Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 December 2021:
Yesterday, Saturday, 4th December, 2021, the people of The Gambian went to the polls, with the head of the ECOWAS Elections Observation Mission – former president of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security – General Francis Behanzi and senior officials of his Commission out and about visiting polling stations across the capital city of Banjul to observe the voting process.
Of particular significance, before polls opened, the ECOWAS team noted the preparation of seals on the ballot drums, a civic education on the voting and counting processes.
Queues were observed to be long but orderly, showing that the people were zealously exercising their franchise.
The team witnessed the timely opening of polls and observed that electoral materials – particularly the indelible ink, ballot marbles, and copies of the voters’ register – were available and adequate.
In addition to the international observers such as the African Union, the European Union, the Commonwealth and the Ahmed Tejan Kabba Foundation, few domestic observers, including the Peace Ambassadors, Gambia Votes and Activista, were also present.
It was further observed that the electoral officials largely demonstrated satisfactory knowledge of the processes and their responsibilities, while agents of at least three parties were largely represented and vigilant.
Upon presenting a valid voter ID; voters were verified by polling officials and party agents. Once verified, voters were inked, and the marble was handed to them to proceed to the polling booth.
Overall, the aged, pregnant and lactating mothers were given preference to vote.
As with the voter registration which constitutes over 57 percent female, the ECOWAS team observed a significant female representation in the queues, amongst agents, security and amongst electoral officials.
Apart from general duty police, armed securities were present in all polling stations visited but conducting themselves professionally helping with queue management.
Talking to newsmen, the ECOWAS Head of Mission Koroma said there was a good start despite a few reports of polling centres opening fifteen minutes late.
“Polling officers were found to be adequately trained and equipped; we observed an early huge voter turnout which is an indication of the determination of Gambians to exercise their civic responsibility. Above all, we have not heard of any incidents of violence or commotion in the polling stations, neither in the ones we visited nor those visited by our observers.”
The Head of Mission further stated that: “These are all good signs…we hope that this positivism will continue till the end of the polling, the counting, the transmission and up to the announcement of results.”
Later on, the ECOWAS chief observer witnessed the voting by President Adama Barrow of the ruling National People’s Party and interacted with Ousainou Darboe, the candidate of the main opposition United Democratic Party.
Koroma said that both President Barrow and Darboe expressed satisfaction with the start of the process.
At the ECOWAS Situation Room briefing, which is essential the consolidated summary of reports by all ECOWAS observers in country, the technical team corroborated observations of the head of mission’s team that “Generally, the process kicked off very well”.
This is a litmus test for Gambian democratic dispensation and a real test of how far the peoples of Gambia, are ready to move away from the past and forge a way forward to a brighter and more predictable future . Maybe the only country in the world, that allow their citizens to choose their preferred presidential candidate by voting with a marble, first introduced in the country in 1965, due to the high level of illiteracy in the country. Some things never change. The first presidential elections held after the removal of former psychopathic dictator Yayah Jammeh, that subjected Gambians to rein of terror during his time in office. Extrajudicial executions, forcing AIDS sufferers to seek help from him, because he claims to have the magic power to cure them, and forceful torture and disappearance of journalists and people critical of his government.
For majority of Gambians, the change of government, headed by Adama Barrow was a breath of fresh air.And since taking office, Mr Barrow have instituted changes. Thanks to his reform agenda, people can now express themselves freely without the fear of loosing their lives.Though some may disagree, but it is a break from the past. Where under Jammeh, expressing yourself, is like passing a death sentence on oneself. The truth and reconciliation commission he set up to investigate the atrocities committed by Yayah Jammeh, with the full cooperation of some of the former military intelligence officers, that were running a torture chambers has exposed many Gambians to the full horrors that went on during Yayah Jammeh’s time in office. Although tourism one of the major sources of the Gambian economy is anaemic, due to Covid19, travel restrictions, and the effects it had right across the wider Gambian economy, especially, on agricultural equipments, small and medium size businesses,
I think it will be a grave mistake for Gambians to vote other Presidential aspirant, that are unknown quantity, and not tried and tested. On the current trajectory, with Adama Barrow on the helm, I think he deserves a second term. Is better the devil you know than the one you have never interacted with. But it is up to the nine hundred thousand registered voters to make that call.