Reflecting on the Gambian Media, Elections, and the African Democracy by Modou Lamin Age-Almusaf Sowe


This article inspects how the media could upgrade the decision of Gambian elections. It likewise examines the ramifications of the 2016 presidential elections on open evaluation of the Gambian vote-based system. The result of the 2016 elections was especially troubling after the electing inconsistencies that happened during the decisions. The inner and the outer eyewitnesses that observed the elections noticed these inconsistencies, which were subsequently affirmed by the Gambian Judiciary when the aftereffects of the decisions prior endorsed by the Independent Electoral Commission were subsequently dropped by the court. The article utilized the substance examination way to deal with surveying the Gambian press inclusion of the decisions and utilized the social obligation media hypothesis to contend why the media should uphold the public authority to lead-free and reasonable elections. 


The discoveries uncover that albeit the media gave satisfactory exposure to the 2016 presidential elections, the general population and the private media likewise differ concerning the validity of the aftereffects of the decisions. The public media upheld the New Gambia Government’s situation in the decisions, demanding that the elections were free and reasonable, despite the report by the Election Observation Mission that affirmed that the races were manipulated by Jammeh and announced President Adama Barrow as the winner. The article suggests in addition to other things, that the Gambian press should report all the more impartially on political race exercises.


political communication, theory, Gambian journalists, elections, and African democracy


The emergency emerging from decisions is by all accounts the serious issue going up against the advancement of the African majority rules system. Outstandingly, even though Africa contains sovereign countries, not every one of the nations in the district can coordinate sound decisions. The media being the Eye and Ears of Citizens need to consider the leaders responsible to individuals for the emergencies radiating from elections in the locale. Sowe (2016) properly saw when he expressed, “leaders are chosen by God not individuals. Individuals can just decide in favor of, suggest, or choose a leader.” (The Throne of The Ghost, p.17). 

Shockingly, numerous nations in Africa are yet to direct effective elections without the help of the Election Observation Mission. For example, in some African nations, if decisions are free and reasonable, individuals are astonished. Thus, Smith (2009) saw that the tranquil direct of Ghana’s nearby public races in late 2008 was strange in that it didn’t prompt any supported addressing of the result dissimilar to in some different nations in the locale. Interestingly, Guinea Conakry and Mali each have seen a level of post-political race savagery in their new elections. The Human Rights Watch added that The Gambia’s December 1st Presidential Elections were held following the global and territorial guidelines for directing decisions. The official and parliamentary decisions occurred under an open, straightforward, and cutthroat environment, where the gatherings and the contender for the elections had equivalent freedom to request public help to win the races despite their distinctive political affiliations. The toral commission, the legal executive, and the security powers assumed an unbiased part in guaranteeing that the races were led with straightforwardness and receptiveness. 

Aside from Ghana, other African nations that have gained notoriety for directing free and reasonable elections are South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia. An investigation of the democratization interaction of eight nations in East and South Africa (Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and South Africa) by Kalyango (2011), this article inspects how the media could improve the lead of decisions. It likewise talks about the ramifications of the 2016 elections on an open appraisal of the Gambian majority rule government. The result of the 2016 elections was especially troubling after the appointive anomalies that happened during the races. The interior and the outside spectators that observed the decisions noticed these abnormalities, which were subsequently affirmed by the Gambian Judiciary when the aftereffects of the races prior supported by the Independent Electoral Commission were subsequently dropped by the court. The article utilized the substance examination way to deal with audit the Gambian press inclusion of the elections and utilized the social duty media hypothesis to contend why the media should uphold the public authority to direct free and reasonable decisions. 

The discoveries uncover that albeit the media gave sufficient exposure to the decisions, the general population and the private media differ in regards to the believability of the consequences of the elections. The public media upheld the Gambia Government’s situation in the races, demanding that the decisions were free and reasonable, despite the report by the Election Observation Mission that affirmed that the races were manipulated. The article suggests in addition to other things, that the Gambian press should report all the more dispassionately on political race exercises. To the extent the procedural components of popular government are concerned, the lone special cases are Tanzania and South Africa. The two nations have effectively controlled their parliamentary and official races, and have regulated their appointive payments, which are viewed as self-sufficient from government obstruction . . . The information shows that South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia (in a specific order of prevalence) put consistently challenged decisions at the center of procedural popular government. (pp. 59-60) Burundi, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Nigeria are among the African nations that are yet to lead fruitful races without outer oversight. 

This is a direct result of the chance of the legislatures affecting the consequences of the decisions for the individuals from the decision parties. At the point when a competitor utilizes a deceitful way to get a seat in government or parliament, that individual is probably going to be among individuals who might establish the framework for unfairness and abuse in the general public, and such people would not have the interests of people in general on a basic level. In such nations, the public authority can manhandle the essential basic liberties of the residents with no conceivable change. Moreover, the corporate picture of the nations concerned may endure a deficiency of pride in the assessment of different individuals from the local area of countries. Losing confidence in popular government would be a genuine misfortune for The Gambia. It is something this country to be sure, Africa, the Commonwealth, and the whole global local area will question.

Gambian Media and Transition to Democracy

In December 2016, Gambians went to the polls to decide in favor of a president for the fifth time since the previous pioneer Yahya Jammeh came to control in a 1994 upset. In recent years, President Jammeh and the Gambian security powers have utilized authorized vanishings, torment, terrorizing, and subjective captures to smother disputes and protect Jammeh’s hold on power. In front of the current year’s political decision, the public authority has rehashed these strategies, with a crackdown on resistance groups, especially the United Democratic Party (UDP), that has everything except smothered expectations for a free and reasonable political decision. 

On casting a ballot day, the web and global calls have prohibited the nation over. Eyewitnesses from the European Union (EU) and the West African local coalition ECOWAS didn’t go to the vote. Gambian authorities went against the presence of Western onlookers, however, the EU said before the vote it was remaining ceaselessly out of worry about the reasonableness of the democratic interaction. The African Union (AU) dispatched a modest bunch of eyewitnesses to oversee the vote, nonetheless. 

The public authority’s crackdown started on April 14, when noticeable UDP extremist Solo Sandeng drove an uncommon public dissent calling for electing change. He was captured by Gambian police, taken to the central command of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), and severely pounded into the ground. Numerous dissenters captured with Sandeng were additionally tormented at the NIA; a few were beaten and splashed in the water while being compelled to lie on a table. 

Gambian specialists have in 2016 captured more than 90 resistance activists, incorporating those captured with Sandeng, for partaking in generally quiet fights. Courts have indicted 30 resistance individuals and condemned them to three-year terms, including UDP pioneer Ousainou Darboe and a large number of the UDP initiative. Jammeh has likewise more than once undermined resistance groups. Mr. Pushcart won the races with 263,515 votes (45.5%), while President Jammeh took 212,099 (36.7%), as per the appointive commission. An outsider applicant, Mama Kandeh, won 102,969 (17.8%). During the mission, the country’s youthful populace appeared to long for change, said the BBC’s Umaru Fofana in the capital, Banjul. 

In light of more than 100 meetings led in The Gambia, Senegal, and the United States from March to September 2016, this report looks at the chilling impact of the public authority’s focusing of political adversaries, writers, and other disagreeing voices on the capacity of resistance groups to challenge decisions on a level battleground. Common liberties Watch talked with individuals from ideological groups, columnists, common society pioneers, attorneys, resigned Gambian government workers, previous individuals from the security powers, global associations, and unfamiliar ambassadors. 

The maltreatments submitted since April 2001, just as Jammeh’s rehashed dangers, have supported an environment of dread among numerous resistance legislators and activists that seriously restricts their capacity to reprimand Jammeh and his administration. 

Indeed, even those gatherings ready to work generally openly disclosed to Human Rights Watch that they accept their resistance to the public authority puts them in danger of capture. They stressed that on the off chance that they become too extraordinary a danger to Jammeh’s possibility of winning the political race, they also will be designated. 

Resistance groups are additionally compelled by the legitimately commanded fourteen-day official political race, the lone time resistance groups get any critical inclusion on state radio and TV. Albeit The Gambia has various private papers and radio broadcasts, numerous basic columnists temper their revealing of the public authority to keep away from retaliations. The short mission period, combined with the public authority’s close imposing business model of state media on different occasions, makes it very hard for resistance groups to connect seriously with expected electors. 

President Jammeh and the decision Alliance for Patriotic Re-Orientation and Construction (APRC) have likewise regularly utilized state assets for battling, including government vehicles and structures, and have activated government employees and security power individuals to follow up for the benefit of his re-appointment in 2016. Before crusading even started, Jammeh has abused his across the country and naturally ordered a “Meet the People” visit to advance his application. 

Basic liberties Watch kept in touch with the Gambian government on October 19 with a synopsis of the report’s discoveries yet didn’t get a reaction before distribution on November 2. During an October 20 gathering with Gambia’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), the IEC Chairman, Alieu Momar Njai, disclosed to Human Rights Watch that upgrades in the discretionary system, including the tallying of votes at neighborhood surveying stations as opposed to a focal area, would guarantee that the forthcoming December decisions couldn’t be manipulated. 

The nature of decisions, notwithstanding, relies upon more than basically how the surveying day as directed. The public authority’s terrorizing of columnists and resistance pioneers and allies, its mastery of state media, and its utilization of state assets for crusading give the decision party an unmistakable benefit over different gatherings. Global common liberties law gives significant assurances that the Jammeh government has as often as possible disregarded, including the rights to security of the individual, to a reasonable preliminary, and opportunity of articulation, affiliation, and quietly get together. Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Gambia has sanctioned, ensures the right “of each resident to participate in the direction of public issues, the option to cast a ballot and to be chosen, and the option to approach public help.” 

In 2001, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) embraced the Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (ECOWAS Protocol), which incorporates explicit arrangements advancing vote-based races. The ECOWAS Protocol gives that ideological groups ought to “reserve the option to complete their exercises uninhibitedly, inside the constraints of the law” and “without obstacle or separation in any appointive interaction. The opportunity of the resistance will be ensured.” The Protocol likewise necessitates that everything gatherings can meet and put together tranquil exhibitions ahead of decisions while “[t]he military and police will be non-sectarian and will stay faithful to the country.” 

The Gambian government ought to promptly deliver all tranquil nonconformists being held, start a straightforward and fair-minded examination concerning resistance passing’s in guardianship, award resistance groups admittance to state media outside the structure of the authority mission, and stop utilizing state assets for crusading. The public authority ought to likewise guarantee that the security powers regard the resistance’s privileges to unreservedly and calmly crusade unafraid of provocation or capture. 

Gambia’s key worldwide conversationalists, including ECOWAS, the European Union, and the United States, have been hearty pundits of the public authority’s crackdown. In any case, they have not adequately shown to President Jammeh that his tenacious focusing on and terrorizing of rivals has unmistakable results. They ought to have set clear benchmarks for the public authority to meet in front of the political race and, on the off chance that they had neglected to do as such, ECOWAS ought to have suspended the Gambia from its dynamic bodies, and the US and the EU ought to force travel boycotts, resource freezes, and other designated sanctions on senior authorities involved in basic liberties infringement.


Given the dangers vote to buy poses to democracy in the Gambia, the following recommendations are proffered:

  1. The moment calls for a National Dialogue on Peace and Unity to sensitize, discuss and set the standards for the upcoming elections.
  2. The Gambia Press Union in partnership with the Ministry of Information and others, should organize comprehensive training on election coverages and equip the Gambian journalists on the preparations for the upcoming elections. 
  3. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Economic and Gambia Government (GG) should develop a strategic collaborative framework for effective monitoring of political parties’ campaign funds to effectively curb electoral fraud, including vote-buying.
  4. To enhance the secrecy of the ballot, the IEC should construct a collapsible voting cubicle that will make it difficult for party agents to see a voter thumbprint on the ballot paper. Actions that reveal the vote cast by voters should be criminalized.
  5. Civil society groups should advocate and apply pressure for police and other law enforcement agencies to arrest, investigate and diligently prosecute those involved in the act of vote-trading and election malpractices.
  6. The National Assembly should fast-track deliberation and passage of the Bill establishing the National Electoral Offences Commission of The Gambia (NECG) ahead of the 2021 general election. The NECG, when established in The Gambia, should be well resourced to perform its statutory functions of arresting, investigating, and prosecuting electoral offenders.
  7. Media and civil society organizations need to intensify voter education and enlightenment campaigns on the negative implications of vote-trading– particularly on how it raises the costs of elections, promotes political corruption, and undermines good governance.
  8. The Electoral Act should be amended to: empower citizens to effectively deploy social media tools in facilitating exposure of electoral fraud like vote-buying, and prohibit the photographing of ballot papers by a voter or any person. (However, I note that the Gambians in the Diaspora are barred from voting)
  9. The Gambia government should pursue a policy of aggressive diversification of the economy to create more employment opportunities and reduce the level of poverty that makes people susceptible to criminal, financial, and material inducements.


This examination suggests that the media ought to try not to take distinctive publication positions on the consequences of races. The article position of the Gambian broad communications on the believability of the consequences of the 2016 races was fit for making struggle in Gambian legislative issues. The investigation noticed that the Gambian papers invested more energy writing about the emergencies that happened during the decisions with no endeavor to propose the potential approaches to take care of the issue of constituent anomalies in Gambian legislative issues. 

This improvement will in general negate the fundamentals of the social duty press hypothesis that forces on the media, the obligation to social obligation, being the fallout of the survey of the idea of a free press. Moreover, the article talks about how African pioneers can utilize the media to work with the directors of races in the locale. As the 2021 general decisions move close, the eventual fate of authentic popularity-based principle will tremendously rely upon how the different partners – legislators, electorates, government authorities, ideological groups, common society associations, and the media – work steadily to move back the tide of vote-purchasing. Saving The Gambia’s sprouting popular government from imploding into a moneyocracy under the heaviness of vote-purchasing is an assignment that should be critically attempted.


Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest concerning the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. 


The author(s) received no financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article.


  1. Godwin Ehiarekhian Oboh1. (2016). Reflecting on the Nigerian Media, Elections, and the African Democracy 
  2. Smith, L. (2009). Explaining violence after recent elections in Ethiopia and Kenya. Democratization, 16, 867-897. doi:10.1080/ 13510340903162085
  3. Michael Bratton, ‘Second elections in Africa’, Journal of Democracy9, 3 (1998), p. 51.
  4. BBC. (2016). Gambia’s Jammeh loses to Adama Barrow in a shock election result
  5. IEC, (2016). Presidential Election Results from 1st December 2016
  6. Human Rights Watch report (2016/11/02)
  7. J. Shola Omotola. (2010). Elections and democratic transition in Nigeria under the Fourth Republic.
  8. Eghosa E. Osaghae, ‘Democratization in sub-Saharan Africa: faltering prospects, new hopes’, Journal of Contemporary African Studies17, 1 (1999), pp. 4–25.
  9. Larry Diamond, The Spirit of Democracy: The struggle to build free societies throughout the world (Times Books, New York, NY, 2008), p. 25.
  10. Staffan Lindberg, Democracy and Elections in Africa (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, OH, 2006); Staffan Lindberg (ed.), Democratization by Elections: A new model of transition? (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, OH, 2009).
  11. Michael Bratton, ‘Second elections in Africa’, Journal of Democracy9, 3 (1998), p. 51.
  12. Practice and Perils of Vote Buying in Nigeria’s Recent Elections
  13. The U.S. Department of State Report on The Gambia 2016

Author notes

Modou Lamin Age-Almusaf Sowe ( is an author, literary scholar, and independent researcher. He formerly worked at Masroor Senior Secondary School as a School Librarian and English-Literature Teacher, and at African Development University in Niamey, Niger, as a University Librarian. He founded the Young Writers’ Association (YWAG) of The Gambia and is the current Executive Director of the World Writers’ Association. I thank this journal’s anonymous reviewers for their provocative and useful comments. I also thank Pa Nderry M’bai for his ceaseless probing, which served to bring the article to its current state. I am, however, solely responsible for the views expressed.

© The Author 2021. Published by Freedom Newspaper. All rights reserved!

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