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By Tabora Bojang

The leader of the main opposition United Democratic Party has claimed that all the elections conducted in The Gambia since 1996 have been marred by questions of credibility and transparency, including the 2016 presidential election that ousted former president Yahya Jammeh from office.

Speaking at the party’s 27th anniversary Wednesday, Ousainu Darboe said a credible, free and fair election is a cornerstone for any true democracy to thrive and be sustained. He said the absence of inclusive elections could be attributed to weak electoral administrators who lack credibility, integrity and moral fibre to stand up against the wishes of power. 

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“We have seen from 1996 up to date that the credibility of elections in this country has been put in question. Even in the 2016 presidential election, Yahya Jammeh has put the integrity of that election into question. We need to have men of honour, we need to have men who are knowledgeable and have integrity in order that our elections will be certified as one that passes the test of integrity. If I hear people say we want strong institutions, I always say, no! There is no strong institution, instead it is strong men that make the institutions strong. When the men who are heading the institutions are themselves weak, or lack the moral fibre, when they cannot stand against the wishes of power, then those institutions themselves will become ineffective because the people managing them are not men of integrity who can stand up and say to an executive that what you are doing is wrong and we cannot really tolerate it,” Mr Darboe charged.

Media freedom

The UDP leader also accused President Barrow of using former president Jammeh’s draconian media laws to muzzle media houses he perceived to be sympathetic to the opposition.

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“The same methods and laws used by Jammeh to suppress the media are still in our law books and Barrow could apply them anytime he wishes. Indeed, they are using them and the press is being gradually muzzled. We have seen what happened to King FM being threatened by Pura that certain actions will be taken against them if they do not conform to certain standards and what those standards were remain to be told. We have seen the cries of Kerr Fatou that they have been deprived of their sources of income because they have been described and characterised as a UDP platform. But, in fact after all, is there anything wrong for any media house to belong to a political party? We have seen this all over the world where media houses are aligned to political parties and they carry the messages and propagate the philosophy of those political parties. So, Kerr Fatou is not a UDP platform but even if it is, what is wrong with that in a democratic society?” Darboe asked.

According to Darboe, there are, on the contrary, other “media houses and radio stations that are very much anti-UDP, trying each day to bring disunity” in the party but nobody questions those media houses.

“The freedom of the press in this country is very crucial. The struggle of the UDP throughout this country has been that there must be a responsible press and I must say that the Gambian press has been very responsible. It is only that irresponsible governments are really taking issues with them because this responsible press would not act in an unresponsive manner to support an irresponsible government,” he said.

Tribute to fallen heroes

Darboe also paid an emotional tribute to ‘fallen UDP heroes’ who died in the struggle to install sanity and true democratic governance in The Gambia including Solo Sandeng, Femi Peters, Ansumana Dibba, Sam Sillah, Sukai Dahaba, Ebrima Janko Ceesay and Lamin Dibba among others.

“We have to remember them and pay tribute to them so that what they struggle for is an enduring legacy that we cannot dissipate, a legacy we cannot squander.”

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