The leader of The Gambia’s newest political party, Mama Kandeh, has on Monday denied allegations that his political activities are being bankrolled by the President, Yahya Jammeh.
There have been widespread claims on social media from some Gambians that Mr. Kandeh and his Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) may have received financial support from the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC).
Mr. Kandeh is a former member of the ruling party and had represented it in the National Assembly for the Jimara constituency.
“I am not sponsored by Yahya Jammeh,” Mr. Kandeh said shortly after his nomination papers were submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on November 7, 2016 ahead of the presidential election on December 1.
“In fact most of our supporters you seeing here are from the ruling APRC party and they are with us,” he said.
Mr. Kandeh, whose party decided against joining a seven-member opposition grouping, also said he is open to joining the coalition if the process is conducted in the right way.
“My doors are always open to join the coalition but the process has to be done right. I am not anybody’s puppet and no individual is putting me up as a presidential candidate,” he said.
The Gambia’s often repressed opposition are of the view that “no one candidate or political party can win against the incumbent” in a first past the post system of voting – which offers victory to a candidate with a simple majority of the total votes cast.
The GDC leader has also been accused of not having the required educational qualification of completing high school to stand for presidential elections.
The GDC is yet to make public his profile and local journalists working for independent daily newspapers said effort to get his educational profile from the party’s spokesperson is “proving difficult.”
“I contacted the party’s communications officer, Essa Jallow, to have access to Kandeh’s profile but he said the man does not share his profile,” one journalist told FPI on Monday.Further scrutiny
While speaking to journalists at the IEC offices along Bertil Harding highway in Kanifing, Mr. Kandeh said his supporters are non-violent and that his message “is always peace.”
“I urge all parties to maintain this spirit,” he said while expressing “satisfaction” with the IEC’s “excellent voter education” activities and his confidence in the Commission to hold “a free and fair election.”
Under The Gambia’s Constitution and Election [Amendment] Act, presidential candidates are required to have completed high school (senior secondary school), hold Gambian citizenship, aged between 30 to 65; deposit half a million dalasi, declares 5000 supporters with 200 from each administrative region; declare assets, submit tax payments receipts, a party symbol, colour and picture of candidate; present party manifesto, campaign itinerary, and should be commitment to respect the electoral laws.
After submitting his papers, Mr. Kandeh said he is confident all the documents he submitted to the electoral commission are valid.
But the Electoral Commission’s Chairperson, Alhaji Alieu Momar Njai, said all the documents submitted by the GDC leader will be subject to “further scrutiny.” He also said he is assuring Mr. Kandeh and all Gambians that the elections will be “fair and transparent”.
Seeking a fifth term
On Wednesday, Mr. Adama Barrow, who is backed by a united opposition coalition of seven political parties and also supported by an independent candidate, will submit his nomination papers to the IEC, before Mr. Jammeh of the ruling APRC does the same on Thursday.
President Yahya Jammeh is seeking a fifth term. He has contested and won all presidential elections in the small West African country since 1996 – two years after he seized power as a 29-year old army officer.
While the polls have been certified as smooth and peaceful by election observers, they have been criticized by the opposition and observers for certain irregularities and the lack of an even political playing ground.