By MUHAMMED S. BAH
As part of efforts to promote the holding of free, fair and peaceful elections in The Gambia, the newly formed Pro Gambia Association has recently concluded a series of engagements with the stakeholders including the political parties in both government and opposition.
PRO organised a delegation comprising the members of its executive which met with representatives of the APRC, GDC, PDOIS, PPP, UDP and the Independent aspirant.
Following the conclusion of these visits, the PRO issued the press release below:
“Indeed we had a very fruitful visit so far with the said parties. We had a warm welcome and they treated us with respect and dignity. The purpose of our meeting with them was to talk to them about our newly formed association, raise issues concerning peace in the forthcoming elections before, during and after, brief them about our action plan and finally listen to their lectures.
All the political parties had a similar view about Pro-Gambia. That is, it came at the right moment and that they are willing to collaborate with us as long as we stay focused and remain impartial. They urged us to meet all the stakeholders and gave useful recommendations on way forward. Furthermore, they have all pledged to embark on a very clean and none violent campaign. In our view, they all have the interest of The Gambia at heart.
However, Hon Adama Barrow, the UDP presidential candidate highlights that a level playing field and the environment for a free and fair elections are important. He further gives an anecdote which assures us that he would accept the verdict of the Gambian people if the elections were free and fair. He says that he once contested a national assembly election against Hon Mama Kandeh of GDC in 2007 which he lost narrowly. After the declaration of the results, he rushed, hugged and congratulated the latter. He told him “We accepted you to become our National Assembly Member but accept us as oppositions.”
On his part, Hon. Halifa Salah, the PDOIS presidential candidate asserts that we should know the history of the Country in order to be successful in our cause. He delivers a brilliant lecture reminding us the four stages of the history of The Gambia: The colonial period, self-rule, the first republic and the second republic. He laments that the only change that he is adhered to is a change through the ballot box but not through the guns. He also promises to embark on a very peaceful campaign and advises us to identify the people with the character, republican and democratic values; people who are decent and committed to The Gambia.
As far as Hon Omar Jallow (OJ) is concerned, the PPP has always been a peaceful party. They said that they will do their level best in order to sensitize the youth of their party against violence. They promise to create an environment of peace. Mr. OJ recalls that, he was part of the first school children who sang the National Anthem at McCarthy Square (now 22 July square) during independence.
For Hon. Mama Kandeh, the GDC presidential candidate, they will not stand at any political platform and insult because their campaign is all about peace. He said the message should only be peace. He believes that politicians are not enemies to one another but they are all brothers. He further urges us to carry the work beyond our borders, to promote peace between us and Senegal and even to other African countries.
Dr Isatou Touray, the independent candidate, has also associated herself in congratulating and commending us for our brilliant undertaking. She said that she thanked God that all their work is not lost. Like other parties she also said that they believe in peace and that NON-VIOLENCE is their code of conduct. She promises to conduct a very peaceful campaign and warns us against bias.
In his speech, the Mayor and National mobilizer for APRC, Lord Yankuba Colley asserted that the idea is beautiful, but the problem is that whether we would be able to carry it out. Notwithstanding, he has great hope in us. He said that all the parties are aiming at the same thing that is peace. They said APRC is a very peaceful party because you cannot build and destroy. He said during the campaign they always emphasize that we are all interrelated and that we are one family. He gives his surname “Colley” as an example, saying that you can find it in all the major ethic groups of The Gambia, though the origin is Jola.
We have also visited other stakeholders like the IEC the EU, UNDP and WANEP. They have accorded us a warm welcome and promised to work with us except WANEP who ask us to wait until we have a two-year experience in order to work with them.
We also took part in the dialogue between opposition parties and security agents which was held at the Ministry of Interior on 14 October.
Nonetheless, we would like to inform the general public that until now, we have received funding from nobody and that with or without funding we would still continue to embark on our activities according to our limit. We are urging all stakeholders to fully cooperate with us and not to underrate us because peace has no price. If you do not doubt onto yourself do not doubt onto others. For without peace, nobody would go to the mosque or church, without peace no business would be run.
We are thanking all the political parties both incumbent and opposition for conducting their activities peacefully and urging them to have a team talk with their followers in order to avoid abusive language or anything that may result to conflict.
Long live The Gambia!
The President of The Pro-Gambia Association
Banjul, Monday 17 October 2016