By Lamin Cham
Former Speaker of the National Assembly has said the lofty ideals of the July 22 revolution which gave birth to the APRC and the Second Republic are not dead despite the party losing power almost four years ago.
Fatoumatta Jahumpa Ceesay, a devoted supporter of APRC, added that the day cannot be wiped out of the country’s history as wanted by some detractors.
Speaking on the 26th anniversary of the coup, which put Jammeh and his military boys in power before transforming themselves into civilian politicians, Jahumpa said the first act in remembering the day today is to thank interim leader Fabakary Tombong Jatta and his colleagues for keeping the party alive during the past difficult years. “They have shown resilience and tenacity to adapt to a new situation full of hostility, misinformation and provocation against the party in the aftermath of the December 2016 election. Now everybody has realised and come to accept the fact that APRC is a legally registered party with the same rights as others and not a criminal group as hardcore haters and detractors wanted to paint it. Moreover, Gambians have come to also recognise that the party is still a big force in the country’s politics. I think these achievements alone are worthy of a 26th anniversary celebration,” FJC said.
Asked if the APRC’s reputation has not been soiled beyond repair by Jammeh’s bad record as a dictator, FJC said the APRC never hides that Jammeh made mistakes especially on human rights. “And it must be said that not all that have been alleged are true but this cannot be overshadowed by the strong and quality leadership he provided that improved living conditions and built lasting transformative landmarks that made Gambians proud.”
On the future of the APRC, FJC predicted that the party will be a key player in the 2021 election because it is one of the biggest blocs in the country’s politics. She rejected suggestions that the party has lost its supporters to other parties after Jammeh was defeated. “Some decided to move to the party that was the producer of the presidential candidate – politics is about interest, you don’t blame them. But APRC is still a formidable force and let’s wait until the election. The new constitution aims to bring about a democratic change with regard to our electoral process which is absolute majority as opposed to the simple majority – which is very undemocratic. This is why new parties are emerging as everybody is trying to form a party hoping to go into an alliance so that they can get into government. They want to be stakeholders,” she observed.
On the much talked about alliance between the APRC and Barrow’s NPP, FJC said:”We have not reached that yet as we are reorganising the party. The APRC is big by all standards and we lost the presidential election because of a smear campaign against the party. They even fabricated stories against the party as part of a misinformation scheme to make people scared of the party– so people were scared. Some didn’t go to vote and the election was not clean. Also we lost seats during the National Assembly election because of, as many people believed, tribalism, which is very bad and that is one of the most important things that any political party or leader should discourage. We need to stabilise our coherent relationship between all tribes in the country because we are all one. Politics should be based on issues only. For example, I am mixed. I have Mauritanian, Senegalese and Gambian backgrounds. I am Wollof but was married to a Mandinka and my mum is Fula and I have friends from different tribes.”
FJC also addressed the issue of the seizure of APRC vehicles and accounts. ‘’These are some of the issues we are engaging the government on and not politics as many thought. A government cannot just come and say ban the APRC without going through due process because that will be unconstitutional and the seizing of our vehicles and accounts is not logical because these monies are not Yahya Jammeh’s–but subscriptions of members and the selling of party membership as well as personal donations. The vehicles too were not bought by Jammeh because he doesn’t own the APRC and these things will not bring any reconciliation. You cannot claim to be democratic and behave otherwise,” she noted. FJC observed that parties cannot stop talking about coalitions “because anyone going to win the next election must form a unity government and even the civil society and the diaspora who are instrumental in our economy must all be involved.”
Asked if the APRC would not do better by breaking clear from Jammeh’s influence and move on, FJC replied that APRC cannot wash its hands off Jammeh. “People are still following the ARPC because of Yahya Jammeh but we will choose our presidential candidate at the right time. It could be anybody. Jammeh’s name is not in the APRC’s file submitted to the IEC and you understand it is natural for people to say Yahya Jammeh must come back because when Jawara was toppled and went into exile, people were agitating for him to come back,” she noted.
She concluded by calling on all APRC supporters to remain focused, disciplined and look for reconciliation.“I am scared of the hatred among our people. We must stop the politics of insults and focus on policies and issues affecting our people. I salute Ousainu Darboe for coming to tell his supporters to stop insulting any politician on social media. I think this is a good move that all politicians must copy,” she said.