By Zakaria Kemo Konteh
Dear United Democratic Party,
When you emerged into the political scene of our country, you instantly became the focused target of the brutal A(F)PRC administrations. From the infamous attack on the party supporters along Denton Bridge to the incarceration of your entire executive, state sanctioned persecution continued unabated in scope and intensity against the party for nearly two decades. The loss, pain and trauma incurred by your resilient supporters and members is immeasurable.
During these trying moments, you pulled together and stared down the forces of evil amidst unimaginable suffering as Jammeh continued to unleash every obliterating kit from his toolbox. You fearlessly demonstrated that the fight to liberate Gambia from the clutches and piecing jaws of dictatorship was worth the cause. It was a costly but good fight done for the common good of the entire Gambia and her people. In the final showdown, UDP joined forces with other equally gallant political parties to banish the tyrant who unapologetically soaked Gambian soil with blood and squandered our resources for 22 years. By doing so, UDP carves out a special place in the history and liberation struggle of our dear motherland. Gambia and Gambians are eternally grateful for this collective sacrifice!
Without a doubt, you continue to have in your ranks multitude of diverse Gambians with unquestionable love for the country, for each other and for their fellow citizens. These are the decent majority with sincere determination to do right for the country.
While UDP no longer faces the challenges of dictatorship and all its bloody attributes, the party is now facing the image-shattering challenges posed by fringe elements who hide behind its name, symbol and colour to denigrate their fellow citizens.
Here is a simple analogy:
With all positive life-changing contributions and peaceful teachings practiced by millions of followers, Islamic faith suffers from collective punishment in recent years because of the extremist actions of the few who distort the Holy Scripture to commit mass murder without regard for sanctity of life.
UDP as a political party espouses the ideals of tolerance, peace, protection of rights, adherence to the rule of law and respect for diversity, culture and religion among other virtues and has remained unflinchingly committed to these principles throughout. But shortly after the coalition victory, extremist elements started using UDP image to fan the flames of bigotry, division and hate especially online. I must add that all of them have no official or personal ties to UDP but the fact that they claim to be supporters and fighting for UDP make their distasteful actions the party’s business directly or indirectly.
Just as Islam is erroneously associated with terrorism because of the blasphemous actions of the few, UDP is being undeservedly tagged in some quarters with every bad thing the party abhors because of the repulsive actions of those using the party flag!
In United States, Presidential candidate Trump was forced to reject or disavow the endorsement of the terrorist KKK group and just recently the now President Trump was compelled once more to call out White supremacy movements that to this day support his Presidency.
I believe UDP executive can do more to protect the party’s peaceful image, glorious legacy, diversity and inclusiveness by officially and publicly distancing itself from these extremists, denounce their toxic activities and condemn them for associating their filth or dirt with the party. Denying or downplaying the existence of this alarming episode or allowing the trend to fester could potentially cost the party of vital human and financial capital including votes. In politics, image and perception matter as are numbers!