H.E. The President of the Republic of The Gambia
17 January 2017
Dear President Jammeh
Appeal from African civil society
I write to you on behalf on behalf of a Pan African civil society movement, Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity with deep concern. I have recently returned from a three-day visit to Gambia and want to share with you the perspectives that we heard from a broad diversity of Gambian civil society that we had the opportunity to meet.
Firstly, there is a very clear consensus that with 61% of the vote going to other two candidates, that the result of the election was a clear mandate from the people of Gambia, for change. Like many Africans across the continent, we were pleased to hear you accept the election results when they were first announced. In doing so, your initial actions showed that you had heard the voice of the Gambian people and respected their electoral choices.
We are deeply concerned about current state of affairs, which has already had a tremendous impact on ordinary people in Gambia. Some of these impacts are as follows and while I believe you are aware of these impacts, I’d like to humbly share with you what we have learnt.
Already thousands of Gambians have left the country to neighbouring countries like Mali, Senegal, Guinea-Conakry, Guinea Bissau and Ghana. Furthermore, large numbers of Gambians who live in the capital city, Banjul and Greater Banjul have left to rural areas because of fear, that as a result of you now contesting the election results, there is a very real prospect of violence and instability.
As you know, the Constitution of Gambia allows you to contest the outcome of the election – and we defend your right to do so. We have looked at your concerns around the electoral process discrepancies and we are convinced that all evidence would suggest that the Independent Electoral Commission has done an efficient and transparent job. It seems clear to Gambians and Africans as a whole that, notwithstanding what was a technical error – which was dealt with – does not in our view justify the levels of anxiety; fear and displacement the Gambian people are experiencing.
However, there are no Constitutional reasons preventing you from enabling the inauguration of the new President to go ahead, so there can be a peaceful transition to power. We remind you of previous elections where other parties contested the results, but you proceeded with inauguration regardless – hence there exists in practice a precedent that will allow the inauguration of President Elect Adama Barrow, while you remain legally engaged in contesting the results.
We are deeply concerned about the humanitarian impact of your actions on ordinary Gambians, most of whom are of modest means and, have had to use their meagre resources to move their families to safer distances to ensure their safety from the potential violent conflict that will surely emerge if you fail to move ahead with the inauguration of the President Elect.
The other impacts are on the education system, with thousands of school and university students missing classes because their teachers have fled the country or are internally displace due to fear. Parents in the country are anxious about sending children to school in what is a very uncertain environment. Similarly, we have been reliably informed that the health system is also taking strain – due to the flight of doctors and other health care professionals.
Economically, the information we have suggests that business confidence has tanked, with Kanifing Municipal Council, which typically receives about 1500 new business licence applications in the first 10 days of the year; reporting that just 50 applications have been received. From our conversations with business owners while we were in Banjul, we can report that they have already seen a negative impact on patronage.
Mr President, there is a palpable sense of fear and trepidation amongst the citizens of Gambia – and we appeal to you on behalf of all Africans to put the interest of the Gambian people first and to ensure a peaceful transition of power and go ahead with the inauguration of President Elect, Adama Barrow on Gambian soil.
We note with deep concern the proclamation of a state of emergency yesterday. According to Section 34 of the Gambian Constitution the President can declare a state of emergency for only seven days, after it has been published in the Gazette. Where the National Assembly is not sitting, such a state of emergency can last for 21 days. It is after the lapse of either 7 or 21 days can the National Assembly now extend the State of Emergency to 90 days with a vote of two-thirds of the National Assembly Members.
In this case, the proclamation has not been published in the Gazette and the 7 or 21 days have not yet elapsed as to warrant its extension to 90 days. Secondly no one has seen any gazette with such a proclamation. Hence the National Assembly has overstepped its powers by passing an illegal resolution for a 90-day state of emergency. Therefore, Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity considers the state of emergency declaration not only unjust and ill considered but also illegal. We appeal to you to declare the National Assembly’s vote for a state of emergency illegal.
In the context of transparency and solidarity with the people of Gambia – we share with you the report (attached) of our visit to the Gambia over the last few days.
Mr President, we understand this must be a difficult time for you, it represents a big change given that you have been in power for 22 years – and it is in this moment, that you have arguably the most power to leave a legacy of hope for your country and your time as it’s leader. By going ahead with the inauguration on the 19th, you will be changing the course of history – for Gambia and for the whole African continent – and rewriting the future for every African. Your legacy can be much greater than a mere critique of your term as leader of The Gambia – it can be one of a true African and an Elder of the continent.
We wish you well in these last moments of deliberation and pray you find the strength to give us all new hope for the future of all Africans.
In Peace and with hope,
For and on behalf of the Civil Society Delegation to The Gambia
Dr. Kumi Naidoo, Launch Director, Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity
Cc: Musa Jallow, Secretary General and Head of Civil Service