The Chairman of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) of Gambia, Alieu Momar Njie, has warned heads of electoral bodies to steer clear of fraud and build public confidence by exerting honesty while conducting elections.
Mr. Njie’s warning comes as Liberia and other African countries are set to conduct presidential and legislative elections by next year. Unlike The Gambia’s election, Liberia’s presidential and legislative (2017) elections will be contested by political newcomers as incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s term will come to an end.
Njie in a BBC interview on Fridayfollowing an announcement of the shock result of Gambia’s election, said that challenges in conducting elections are enormous, especially where an incumbent is contesting.
He said many African leaders do not want to leave power when their constitutional mandates expire and when contesting an election, they use their powers to control the electoral process in their favor.
While such challenges may exist, Mr. Njie emphasized that it is also incumbent upon the chairperson and members of the election commission to conduct the process in line with their consciences to establish their own credibility and build public trust.
According to him, conscience is man’s guide and public trust is security, and anything done contrary to these two leads to subjection of the soul and personal insecurity.
Additionally, he said electoral fraud leads to conflict nationwide, and to ensure the peace and stability of a country, those conducting elections in Africa must exhibit honesty despite pressure from incumbents who want to perpetuate themselves in power.
Njie and his team have just completed a successful presidential election in The Gambia in which incumbent Yahya Jammeh lost to Adama Barrow.
President Jammeh, who boasted prior to the casting of votes that he would rule for (a) billion years, has conceded defeat and expressed willingness to work with the new President, who is taking over from him after 22 years of stay in power.
The Gambian Election Commission chairman’s warning is sounding at a time the West African state of Ghana is about to conduct its presidential election on December 7.
Ghana is among a few African countries including Nigeria, Senegal, Botswana and Tanzania with a history of peaceful transitions of power on the continent.
Electoral violence has in recent years destroyed lives and properties in countries including Congo, Burundi, Gabon, Kenya, La Cote d’Ivoire and Uganda.
Countries whose elections are pending on the continent for next year include Liberia, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. President Paul Kagame’s second and last tenure comes to an end next year, but the Rwandans have had a referendum early this year which resulted in an overwhelming victory for him to go for a third term.
Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, having ruled the oil rich country for 37 years, has announced to step down before the 2017 election, while DRC Joseph Kabila and his citizens are still wrangling over his quest for a third term.
Presidential dinosaurs that remain on the continent are Paul Biya of Cameroon who has been in the presidency since 1982; Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea (since 1979); Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (since 1980); and Robert Mogabe of Zimbabwe, who has also been there since 1980 when the country got independence.
Meanwhile, the 2017 election in Liberia is not expected to have any influence from the incumbent as President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is to constitutionally retire after completing her second term.
However, Vice President, Joseph Nyumah Boakai, is contesting for the presidency, which gives political pundits the sense that the ruling party may have influence in determining the result of the election.
It now takes the honesty of National Elections Commission (NEC) Chairman Cllr. Jerome Korkoyah and his crew to demonstrate honesty and sincerity to deliver credible results in the upcoming crowded political battle, involving over 22 candidates.