By Ibrahima Jobarteh
Gambians are divided over alkalo attestation that qualifies a person to obtain a Gambia voters card. Since the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) started the voters card registration exercise some weeks ago the issue of the “alkalo attestation remains the bone of contention and has overshadowed all other political matters in the country.
Prior to the registration, the IEC had stated that “In accordance with the Election Act, the Independent Electoral Commission shall conduct a General Registration of voters from the 29th day of May to the 11th day of July2021 between the hours of 8:00 am and 5:00 pm each. All claimants must at the time of voter registration provide any of the following: (i) Birth Certificate (ii) Gambian International Passport (iii) Gambian National Identity Card (iv) A Document certified by the district seyfo or an alkalo of the village of birth of the applicant stating the applicant was born in the district or village. All claimants must have or will have attained the age of 18 by 4th July, 2021…”
But the issue of the “alkalo attestation” has been somehow controversial with some arguing that it is unconstitutional.
In a recent interview with the Standard Newspaper Mai Fatty, Former Interior Minister and leader of the Gambia Moral Congress had questioned the credibility of the process: “The emerging controversy that needs to be resolved is that: does a chief/alkalo supported by five unidentified, indescribable elders possess sufficient authority in law, to confer Gambian citizenship or proof thereof? Should a mere unsworn paper attestation serve as evidence of nationality for purposes of acquiring and exercising the most important exclusive citizenship right?”
Some other Gambians also believe that the process can be abused. Ebrima Badjie, a businessman said it is possible that some alkalos could attest for people because of friendship, or tribal sentiments. He opined that alkalos could dish out attestations the way they sell off community lands with reckless abandon.
Modou Jatta, a resident of Busumbala Sanchaba, told The Progress Newspaper that alkalo attestation is perfectly in order. His words: “You see this alkalo attestation is causing problems because many people don’t understand that alkalos are our village or community elders and they have the right to [identify] those who are born in their villages and those who are not citizens. And another thing people are complaining about is that alkalos are giving attestation to people who are below 18 years. I think those people don’t understand what the IEC said, that anyone who is registered must be 18 by December. My sister can register even when she is 17 years yeah.”
The controversy may continue but one thing is for sure Gambians relentless effort, zeal and enthusiasm to register.