If elections are some academic exercises, The Gambia, having had different elections and their accompanying disappointments and celebrations since 1960, would have long graduated cum laude. From the tense politics of the 1960s when the country’s democracy was evolving, The Gambia held period elections that were, though highly charged, but largely peaceful. Even under the 22-year of quasi-military government when elections were hardly credible, except one, which led to its downfall, Gambians have been able to manage their political differences which often permeated ethnic bloodlines and or interest groups.
The already strong cohesion in relations among communities remain largely intact despite threat of divisions at elections.
However, every point in time comes with its own challenges and in the last four years alone, several dramatic changes occurred in the political landscape with powerful allies splitting, old foes warming up to embrace each other as new groups entered the fray for the first time, adding to an even greater divergence of views and unfortunately, division of people. One expert once said though less visible and more complex than armed conflicts, political and electoral violence remain an important threat to human security and stability in nations and regions.
Therefore, the coming cycle of elections beginning with the Niamina West by-elections in particular where the stakes are higher, pose a significant threat to our violence-free tradition of elections. We therefore call on all political leaders and grassroots supporters to abide by the rules and accept the outcome of a free and transparent process promised by the IEC. The IEC itself must have a strong and active presence in observing the adherence of its campaign codes by all parties in Niamina and Kerr Jarga. A ward or constituency election as in these cases, means there is very little space separating the different campaign teams and strict adherence to the schedules can prevent a clash.
We note with pleasure that so far, both the actions and rhetoric from all campaign teams in the two localities have been civil and tamed. However, there is lingering anxiety from comments normally found on social media, which are generally inflammatory and provocative. The people of Niamina West and Kerr Jarga are tasked with just a simple exercise; choose who will represent you in the National Assembly and Council, respectively in a free and fair .election. That should never be an avenue to cause division or chaos