In the course of my interactions with some non-UDP supporters, a disturbing pattern has emerged which could potentially be a decisive factor in December elections that may ultimately upend the party’s chances to form the next government in our country.
There are certain people out there who feel strongly that a Lawyer Darboe -led UDP government will have no place for them, that it will be tribally or ethnically skewed and its pursuit and administration of justice and accountability will be about retribution and vengeance and not necessarily about deterrence. I have been examining this mushrooming political fear in relation to UDP’s records, policies and structure as a political party and as well professional and personal testimonials of the party’s fagbearer but can’t find any plausible, persuasive and concrete evidence that supports such toxic apprehension.
This delusional political handiwork and dangerous foundation to brand UDP as a tribal grouping – specifically as a Mandinka Party – was conceived, midwifed and christened by Yahya Jammeh in his desperate, despicable and divisive ploy to pit Gambians against each other. It was a disgusting playbook he’d found both usable and useful to consolidate his power very early on and went on to benefit parts of it throughout his presidency. I was under the impression that Jammeh’s downfall in December 2016 was a culmination of our collective total rejection and absolute repudiation of his divisiveness, enslavement, murder and demagoguery. Realizing that some folks are still beholden to this notion – more than four (4) years after the chief architect has gone – underscores the sustained depravity of Jammeh’s legacy and the lasting psychological effect it has in our country. It is even more alarming that these people are ready to vote for Barrow in spite of their own admission of the President’s litany of failures, incompetence and inadequacies than contending with a UDP government is a damning indictment on the future of our country.
As a lawyer in private practice in 80s and 90s, Ousainu Darboe was reputed for and dedicated his career in defense of the the marginalized, the poor and the vulnerable members of our society. These people come from every background in our diverse society. He did not choose who to defend or fought for based on their ethnicity or their region. As a politician, he took the painful stand and confronted one of the most oppressive and repressive regimes of our generation. He did so not because he had any particular problem with Yahya Jammeh’s tribe or region but like fellow politicians of his time, he was irked by Jammeh’s wanton disrespect for Gambians of all walks of life, his poor governance and his bloody crackdown on his own people. He decided that if he could defend Gambians in Courts and value their dignity as a lawyer and succeeded, he could champion their course and protect their rights better as their president..
Darboe has also built a very progressive and diverse family for himself by marrying dignified women outside of his ethnicity and embracing their culture. In his family, we see a common Gambian story – a respect for and appreciation of our strong multicultural bonds.
In leading one of the largest political establishments in our country, Darboe’s stewardship witnesses and boasts of a rapidly growing movement with support base, structures and presence in communities, villages and towns across the country. The party’s core values, principles and clarion calls appeal to people’s unalienable rights to self worth, dignity, justice, freedom and prosperity – something every tribe and every individual in every part of our country is entitled to. UDP’s policies on justice and accountability is in line with our country’s best interests. If there is any important lessons from dictatorship is the fact that impunity engenders decadence, bitterness and violence and destroys nations and for our country to move forward and attain its development metrics in all key spheres, issues of the past must be adequately addressed through fair and proportionate dispensation of justice and accountability. Those running away from facing accountability and attempting to hoodwink people into some untenable reconciliation arrangement have either something to hide or are in support of murder and pillaging that marred our country for over two decades..
Thus, I have reached a sobering conclusion that those who are opposed to Darboe’s Presidency – not because of policy disagreements or a dislike for him as a person/politician but based on the fallacious notion that a UDP government would promote a Mandinka tribe at the expense of the rest of our fellow citizens – are in fact showcasing their own dangerous tribal prejudice and consuming insecurities. These emerging prejudices, naked paranoia and baseless insecurities pose a real and imminent threat to our nascent democracy and prosperity of our country. Re-electing President Barrow on that pretext accomplishes nothing for our country other than further erosion of our national pride, sheer madness in our public institutions and widening polarization in our society.
It is my candid view/assessment that Gambia is at a crossroad and its rescue should be above and beyond petty sentiments, hollow fear-mongering and narrow-minded tribal prejudice of any kind. We owe it to Gambia, to our generation, to our children and their children. To achieve this and to correct the mistakes of the past, let’s make President Barrow a one-term president!