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Monday, April 15, 2024
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In response to the absurd UDP press releaseagainst the GPF and the APRC party leadership

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The impulsive and dishonest behaviour displayed by the United Democratic Party (UDP) leadership on Monday, 19 February, 2024, in their press release targeting the justified actions of The Gambia Police Force (GPF), initially tempted me to disregard it due to its absurdity.

However, Mr Darboe’s unfair attack on me in the text, as the party leader of Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation & Construction (APRC) and as Speaker of The Gambia National Assembly, insinuating that I was leveraging my position as speaker to weaponise The Gambia Police Force against public functions, compelled me to respond.

Firstly, I question whether he realised the public impression created by such a press release signed by him, the UDP leader and secretary general, “ANM Ousainou Darbo”. Did he not perceive the contradiction or dishonesty in their headline, “UDP CONDEMNS THE USE OF TEARGAS ON PEACEFUL CIVILIAN EVENTS AT THE BUFFER ZONE ON INDEPENDENCE DAY,” compared to the first paragraph characterising the incident as a political function? Consider the discrepancy between the first paragraph and the title of the message: “The United Democratic Party has learned with great dismay of the disruption, using disproportionate force, of a civilian event organised by the splinter group of the APRC also known as No To Alliance with five elected National Assembly Members serving in the legislature.” If this isn’t intended to confuse the reader about whether he is addressing a civilian event or a political one, then what it is?

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Upon reading the rest of the text, it becomes apparent that the UDP leadership was using the incident to further their typical agenda — to criticise The Gambia Police Force as a tool of the government, claim victimhood as usual, and seek sympathy from the Gambian electorate, which is increasingly disillusioned with their visionless and hopeless future.

Why did the UDP fail to acknowledge the fact that the so-called “splinter group of the APRC, also known as No To Alliance Movement,” deceived The Gambia Police Force in their application to organise a political gathering under the guise of a civilian fundraising activity at the “Buffer-zone”? Evidently, The Gambia Police Force authorised the gathering based on the permit issued to one Omar Colley of Abuko, the organiser of the “fundraising occasion,” which the so-called “No To Alliance Movement” intended to use for a political gathering and illegally leverage the name and symbols of the APRC party, registered with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). Despite strict warnings from the IEC to cease using the APRC name, logo, and symbols as campaign material or at any political function, these individuals repeatedly violated it with deceptive measures, as they did last Sunday.

When The Gambia Police Force later realised that Omar Colley had deceived them in his application, not identifying himself as a member of the “No To Alliance Movement,” they had no choice but to revoke the permit and request dispersal. Known for their reputation for challenging authority akin to the UDP, they adamantly refused to disperse and insisted on proceeding with the event using a falsified permit. This resistance prompted the police to employ necessary, not “disproportionate”, force to disband the gathering. There’s no need for The Gambia Police Force to apologise for fulfilling their duties.

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However, attributing last Sunday’s incident to The Gambia Police Force’s actions in 2021 when the UDP congregated at their party leader’s compound, seemingly aiming to destabilise the country after losing the presidential elections to the National People’s Party (NPP), recognised nationally and internationally as the freest and fairest elections ever held in The Gambia, is at best misleading and at worst, profoundly dishonest.

It is imperative for the UDP to engage in prompt and honest self-reflection regarding their past actions, particularly concerning my APRC party. Otherwise, they risk perpetuating contradictions, self-deception, and rogue politics, which have significantly undermined their credibility and jeopardised their survival thus far. Was it not their party leader and secretary-general, Mr Darboe, who publicly threatened stakeholders of the coalition party government in 2017, warning all Gambians against questioning President Adama Barrow’s constitutional right to serve his full five-year term, contrary to the earlier three-year MoU agreement? Videos of his threats aired on television and social media platforms are still echoing throughout the nation. Even fresher in our memories is Mr ANM Ousainu Darboe’s shameless support for the disruptive crowd, primarily composed of UDP members, who marched from the Kombos to Banjul in 2020, demanding President Barrow’s adherence to the “three years mandate” and resignation. How can one characterise the sincerity of such a political leader, whose only discernible traits are arrogance and intolerance?

I don’t know if it’s about condescension or something else, but while Mr Darboe may have the right to disparage the formal education levels of appointed government officials, as he often does nowadays, acquiring higher education without integrity or using it solely to threaten and intimidate others is worse than not attending school at all. He should refrain from unnecessary reminders of his superior education level, as it only entitles him to perpetual leadership of the UDP and a fantasy of one day ruling The Gambia. Ruling The Gambia one day is nothing but wishful thinking.

When did Mr Darboe and his UDP begin questioning the heavy-handedness of The Gambia Police Force towards political parties, especially those in opposition to his? Was it not during the UDP government-controlled days when the poor villagers at Kanfenda, Foni, were rounded up, arrested, arbitrarily imprisoned, and brutally maltreated for being APRC supporters? As a government minister and the UDP leader at the time, did Mr Darboe raise his voice against the perpetrators?

Wasn’t Mr Darboe a top official in the government when a peaceful civilian demonstrator like Haruna Jatta was shot and killed in Kanilai by foreign military forces? Did he say anything about that?

What about when a group of UDP thugs attacked my compound while he was the foreign minister wielding greater powers in the country than anyone, and the police, who were deployed to solve the problem, ended up tear-gassing my residence and the whole neighbourhood? Did Darboe come out to denounce The Gambia Police Force for the “disproportionate” use of force against “innocent civilians”?

However, the APRC party still cannot forget his negative desire to one day see that the “APRC dies a natural death”. I suppose all this hateful rhetoric against the APRC and myself is nothing but the self-inflicted pain of waking up every day with the unchangeable reality that our party is still alive and working amicably with the NPP government that values us alive rather than dead.

On this 59th Independence anniversary of our great nation, we are in a constructive era of political reconciliation, with the NPP government doing everything within its means to bring Gambians together as one people in one nation. However, evidently, the UDP can’t grasp this noble initiative and think that Gambians are too naive to understand their divisive and toxic politics. I rest my case and continue to thank all our supporters and well-wishers.

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