Following the refusal of the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) to sign the landmark agreement reached by seven opposition parties and the independent aspirant to hold a national convention to select one flag bearer for the 1 December 2016 presidential election, the party issued a press release to further explain its reasons for doing so.
Below is the full text of the press release issued by the GDC and signed by its Press Secretary:
PRESS RELEASE ON GDC’S REFUSAL TO SIGN THE DOCUMENT ON A COALITION OPTION OF OPPOSITION POLITICAL PARTIES
The Gambia Democratic Congress opted out of the coalition option adopted by opposition political parties based on the following reasons: The document that was circulated to the press bearing signatures was extracted from another document which was a DRAFT AGREEMENT ON COALITION AND MATTERS CONNECTED THEREWITH BY MEMBERS OF GAMBIA OPPOSITION FOR ELECTORAL REFORM (GOFER), INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRANT AND INVITED PARTICIPANTS FROM CIVIL SOCIETY. GDC is not a signatory to GOFER and therefore the document completely excluded GDC and was not aware when that document was adopted. GOFER existed well before GDC was formed and GDC was never represented in any of the meetings that scripted that draft document. GDC was invited to coalition talks by People Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) in which we participated and presented a coalition building proposal along with other parties. That meeting according to PDOIS was meant for flag bearers of the opposition political parties. That later changed in subsequent meetings allowing all opposition political parties to take part following an objection by the Independent Presidential aspirant. Those talks were inconclusive and were later handled by GOFER of which GDC is not a signatory. GDC however continued to participate in the talks because it was important for all parties to take part in the negotiations. To our dismay the document presented to us to sign was prepared by GOFER and GDC was completely excluded from it. Apart from our objection to the clause that says ten regional representatives selected by each signatory party and Presidential aspirant to elect a candidate, as the general public was made to believe was the only reason, we had issues with other clauses as well. GDC has functioning structures across the country from regional to ward levels with working regional offices in every region while most of the parties have only one functioning office. Therefore the method of primaries being proposed is open to abuse and corruption. An open primary is a fairer method of selection. Out of the five committees proposed GDC is not represented in any of them demonstrating that GDC was not aware when those decisions were made. One particular clause that favoured one political party which we objected to and triggered our withdrawal from an earlier talk organized by Kebba Singhateh was included. Kebba Sighateh claimed at the time that he was neutral only to come round and sign on behalf of a political party this time a clear demonstration of double standard. The document was hastily prepared and is not a true representation of all the political parties. We believe we were being lured into a well calculated plan to exclude us. GDC as clearly stated in our proposal believe that a coalition of opposition political parties can appeal to a broader constituency beyond individual parties considering the unfavourable electoral laws in place. Therefore GDC has always been willing to forge a coalition in order to put up a stronger challenge against the incumbent. The formation of a viable coalition should not be based on party and individual sentiments while deliberately sidelining a major player like GDC. If the conditions remain the way they are GDC is willing to contest the election on its own. GDC regret that even at the time of the negotiation, other opposition elements were busy spreading false messages about our flag bearer. GDC has always been consistent in focusing its attacks on the incumbent and encouraging APRC supporters to defect to the opposition and will continue to do that. Our efforts to break the incumbent’s strength is unprecedented and GDC is responsible for psyching the general public again into elections as our best option to unseat the incumbent. Our ability to attract large number of ruling party supporters is the catalyst for any election victory.