I have been following the civic education show on Freedom radio about elections in the Gambia on the contentious issue of whether the opposition should go to the pools or not. I have heard the arguments for election by Kejaw Touray, and also heard what Ndey Jobarteh said about the issue and asking that we look at the bigger picture.
My position is that the opposition must not take part in the election because in the first place they are going against a president who has lost the legitimacy to govern. Thus going to election with Jammeh is effectively legitimising him in the first place. Secondly, by virtue of the crooked electoral laws in place as well as the malpractices of the regime such as the deployment of the entire state machinery in favour of APRC and Jammeh, the chances of even a single coalition candidate winning is far-fetched. The use of deception and violence by Yaya Jammeh will become more intense particularly at a time when already such violence is being unleashed on the people. A review of the election results since 1996 shows a steady rise of Jammeh at the polls. Only once he scored 58% which was his lowest. He won those elections thanks to unfair playing field and the use of methods that disempower the opposition in all ways.
The argument Kejaw makes as well as many that the 2012 parliamentary election boycott was detrimental to the opposition and empowered Yaya Jammeh is inaccurate, and more importantly irrelevant to the present situation. We must bear in mind that we are speaking of the presidential election which was never boycotted by the opposition. It was the parliamentary election that was boycotted. We cannot use parliamentary elections including by-elections in which the opposition or independent candidates won as a yardstick to judge the presidential election. They are different. Even with the parliamentary election, it must be clear to all Gambians that it will take a long time before the opposition could obtain substantial enough seats as to pose a challenge to the presidency. We must also bear in mind that there are constitutional provisions that give power to the president to dissolve the parliament as he deems fit. So there are enough arsenal, legally and illegally with the president to neutralise opposition even if they form the majority in parliament.
The shortcoming of our opposition is their lack or poor leadership and patriotism hence their inability to picture the greater good and submit themselves to serving that greater good. In the particular circumstances of the Gambia, one must be clear about boycott. That, it is not merely to boycott. Period. There must be a whole boycott program whose objective is to ensure that first and foremost there is regime change in the Gambia. Yaya Jammeh must step down because he has hijacked the sovereignty of the Gambia by flouting the constitution and the rule of law and trampled upon the rights and lives of Gambians with impunity. He is a tyrant, and all things remaining equal, he has more factors in his advantage to defeat and control any resistance and opposition. This must be the rationale and objective of a boycott.
Thus the boycott program must identify what else should the opposition do when they boycott. I think they must first of all come together in unity to speak to the Gambian populace why it is necessary to boycott. The evidence and reasons are too many to state. Gambians must be made aware that the Yaya Jammeh regime is a cold-blooded murderer that endangers the lives of each and every Gambian. Again the evidence is overwhelming. Thus Gambians must be urged to distance themselves from the regime and stand with the opposition to ostracize the regime. Gambians must be made to understand the regime impoverishes us more individually and collectively. The incidence of ‘Back Way to Europe’ in which thousands of our youth perish, and the growing brain drain with the increasing high cost of living vis-a-vis the overwhelming personal wealth of Jammeh must be clearly show to the people that indeed Jammeh poses a clear and present danger to the lives and dignity of our nation. Gambians must be made to see that in fact Jammeh is a de-facto king, but only using democracy to legitimize his monarchical ambitions and grip on power. Each and every Gambian must be sensitized to realise that the only action necessary to protect this nation from plunging into an open fratricidal armed conflict sooner or later is for Yaya Jammeh to step down now. The armed attacks on Farafeni in 2006, and on Kartong in 2007 and on Banjul in 2014 must be exposed to the people that in fact the Gambia is in an armed conflict situation that could potentially continue and become widespread if Jammeh continues to misrule the country.
Second. The opposition must make representation to various governments as well as regional and international organizations to seek their cooperation and support to demand Jammeh to step down. Starting from Senegal, to Nigeria, to ECOWAS, AU, EU, US, UK and up to the OIC among any other partner of the Gambia such as even the new comers the Chinese. The world must be told of the misrule of Jammeh and the need to cut it off soon in order to prevent another civil war erupting in Africa. By virtue of its size and importance, the Gambia is not attracting the necessary attention and concern from global centres, albeit to our detriment. It is for this reason we must therefore make ourselves seen and heard by having a clear strategy to engage with the international community.
Third. The opposition must have a strategy or blueprint for a transition as part of this boycott plan. Such boycott strategy is what will bring about a non-violent and peaceful and democratic change in the Gambia. The opposition including the Diaspora groups must use their full arsenal to place before stakeholders a clear blueprint of the boycott. This strategy must be developed by the opposition to lay out the transitional arrangements that will usher in a 3rd republic. For example, the strategy must set the duration of the transition if Jammeh is ousted. Who will constitute the transition council or how would they be selected. What are the deliverables of the transition program. for me, I think we need a truth and justice commission to expose the crimes and corruption and prosecute or forgive as the case may be. I can bet that if the opposition are resolved and steadfast and stick together on this strategy, this regime cannot stand such a full blown pressure and ostracism by Gambian citizens and the international community. Sooner or later, Yaya Jammeh will capitulate.
Going to elections will not save the Gambia. It will only lead to conflict. Let us imagine a best case scenario. For example if indeed the opposition did come together and present a very good candidate for the presidential election, and that person happens to win the elections by all indications, are we sure that Yaya Jammeh is such a person who would concede defeat and peacefully hand over power to the winner? I am sure no sane Gambian will respond in the affirmative. He will not until he is kicked out thru a mass uprising as we saw in other places. Thus if we go to elections we most likely will face an Ivory Coast-type situation between Laurent Bagbo and Alassane Ouattara. It is clear that if the French forces did not come to kick out Bagbo, all indications were that ECOWAS would not do so even though they agreed that Bagbo should step down and if need be they will use force. But at the last minute, Ghana was the first to back down. So if the French had not come to take him out, I can bet that Ivory Coast could have been in civil war until today. Thus going to elections with Jammeh is potentially going to repeat that same scenario if the opposition won the election. But in our case, we cannot guarantee that the British or the Americans will send the Marines or Royal Air Force.
In light of the foregoing, Gambians must be resolved that Yaya Jammeh has lost the legitimacy to govern. The issue, as Ndey noted, is not about UDP or PDOIS or any party. It is about the Gambia being hijacked by one of us in total contravention of our constitution, culture and religion. Yaya must step down and face charges for the atrocities he committed. UDP members may be in jail today and some of them already killed and raped. But which opposition party has not faced harassment since 1996. There is no guarantee that none of the opposition figures such as Halifa, Mama, Hamat or Sidia or their colleagues and supporters will not face harassment tomorrow. We must not allow myopia and our distrust against each other and our ego to blind us to the national catastrophe that is unfolding in front of us since 1994. Yaya Jammeh is still far better positioned to win the elections in December, coalition or no coalition. We must realise that.
This is my view.
Written By A Concerned Gambian