The 22-year-long reign of Yahya Jammeh can be likened to a long night in which there was pitch darkness such that people could hardly see even what was right in front of them. This darkness was layered and each layer you peeled revealed more and an even thicker one. From the gagging of the media to the suppression of the rights of citizens to the economic strangulation the populace had to go through.
After so many years and countless lives lost, the political leaders of the opposition parties realised that the country had reached the stage of unite or perish. They chose the former and mustered the courage to form a coalition to present a single candidate in order to boost their chances of defenestrating the dictator.
However, it appears that that will to coalesce was done reluctantly on the part of many of them as we observed the lukewarm attitude with which the agreement was done (there is still no clarity as to whether the MoU was signed or not). This became apparent when the flag-bearer of the coalition was declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election. It seemed that they were groping in the dark.
Nonetheless, they appeared to find the way after many missteps and formed a government which was beset by problems from day one. It began to falter when it became apparent that the former champion of a three-year transition programme wanted more than that. His backers, mainly his political godfather, Ousainu Darboe, said that the letter of the law said that the term is five years and not three. We had ushered in the delayed dawn.
The somewhat filial bond between Darboe, the father and Barrow, the son was not strong enough to withstand the storm of rivalry to sit on the coveted throne. They fell apart and all hell broke loose, as it were. The innuendos began and garuwalé which reached a stage of outright name calling between the two and by extension, their supporters.
As indicated, the dawn offered hope and light. The media gained some level of freedom and could do their work almost unhindered. Democracy cautiously promised to reside. One pocket of the darkness of the night which refused to recede – nay, threatened to be darker – is corruption which gives bath to the economic strangulation. Again!
But as the new resident, democracy, opened its doors more and more parties kept springing up. None wished to be led but all wished to lead. Thus, in addition to new parties – some of which cannot boast of even a hundred supporters – we saw many individuals throwing their hats in the political arena as independent candidates.
As we edge closer to December 2021, the dawn is yet to complete spreading its tentacles around the country. We see President Barrow showcase so much desperation to remain in power that he aligned himself with the APRC, the party of the dictator who brought untold mayhem to the country. It was condemned by many but particularly by the victims of the former president. That made it look like the election will be a two-horse race between ‘father’ and the ‘son’.
Recently however, the long arm of Yahya Jammeh seems to have stirred a lot of controversy in the country as he came out to not only condemn the alliance between NPP and APRC, but unilaterally declare the sacking of the Tombong Jatta-led executive. Thus splitting his own party in two. These two now have an acrimonious rivalry.
With the many parties and candidates and the unpleasant nature of our body polity fears are increasing for the peaceful conduct of the upcoming elections. Some pronouncements of some of the politicians have been found to be very divisive and therefore unhelpful to the situation.
All hope is not lost though as the Inter-Party Committee has been working hard to ensure a peaceful election come December 2021. Will we take the opportunity to usher in the light of day for our Fatherland? That’s a challenge for us all!