By Omar Bah
Lamin Keita, a Gambian based in the United States, has urged Gambian opposition parties to learn from their Senegalese counterparts on how they responded to the ambiguity surrounding Macky Sall’s future presidential run.
Keita, who is a PhD fellow at the Northwestern University in the US, said the Senegalese opposition unlike their Gambian counterparts, mobilised themselves to protest against Macky Sall’s plans to consolidate himself as an authoritarian leader.
“What we saw in Senegal is a validation of the defiance that flows from the obscurity of the protection of an irresponsible and lawless presidency which feels itself in total control of the power of the state,” Keita told The Standard.
But Keita said in contrast, the December presidential election was a missed opportunity for political parties like GANU, GAP, CA, and all the other opposition parties and independent candidates to either join UDP or form a grand coalition to protect the national interest.
“What happened in this country in December last year illuminates the fact that we need to rethink and reconceptualize the way political parties are registered and how they rationalize their political manifestos,” he said.
Keita argued that it was rather hollow to see smaller and other Gambian opposition parties jumping the ship to Barrow in the name of a coalition or competing in the name of an independent party without asserting any tangible programmatic agenda with Barrow.
“In contrast, some of these political parties and their leaders presented an exhibition of the ‘politics of the belly’ and ‘rent-seeking’ theorized by Jean-Francois Bayart about states in African politics.
“Some took the routes of tribal cards to rally their support to the incumbent and perpetuate fear and division in other tribes against voting for the opposition. While Barrow generally used his purchasing power of the purse and political influence to buy such ‘toothless bulldog’ politicians,” he argued.
The Gambia, Keita added, has “so much to learn from the past December presidential election and the recent Senegalese opposition defiance against Sall”.
“To reconcile our political immaturity and tribal fears, we need to look up to our neighbors and genuinely follow suit—by putting the issues of tribal sentiment out of our political space,” he added.
He said The Gambia should graduate from such an indecent political ploy, which will inevitably undermine social and political cohesion.
“The current situation in The Gambia, is a self-professed and acknowledgment that our government can bend laws as it suits them by creating false precedents. They can cleverly use the courts to act as judicial watchdogs on constitutional matters while playing a murky role in the equitable distribution of justice for all citizens. In this view, the relationship between the incumbent and their allied opposition smaller parties is subtle, complex, and mediated by rational privileges and relationships tilted to acquire positions. Part of this relationship has become clear and skewed after Barrow was declared a winner of the December presidential election– the very basis upon which his government is constituted, and his citizens governed – is profoundly defective,” he noted.
He said the Gambian opposition and the Legislature must assert their enormous power to check executive excesses because the story of the hunt for personal gains will always belong to the executive branch. “Barrow’s government is like the proverbial toothless bulldog, and it validates the argument that it sniffs but does not act upon its promises to the Gambians. Gambia’s current situation breeds tyranny and lawlessness and incremental manufacturing of social, economic, and political inequality in the country. Very sad indeed because those the president appoints only think about themselves and how to be loyal and answerable only to the president.”
To this end, Keita added, “only Gambians have the potential and ability to change the present status quo of our country, and no outsider can come and play magic to make Gambia the Singapore of Africa,” he concluded.