Post-election tension: Jonathan, Elders Forum sue for peace in Gambia

The leadership of the West African Elders Forum (WAEF) has appealed for calm in The Gambia following the tension that has built up in the capital city of Banjul after some of the candidates in the December 04, 2014 presidential elections rejected the results declared by the country’s electoral commission.

A statement released by WAEF on Tuesday in Banjul and signed by the Forum’s chairman, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, urged the candidates to respect the outcome of the election in the interest of peace and advised them to seek legal redress, if necessary.

He further counselled the candidates to abide by the terms of the code of conduct they all signed before the election which required them to embrace peace and accept the result of the election.

A few candidates led by the main opposition party leader Mr. Oussainou Darboe have rejected the result of the election won by the incumbent President, Mr. Adama Barrow, citing irregularities in the declaration of the result by the Independent Election Commission (IEC). Since then, there have been sporadic clashes on the streets between security forces and Mr. Darboe’s supporters.

Dr. Jonathan spent part of Monday and Tuesday morning trying to mediate and restore normalcy by meeting with various stakeholders including President Barrow, Darboe and some of the candidates.

The statement said: ‘The West African Elders Forum appeals for calm from all Gambians and urges all the candidates to respect the outcome of the election, in line with the code of conduct for peaceful elections, which they all signed on November 11, 2021.

“The WAEF knows that the processes of democracy and elections, which are human activities, are never perfect. For this, the Forum recognises the rights of candidates to legally challenge the result of an election, should they have issues with the processes that produced the outcome.

“In the specific case of the just-concluded Presidential Election in The Gambia, we urge the candidates who may not be satisfied with the outcome,  in the interest of peace, to leverage the avenues for legal redress, should they consider that necessary.”

The former President noted that the election was generally acclaimed by international and citizen observers to have been peaceful,  free, fair and conducted according to the provisions of the laws of Gambia and the Electoral Act (2009).

“The WAEF sees this as a positive development for the cause of democracy in the sub-region and commends the Gambians for their consistency in the use of special marbles and drums, instead of ballot papers,  which is a unique process that has proven to be cost-effective, makes for easy voting and enhances transparency.”

He emphasised that the presence of WAEF in The Gambia during the election was in line with its mandate to “interface with stakeholders in the sub-region during elections, with a view to offering the good offices of its members to help tackle any thorny issues arising from the electoral process before, during, and, especially, after the polling day when proactive dialogue,  consultations and conversations with stakeholders are crucial for preventing and resolving tensions and conflicts.”

A delegation of WAEF led by Jonathan, former Nigerian President and His Excellency, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, former Prime Minister of Burkina Faso and former President of ECOWAS Commission arrived in Banjul on Thursday December 2, 2021 to interface with the stakeholders in the elections, especially the presidential candidates.

The Forum which is an initiative of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation(GJF) was formally inaugurated in March 2021 and is made up of former Presidents, Prime Ministers, and foremost West African leaders and statesmen.

He said: “In the two days before voting started on December 4, 2021, the Delegation met with most of the candidates, including the sitting President His Excellency Adama Barrow and the former Deputy President, Oussainou Darboe, the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Alieu Momarr Njie and his team, as well as, members of the civil society, youth groups and student leaders. During these consultations, the delegation appealed to the stakeholders to abide by the laws of the land and tow the path of peace during the election in order to ensure that The Gambia would not experience any election-related conflict.

“The Delegation also interacted with the international observers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), the Commonwealth, the European Union (EU) and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) and commended them for coming in here to assist the sub-region in ensuring that the election is peaceful, free and fair.

“Although WAEF is not strictly an election observation mission, members of the delegation visited few polling stations at Senegambia and Brusube areas on election day, to have first-hand experience of the polling process. The delegation was impressed with the reports of a general atmosphere of peace,  free and fair processes that characterised polling across the country, on election day.”

He stressed that the Forum will continue to be on hand in the country “ to walk and work with the good people of The Gambia to ensure that the outcome of the 2021 Presidential election will not only deepen the roots of democracy in the country, but will help to illuminate the path of peace, democracy and sustainable development in the entire sub-region.

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