By Omar Bah
The leader of the Gambia Democratic Congress, Mamma Kandeh, has sounded alarm bells that the rancour and hostilities between the opposition UDP and ruling NPP could endanger the December presidential election if left to fester unchecked.
Adama Barrow, now president, was the treasurer of the UDP until 2016 when he resigned to head the coalition that defeated strongman Yahya Jammeh. The UDP leader Ousainu Darboe who was jailed at the time.
Darboe served as foreign minister and vice president in the Barrow cabinet but relations between the two men soured and Darboe was dismissed. Barrow has since formed his National People’s Party.
The two men are seen as the frontrunners, by a wide margin, in the December election. The relationship between the NPP and the UDP has been marked by bitterness and bellicose rhetoric ever since but it has gone up notches of recent.
Speaking in a Standard exclusive on Tuesday, a concerned Mamma Kandeh noted: “If you ask me about my concerns about the December election, I will tell you my biggest worry is the animosity between the UDP and NPP. The relationship between the two parties is a cause for concern that needs to be addressed before the December presidential election. I am worried that it could endanger the election. I am very concerned. As politicians and statesmen, we should learn to engage in dialogue.”
Kandeh urged his fellow party leaders to conduct themselves with civility to avert any potential marring of the upcoming poll.
“We should all commit ourselves to moderate political rhetoric in this country to avoid endangering the country’s peace,” Kandeh added.
On the voter registration exercise ending this weekend, the former parliamentarian stated: “The alleged registration of foreigners and underage voters should be seriously condemned. This is not supposed to happen in this country today.”
He said it would be difficult for political parties to exhaustively litigate the irregularities at the designated revising courts as “there will not be enough time to address all of them”.
Mr Kandeh expressed his scepticism that the IEC will achieve its target of registering over one million people because in a place like Nema in Yundum constituency over 11,000 people voted in 206, yet only 8,000 people registered there so far this time.
“This is a serious drop. We were expecting a higher number. That is why I am urging the IEC to extend the voter registration deadline to allow those who could register to do so. The other concern I have is that a lot of people are registered in the provinces per ratio compared to the Kombos. This is worrying because the majority of Gambians are living in the Greater Banjul Area. We need an explanation,” he said.
The GDC leader said the National Assembly Members who left his party to join Barrow’s NPP have taught the party a lesson that will help them to do a better job of vetting candidates in the future.
“At the level of the GDC, before we select anybody in the future as candidate, we will vet you and as well commit you to a legal bargaining document which will ensure that we will have something to point at when scenarios like these arise,” he added.