Dou Sannoh Deputy political adviser to the president

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By Omar Wally Dou Sannoh was born in Korojula Kunda village in Upper River Region. A childhood friend of Adama Barrow now president; the two have a longstanding relationship. Dou is a man with many trades – farmer, seaman, estate agent and politician. He joined the United Democratic Party when it was formed in 1996 and was an active member during the struggle against Jammeh. He contested under UDP ticket against his uncle, APRC’s Modou Lamin Badjie in council election for New Jeshwang Ward and lost. Following the 2016 election which ushered in Adama Barrow, Sannoh was appointed deputy political adviser to President Barrow. He is also the adviser and national coordinator of the Barrow Youth for National Development. In this edition of Bantaba, anchor Omar Wally talks to the hard-spitting politician about his relations with Barrow and chequered relations with the UDP base. Omar Wally: What is your relationship with President Barrow, is it new? I love this question. My relationship with President Barrow was not today, it started since childhood in Jimara. He hailed from Mankamang Kunda and I came from Korojula Kunda. His aunty Sirrang Barrow, is married in our village. So it has been a longstanding relationship? Yes, we all moved from our respective villages to Kombo and we were in touch. He was running his real estate company and I was doing mine, but he ventured into the business before I. After the formation of UDP in 1996, we all joined the party which also cemented our relationship. The Barrow Youth for National Development has been in the eye of the brewing political storm. How did it all start? It started when some youths came together with the aim to empower the president. They initially went to the secretary general of UDP, Ousainu Darboe, but they couldn’t meet him. Then they met me and explained that they are ready to mobilise the youths of the country and empower the president to develop the country. I told them that was a good idea and it should be implemented as a nation cannot develop without the involvement and participation of the youths as they are the future leaders. They said it is an idea that can move the country forward, that I should put the idea to the president, that he should not leave them like that and should instead empower them. That was the moment I accepted them and we met the president for a formal introduction. Why didn’t you advise them to join the UDP youth wing? Don’t you think it has the potential to bring about differences? Omar, this is something that needs to be clear. Gambians should know that the UDP has the upper hand in the coalition but it doesn’t belong to them alone. They share it with other political parties. Therefore, if the UDP and other parties put Barrow as a flagbearer and he eventually became president, it should be remembered that he was a UDP candidate where he resigned and became coalition. If you named it, UDP President Barrow Youth for National Development, where will you put the NRP, PDOIS, GMC, NCP, PPP, GPDP who all contributed in making the change and they all have their party youth wings? President Barrow cannot empower UDP Youth for National Development and leave others, while the position he is holding is as a result of collective efforts. It is unfair. But the majority of the top people in the association are from the UDP. You certainly knew it would cause rancour with the UDP The reason for that is lack of understanding and people trying to transmit messages that they do not understand. In life, you should be fearful of someone who twists or takes people’s statement out of context. Moving on, the President and I are UDP and the boys in the association are UDP. Moreover, when the idea was brought up, I made it clear to them that I’m UDP and I will not approve unless I inform the party bureau. I called a meeting at the UDP Manjai Bureau on three occasions to inform them about the youths. I told them it is not a political party at three meetings but some left the meetings and went out misinforming people. Isn’t your Barrow Youth for National Development a replica of Jammeh’s Green Boys? Jammeh had his own way with his agenda and we have ours with our own agenda. The most important thing is Gambians should look in to see if it is good or not. If it turns ugly, they can quit, that is better. You are an adviser to Barrow, but many say you yourself are the problem. Dou Sannoh was not the problem yesterday. After winning election some people came and wanted to push people away to have an opportunity to pit our heads together so that we will be angry at each other which will enable them to get close to the president. They accuse me of being the problem but when we were fighting Jammeh I wasn’t their problem. But now that peace is prevailing, I have become their problem. The fight I did to liberate this country, I will continue with it to ensure that peace and progress continues. What is the cause of the tension between Barrow and Darboe? If there is any problem between Barrow and Darboe, I’m not privy to it. If there is a problem between them, they will not be under the same roof working. I did not observe any strange relationship, [their relationship] is [like] a father and a son. Can’t you amalgamate the Barrow Youth for National Development and the UDP youth wing to solve the issue? UDP has a youth wing, and other parties have their youth wings. But there is no grumbling in those parties, why in UDP? I will not break UDP; I will prefer to share the agenda which UDP and others can benefit. You are accused of playing double standards of blowing hot and cold at the same time with regard to Darboe and Barrow I’m UDP, I know what I have been through since 1996, the pain and the suffering. I sacrificed a lot, I spoke against Jammeh and I have been in the frontline, singing. Threatened or not, I have always been in the frontline. I was among the people attacked in the Basse ambush, and when it comes to the UDP, no one loves the UDP leader more than I. Even tomorrow, I’m UDP and whoever wants to destroy the party I will not spare you. You claim to be 100% UDP even tomorrow, in the event Barrow chooses to go on his own, will you go with him or remain in the UDP? Going on his own, what will the UDP do that will make him form his party? These [Darboe and Barrow] are people in the same house; they are the ones who will determine when the time comes. And when the time comes I will decide where to be. There is a lot of suspicion between Barrow and some UDP supporters, isn’t there? Yes, there is suspicion. Barrow sacrificed his life to lead the coalition to challenge Jammeh which led to his downfall. That alone painted a good image of UDP, because UDP was his political home. After all that sacrifice, some people castigate the president and they want the president to be happy about them? Quite often Barrow brags saying he sacrificed his life to challenge Jammeh. But in the UDP, others like Boo Jarju, also offered to challenge Jammeh, so there is no point in all the chest beating. Omar Wally, let us be honest with each other, some of those celebrating UDP today, yesterday if you call them UDP, they will be like, are you crazy, do you want my wife to be a widow? Those are the ones in the UDP today. Most of them are intellectuals. Where were they when it was tough, why didn’t they join UDP and put ideas together? The last thing I wanted to see is for UDP members themselves to fight each other. Now is the time for the UDP to have a closed door meeting, settle the differences, come out with power and do what is best for The Gambia. Besides, those who sacrificed all what they had by denying themselves to make sure that UDP is alive, some even served prison terms, if you want to push them away and bring in others it will be unfair. Some people like Nogoi Njie sacrificed and they didn’t benefit anything. Those who did absolutely nothing [during the struggle] are the ones Barrow is befriending now. Nogoi would have died of penury if she hadn’t released the WhatsApp audio. I will not belabour much on the issue of Nogoi Njie. However, when you ask Nogoi, her relationship with the president what transpired before the release of the audio, [you will know] not all the information were released. President Barrow put so much effort to take her for overseas treatment. Many at times, you hear people say Barrow is a good person but those surrounding him are the problems. That statement will not come from people who were in the struggle with him for 22 years. Those people will never make such a statement. Such a statement comes from the newcomers. Those accusing me of being the problem cannot produce any evidence to say that this or that person is Dou Sannoh’s victim. I’m challenging whoever has evidence to come forward. You released a WhatsApp audio in which you said the Barrow Youth for National Development is a lorry without a break. That statement didn’t go down well with many people. Yes, some were not happy with it, for me there was nothing wrong with that statement. I always tell my fellow UDP supporters that I’m pregnant and if they want to know what I carry they should follow me but I will not deliver in public. I made the statement because it is the youths who are behind the Barrow Youth for National Development. They are the ones who will take this country forward and no one can stop that. That was why I made that statement. Barrow is accused of shirking his responsibilities, and instead is consolidating power, for example, by bringing seyfolu, women and others to the State House to meet him. It’s being said you’re the one behind those political machinations are you? Barrow is president of The Gambia, do you agree or not? Yes I agree. If you agree to that, those people coming to meet Barrow don’t they have the right to come and meet Barrow? Them meeting with the president, does it mean Barrow is setting up a political party or building his political future? Enemies and critics will always have something to say. No one can escape from an enemy. Every citizen in this country has a right to meet President Barrow, even the jinni have the right. Someone who doesn’t have a home is the one who will be thinking where to spend the night. For Barrow and I, our home is the UDP. Those who want to destroy UDP, President Barrow and I, are not going to be part of those. Not long ago the relationship between you and Barrow soured. There were rumours that there was a time you were not allowed to see Barrow. Any truth to that? Since childhood to date, Barrow and I never had a misunderstanding. I heard it was Barrow’s mum who told him that if he continues to see you, she will go back to Mankamang Kunda? I swear to God that is not true. At times when I hear such statements, it makes me laugh. Some people are fabricating lies and looking for cheap popularity. Omar Wally, that is diabolical lie, there is no truth in it. In the event that the UDP expels you, what will you do? They can expel me from the party but not from The Gambia. I have my civil rights as a Gambian, so living in The Gambia is fine with me. What do you say to people who label you as Barrow’s boy-boy? I will never be anyone’s boy-boy. I have survived for sixteen years without depending on my mum or dad. I didn’t depend on those people, who else should I depend on ? I’m a farmer, seaman, businessman and a politician. Would you admit giving the president wrong advice at times? But how can you trust that? When I’m advising the president, are you present or are those accusing me also present? We are trying to build a nation while others are creating factions just to be close to the corridors of power. So you agree that the misunderstanding in the UDP is caused by the newcomers? With all the insults raining on me, did you hear any senior member or executive member attacking me? You will never hear that. In the UDP, from 1996 to 2016, no genuine member has pointed a finger at me. What has been your contribution since Barrow took over? To ensure that our party is united as well take our party to another level. Remember, we defeated APRC, even though their leader is in exile, they are Gambians and they are under President Barrow. Will APRC ever lead this country? Jammeh is away, there is no hope for them. The APRC is like an NGO waiting. Like I always say to them, the UDP is not their enemy. There are other political parties such as the GDC… Furthermore, I have forgiven all those who insulted me. Any final words? The UDP and President Barrow Youth for National Development should not be enemies. We should be accepting each other’s views and ideas. I want unification between the two, and Ousainu Darboe didn’t stop anyone from the UDP. We want peace and unity so that the youths can take this country forward. We are not a threat to anyone; we are not Yahya Jammeh’s July 22nd Movement.]]>