As The Gambia heads to the polls in 5 months, the political atmosphere remains volatile as the emergence of new political parties and political propaganda takes the center stage in the politics of the country. The independent electoral commission as constitutionally mandated to oversee and conduct election, conducts a voter registration exercise every 10 years, the register of voters in updated in a voter decentralized registration process for ease of registration throughout the Gambia which gives every citizen the opportunity to be registered in their communities. This year, the Independent Electoral Commission outlines key documents to be presented for the purpose of registration; the National ID card, the Gambian Passport, Birth Certificate and the Attestation.
The attestation to be acquired for the purpose of registration, is issued by the Independent Electoral Commission but stamped and validated by the Alkalo or Sefoe attesting that the individual in possession of the attestation is indeed a born citizen of the community where he or she seeks to be attested. However, the issuance of attestation in the voter registration process for the purpose of elections has been subjected to serious misinterpretations thus the provision in the Election Act did not expressly mentioned or vest in the Mayor the authority to issue attestations in the city of Banjul for the purpose of elections. The Independent Electoral Commission acted beyond the powers conferred on them to give authority to the Mayor of Banjul to issue attestations to constituents born in Banjul which is in violation of the Elections Act 2010.
Gambia Participates on June 23rd 2021 mounted a legal battle before the High Court in Banjul challenging the act of the Independent Electoral Commission to confer on the authority to issue attestations as this violates the Electoral laws.
High Court Judgement:
The High Court in its sound reasoning declared the following;
- That the actions of the Mayor of Banjul in issuing attestations to constituents of the city of Banjul in the ongoing Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) general registration of voter’s process are in contravention with section 12 (2) (e) of the Elections Act.
- A declaration that the actions of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in conferring the power to the office of the Mayor of Banjul to administer attestation forms generated by the IEC for the purpose of claiming voter cards in the city of Banjul are a contravention of section 12 (2) (e) of the Elections Act;
- An order quashing the decision of the IEC to bestow upon the Mayor of Banjul the powers and authority to issue attestations to the constituents of the city of Banjul;
- An order setting aside all attestations forms endorsed and issued by the Mayor of Banjul for which voter cards were issued by the IEC.
- An order striking out and or cancelling all voter cards issued by the IEC that were supported by attestations forms issued and or endorsed by the Mayor of Banjul.
The judgment of the court reaffirms the independence of the Judiciary free from external influence and again confirms trust and confidence of the citizenry in the justice system of the country.