Sunday, August 25, 2019

How can Gambians forget so soon?

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QUESTION OF THE DAY

Some Gambians have lost memory of the realities of The Gambia between September and December 2016. Consequently, they have even started to turn their eyes on what made it possible for other presidential candidates to accept the candidature of another presidential candidate who was relatively unknown in Gambian politics.

It is strange that the whole talk about Coalition 2016 is whether the Coalition members were right or wrong in accepting a three-year term for the presidency. They decided to put aside the realities of the country which gave rise to coalition talks and the criteria for the candidates who sought to be the flag bearer of the Coalition. Foroyaa will now focus on the realities so that no one will be able to distort the truth.

Foroyaa would like to remind Gambians that between September and December 2016, the opposition in the Gambia was in disarray. Most Gambians and all members of the diplomatic corps were convinced that Jammeh will sweep the elections. ECOWAS even decided not to send election observers because of its conviction that there was no chance for the opposition to overcome the hurdles imposed by the incumbent. Mr Ousainou Darboe was incarcerated. Even if he was released, he would not have been able to contest the 2016 presidential elections having gone beyond the age of 65 years.

Coalition building therefore had nothing to do with big or small parties. None of the parties stood any chance of removing the incumbent. None of the candidates singly had any chance of removing the incumbent. No honest Gambian could deny this fact. The question that confronted political strategists is how to build a coalition that would be agenda driven rather than being party or personality driven. That is why those who met to build the coalition did not consider the importance of personality or party. They simply established criteria that would enable all to galvanise around the flagbearer who would be selected through a convention.

The criteria were based on the plan to have a transitional administration with the objective of ensuring constitutional, electoral, civil service, security and financial reforms as well as conduct truth and reconciliation processes in order to put the past behind us and give The Gambia a new start. Since it was acknowledged that self-perpetuating rule for thirty years in the first republic and 22 years in the second constituted the major obstacle to change, it was agreed that the candidate of the coalition could be armed by the moral authority to serve less than his or her five-year term. Some wanted the candidate to voluntarily serve two years and others recommended three years. Eventually, the coalition reached a consensus for a three year term followed by a decision not to contest the next election or to support any candidate contesting such election. All the stakeholders reached decisions on the basis of unanimity.

To confirm that party size did not matter in the negotiation, all participants agreed for each party, regardless of size, to select ten delegates per region to participate in the convention of 30th October, 2016. All the candidates who participated also agreed before any selection to include the criteria established for their participation in their manifestos. This is why Adama Barrow included the three-year term and the process of reforms in his manifesto which was supported by the coalition.

All the coalition presidential aspirants supported the candidature of Barrow when he was elected by the delegates. The party delegates of his original party could not have enabled him to win the contest. In the same vein if another person was selected and his/her party decided to walk away Yahya Jammeh would have still been the President of The Gambia because of a divided opposition. This would have also been the case if the other candidates rejected the candidature of Adama Barrow. So, Coalition 2016 was a coalition of necessity not a coalition of convenience. Not a single member of the coalition stood in opposition to the criteria set. It was a unanimous decision. The contest was also done on the basis of unanimity and the victory won on the same principle. The impasse was addressed on the basis of the same principle.

Needless to say, if the cabinet, the national assembly, the councils and the whole reform process were done on the same principle of unanimity, putting party and interests aside no one would have been able to act singly to defy an entire nation united to give the country a new start, a country that reflects the aspirations of all. This is the incontestable truth, the incontrovertible truth. The lesson that should be drawn by honest Gambians is that the president and the political parties have swayed away from the original trajectory. President Barrow could resign in three years if he chose to or stay for five years without violating the constitution in either way. This is also an incontrovertible truth that should be known to all Gambians. Anybody who does not acknowledge this truth must either be ignorant or dishonest.

Resignation before the five years is clearly stipulated in section 65 of the constitution. A term of five years is clearly provided for in section 63 of the constitution. Hence honest political leaders in the Gambian should tell the people that members of the coalition wanted to give moral authority to its presidential candidate by him/her making a commitment by reducing his/her term from five years to three just to show that he has no hunger for power like those before him/her. Hence those who come after him/her would also be morally obliged not to display any hunger for power.

Hence if a new reality emerges where the coalition architecture of building unanimity in cabinet, national assembly, council formations and the reform process was completely abandoned and President Barrow now insists on serving a five year term, the Gambian people should enter a new debate as to the way forward in response to the new reality rather than sinking into a blame game. Each political leader, party and the people at large should reflect on what went wrong and what needs to be done to forge ahead.

The peaceful transfer of power was attained by mobilising national and international goodwill. The Gambia failed to be an occupied country because we refused to be divided into warring factions, otherwise foreign forces would have taken over the maintenance of peace, law and order in the country. During the impasse, Gambians spoke with one voice to save the country from chaos. What is the new voice that is needed to save the country from the same chaos that threatened us during the impasse? The debate should start right away. Each should offer the Gambian people the new architecture of a new Gambia and how and when it could come into fruition. That is what is demanded of good leaders.

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