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Friday, December 1, 2023

Letters to the Editor

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Is there any democratic party in The Gambia…?

Dear editor,

The series of resignations from the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) yesterday shows that there is no- has never been – any party in the Gambia that is truly democratic in nature. All we ever had are some sorts of groups of like-minded people whose ideas happen to align, and who operate more like personality cults posing as political parties.

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Many will debate this position of mine but let’s face the facts; since independence, all the parties we have had revolved – and continue to revolve – around individuals (mostly the founders) who run everything and everyone in the party as if it were their personal property. All that keeps most people attached to these parties is the hope or expectation of being rewarded with a political appointment if, and when the party attains power.
From the People Progressive Party (PPP), the NCP, PDOIS, NRP, UDP, and all the others not mentioned because it will be like beating a dead horse. Mention the UDP and Lawyer Ousainu Darboe comes to mind. The same goes for all the other parties. How else can one explain the fact that from inception till now, there has always been one leader who controls everything? These party leaders are like bosses whose words become final.

Perhaps it is time that these parties start behaving in democratic ways so that in their meetings and congresses (or conferences) we can see elections (real and true elections I mean) to give the younger generations a chance to lead and become central elements in the party.
Opposition parties are governments in waiting and as such, their democratic nature should be manifest even before they take over power. If they are undemocratic when they are in the opposition, they certainly will not be democratic when they assume power.

All throughout our short history as an independent country, we have had the same party leaders run for president again and again. Are they telling us that they are the only ones capable and patriotic enough to lead the country among their party members? Certainly not.
The cultism in these parties is the reason that whenever the leader is no more (or no longer in power) the party almost disintegrates almost immediately. Look at the APRC, it is in disarray and so was the PPP when Jawara was ousted. The UDP will meet a similar fate if a day comes that Lawyer Darboe is no more if they do not change and start becoming truly democratic.

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There is a need – an urgent one for that matter – for political parties to reform their structures, if there are any. In fact, most of these parties have a problem of structure and form. All we see is party leaders appoint a few individuals as executive members and then turn right around to snatch power right from under their feet. The leader then assumes responsibility of take all decisions for the party. That, right there is where we get the proclivity to become a dictator.

I do not wish to get into the nitty-gritty of this scenario regarding any party but a little look at the GDC will be prudent because it is the one at the centre of attention right now. The GDC leader is undeniably a rich man. He was in the West for long and then after falling out with his former boss, Yahya Jammeh, he formed his party and mainly sponsored it from his pocket. Thus, if he is spending his money, then he should have the final say – that is the logical argument.

Perhaps this is true of all – or many – of the other parties. Certainly, a party leader who uses his own money to fund the activities of the party will not fold his hands and watch others take it over or destroy it. This breeds dictatorship and when they get used to it, if they attain power and become the governors, they will manifest the same dictatorial tendencies.

In many countries of the world, they have laws on how to fund political activities including elections. I think it is high time that we formulated laws on this issue. If government is going to fund the activities of the parties, then we can debate on modalities of how to distribute the funds which are meant for this. Say, a party will be allocated money according to the number of seats they have in the National Assembly or the number of votes they can muster; the number of signatures they can gather and such like that. In this way, every party will be compelled to build the necessary structures, so we will fair better in our democracy.
The democratization process has to start at party level before it reaches government. Time for reform!

Musa Bah
Nusrat SSS

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