Gambian opposition at last speaking the same language. Is that a clear that opposition leaders are ready to put aside their differences and unite for a common purpose?

Gambian opposition leaders must this time around throw away their differences and unite. It is the battle for survival this time.

It Is Another Election Year And The Wailing By Schist Confucianist Are At It Again

While the country’s opposition political parties were said to be locked in closed door negotiations to chart out a way forward after four years of an ineffective boycott campaign, Gambia’s one-man ruler Yahya Jammeh slapped them with a nasty surprise. Government announced the introduction of a bill that sought to bring amendments to section 105 of the Principal Electoral Act increasing the registration fee for political parties from D5000 to one Million dalasis, introducing a non-refundable nomination fee for presidential candidates and required minimum membership numbers from 500 to 5000.

After two adjournments and a slight watering down of the proposed terms, reducing the nomination fee of presidential candidates from the initially proposed one million to half, the National Assembly passed the bill on the 7th July 2015 and assented to by the president on the 20th of July 2015.

But even after its becoming into law there was no official indication of the authority’s intent to enforce the law making many distressed opposition politicians thinking it was a sign of hesitancy constituency by-election on the 6th of August 2015 and the widespread welcome it received from across the country must have turned the mercurial Gambian leader’s sour frustration into brooding vengeance, and thus followed the announcement of a deadline for the enforcement of the new law.

For fourteen years now the Gambian political opposition have been talking of “opposition alliance” without being able forge out one. Aware of this, some concern citizens, after the passing of the amendment bill, have thrown out proposals calling on opposition parties to voluntarily dissolve, choose an independent candidate from among themselves, or from outside with commitment to stay in power in a transitional government only saddled with a single programmatic goal of abolishing the Second Republic, paving the way for a new Third Republic.

Others are of the view that other parties should join the bigger party in a coalition/alliance and contest elections to remove the incumbent. Such a government will review the constitution, reform the electoral process, restore civil liberties and other major reforms to create a level playing field. At the end of one  year, that government would have to resign and an interim government set up just to conduct new general elections in which for all parties to partake.

But despite the lack of a realistic option to this realistic and formidable proposals the leaders of the six or seven political parties have not still come out with any collective position.
For his part, Mr.  Mai Ahmad Fatty of the opposition Gambia Moral Congress (GMC) is not ready to go for elections without Reform. On taking part in the coming 2016 chain of elections, Fatty argued “without comprehensive electoral reforms, it will constitute a conspiracy to entrench tyranny by going for elections. We are for elections, but not on the back of the voters.  If we have to unite, it must be on achieving reforms before elections,” he wrote in a statement widely circulated via social media.

He added: “Jammeh cannot circumvent a united opposition demand for reforms, if we require definite consequences and act on it. Any opposition campaign should be on preparing the nation for a show-down on reforms. That is why our policy remains empowering the opposition’s ability to enforce its demands, not canvassing for votes at this stage. First things first, for those who have opposition priorities blurred. Don’t grant a dying regime a new lease of life by campaigning for 2016 on a more constricted platter. Jammeh disclosed the totality of his mind through the recent Elections (amendments) Act 2015. It’s going to be brutal and nasty. Yes, indeed, a united opposition, enforcing its demands, will stop Jammeh in his tracks before 2016 elections. Our challenge has been the inability to enforce our demands – our priority must be building the political will and capacity to enforce our demands for change.”Mai Fatty wrote.

But what has transpired since 2012 when the Group Of Six launched its boycott campaign, the government did not respond to their demand. Jammeh did not feel the need of circumventing the opposition, he simply tried to ignore them, ignore them out of existence.
On the other hand Mr. Hamat Bah, leader of the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), has expressed his resolve to take part in 2016 elections, and ruled out a possible election boycott by his party. Bah added that “As far as we are concerned, the issue of boycotting is not on our table.”

He added: “We strongly believe that by boycotting elections, we are strengthening the incumbent. The only way to get rid of this regime is to challenge President Jammeh in elections.”  Though he said he agrees with other opposition parties on the need for electoral reforms, taking part in elections “will help to strengthen our position and the issue of governance in the country.”

Bah’s party was the only opposition party to participate in the last legislative elections, winning a single seat, after  winning the Lower Saloum by-election, the party now has two seats, making it less reluctant to join any boycott of elections.

If the UDP joins a boycott of the coming presidential election, Bah would have his biggest chance ever of winning.

As for PDOIS, on the 29th August 2015 The Central Committee of PDOIS issued a statement as a public response to a letter from Alhagie Mustapha L Carayol, Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, dated 19th August urging the organization to start the process of “regularizing” its status before end of March 2016. A similar letter was also sent to all the other parties, we assume but certainly it has been publicized through notices on various media houses.

PDOIS response, penned by its leader, included the following excerpts: “PDOIS will not be distracted. It has been building its grassroots base and branches in villages, districts, constituencies and regions before any amendment Act was envisaged. We are now consolidating those branches and the membership. We have held a Congress in May 2015 while the ruling party has been postponing its congress even though it has more resources at its disposal.

The Congress adopted an enhanced version of the party Constitution and Manifesto which are now being edited for publication and mass circulation by the end of September. Our Central Committee is enlarged to include regional representation based on Gender parity. Hence there is more than 33 percent gender parity and youth representation in all party Committees or decision making bodies.

We have held successful rallies and tours and will continue to intensify them to mobilise the people by their tens of thousands for democratic change. We will educate them to know that law making is based on borrowed power while power to employ law makers is owned by the people. Hence when people are dissatisfied with laws they should not become apathetic and surrender power to those who would abuse power of representation but should in fact become more resolved to replace those law makers who breach their trust with others who would obey their dictates. The wages of making bad laws is to vacate one’s seat. Impunity should not pay dividend. It should come with a heavy price that no one would wish to pay. That is the way to end it.”

We are on course to open up the list of Candidature and hold a primary to select our presidential Candidate before the end of the year. We would not be distracted in promoting the candidature of the choice of our members and advocate for electoral reform in collaboration with all other stakeholders. We would hold a Congress at the end of February 2016 to review all developments on the political landscape and come up with a resolution on the way forward for PDOIS and the country. PDOIS Halifa Sallah wrote.

As for the UDP in a press statement dated on the 9th of July 2015 wrote “The amendments to the Election Act endorsed by the National Assembly are a clear manifestation of the Jammeh regime’s desire to truncate democracy in The Gambia.  The majority party in the National Assembly has done what it is known for… blindly endorsing any piece of legislation that comes before it from the executive without properly weighing the consequences.  On July 7th, 2015, the National Assembly in a deliberate attempt to thwart the democratic process in The Gambia passed the elections [Amendment] Bill 2015 with which now increases the deposits for different elective offices up to 900%.

The amendment imposes an obligation on political parties to present audited accounts to Independent Electoral Commission annually.  These new provisions would have been justified if political parties enjoy funding from government.  Several years ago, Bishop Tilewa Johnson as chairman of the IEC proposed the establishment of a democracy fund into which all parties could tap for funding; the APRC NAMs killed the proposal.  There is no justification for the IEC or any other institution to insist on been provided with audited accounts in order to determine how funds provided by individuals are spent.

The passage of this Bill is a betrayal of trust and confidence reposed on the members of the National Assembly by their constituents. From now on, contesting for elective office will be determined by the wealth one is able to accumulate to satisfy the onerous financial conditions introduced by the amendment. This effectively restricts the democratic space by reserving participation in elections for only those with financial means to run for public office.

The election decree 1996 now Elections Act 1996 provided for registration of political parties at no fee.  An outrageous provision introduced by the amendment requires a new political party to pay a registration fee of one million (D1, 000,000.00).  In contrast, you will hardly find a business/commercial entity that is required to pay the same amount as registration fee.  This unprecedented move by the executive which is using the name of IEC in its anti-democracy drive runs contrary to the provision of the constitution that guarantees freedom of association

This amendment constitutes an assault on our democracy. The UDP believes that participating in politics or contesting elections ought to be seen as opting for public service with the sacrifice that comes with it  and NOT a “profit generating” commercial/business venture

The UDP calls on the president not to assent to the bill passed by the National Assembly if he still believes statements he made on 22nd July, 1994 as the reasons he gave for the overthrow of the Jawara regime” UDP Ousainou Darboe wrote.

But apparently still stunned by the amendment law and without any fresh ideas of how to fight the said Bill, the country’s opposition leadership appears to be going on separate ways   acting as if the bill could be ignored.

But can the bill be simply ignored?  The IEC’s  announcement of March 31st deadline should be enough notice that Jammeh’s determination to institute an unhindered perpetuation of his autocratic rule is sure for real.

So much display of commitment to principles, of democracy and courage, but so little sense of empathy by some of our political leaders and none for each other and the lot of other compatriots! What other compatriots certainly would want to know how far they would go in joining efforts with each other, groups of individuals and other Gambians to put an end to the Jammeh menace.

Now let’s look at the argument for Independent option and the party led alliance/coalition.

Those in favour of the independent option believe that, opening up a list of candidates at this material time is assuming out the possibility of a single, all-party, all-embracing, non-partisan, transitional presidential candidate standing on the behalf of all Gambians for a Third Republic, the hope of all true Gambians. Under the current electoral procedures, now being the legally processed an established dispensation, politicians and citizens are more obliged by the question of recovering the right for citizens.

The call for electoral reforms is now redundant and anachronistic particularly given the new laws which aims to extinguish the opposition parties themselves. Those proposing The Independent route as the only workable alternative is not new. It has been said over and over again even on the pages of Kaironews and other online publications. Those supporting this option, belief that the parties ought to voluntarily let themselves be de-registered come March 31st 2016, all the executive or central committee members  of the parties then constituted into one informal body responsible for identifying a suitable independent presidential candidate and managing his or her electoral campaign.

With such a proposal on the table the masses of citizens wield some leverage in that they can ignore the opposition parties and their leaders and substitute them with a non-partisan umbrella organization of civil societies, religious organizations, youth and women groups, individual citizens, Diaspora groups, etc, etc, until after victory is achieved when the parties can be re-registered.

Those in favour of party led alliance/coalition opined that; in an ideal environment and with the constitutional electoral requirement where second round of voting is part of the electoral laws. Party led coalition take shape after the first rounds of result are announced. The rationale follows on all other opposition parties that fell short in result back or abstain from the electoral process and allow the second best winner in the polls to contest the elections against the incumbent. The Gambia’s current electoral system is framed in such way, it takes the principles of “first past the post and a simple majority vote rule” as a criteria in one being declared the winner in the election circle.

The party led coalition premised by the largest opposition party leading and provide a presidential candidate, thereby bringing together other parties to strengthen it and provide synergy and joint policy framework that will provide the template for an interim government. The argument further support that, a strong MoU between all parties will be tabled, this will initiate much needed democratic reforms and define the methods to utilise in enhancing capacity among the opposition parties, accommodate the policy from others and shape the outlook of anticipated government in waiting.

Steadfastness is not always righteousness. To be able to make sure of doing the right true political leaders must, even when not obliged, often rethink their stance and consider the viewpoints of others.

Knowing the different parties and their respective leaderships, there may be some resistance to accept the most realistic proposal, but in the long run all depends on us citizens as no foreign power can help us face this challenge. Talks of “intensifying diplomatic initiative in the sub-region, Africa, US and Europe to promote international support for electoral reform or support from neighbouring Senegal or its civil society organizations” are mere distractions. Relying on each other as concerned Gambians is what those foreigners expect from us, not relying on them.

As it is, the opposition parties are united with one voice over one thing: let citizens register and get their voters’ cards to participate in elections. However, a few Schist Confusionists in the diaspora who themselves are not united, are doing everything to thwart the efforts already gathering steam for Gambians to register for an electoral showdown with the dictatorship.

Let us examine the independent option and the party led coalition/alliance and see what is more realistic under the current political dispensation in our dear country. Let us debate with the aim of finally coming together to take back our nation. Let us debate with respect and harmony if we at to get anywhere. Join the debate and contribute to shaping your own destiny!!!!!




Disclaimer: Views expressed in this section are the author's own and do not represent the editorial policy of Kairo News. Kairo News will trash any comment that inflames tribal, racial or religious hatred.

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