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Something is still rotten in the state of Gambia. By Foday Samateh

Something is still rotten in the state of Gambia

By  Foday Samateh

Yahya Jammeh and his diehard supporters can slaughter hundred or thousand cows for a merry feast. They can throw all manner of sumptuous parties in all the seven regions of The Gambia for the fourth presidential election he had been declared the winner. All the celebration and chest-beating will not alter a damn truth about this drama of falsehood masqueraded as democratic election. Night will never be day and a cat will never be a dog no matter how many times the claim is made. So too a police state will never be a free nation by mere lip-service. This election, like the previous three, is nothing but a coup by the ballot box to renew the conferment of democratic legitimacy on a petty dictator.

The purported victory serves only one purpose. Further perpetuation of the status quo of a single man who is under the influence of messianic delusions and cheered on by a groveling troupe of mendacious loudmouths, gullible expendables, shameless opportunists, unprincipled apologists, flatterers for hire and happy know-nothings. The official
election result isn’t so much disappointing as it is offensive in that an avowed autocrat continues to exploit the democratic process to keep tightening his grip on power.

The supporters have two recurring defenses for the regime. The first is that Yahya Jammeh is a democratic president because the people voted for him. The people voted for Hitler too, but no one ever considered the Nazi madman to have been a democratic leader of Germany. Saddam and Mubarak had also won elections, but no one ever paid any credence to their landslides. The second is that he has brought transformational development to the country. Then why is The Gambia still sitting at the bottom rung of the Highly-Indebted Poor Countries in the UN development ranking index.
Put another way, in all the thirty years of the previous president, the national debt amounted to three billion dalasis. In seventeen years, this regime accumulated twenty-five billion dalasis in our name for some modest development. If Jawara had ever enriched himself in office, Yahya Jammeh has flamboyantly transformed himself from a destitute usurper to one of the wealthiest men in all Africa.

Yes, the regime has built schools as it should, but the annual West African Examination results show that the standard of education has deteriorated. The regime has built hospitals as it should, but the mortality rate hasn’t dropped a nick and life expectancy hasn’t improved a notch. The regime has built a television station, but only to turn it into a propaganda bureau to brainwash the nation into believing that we are blessed with a great leader endowed with divine powers. The regime established a university but deprived it of even a semblance of academic freedom for credible scientific research and critical debate on public policy and national affairs.

Too much is made of the regime’s vaunted developments; Schools, roads and hospitals are essential but very basic requirements for any modern nation-state. They have been built in both democracies and autocracies, by both transparent and corrupt governments across the world. The difference is not the physical presence of the structures but
the function they provide for the public good. Kim Jong-il of North Korea also built schools and hospitals and roads. Freedoms and democratic pluralism are the proudest boasts of civilized governments. Oppressive regimes everywhere justify their stranglehold as necessary for stability. The world knows the truth. Democracies are stable over the generations
while dictatorships hardly outlast a single regime. It says volumes about the state of the economy when remittances from citizens striving and scraping for a living in foreign countries constitute a major component of the GDP and every youth is desperate to travel elsewhere for opportunities.

Just about any head of state with average ambition can build schools, roads and hospitals. What sets Yahya Jammeh apart is his misplaced self-image as a man of destiny, gliding on the sweeping wave of history. Listening to him, an act of unbearable mental torture, one hears a jumble of crude vocabulary of a self-anointed republican, patriot, nationalist,
field marshal, prophet, genius, shaman and humanitarian. A breathing definition of a multiple personality disorder. He wants to impress upon his audience that he doesn’t only embody the dreams and spirit of the nation but attains a greatness so unique that it defies all categorizations and comparisons. That he is a one-off phenomenon in all the vestiges and vistas of time.

    Such blinding if not archaic hubris and heroic pretensions are quite familiar. Like all egomaniacs, he is the opposite of greatness. He is a petty, aggrieved, insecure, venal, paranoiac, pernicious, depraved, intolerant, crass, corrupt, deceptive, dishonest, avaricious, intemperate, dishonorable, untrustworthy, misinformed, semiliterate, inarticulate, thuggish, malcontent, violent, tribalist, lying little man. Someone needs to tell him that the Holy Quran is not for carrying around. The sacred Revelation is not a prop for
gimmicky display of piety. The Words of the Almighty are meant for recitation to acquire wisdom and guidance. If this ignoramus really knows how to read the Book of all books, he would be doing so every morning and night on national television and leading every Friday prayer at the State House mosque. Just like he is no professor or doctor of any sort, he is no sheikh. He is an empty pretender. A vain extrovert infected with infantile and fetish need for attention. From his overdressing, raving and ranting to uncouth mannerisms, the sane mind is conflicted over determining whether he is a scarecrow or clown with the keys to the highest office in the land.

    For whatever developments that will take place in the next five years if he stays in power, the following too will happen. More defenseless citizens will be rounded up and whisked to Mile Two Maximum Security Prison he called the “five-star hotel” for his enemies. The country will remain a “hell,” as he put it, for journalists until the last of them becomes his crowing praise-singer. He will own more businesses to amass more wealth to drive out competition for monopolistic control of the economy. He will further crush dissent, buy support and influence, and institutionalize patronage into the whole system for access and success to strengthen his clutch on power. He will further promote superstition over science and make new claims that he possesses “miracle cures” and herbal elixirs for more medical conditions. He will continue to court and befriend the endangered species of like-minded despots and unsavory
characters around the world. He will continue to run the affairs of the state like a Mafia boss of the underworld. He will pile up more debt on the nation, raise taxes ever higher, his regime will remain unaudited while a financial time bomb ticks for the country. For supporters and opponents alike, prepare for a painful reckoning when the lease of time for his
nefarious reign is up.

Gambia: Press Statement (detailed) of The UDP-led Alliance on the Nov. 24th, 2011 Presidential Elections



This Statement is a sequel to the Preliminary Statement issued by the UDP/GMC United Alliance in which we categorically rejected the results of the just concluded Presidential Elections as announced by the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission. We strongly reiterate our stand that the results of the said elections were bogus and fraudulent, and constitute a naked theft of the will of the people through the back door. It shall not stand!!

The UDP/GMC United Alliance insists that the electoral and electioneering processes, including the campaigning dynamics have been intentionally skewed in favour of the APRC to the gross disadvantage of the Alliance. These include the ten day campaign limitation period imposed by the IEC without any basis in law or in fact. The Elections Act makes no provision for limiting a campaign period to ten days. In previous presidential elections, although limited, the campaign period was way more than was permitted this time. Any sincere election Commission committed to the holding of a free and fair election would rather expand the campaign period than reduce it.

This unjustifiably crippling limitation was resisted by the Alliance at the material time before the conduct of the elections, but our concerns were rejected by the IEC without any justifications. Having been denied access to state media such as radio and television for the past five years, and having regard to the oppressive conditions under which the private media had to endure, the opposition was hardly heard during the pre-election period. In effect our stand is that the processes leading towards the elections were not free and fair. Therefore the results of such a fundamentally flawed process cannot receive our endorsement.

The ubiquitous presence of armed security, senior local government officials such as regional governors, district chiefs and Alkalolu and remorseless use of state resources cast enormous doubt and imposed a pernicious influence on the election. Threats were made, and intimidating messages were spread which had the pervasive effect of frightening voters. This was preceded by threats made by APRC Campaign Manager and Minister responsible for National Assembly Affairs that the ballot boxes and the biometric voter registration system were fitted with means of identifying those who voted against the APRC. Voters were warned during the campaign of consequences of voting against the APRC.

The election itself on poling day was severely marred by fundamental irregularities. In many polling stations, our polling agents were refused by IEC and security officials from accompanying the ballot boxes from the polling stations to the various counting centers. In the entire Upper River Region constituting seven constituencies, this denial was applied in all counting centers at the Region. The act of denying our agents to accompany ballot boxes was intended to commit foul play by tampering with the boxes in transit in favour of the APRC, without the possibility of detection. For instance in Jedda Two and Marakisa in the Kombo Central Constituency, voting cards were actually found in supposedly ballot boxes, which indicate how insecure they were. To insert a voter’s card in a ballot box, one would have to remove the box top itself, because the card could fit through the marble hole provided. This is positive proof that it was very easy to lift open the ballot boxes without tampering with the seals provided.

Extra voting marbles were found strewn all over some counting centers and we are in possession of some of those marbles picked up randomly by third parties two days after elections. Voting marbles were all supposed to be collected, placed back into ballot boxes and secured. This was not the case at many counting centers.

Our agents reported a pattern of simultaneous multiple token counting conducted at many counting centers across the country. In those instances, our agents were outnumbered and could not participate in most of the counting taking place. This made it possible for election officials in collusion with the APRC to compromise the integrity of the counting and collation processes. Tokens were removed from boxes in many of those centers, counted without the opportunity of verification accorded to our agents and certified by joint IEC/APRC counters.

In many of the counting centers, there were no proper lighting provided. In the case of St. Peter’s school, at Lamin, ballot boxes were indiscriminately scattered about in the court yard without adequate security, while the place itself was massively littered with APRC supporters and militants, and persons donned in security uniforms.

There has been widespread voting nationwide by uniformed persons, at polling stations where they were not registered or stationed. In Bakau Constituency, army officers led non uniformed recruits who were not on any elections assignments to vote at polling centers across that constituency, even though they were not registered as voters in that particular constituency. The UDP led Alliance Candidate himself intervened and reported the matter to the Returning Officer for Kanifing Municipality who dismissively asserted that he was under instructions to allow them to vote. The Chairman of the IEC was personally informed but before the situation could be arrested, most of these personnel were already permitted by to vote, although they had not right to vote at those polling centers. This pattern was seriously repeated nation-wide.

We are informed that police and military uniforms were indiscriminately provided to persons who were not serving members of any security establishment and these persons participated in securing and conveying ballot boxes of ballot boxes, and were active at polling and counting centers nationwide.

There has been a mass influx of non Gambian voters from outside The Gambia who were camped by the APRC at various sites such as the old Medical & Health Department in Banjul, Garba Jahumpa Upper Basic School in Banjul, Wander Beach Hotel, the Brikama Community Center, the NYSS premises in Bakau, and other places within West Coast Region and Kanifing Municipality. Gambian citizens would not normally be camped in such places, isolated from the rest of the public because every true Gambian citizen would vote and return to their family homes. Some of these places were disclosed to international observers, who went and verified for themselves.

The irregularities are fundamental and numerous. We are still in the process of evaluating more of such information and evidence from across the country.

Units of law enforcement personnel publicly displayed preference and bias for the ruling party during the campaigns. Credible information reaching us today lends veracity to this. Soldiers based at Lamin Koto conducted a so-called election victory celebration at Jerome Koto, while contingents of the Police Intervention Unit went on a victory celebrations at Kerr Ousman Boye, threatening local residents for supporting the UDP led Alliance.

Traditionally, election security and crowd control have been conducted by the Police Force in this country. But this time around, Gambians have been severely intimidated by the inexplicably heavy presence of the heavily armed soldiers in our streets, particularly in the capital city of Banjul, as if The Gambia was in a state of war. This had the intended effect of spreading and consolidating fear among the population to the benefit of the incumbent against the Alliance. The flagrant violation of the principle of neutrality by the security forces is additional affirmation of the lack of a level playing field and a fundamentally flawed electoral process. In this regard, the Independent Electoral Commission Chairman was seen on television welcoming the incumbent and leading him to vote.

The radio and television coverage provided by GRTS to the UDP/GMC Alliance was heavily censored, edited, watered down to produce the lowest possible effect, while half of our campaign rallies across the country were not even featured or broadcasted. Commentaries on GRTS were largely derogatory of our progress, while the APRC was accorded in extremely favourable light. The return of the incumbent was aired two days running each lasting over four hours. The UDP/GMC Alliance candidate was give only thirty minutes. Even then it was reportage from the GRTS correspondent with no pictures shown.

The UDP/GMC United Alliance is proud of the patriotism demonstrated by Gambians across the country. The Alliance is very appreciative of the legendary hospitality accorded to it by Gambians along the campaign trail and the tumultuous welcome received. To all those who hosted the Campaign, shared their resources with us, and gave us the best accommodation they could provide we say thank you.

To Gambian voters, we thank you for voting in your strong numbers for the UDP/GMC United Alliance. We assure you that your votes shall not go in vain. Together we shall vigorously defend the will of the people. Together we shall not relent in this effort.

The UDP/GMC United Alliance is equally appreciative of the tremendous contributions of Gambians in Diaspora, particularly those who have materially contributed towards the efforts in the campaigns. For the indomitable online Gambian press such as Maafanta.com, Freedom Newspaper, Senegambia News, The Gambia Echo, Gainako Online Newspaper, Hello Gambia, Jollof News and others, the list is unending. We are proud of you and your Nation is proud of you. Thank you for providing a veritable medium of expression for Gambians in such a manner denied to them in their own country. We assure you that we shall never give up on you, and we are confident that you shall not give up on us. Together, let us consolidate the partnership in the effort to enthrone genuine democratic plurality in our country, expand the democratic space, build a culture of tolerance and defeat those forces of oppression. Let us together continue to work harder to liberate our country. The struggle has just begun, and we must use every successive stage as a new beginning in the overall struggle for comprehensive political change in our national governance infrastructure. Another Gambia is possible. And together we shall build it.

Long Live the Republic of The Gambia!!

Long Live the UDP/GMC United Alliance!

UDP Secretariat

Banjul, The Gambia

Dated at Banjul, this 28th day of November 2011.