PRESS STATEMENT FROM SPOKESPERSON OF THE COALITION
20 JANUARY 2017
THE DEFINING MOMENT FOR THE GAMBIA?
The declaration of the results of the 1 December 2016 polls was one of the most eventful developments in the political history of the Gambia since Independence. This was the first time an opposition candidate won an election against an incumbent whose power was so entrenched that many thought unbeatable in an electoral contest. All Gambians, irrespective of the political divide, were equally overjoyed by the decision of the incumbent to accept a defeat. Little did people know that a week after that he would reject the results thus leading to an impasse in the peaceful transfer of executive power.
Today, over a month and a half after the declaration of results and two days after the expiration of the term of the incumbent, there is still a contest of legitimacy in assuming executive power. What is responsible for this impasse?
The answer is simple. The Constitution is very clear in asserting that the person declared elected shall be sworn in and assume office on the date of expiry of the term of office of the incumbent. The Constitution did not envisage the shifting of the goal post after is goal is scored and then call for the replaying of the match.
The letter and spirit of the Constitution makes it mandatory that a person declared elected in a presidential election shall assume office after the five year term of the incumbent expires. Since the loser has powers to file an election petition to challenge the validity of the results, he had the obligation to shoulder all the challenges that goes with the hearing of a court case. A court case could take months or even years to the dissatisfaction of a petitioner executive power by the elected person whilst the loser wait for the outcome of a court case. Instead of accepting his fate, the loser in this instance, decided to rely on a state of emergency declaration to try to extend his mandate by 90 days.
This is considered unreasonable and unjustifiable by the person elected president. He also rely on section 100 of the Constitution to claim that as the person declared elected by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), he had acquired the right to take the oath of office and assume the functions of the Office of the President of the Republic of The Gambia.
Hence, by the 17th of January when the incumbent extended his term through legislative intervention the possibility of having two presidents in the country side by side contesting legitimacy became evident. It was clear that by 19th January the person declared elected will also find ways of taking oath and assuming office.
On the 19th of January 2017 the person declared elected in the polls of 1st December 2016 decided to go to the Gambian Embassy in Dakar, which is considered by international law as Gambian territory outside the Gambian, to take oath and assume the Office of the President of the Republic of The Gambia. Now the nation is being challenged to either recognize a loser in the 1st December 2016 polls who has decided to extend his mandate by unconventional means and a winner who should have been sworn in by conventional means but, because of obstruction from the loser, decided to be sworn in through unconventional means.
Hence, at this moment, there is a contest of legitimacy between the loser and the winner of the 1 December 2016 polls.
What is the way forward for the Gambia?
The contest of legitimacy may either be resolved through negotiation or war. That is the current fate of the Gambia.
ECOWAS is engaged both in negotiation and preparation for war in support of the presidency of Adama Barrow. The presidency of Yahya Jammeh would have to rely on the security forces of the Gambia. In order to facilitate negotiations, the presidents of Guinea and Mauritania and a UN envoy are here in the Gambia to talk to the loser in the presidential polls. Will they succeed? That is the question. If they succeed, Gambia will experience a peaceful transfer of executive power. If they fail to succeed, the contest of legitimacy will be decided through confrontation of military power.
This is the defining moment for the country. Will those who control executive power or assume it have to work on dead bodies or wait in pools of blood to go up or down? That was not the reason why the Gambia became a Republic. That was not the reason why section 1 (2) of the Gambian Constitution asserted that sovereignty resides in the people and that authority to govern must be derived from their consent and utilized to promote their general welfare.
A government that cannot generate hope for or guarantee liberty and prosperity is not fit to govern. What is important now is for each Gambian to take a stand to decide what type of Gambia they want. A Gambia where leaders transfer executive power in peace or one where power is transferred through war.
This decision does not exclude the armed and security forces of the country. They are supposed to be the protectors of the Republic and the people. Would they wait for the contest of legitimacy between an outgoing and incoming president to be determined by war or peace? If they support the assumption of office by an elected president then peace would prevail. If they allow the contest of power to be determined by war then war would prevail.
Today is D-Day. Everything is at a standstill. Shops are closed, commodities are different to purchase, streets are empty, university and schools are closed down, banks and offices are closed, petrol stations and other businesses are closed, the tourists have departed, the country is experiencing a shutdown and the economy is slowing down to a halt.
This statement is an SOS call for the military and civilians to combine together to save the country from war by promoting and ensuring a peaceful transfer of executive power and leave the courts to carry on adjudicating on the petition of the loser. This is the dictate of law, justice and reason and should not be disregarded.
We are therefore calling all our citizens that as we anticipate a peaceful outcome, all Gambians should see the installment of a new president at the state house as a national victory. Each is expected to celebrate the victory by renewing our commitment to unify our diverse people, irrespective of the language they speak, the religion or gender they belong to or any other difference so that none will ever perpetrate injustice or deliver hate messages based on callous prejudices.
We want a Gambia of the people whose leaders are sensitive and responsive to their concerns to emerge. This is the demand of our times and circumstances and the cornerstone of the consolidation of peace, liberty, justice and prosperity for our motherland and people,
We hope that today before nightfalls the national television (GRTS) will start to amplify the voices of all the people. We expect that the security chiefs will take the liberty to appear on television to assure all Gambians and non-Gambians that they are committed to peace and would not encourage any violence that would put lives and properties in jeopardy and would be committed to a government that derives its authority from the consent of the people.
We hope that Gambians would wake up on Saturday, 21 January 2017, to a new day that offers hope to all and despair to none.