By Abdoulie John
A US-based pro-democracy group pushing for the respect of human rights and rule of law in The Gambia has urged the regional bloc and the continental body to “withhold funding assistance” for the country’s next elections.
“We call upon ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] and the African Union (AU) to withhold funding assistance and not to observe the 2016 Presidential and 2017 National Assembly elections if the above minimum criteria are not met,” International Civil Society Forum on Gambia states in a report obtained by this reporter.
The report highlights concerns about the continued deterioration in human rights during these past two decades. The civil society group referrnce to a damning report “documented by Human Rights Watch and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Mr. Juan Mendez”.
The group also decries the recent amendment of the electoral law and points out that it has turned The Gambia as “the most expensive country to vie for public office.” The Gambia’s electoral process, the group notes, curtail the rights of citizens constitutional right fully participate and choose their representatives.
The pro-democracy group calls on The Gambia government to engage in urgent dialogue with political opposition on the “12 Demands for electoral Constitutional reforms.”
The news report also urge the international donor community to desist from funding next the West African nation’s 2017 parliamentary elections.
Campaigners favour election funding only when ‘the minimum criteria are met.’ This include the replacement of Independent Electoral Commission officials whose tenures have expired, equal access to public media by all political parties and the removal of the 65 age limit for presidential candidates.