As the parties set Friday to announce the agreed mechanism to select a coalition flag bearer, I want to outlay, below, why the opportunity is now to free Gambia from the clutches of barbarity and bring back the country from the brink of sectarian disintegration. The tenacity of the UDP in facing the dictatorship up front has catapulted the country into a different league of political conflict. Whilst in previous cases the opposition remain dormant and silenced through terror, since the Fass Njaga Choi incident, the UDP has being on the offensive. This culminated in the gruesome murder of Solo Sandeng, rape and maltreatment of Fatoumatta Jawara and Nogoi and scores of party affiliates. Lawyer Darboe reacted swiftly and laid down his live demanding exemplary the release of „Solo dead or alive“. People from near and far, took note of this gallantry and join Darboe physically or kind to see that the lives and sanctity of these party affiliates does not go in vain. There was another reason why many people flocked to the UDP. They have realized that some people or group of patriotic citizens have laid down their lives to prevent the Gambia descending into sectarian crisis that threatens not only the UDP membership only but the wider Gambian people. They flocked to the party because at last a party is brave enough to say „enough is enough” and they see that the cynical regime’s representation of the facts about the Gambia are all lies. The UDP strategy reignited our sense of dignity that we still have a social fabric and our societal piety has not disintegrated. The other opposition parties have also played their parts. They voiced dissent and campaign in their own right against the excesses of this regime and have collaborated with the wider opposition parties for electoral reform. They have shown solidarity with the UDP leadership. They fell short of taking drastic moves to show their solidarity with the jailed leadership of the UDP. There are many reasons for it and it is their basic right to choose the best response to this problem. I suspect many of them are just too small to withstand the massive crackdown while the PDOIS and NRP are basically lacking the „critical Mass” to wage the same strategy as the UDP to take on the regime. Nevertheless these parties are relevant. The party landscape in the Gambia today is a replication of the situation in the 1960s. Then as now the ethnic belonging plays some considerable factor in the make-up of party rank and files. UDP has great sympathy not just because of it stances against tyranny but it also stood for the Mandinka population, who increasingly has become the hate object of the regime. The systemic bigotry is an open secret and finally it is in the open- related by a „policy declaration” by the incumbent at a Talinding gathering. PDOIS, NRP and GDC supporters have also other sensibilities these parties cater to. These are priorities, concerns or historical anomalies that are as diverse as we are. It is normal that such divergence of interest takes place and that is why multi-party democracy is the norm. To find a compromise between all these poles in times of great danger to our country as an entity, this poles must reconciled these differences and work together for the common good. Theoretically, all sort of alliances are possible. Official backing one candidate with a MOU or just not filling a candidate for a post are examples of working for coalition. In our case today, there are many reasons advanced why a single opposition candidate is the best means to defeat the regime. One of these reasons is the scraping of the 50% hurdle resulting in the simple majority making fraud easier when votes are spread over many heads. I buy into that idea although I have and still hold the view that incoming election won’t be fair and free because condition for such a legitimate election is not at hand and will not be at hand. For me, in foreground stands the symbolic impact such a cooperation of the opposition will have on the populace. We the people, despite our differences, can overcome our difference and eradicate this barbarity holding the country hostage. It is this spirit that many people welcome Dr.Touray into the fray. She provides an opportunity for unity among the various opposition parties. She has signaled that she will stay only 1 term and conduct a free and fair election. Can we trust her? Is she a unifying force? Will the country accept her and her bridging role? These are questions we should be asking and these are question party leaders must be convinced of. There are safeguards to such unknowns. We know her history and we can relatively predict that she will not become “elephant terrible”. The parties can hold her to word and will have the means to bring her down if she should renege on the laid agreements. TODAY should have being a day of joy. The parties announced agreement on the modus operandi and slated Tuesday 11th 2016 as the announcement date. It would not be. The scheduled press conference was cancelled at the request of the UDP representative at the talks to enable their leadership time to grace the occasion. That is understandable and in fact crucial that any person signing the MOU is the Flagbearer or the party leader (in this case party deputy leader). The now scheduled announcement date is this Friday 14th Oct. 2016. What must happen Friday? UDP must go ahead with the selection mechanism negotiated on their behalf by Mr. Alhagie S. Darboe. Finally, I am confident that UDP will deliver on their pledge. It is already a very big step that the other parties accepted the unveiling of the selection mechanism to be postponed until the UDP flag bearer is in town. Therefore UDP should support the selection process and defend the outcome of that selection. Since they are part of the selecting body, they have their power to influence that outcome. The notion that the other parties will conspire against UDP is unfounded. We cannot afford to deem the statement of party sympathizers as the hidden agendas of party leaders. UDP has a great sympathy even among the opposition and I am confident that the other parties have an interest in an outcome that also reflects and carry the weight of the UDP strength. Any person coming out of that selection as the unity candidate will need the unflinching support of all parties more so that of the UDP well-wishers. To those also in the multimedia and radio shows, let’s give the leadership of the UDP a chance to negotiate not only in the interest of the party but for the ultimate interest of the country. We select leaders to represent us and it is a grave disservice if we turn around and torpedo their efforts or prevent them from making the hard choices. Let’s remember the real people holding us hostage are not Dr. Touray, Mr. Sallah, Mr. Kandeh or Mr. Bah. We are in the midst of the most barbaric tyranny West Africa has seen since 90s and it is our responsibility to eradicate this menace in collaboration rather than trying solving the problem on sectarian basis. Cooperation prerequisites looking beyond personal preferences in favor of a pragmatic solution strong enough to galvanize, if not all, but the most relevant part of the stakeholders. That is leadership in the 21st century.

Kinteh

Ends

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