By Ndey Sowe
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has on Tuesday, 20th October, 2020, signed a US$4.9 million elections project to support The Gambia’s forthcoming electoral cycle.
The project titled “Support to The Elections and Democratic Processes in The Gambia (2020-2022)” is supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which aims to promote free and fair elections in the country.
The project has five thematic outputs outlined below:
· Transparency is enhanced through the electoral process,
· Inclusive participation is supported to strengthen the elections credibility throughout the political process,
· Accountability is enhanced through the electoral process,
· The capacity of elections stakeholders is strengthen, and
· Dialogue and coordination mechanisms of conflict prevention of election-related violence are implemented throughout the electoral cycle.
Aissata De, UNDP Resident Representative, said the project was formulated in alignment with the existing interventions of the National Development Plan (NDP), United Nations Development Framework (UNDAF) and the Country Programme Document (CPD).
“Cognizant of the impact of COVID-19 on the planned elections, the project has also integrated COVID-19 mitigation measures, such as the active participation of electoral authorities in the COVID-19 National Task Force and the incorporation of WHO/MoH (health ministry) recommendations aimed at minimizing the spread of COVID-19 through the adoption of election-specific regulations, protocol and guidelines,” she said.
UNDP Representative further said the election project also aspires towards forging synergies and complementarity with existing Peace Building Fund (PBF) and UN interventions in The Gambia, like the UNDP who are strengthening democracy project striving towards the establishment of an Infrastructure for Peace in furtherance of conflict prevention and the institutionalization of peace building and conflict resolution mechanisms.
“It is crucial to highlight that this project has a huge funding gap. Out of a total resource requirement of USD 4, 586,760, only USD 210,000 is currently available under the UNDP Government TRAC Project, thus the need for a robust resource mobilization drive right at the inception of project implementation,” she revealed.
Alieu Momarr Njai, IEC Chairman, said for an election to go well, it must be free and fair, while there must be free speech so that all citizens, political parties and candidates can speak without fear or intimidation.
“If the election goes well, the country can continue towards democracy, peace and development. But if the election goes badly, it can undermine democracy and turn the country towards conflict and bad governance,” Njai said.
IEC chairman also said the media must be free to tell everyone what was said without pressure to twist the truth.
“That is the job of professional journalists to fully inform citizens of the issues and their choices so they can decide for themselves for whom to vote for,” he said.
Chairman Njai said elections are very expensive, therefore the Government of The Gambia wrote to seek assistance from UNDP, who sent a Needs Assessment Team to The Gambia in September 2019.
With their recommendations, Chairma Njai said, a team was sent to The Gambia in February 2020 in order to put up a project to support the next electoral cycle.
Noah Touray, Gambia’s Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service, applauded UNDP for its continued support to the people and Government of The Gambia in its democratization drive in general and in this project design, formulation and initial funding in particular.
Mr. Touray also highlighted the key role the Gambia’s media continue to play in the society.
“We have all witness the key role the media can play in checking the excesses of both individuals and organizations,” he said.