The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission) has been closely following the recent developments in the Islamic Republic of the Gambia since the Presidential elections of 1st December 2016.
The African Commission welcomes the peaceful and orderly conduct of the elections. It also commends the announcement of the outcome of the election in accordance with the procedures laid down in the constitutional and electoral laws of the country and the public acceptance on 2 December 2016 by the outgoing President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh of the results as proclaimed by the Independent Electoral Commission of the Gambia. The African Commission also welcomes the release on bail of the opposition leader Mr. Darboe and others who were involved in a peaceful protest in April.
The African Commission is however deeply concerned about the change of the position of the outgoing president on the legitimacy of the outcome of the elections. This has created tension and an atmosphere of uncertainty threatening the democratic process and the peace and stability of the country. As a fundamental right of citizens guaranteed under Article 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) and a principal means for exercising the right of peoples to self-determination under Article 20 of the African Charter, the Commission affirms that free and fair elections legally oblige all political actors most notably the government of the day to abide by and respect the legally established election results that express the free and sovereign will of the people of The Gambia.
Unilateral rejection of the outcome of the elections without following due process of the law is therefore contrary to the African Charter and the Constitution of The Gambia. Notwithstanding public statement of the outgoing President on 9 December 2016 questioning the validity of the outcome of the election, the Commission affirms that the outcome of the elections as pronounced on 2 December 2016 remains valid and should be respected unless and until the relevant constitutionally mandated and duly constituted independent judicial body reviewed it in accordance with internationally acceptable standards by which the Gambia is bound and following the legal procedures laid down in the Constitution and electoral law of the Islamic Republic of the Gambia.
Peaceful transfer of power after free and fair elections is critical to the consolidation of democratic culture and the peace and security of the people of the Gambia. The Commission urges the outgoing president to respect the will of the people of the Gambia and raise any questions on the outcome of the elections within the legal procedures duly laid down in the Constitution of the country while refraining from any further unilateral rejection of the validity of the elections pending the finalization of any such legal processes.
The African Commission also urges the government of The Gambia including its security forces to avoid any statements or actions that may endanger the life and freedom of any member of the public including particularly members of the opposition, their supporters, CSOs and the media or interfere with the work of the electoral body of the Gambia. The Commission is particularly concerned about news reports that security forces have forcibly seized the electoral commission and stopped employees of the electoral body from accessing their offices and thereby threatening the integrity of the electoral body and the ballots housed therein.
The Commission also appeals to all political actors and other sections of the public to avoid statements or any acts of violence that may further fuel tension and impede peaceful transfer of power.
The African Commission calls on the Government of The Gambia to cooperate with the efforts of the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States and the United Nations to ensure peaceful transfer of power and thereby to avoid a constitutional crisis and political instability.
The African Commission wishes to remind the Government of The Gambia that under the African Charter it bears ultimate responsibility to ensure that the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which the Islamic Republic of The Gambia is a State Party, are respected and protected during this transition period.