By Mustapha Jallow
Staff of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) stationed in Manduar Touba are currently facing technical issues after the voter’s card printing machine failed to print the processed card on Saturday, 3rd July 2021.
This comes four days after the IEC officials decided to allow the people of ‘Wollof-Kunda’ to get registered in their territorial area.
The voter registration was going well in the village. There were long queues until the printing machine broke down, failing to print the voters’ cards.
During the reporter’s visit to both Manduar Mankinka-Kunda and Manduar Touba (Wolof-Kunda), he observed that IEC staff were struggling to get villagers registered, as they endured technical issues with their printing machine.
While at ‘Wollof-Kunda’ at 1pm, residents were seen queued and IEC staff were also busy taking their details. The laptop, where the IEC staff would take photos and details of the resident, was intact but only the printing machine was missing on the table.
This medium understands that the IEC staff would then print the voter’s card at their nearby registration centres in the West coast Region or take them to their regional office in Brikama or Headquarters in Kanifing. It was observed this was slowing the registration process in the Touba-Wolof.
In Manduar Mankinka-Kunda, IEC staff stationed there were also facing similar technical issues from Friday to Saturday. But the Alkalo and IEC staff confirmed that the matter has now been resolved. The reporter witnessed voter’s cards being printed and given to residents whose details were taken.
Amfaal Conteh, IEC Supervisor and head of the IEC Mobile-Team, who supervises the voter registration process in Manduar-Touba, confirmed the technical problem they are facing at the community of Manduar. He added the voter’s cards that were processed on Saturday and Sunday were given to the owners yesterday, Monday.
He explained that the voter’s cards that were made on Monday will be handed over to the owners on Tuesday because their printing machine ‘disappointed’ them.
“Those who did the registration yesterday (Monday), will get their voters’ card on Tuesday,’’ Faal.
Asked what should be done to address these problems, Faal responded that “According to IEC officials, the matter will be resolved on Wednesday 7th June.’’
He further explained that the technical issue affected not only the IEC but also villagers who were expecting to be given their voter’s cards on the spot. He assured that the issue will be handled as soon as possible and everybody will get their voter’s cards.
Alhagie Babucarr Secka, the Alkalo of Manduar-Touba (Wolof-Kunda), was approached to sound his opinion on the matter and he confirmed the printer broke down. He said he was away on his farmland when the incident happened.
“I received a phone call only to be told that the printing machine has a problem,’’ he said.
But the Alkalo declined to make further comments because he said he was not around when the printer broke down.
Signs of worries were seen on the faces of residents of ‘Wollof-Kunda’ who were queued while sitting waiting for their voter’s cards.
Lamin Jarju, Councillor for Manduar, told Foroyaa at Manduar Mankinka-Kunda that the issue is a nationwide thing that normally gives IEC problems during their voter registration exercise. He said Gambians should expect that the machines can have problems at any time and moment.
However, he added that the matter was later resolved and people were going to get registered.
“The breakdown has affected the process because things were on a brief hold but IEC were able to resolve the issue. The process has also come to normal,’’ he said.
Jarju urged the IEC officials to provide their staff with quality and new generators in order to make their work easier for their staff. He added that people are still coming out in groups to ensure they are registered.
Ba Jerreh Bojang, the Alkalo of Manduar-Mankinka, also confirmed the brief technical problem in the village.
Speaking further, Bojang said the Tuesday incident topic has been buried, saying the main topic at the community people are talking about now is registration.
An IEC staff confirmed the two-day technical problem but quickly added that the process has returned to normal
Few personnel of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) were still seen stationed near the registration centre in Manduar Mankinka. The PIU officers were many, different to the previous visit, where a group of armed men were seen in the village.
Other PIU officers stationed at the entrance of Manduar-Touba were not there anymore. Inside Touba ‘Wollof-Kunda’, few of the officers were sitting under the mango trees at different places in Touba.
The IEC Chairman, Alhajie Alieu Momar Njai, informed Foroyaa via phone that the breakdown was news to him, thus he promised to find out with his people on the ground.
In emphasizing the desire to provide the opportunity for every eligible Gambian to be registered, Mr Njai had said last Wednesday at the commencement of a national dialogue among stakeholders, security forces and youth:
“What I always say as far as the IEC is concerned is to give everyone the opportunity to register. And we will give it to everyone where one lives for free, unlike other countries. Your voters’ card will be given to you on the spot.”