By Omar Bah
Opposition PDOIS leader Halifa Sallah has said his party will be open to taking part in a government-initiated mediation in Senegal.
Responding to a question about what he thinks the Gambia government, opposition and civil society should do regarding the tensions in neighbouring Senegal, at a news conference on Saturday, Sallah said: “What can happen and what anybody in the opposition will be willing to do is to mediate, but in mediation you just don’t get up and go. First, you must be accepted by those who have a conflict and they must be ready to listen to you and then you begin to work on what the differences are and to narrow it to the point of ultimately guiding them to accept to live in peace”.
Halifa added that there are competent people who must be willing to do that but fundamentally the Gambia government is responsible for what happens in the Gambia even though it is capable of engaging in international relations. “Nothing prevents the government from getting in touch with the government of Senegal to indicate that it wants to send a group from the Gambia to really help to look into their problem to assist. If that is done, I am sure if any member of PDOIS is asked to join any delegation I believe people will be proud to go to mediate so I hope that offer will be there in the public space and that is the way to go.”
Commenting on the issues surrounding Area Councils, Sallah said the councils need to be reformed to be able to reach their full potential.
“All councils should have some form of legal aid where there is specialisation on the Local Government Act and how they can drive maximum benefit because they are sources for funding. They are likely to have royalties. How do you calculate that? How do you follow it up? They are also likely to have investments but where do you invest to generate resources for the council? So, there are many possibilities for the councils to be able to generate resources,” he said. The PDOIS leader said purpose of the change in 2016 was to have a transition within three years after which ‘we will engage the population and all elements in our society to be able to look at our constitution, laws, institutions, administrative and managerial practices to make them fit for a new republic, where a conscious Gambian will be created. But now, we are engaged in half-hearted measures that we call reforms.”
Politics of patronage
Sallah said the Gambian electorates should discourage the politics of patronage.
“Those who are claiming that the reason why PDOIS has not been entrusted with leadership responsibility is because PDOIS has refused to change its politics to adopt the politics of patronage need to be told that we have not seen what patronage has done to eradicate poverty. I challenge you to show me one politician who gives D100 daily to a hundred people every month. So, these are what we call misconceptions that those who want to put people to sleep continue to put in their heads and unless those misconceptions are dismissed, we will continue to wallow in ignorance and ignorance will lead us from the cradle to the grave. In other words, live and die in poverty,” he said.