By Omar Bah
The spokesperson of the United Democratic Party has finally put to bed debate over whether Ousainu Darboe is eligible to contest the 2021 presidential election.
The former vice president’s eligibility to run in next year’s presidential election has been the subject of debate among Gambians on the grounds that he was once convicted.
“There is no basis, no reason whatsoever why Mr Darboe will not be eligible to contest in 2021. Of course, he himself explained three circumstances which everybody understands are the only circumstances. If he is mentally incapable, died or if the UDP doesn’t choose him as the flagbearer of the party and some of us have made it absolutely clear that we are 100% supporting his candidacy in 2021. As far as 2018 our deputy party leader had nominated him in Banjul at our committee meeting and it was approved acclamation,” Almamy Taal said.
Darboe himself told journalists last Wednesday that only mental incapacity, death and UDP not choosing him as its candidate could prevent him from contesting in the 2021 presidential election.
Taal further argued: “We have to look at this critically and see whether there are not people who want to use legal proceeding to really either discriminate against a person of Mr Darboe’s statue or to try and perpetuate their self-rule.”
“For us, we are not in any doubt or whatsoever and anybody who wishes to do so the courts are open for everyone but also know that there is a court of public opinion which is always open and recording the deeds of everybody who chooses to participate in public space because ultimately, it is elections that are going to make presidents or members of parliament and the people are no more going to play by those rules of intimidation that Yahya Jammeh had done for 22-years of his rule,” he added.
Taal said Gambians should not forget the historic facts that Darboe and host of other UDP executives were arrested and taken to court for exercising their right to peaceful assembly.
“It was something that was not hiding – peacefully people demanding their comrade’s body, dead or alive were assaulted, imprisoned and taken to court. Of course when you go to court obviously the law as it is, is what is going to be used to judge you but our submission since then up to now is that those laws were definitely and obviously unjust and in a society where you have unjust laws innocent men and women and people who are fighting for justice will always be imprisoned by unjust laws,” he argued.
He said Darboe has since gone “back to the same court to try and expunge that from the records and the courts have continued to uphold the law as it is.”
“This is why some of us have been calling for reforms from day one. That if you don’t reform your laws you will end up having what the Public Order Act is continuing to do; which is to stifle dissent and to interfere with the democratic exercise of our rights. Secondly, if you don’t have better and just laws you are going to be subjected to court process that cannot go out of the laws as they are. To cut a long story short, Darboe was released by a court on bail. I don’t even know how that went after the change of government,” he added.
He said the first executive act of President Barrow “was to pardon not only Darboe but over 20 others who were all convicted for political reasons and this was gazetted. It is there and it is official. Now the jurisprudence on pardons is not very well developed in The Gambia but in the US where it has been used extensively, when you are given a pardon it expunges and cleanses your records completely.”