International Civil Society Forum on Gambia: FRAMEWORK FOR ADDRESSING ELECTORAL REFORMS IN THE GAMBIA

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We, representatives of Civil Society Organizations met in New York, on the margins of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly on October 1-2, 2015 to deliberate on the state of affairs in The Gambia.

Asserting the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which came into force in February 2012, to which The Gambia is a signatory, obligating it to adopt the broader principles of popular participation, democracy, and good governance as enshrined in: Article 3- respect human rights and democratic principles; promotion of a system of government that is representative; hold regular, transparent free and fair elections; effective participation of citizens in democratic and development processes and in governance of public affairs; strengthening political pluralism and recognizing the role, rights and responsibilities of legally constituted political parties, including opposition political parties, which should be given status under national law; Article 11-promoting the culture of democracy and peace;

Recalling that the Democracy Charter further makes for specific provisions under Article 17 – Democratic Elections, which compels AU member states, to which The Gambia belongs: establish and strengthen independence and impartial national electoral bodies; establish and strengthen national mechanisms that redress election-related disputes in a timely manner; Ensure fair and equitable access by contesting parties and candidates to state controlled media during elections;

Concerned by the rapid, systematic and deliberate policy by The Gambia Government, over the past two decades to close civic space, discourage popular participation, and curtail media freedoms;

Further concerned by State capture of the National Assembly; the blurring of the lines of separation of powers; the continued disregard for the 1997 Constitution; and passage of laws that contradict regional and continental normative standards and frameworks as well as illegal laws which violate or contradict the national constitution;

Shocked by the rapid and continued deterioration of rule of law and erosion of human rights, as documented by Human Rights Watch and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Mr. Juan Mendez;

Alarmed at the abuse of executive power in The Gambia as evidenced by recent events, which have been widely documented, indicating that the country is fast sliding towards economic and political chaos, where impunity and terror are now firmly entrenched;

Disturbed by the recently passed Elections Amendment Act of 2015;

Condemn the action taken by the National Assembly to pass the Elections Amendment Act 2015, and President Jammeh for appending his signature on the Bill;

Emphasizing that the Elections Amendment Act 2015 contradicts section 25 (1)(e) of the Constitution- which states that  people have the right to –  freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form and join associations and unions, including political parties and trade unions;

Cognizant that the Elections Amendment Act 2015 prices out political opposition, making The Gambia the most expensive country to vie for public office, in the process curtailing the rights of citizens provided for in the constitution for full participation and representation;

Fully Cognizant that through the Elections Amendment Act 2015, the executive has demonstrated its determination to continue to stifle freedom and peoples’ right to popular participation, prodding The Gambia, and by extension, Senegal, towards a precipice;

Aware that on 24th November, 2011 the regional body, ECOWAS, refused to observe the elections stating that it was conducted: ‘in an atmosphere of “intimidation, an unacceptable level of control of the electronic media by the party in power, the lack of neutrality of state and parastatal institutions, and an opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation,”

Fully aware that ECOWAS also stated that conditions on the ground, in The Gambia in 2011, would not ensure a level playing field;

Appraised of the “12 DEMANDS FOR ELECTORAL, CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS” document by Gambian political opposition parties;

Call upon the Gambia Government to engage in urgent dialogue with political opposition on the “12 Demands for electoral Constitutional reforms”;

Call upon the international donor community not to fund the 2016 presidential elections, and the 2017 National Assembly elections unless the following minimum criteria are met:

ü  Commissioners of the Independent Electoral Commission, whose tenures have expired are relieved from their posts, and new Commissioners are hired – the current Chairperson of the Electoral Commissions is currently illegally occupying the position as head of the Independent Electoral Commission;

ü  Integrity that meets international standards is infused into the voter registration process;

ü  All political parties are given equal access to public media;

ü  Abuse of state resources by the ruling APRC party under the leadership of President  Jammeh is halted, and mechanisms put in place to monitor such violations before, during and after the election period;

ü  An amendment to the law compelling the Independent Electoral Commission to issue permits for political rallies  in a fair and expeditious manner must be passed;

ü  The Inspector General of Police should be stripped of the responsibility of issuing permits for public gatherings and campaigns;

ü  The Gambian constitution should be amended to remove the 65 year age limit for presidential candidates;

ü  The state must cease the intimidation and harassment of the opposition parties and their supporters;

 

Call upon ECOWAS and the African Union to withhold funding assistance and not to observe the 2016 Presidential and 2017 National Assembly elections if the above minimum criteria are not met;

 

Done on 20 October, 2015

 

Signed

 

Campaign for Human Rights Gambia UK (CHRG-UK)

Civil Society Association Gambia (CSAG)

Coalition for Change Gambia (CCG)

Democratic Union of Gambian Activists (DUGA)

Gambia Consultative Council (GCC)

Gambia Democracy Action Group (GDAG)

Save the Gambia Democracy Project (STGDP)

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