By Madi Jobarteh
Since the Opposition Convention in October 2016, all of its leaders, individually and collectively including President Adama Barrow have consistently told Gambians that they had signed a Memorandum of \understanding to come together as a unified force to bring about change in the Gambia. Yet eight months after the ouster of the tyrant, the UDP leader Ousainou Darboe said, after all that MoU was never signed by the parties. As if that confusion was not enough, now Haifa Sallah of PDOIS has also called a press conference to insist that all the parties had signed the document even though he did not produce the signed document to display before journalists. Yet he proclaimed his readiness to take on anyone for a debate on national television.
From the statements of these two key political leaders in the country, I had no choice but to weigh on this issue because I am not just disappointed in them but I am also quite angry at the way and manner our politicians take citizens for granted.
In the first place, Ousainou was in jail when the coalition was conceived. His party was fully represented and in fact their candidate became the flag bearer for the coalition. What baffles me therefore is what has UDP leaders told Ousainou when he got out of jail about the coalition? According to Halifa, Dembo Bojang, Aji Yam Secka and Alhagie Darboe were part of the coalition making process and signed up to the document. Is it that Ousainou is now telling us that these UDP leaders never told him that they signed up to the document? Or is Halifa fabricating the story that these people indeed signed the document when they did not?
As a lawyer and a party leader, my expectation is that as soon as he came out of jail, Ousainou would seek an update from his lieutenants so that he takes the necessary steps to correct any anomalies that could be there. Did he do that, and what update did they give him? If indeed they did not sign up to the MoU, did Ousainou not find that concerning so that he gets his party to sign the document and ask all other parties to also do so? But if it is true that they in fact never signed the document, what then was responsible for that, yet they have consistently given the impression that all parties signed the document? But now that Halifa has alleged that UDP leaders at the time signed the document, is it not appropriate for Dembo Bojang, Aji Yam Secka and Alhagie Darboe to therefore speak out to validate or invalidate the statements of either Halifa or Ousainou.
At the other end, Halifa must also not just call a press conference only to repeat the history of the coalition. Rather he should have spoken directly to the issue that Ousainou raised, i.e. Ousainou did not doubt what is in the MoU or how the Coalition was set up. What Ousainou raised is that the MoU was not signed. Therefore the logical thing for Halifa to do was to produce the signed copy of the MoU since he was the convener of the Coalition talks. We recall a few years ago Yaya Jammeh publicly denied that Halifa got any degrees. Immediately Mr. Sallah convened a press conference to display all of his certificates. Therefore the least we expected Halifa to do was to again display the signed MoU to finally and completely dispel the allegations that Ousainou made.
The disappointment from Ousainou and Halifa are further compounded by the silence of Fatoumatta Tambajang Coalition Chairperson, Isatou Touray Independent, Mai Fatty GMC, OJ Jallow PPP, Hamat Bah NRP, Henry Gomez GPDP and Lamin Bojang of NCP. The very integrity of these people is at stake caused by either Ousainou Darboe or Halifa Sallah. On one hand Ousainou is saying they did not sign the MoU, while on the other hand Halifa is saying they signed the MoU. Are these politicians going to keep silent when there are conflicting stories emanating from two key Coalition leaders about what they did or did not do? I think these people owe it to Gambians to speak up as to whether they signed the document or not.
More importantly, the very integrity and credibility of Fatoumatta Tambajang is also at stake here. She cannot and must not keep silent at the potential damage of trust caused to her by either Ousainou or Halifa. Therefore Tambajang must produce her document. According to Halifa, Fatoumatta Tambajang is the custodian of the document hence she must produce the document for us to know whether the MoU was signed or not. Failure to do so would be a great disservice to the nation and an untrustworthy act unbecoming of a person of her calibre.
Whether the MoU was signed or not, the fact remains that no Gambian newspaper (at home or abroad) has ever published the signed copy yet. When you do a Google search for the Opposition Coalition MoU, it does no show! Therefore where is our document? Who has it? Why are these politicians bickering over a document on the basis of which they came together to form a Coalition? It was that Coalition that obtained the support of Gambians to vote for Adama Barrow as president.
Therefore the members of the Coalition, individually and collectively including Pres. Adama Barrow owe Gambians the truth about the signed MoU which they need to produce for the public. Gambians have held the view that the document was signed. Hence it would be indeed an act of betrayal and falsehood for them to have failed to sign the document and not only kept quiet about it but also continue to give the impression that they signed it.
The issue that citizens must recognize here is that this MoU is a national document. It is a historic document that recorded and cemented a national liberation process and achievement. Hence the Coalition MoU must be a document to be put in our national museum and archives for posterity. It is a public property and it must be in the public domain. Thus this document is too important to be played with as a toy by the country’s governing politicians and their parties. The issue of this document is even more pertinent given the issues therein that have become punching bags for opposing parties and their supporters.
Therefore if indeed Ousainou is telling us the truth, then it means Coalition leaders have acted disingenuously for consistently telling Gambians that they had all signed the MoU document when in actual fact they never did. Conversely, if Halifa’s account is the truth then one wonders why would Ousainou tell a different story. For that matter why would the rest of the leaders keep silent when they have a duty to set the records straight? But again why is the signed document not made public?
Above all, Adama Barrow must not sit still while key leaders of the Coalition Government are engaged in a tasteless drama that directly concerns the source of his leadership. For that matter, Barrow must intervene to prevent his government being overshadowed and misdirected by partisan rivalries when there are urgent national issues to address.
Regardless of the political interests of the parties, citizens must not allow politicians to toy with the life and destiny of the country. It is such meaningless political bickering that divides a county when there is nothing for citizens to actually gain or lose. We must not allow politicians to therefore engage in such vain talk. We must demand our Signed MoU to come out in the open, as it is a public property.