The issue of Coalition 2016 and Tactical Alliance are being brought to the fore by Hon. Halifa Sallah and Mrs Aji Yam Secka. Different narratives are being flaunted. First, there was no provision in any of the Coalition 2016 documentation or processes that condition the conduct of parliamentary elections as a single unit. Coalition 2016 was all about removing Yaya Jammeh and not about parliamentary elections.
The idea of contesting parliamentary elections as a Coalition was discussed for the first time at a meeting presided over by then President-elect Barrow at Kairaba Hotel. The Coalition Executive debated exhaustively but remained divided. Two contentions were debated: going as a Coalition would weaken political parties, and two, going as a Coalition is consistent with the coalition spirit.
The meeting ended in an impasse. Consequently, each went on their own. Later, GMC, UDP and NRP agreed to pull their weight together in what became known as Tactical Alliance. GMC was invited to concretise the idea of the Alliance at the 11th hour at UDP Manjai bureau. It means, each party will respect the subjective strength of the other in constituencies or wards where each dominates in terms of support base. However, this principle collapsed well before nominations of parliamentary candidates. At least with GMC, we didn’t feel that we were justly treated during the processes leading towards candidate selection and nomination for constituencies. Consequently, the entire idea crashed.
The Tactical Alliance idea was agreed by the three protagonists but it was not implemented as envisaged. UDP was willing to spare only one constituency for GMC. For instance, in Wuli East, UDP URR Chapter, led by former Chair Bubu Drammeh, openly endorsed, supported and campaigned for an Independent candidate against a GMC candidate, a supposedly Tactical Alliance partner.
To avert internal conflict within the Alliance, GMC sent an Executive Delegation to the UDP leadership during the nomination period to discuss and resolve the contradictions within the Alliance to no avail.
GMC and UDP therefore put up candidates against each other at Niamina West, Tumana, Kantora, Jokadu, Niumi, etc. So did NRP as well. What the public should know is that Tactical Alliance existed only in name, but not in practice. According to the UDP leadership, the entire country was their support base, and so there was very little they were willing to negotiate. Using the Minister of Local Government at the time, Hon. Lamin N Dibba, community leaders such as chiefs and alkalolu were subtly pressured, and out of keeping their positions mostly supported UDP candidates across the country. I am speaking from personal knowledge and experience.
Having said that, it is also true that GMC and UDP have been traditional allies.
The future is yet to be determined. One thing is clear though, the political constellation of The Gambia is no longer the same. Future political topography remains unpredictable. Political parties that burn their bridges or assume politically arrogant posture for whatever reason(s), would only succeed in alienating their potential allies. Treat partners and allies with respect. It will earn you substantial political mileage. Underestimate them, fine, but be certain that it shall be at your own peril. 2021 will be like no other. It shall break all records.