Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Special Coverage: 2011 Presidential Election...

Gambia: Views of parties’ on polling day

Voters dropped marbles into containers marked with the contestant's names [AFP]
Parties to Gambia’s 2011 presidential election gave their final views and comments on November 24, 2011 shortly after casting their votes, while the outcome of the results remain uncertain even when the incumbent was largely regarded favourite.

The clash

“I was disappointed by the disgraceful and outrageous fabrication by the office of the President that my convoy attacked the ruling party APRC supporters near a military check point at Camp Fenda. There could not be more fabrication than that,” lawyer Ousainou Darboe, candidate for the United Democratic Party (UDP) stressed, while describing the election campaign as peaceful. “I want to tell the office of the president that they should act with decorum. This is what can bring disrespect for the office of the president. If an institution as high as that can engage in fabrication, I think this country is in for trouble.”
The Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) – led by the incumbent, Yahya AJJ Jammeh had on the eve of the polls accused the UDP of attacking his convoy on the final days of the campaign. This was relayed in a press statement through the “office of the president”.
However, Mr Darboe argues that “it was supporters of the APRC who threw stones at his supporters and that the Army Commander at Camp Fenda had to drive-out literally a vehicle of the APRC that got into his convoy.
“Where it not for the Army commander in charge of that area, there would have been a problem,” Darboe said. “Nobody will suppress our people in this country, if those people think that they are in charge of the security and that they can do whatever they want, they are making a mistake.  Nobody will subject our people to any mock trial in this country. We have always been law abiding.
He also noted that he expects to emerge victorious and would be disappointed if that did not happen, while adding that the people of the Gambia are now ready to take charge of their destiny. “Our expectation of victory is not just a fancy but delegated on the behavior and attitude of the people.”

Not free and fair
 “Well just go to McCarthy Square (now July 22nd Square), you will find armored vehicles packed there, that shows intimidation because it is intended to intimidate the people in that area as if we are in a state of conflict. I am sure the same would be the case in Foni,” Darboe said, referring to the ECOWAS statement. “This is one of the reasons why ECOWAS have decided to stay away. However, we want this election to be as peaceful as possible. I tried to speak with the IEC Chairman, Alhagie Mustapha L. Carayol but I could not get him.” 
The Sub-regional economic bloc withdrew from monitoring the elections, and proclaims on the eve of the polls that “it will neither be free nor fair” on grounds that everything is happening under a climate of fear. And that the political environment did not meet the minimum standards for the conduct of polls.

When Yahya AJJ Jammeh, APRC candidate casted his ballot, he told the media that he can’t speak on ECOWAS’s position because Commissioner James Victor Gbeho who signed the statement “Is a junior official”. “He is just like a Permanent Secretary”. 
He also dismisses the possibility of “working” with the opposition provided that he won the elections.
“I do not have any opposition in this country and I will not work with them,” Jammeh said. “If they were people who want peace and stability for this country, am ready to work with them.  They have gone around the world to tarnish the image of this country, in this country, we fear only God, and I will not follow anybody. I follow only God, my religion and my people. ”

Nobody can tell me about democracy, Jammeh argued. “In 17 years I have delivered more than what the British were able to deliver in more than 400 years of misrule in this country,” he stressed, but says he will accept the results and go farming if he were to  loose.
He also warns that he will not allow the press to destabilise the peace of the country. “The journalists are less than one percent of the population. And If anybody expects me to allow one percent of the population to destabilise 99 percent of the population you are in the wrong place,” he said.
Asked if he’d run for the presidency in 2016, Jammeh said: “I don’t decide what I will do and I will go to elections as long as Gambians want me, if the Gambians don’t want me I go to Kanilai and continue farming.”    

Mr. Hamat Bah, the Independent Candidate casted his vote at his native rural-Gambia (Saloum district) and was not available for comment, but the Secretary General of People for Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), Mr Halifa Sallah, whose party is one of four, backing the candidature of Mr Bah, said people must respect the decision of the West African economic bloc, ECOWAS.

Respect ECOWAS position
“They do not look at who has acquired a voter card, who voting or not voting or what the campaign is like. They look at the generality of our institutions, they came to the country and look at all our institutions and they have taken a position so people should respect that,” he said.  “So you can ask them why they have taken that position and they will be able to explain if they are responsible people.”
He said: “As political parties, we have decided to take on this government despite the fact that it is not committed to the fundamentals of democratic principles and we know that.” “But we are taking it on to show that it does not own the country and the people. It’s will, will not prevail.”   
“This is the most fundamental political decision that the Gambian people are making. You can see that 2011 is a very decisive period after 17 years of one individual leading the country,” he said, referring to the importance of the election. “Everybody is beginning to realise that change is necessary because the objective of having a president is to have someone who will be entrusted with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the country.”

The issue of crowning Yahya Jammeh “king” was widespread early this year with local chief, who have been described as “political tools” by the opposition, taking the lead. But Mr Halifa Sallah said: “I will never live under a monarchy. I would rather die than to live under a monarchy.” “Like the president use to say, if that happens, then I’ll be buried six feet deep.”
Polling stations officially closed in Banjul at 4pm local time with a high voter turnout recorded. International election observers certify the voting process smooth and peaceful, but noted that there were no opposition agents in some of the polling stations they’ve visited.

Author: Modou S. Joof

The author is a Gambian journalist, News Editor of The Voice Newspaper in Banjul and Publisher of The North Bank Evening Standard. 

Follow me on twitter: (@Msjoof)

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