Talib Bensouda, the mayoral candidate for the United Democratic Party, has denied reports that an Australian oil company, Far, has been involved in funding his campaign activities.
Bensouda, a young politician who is considered to be the frontrunner for the Kanifing Municipality’s mayoral seat, has received funding from the oil company through his charity to donate hundred trash bins to Serrekunda market.
Far currently holds the license for two of Gambia’s four prospective oil wells, named loosely as A2 and A5.
The company stated in its investor update released in March 2018 that they have made the donation to the Serrekunda market as part of their corporate social responsibility.
“Many companies have donated to GamSense… GamSense is a one-year institution and I have been running it before I entered politics. So I don’t think there is a conflict there,” Bensouda told journalists on Tuesday after his nominations at the election house along Kairaba Avenue.
“GamSense projects we have done with Far Limited were way before I won the primaries and elected as a (UDP) candidate. These are allegations. They are not facts. The donations were not about my campaign. They were about the Gambian people and the communities.”
Though Far’s activities with GamSense preceded Talib’s official nomination as the UDP candidate, he was one of the people who have reportedly expressed their desires to run for the party already.
And though it is not clear what interest an oil company that already has a license will have in mayoral election, many activists believe it could cause conflict of interest.
Gambia has no law regulating campaign financing and anyone can donate to political parties or individuals.
However, Bakary Badjie, one of the 6 independent candidates running for KMC mayoral seats said Far’s funding of GamSense’s activities was wrong ethically.
Badgie, who was speaking to journalists after his nomination on Tuesday, said foreign companies cannot be allowed to interfere in Gambia’s domestic politics.
“It is the candidate of the UDP that is being financed by Far and I think it is wrong for international businesses to engage in our domestic politics. Because it means that we are mortgaging our municipality to people who are only interested in making money,” Badjie said.
“I think it is even unethical by IEC codes for any international institution to finance local politics… We have proof that Far is sponsoring a lot of things that Talib Bensouda did.”
Other candidates that nominated for IEC on Tuesday for the KMC mayoral race are independent candidate Francis George Gomez, independent candidate Assan Martin, Adama Bah for Peoples’ Democratic Party for Independence and Socialism, independent candidate Bubacarr Senghore and the only female independent candidate Fatima Sarr.
The nominations for the KMC race ended on Tuesday and eleven candidates have been nominated.
By Mustapha K Darboe