We wish the very best to Hon Fatoumatta, speaker of the National Assembly, who, accompanied by four parliamentarians, will leave Banjul today for Zimbabwe as an African Union Observer of the forthcoming run-off election between President Robert Mugabe and Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. There is no doubt that this is a dangerous task. Tensions are running very high in Zimbabwe at the moment and many fear there will be fresh violence in the run up to or in the immediate aftermath of the next vote. There have long been accusations of vote rigging against Robert Mugabe as well as intimidation and violence being used against opposition supporters. For all these reasons Hon Fatoumatta Jahumpa Ceesay will have to be very vigilant and stick to her task with utmost integrity. Not only is she flying the flag for the African Union, she is flying the flag for The Gambia and democracy.
This is an extraordinary responsibility. The people of Zimbabwe are desperate for change and they must be allowed to make their democratic decision without fear of violence or oppression.
Scheduled for the 27th of June, the second round presidential election comes on the heels of a disputed first round election in which opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was put ahead of President Mugabe, but not by enough votes to win outright.
Western observers were said to have been banned from the first round by Zimbabwe's government, which accused them of bias, after they said there had been fraud in previous elections. This will be of deep concern to all those who wish to see free and fair elections and will increase the pressure on Hon Fatoumatta Jahumpa Ceesay and her colleagues on the African Union team. The world will be watching from afar but they have the privilege of being on the ground to serve democracy and Africa as a whole.
Their job will not be an easy one but for the sake of African democracy they must attend to their task with extraordinary dedication. We wish them luck in their mission and pray for the safety of all those who are in the country to serve the cause of democracy and freedom.
"The ballot is stronger than the bullet."