In a letter directed to the Chairman of the National Humans Rights Commission, the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), and the Chairman of the National Assembly Select Committee on Local Government and Ombudsman, the Association of Local Government Authorities GALGA, has accused President Adama Barrow of violating human rights and interfering in the upcoming 2023 local government polls.
“It is with great disappointment and concern that we write to bring to your attention recent actions taken by the President of the Republic of The Gambia that violate the constitutional rights of the undersigned as well as over 100 Councilors in Local Government in The Gambia,” the local government association wrote in a recent letter.
According to GALGA, The said actions also violate ECOWAS Protocol A/SP1/12/01 on Democracy and Good Governance Supplementary to the Protocol relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping, and Security; and risk destabilizing the country as well as other international norms and obligations of the Government of The Gambia.
The Gambia is poised to enter the local government elections calendar from March 14th to May 20th, 2023. The upcoming election is predicted to be one of the most pivotal elections in the country’s history.
The incumbent party will contest in multiparty local elections for over one hundred seats during this election.
However, most seats are held by opposition parties which may likely make this process highly contentious and tense and very important for the future of the Gambia’s newfound democracy.
Against this backdrop, the association of local government authorities called on the incumbent and all political parties and institutions to exercise restraint, put the nation’s interest first to maintain stability and a level playing field, and avoid any actions that would inflame people or undermine the country’s democratic gains.
The Gambian leader Adama Barrow set up a commission of inquiry on February 10th, 2023, to look into the conduct of local government councils from 2018 to 2023.
The inquiry, barely three months before the tiny West African nation’s upcoming local government elections, has sparked several reactions among opposition leaders.
Ousainou Darboe, leader of the main opposition UDP party, condemned the setting up of a commission, saying that they will not accept such a commission to go ahead.
In a statement dated February 10th, 2023, the government wrote: “In exercise of the powers conferred on the President by section 200 of the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia, 1997, a Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of all Local Government Councils, and for connected matters is with this issued.”
According to the statement, the appointment of commissioners consists of -Jainaba Bah Sambou, who shall be chairperson; Samba Faal, Oreme E. Joiner, Baba M. Leigh; and Sukai Secka Sagnia.
“The Commission is authorized to inquire into the conduct of all Local Government Councils, particularly the circumstances surrounding the Loans acquired for and on behalf of a Local Government Council between May 2018 to January 2023.”
The government’s investigation into local government authorities is in progress despite a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court in December 2022.
Local government officials, including KMC’s Ahmed Talib Bensouda, won a case at the Supreme Court against the Attorney General.
The country’s highest court ruled that the government does not have the power to dissolve councils three months before elections and set up interim committees.
In the Past years of president barrow’s stay in office, the Gambia has seen a rise in corruption scandals of various government ministries, ranging from, Gam petroleum saga fuel that led to a day’s nationwide fuel scarcity saga, the Central Bank, NAWEC and recently the Securiport tale.
Despite all these corruption scandals, some political analysts of the tiny West African country described the president’s move as a misuse of state resources.
They also added that if President Adama Barrow is serious about fighting corruption in the country, he should start it from the state house.
Amidst the political dilemma, the million Dollar question is whether they will barrows succeed in the upcoming local government elections.