute. The registration staff were all found sitting relaxed because there was no one to be registered.
Yankuba Jatta, the supervisor of the Tallinding Duto Koto registration centre, said they came to the place on the 19th June and since then, the turnout has been good. He said every day his centre has registered over 200 people since they came there.
The reporters visited the centre at around 10 am and found some people sitting and waiting to be registered. There was no queue at the centre and the number of people there at the time was 8.
Fatou Barrow, the supervisor of the Tallinding Lower Basic School, said the turnout at their centre is good. She said at her previous centre – Tallinding Bantaba – she registered a little over 3300. She added that they transferred to the centre at the Tallinding Lower Basic School on the 19th June and since then, they registered 171 (Saturday), 164 (Sunday), 193 (Monday), 212 (Tuesday) and 215 (Wednesday). The reporters arrived there at 13:20 and found them on a break. Some people were sitting outside waiting to be registered.
“The people are coming out to register,” she said. “We are on a break. We do take our break at half past one.”
The registration at this centre is being done inside a classroom.
Nyima Sanyang, supervisor at the Ebo Town Sanchaba registration centre, said her team was previously at the Ebo Town mosque and that they transferred to the new centre on the 18th June. She said some minors wanted to be registered under the pretext that their birth certificates were lost. She said they had to interview them.
“They (the underage) would come to us and say their birth certificates are lost. They will request for attestation (forms) from us,” she said. “If we talk to them deeply, we would come to know that they have birth certificates that they kept at their homes, but because they are underage, they would want to be registered using attestation forms.”
Sanyang said in some instances, the parents would accompany the underage to explain to the officials that their children’s birth certificates were lost. She detailed that in some of the cases, they rejected them when they were not convinced with the answers the ‘supposed’ child gave.
Abdoulie Jingaly, the supervisor at the ABC school, said they registered close to two hundred voters on the 24th and 25th June. He said they transferred to the school on the 24th June from their previous three centres – Ebo Town, Kusabiya, Badala and Big Tree – where they registered a little over 2000.
Dawda Sanyang, senior registration officer at Jeshwang Constituency, said the ABC School is a new centre.
IEC officials have stopped issuing attestation to persons who do not have valid documents
“We don’t give attestation just like that. You have to show us something to make us believe you are a Gambian,” Fatou Barrow said.
The Commission this year added new centres but there are directions to the registration centres like the ABC School in Jeshwang. This centre is the last point of New Jeshwang with no residences after there. The school is a few metres from the river. The centre is located in the school and the registration team is expected to stay there for nine days (24th June to 2nd July). One can only know about the centre when you get to the school gate. There is a white banner placed near the school entrance. When one gets inside the school, you will only come to see the centre after asking the people because the centre is at the backside of the classrooms.
The centre at the New Jeshwang Mosque is situated at the backside of the mosque. There is a white banner hanging at the entrance of the mosque. The centre at Ebo Town Sanchaba is situated under a veranda of a shop.
Efforts to get the views of the IEC have not yet succeeded but readers will be duly informed as soon as we get them.