(JollofNews) – Prior to the declaration of results, we had election campaign. And prior to the election campaign we had many political parties with diverse political programmes. But because we do not have second round of voting, we decided to come together in the supreme interest of the country to have one person to stand. Because this is a country that has never changed through the ballot box and we felt that we should make history together and facilitate that change.
So throughout the campaign, what we told our electorate is that we are trying to unify the nation, unify the ethnolinguist groups, unify the religions, unify everybody so that the country can have a new start. That is the ethos of the coalition.
In the campaign, we told our supporters that selecting a leader who would be entrusted with the responsibility of managing our resources and security apparatus to ensure that we have progress and freedom does not require insults and conflict.
What it required is sober minds capable of making informed choices. So all the predictions that the campaign will lead to violences never came true.
In our campaign you could see the incumbent and the president-elect having their convoys going side by side.
So we went up to the declaration of results and the incumbent called the person that was declared the winner and said what happened is the verdict of the people and the verdict of God. He said his doors are open and let him create the agenda and there will be cooperation to facilitate a smooth transfer of power. Everybody jubilated, the unexpected has happened and the Gambia has made history.
We decided after that to have a liaison and the incumbent create a liaison. He accepted that he was going to be an outgoing president and the president-elect would be the incoming president and the liaison started working. They had an agenda to see what to tidy up such as the release of prisoners, those in detention without trial to tidy up so that it will be a good will gesture as we move towards the inauguration.
We also agreed to form two transition teams. The president-elect formed his team and wrote a letter to introduce the team to the incumbent but on the day the letter was to be handed, they said there was going to be an announcement so wait for the announcement.
And what was the announcement? The incumbent said “I reject the election results, I have annulled, we are going to have fresh elections under a new independent electoral commission”. Those were the words.
We from the very beginning told our electorate and everybody that the rule of law, good governance, respect for human rights and democracy were not negotiable and we will consolidate it in this country. We believe that the Independent Electoral Commission is the only authority empowered by the constitution to declare results and a winner and that has happened.
That is the language of the constitution and anybody who wants to reject the results can do so. That’s fine you can form an opinion but if you want to challenge the results you can go to the courts and you have ten days to do that.
That was not the way he took. The road he took was to reject, annul and declare that there will be fresh elections under an independent electoral commission. That is the route he took and that is the source of the crisis.
When that declaration was made and a threat that he will not tolerate any demonstrations, the coalition met and reviewed the words, the letter and the spirit and we saw that the spirit was no longer calling for peaceful transfer of power but for confrontation. And the coalition said that it is not interested in confrontation and would not take part in demonstrations because the constitution will prevail.
The language of the constitution says that the Independent Electoral Commission will declare the winner but since elections take place within three months before the end of term of the incumbent, we read the constitution well, got proper legal advice and knew that the incumbent is still effectively the president of th Gambia until his five years expires.
So the president-elect made a declaration that he is declared elected by the competent body and according to the constitution it has no ambiguity, he is to assume office on the day that the term of office of the incumbent expires. That is the order and command of the constitution. So he issued a statement indicating that having been elected, all my supporters should focus on the day the constitution says I should assume office and don’t quarrel. If you see the soldiers in street know that the incumbent is still the president of the Gambia and the institutions are under his control. He can deploy soldiers anywhere. Just go about your business. That was the language of the president-elect issued.
And when he gave that address and it was a very trying moment for the nation and the coalition. He added that both he and the incumbent were born in 1965 when Gambia became independent they are duty bound to ensure a smooth transfer of power and that he intends to invite him as the second president along with the first president to his inauguration.
Inflammatory language has never been part of the language of the president-elect not during the campaign period, declaration of results and not even during the issue of unconstitutional statements.
So in short, the address was tempered with maturity, reason and constitutional authority. That was the position of the coalition.
The next day, there was a reaction on tv not from the incumbent but from a source from his party that they were going to court. Eventually we heard that they have filed. We don’t know anything about their court case because we were not served and are not party to it. It seems like the whole case is about the anomalies cause by the IEC.
So consequently, the Ecowas mediation team came and this was simply what they were told that the constitution of the Gambia empowers the IEC to conduct elections and declare results and that has happened. We went through a process were we tried to set up a transition team and the teams would have met and look at the ministries, look at their plan, know their strategic plans, know their programmes, projects, action plans, budget lines, the public corporations the same things and then facilitate the dossier to be handed over to the shadow cabinet to prepare to govern when he is inaugurated.
That is the language of the coalition. And that was said to the Ecowas heads of state who came that it was at that moment when we should move forward is when this declaration was made.
It was unconstitutional and we reacted to that unconstitutional declaration and in terms of their court process we know nothing about it. The way we calm the supporters of the president-elect is to focus their minds on constitutionality to tell them that the incumbent is the outgoing president up to the end of his term and on that day the president-elect will assume office and everybody should prepare for that inauguration.
Starting a judicial process does not negate constitutional rights. So he is still considered as his constitutional rights as president-elect for inauguration. That is the message to the Ecowas delegation.
We believe it is an invention to talk about prosecuting the incumbent. We hope that the incumbent is fair in the sense that he will not say anything that the president-elect has not said. The first language in their communication was public. I congratulate you, my doors are open. You have had 22 years of experience and I may have cause to come and knock at your doors to consult you. That was the language from the president-elect.
At the most critical moment when he said he has nullified the election results and he had no power to do so, reaction could have been to attack, but instead the president-elect in his address told the president-elect that we are both born in 1965 and should be committed to the supreme interest of our nation so that we can make history together as this has never happened.
He was pushed and pushed several times during various interviews to say something about the injustices that may have prevailed but he said yes justice is absolutely essential and injustice should be redress but we are going to take the route of truth and reconciliation. This is the language of the president-elect and a state that is responsible must listen to the language from a responsible authority to be able to indict if there is a need to indict.
We have been telling people that you cannot criticise something and then sink to it. The coalition want to bring redress so therefore we want the rule of law. The incumbent is still the president of the republic. He has not been indicted and no one has said anything about him. So what brings about amnesty or prerogative of mercy is not the language of the coalition. Our language is that we respect constitutional authority which states that you will have a judiciary, executive and legislature and it is not the province of the president-elect to talk about anything in that regard. That is a matter for the judiciary. And it is not a matter of the president-elect to get into the presumption of guilt of anybody or talk about amnesty.
In our discussion and everything we have done we are preparing to be committed to democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights, justice and good governance because we believe that will attract the Gambia to the whole world so investors will come and we will be able to make progress.
So as far as we are concern, we are fully constitutional compliant and at this material moment, there is no constitutional issue that bars him from preparing for inauguration. And from the language of Ecowas we have not seen anybody saying that they are going to flush the incumbent out. Our language is that the incumbent is president until his term expires.
Halifa Sallah is the spokesman of the Gambia’s opposition coalition. He was talking on Tuesday at a meeting with members of the African Bar Association.