By Burama Jammeh
My family and I were registered with membership cards of the UDP. I privately and publicly supported the UDP efforts with over D100,000 of personal wealth. Some of these inputs went through Ousainu himself while he was neither involved nor aware of others. The point of my disclaimer is to demonstrate that I’m no Mr Darboe hater. I voluntarily discontinued my membership of the UDP long ago because I felt the party was right at pointing everything bad or wrong about Yahya but did not seem to have a better alternative. Those assumptions seem to be proven now. It has been more than two years since Jammeh was defeated, forced out of office and a UDP protégé sworn into office yet no changes to any of the things that were decried about Yahya – the laws and constitution, the structure, role and scope of government, impartial law enforcement and due processes of law, protection of citizens’ civil rights, increasing government overhead costs impoverishing our people, no long-term fiscal plan but begging others and contracting loans, public corruption, nepotism, and so forth. The only two immaterial changes were amending the age ceiling or term limit for president and vice-presidential aspirants and rescinding the prohibitive election registration fees. Both seem to directly affect Mr Darboe in person (or UDP) and not necessarily advancing our quest for democracy.
My choice of Mr Ousainu Darboe among the political lot back in 1995/6 was based on the simple fact the guy avoided ALL the temptations of PPP public corruption and abuses that lured many of our educated men and women into defrauding The Gambia. He was a true entrepreneur supposedly living honestly and ethically on his knowledge and skills. My support was never because he’s a Mandinka like me. Had I used that criterion, I would have landed in the NCP camp because I’m a Baddibunka like Mr SM Dibba. And I did not oppose others because they are of tribes different from Mandinka. My heart is always heavy when I examine Mr Darboe’s many unprincipled political vacillations, errors and blunders. I must admit his politics was never impressive. Although his willingness to sacrifice his livelihood to lead our people is commendable.
Yet today Mr Darboe and the UDP are behaving like Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF. It appears nothing is worth pursuing that doesn’t have direct bearing to his personal interest. In fact, that is a well established trait throughout his political career in the past 25 years. For instance, the UDP on a number of occasions would participate in presidential elections with Mr Darboe on the ballot but will pull out of the National Assembly crying foul with others’ names on the ballot. There would only be an alliance when he leads it. Now he has the guts to tell Adama Barrow to drop his political ambition when he effectively nullified the Coalition 2016 Agreement that required Barrow to transition our nation to democracy.
Mr Darboe is the vice president of this government and serves at the pleasure of President Barrow. He is the leader of the largest political party in the country. His party has more members in the National Assembly than any other. The Speaker of the National Assembly, Mariam Denton, is not only a registered member of the UDP but also a member of the party’s legal defence team. Elsewhere in the current establishment are handpicked UDP supporters. It would appear to even a novice political bystander that with all these political levers, Mr Darboe could stir the necessary democratic changes. Instead Mr Darboe is expending his time and energy organising the UDP, holding mega rallies and making statements that should be made and answered in Banjul. Sadly, the public is billed some of the costs of these partisan UDP activities and that was one of the things we asked to be stopped during our struggle against Yahya.
So, I am asking:
What does Mr Darboe and the UDP want?
Why does Mr Darboe refuse to support the Coalition Agreement?
What is wrong with jointly working to transition The Gambia into a functioning institutional democracy in three years that Mr Darboe opposed and threatened fighting any attempted enforcement in court?
Is Mr Darboe and the UDP interested in Gambians or only in himself and his UDP operatives?
Why is Mr Darboe not seeking justice for the abused victims some of whom might have met that fate because he inspired them by his words, actions or inactions as opposed to the so-called reconciliation?
Why is the notorious Public Order Act still the law of the land in its entirety? This is the law Mr Darboe spent countless hours in courts fighting to nullify, instead Mr Darboe is now using the same laws for cover.
Let’s give it some perspective
For most of our 22 years of struggle, the UDP and Mr Ousainu Darboe always opposed what I called ‘Equally-Weighted National Opposition-Parties Alliance’. The UDP and Darboe always favoured a UDP majority party-led alliance. I understood this viewpoint and it is probably the most common form of political union. The opposite view was to collapse into one in an equally-weighted participation for a predetermined period during Gambian would be built. Only when Mr Darboe was in jail, did his party join others to strike an agreement forming Coalition 2016. The supposed independent flag-bearer, Adama Barrow, resigned his membership of UDP and was elected to a coalition-term of three years during which period our democratic shortcomings were to be fixed before a scheduled general election at which he (Barrow) would neither be a candidate nor support the candidature of any candidate. Suffice to state, Mr Barrow was fully aware of the conditions of accepting such role. Now Mr Barrow’s efforts, possibly strengthened by Mr Darboe’s unconstitutionality claims to circumvent the terms of that agreement are wrong and unacceptable. His claims are neither supported by the terms of the contract nor any laws of The Gambia. He simply bullied his colleagues into unfounded fear or probably they are contented with the status quo. We should use every democratic means to not allow him get away with it.
Our victory and the release of Mr Darboe from jail, his first proclamations was (I paraphrased) ‘I will challenge any effort by anyone trying to enforce the unconstitutional terms of The Coalition 2016 Agreement’. My assumption is may be this was Mr Darboe’s way of pleasing Mr Barrow so that Barrow may consider early vacation of the presidency. He may be a great trial attorney but an amateur politician. In as much as our democracy is non-functioning, The Gambia is neither Darboe or Barrow Kunda. Mr Darboe should know Barrow cannot transfer the presidency of The Gambia to him. The exception will be appointing Mr Darboe vice president as is the case at the moment and then resign. In that scenario, the vice president (in this case Mr Darboe) will take charge for three months until the nation goes to election. Dr Barrow’s actions do not suggest he desired to resign. Dr Barrow is busy registering as many visible white elephant programmes and projects to win Gambians to stay longer. He’s not thinking about the three years but several other five-year terms. It’s the same playbook used by his predecessors.
Mr Darboe’s statement paralysed any hopes of instituting democracy and compounded the status quo. That was followed by National Assembly election campaign where he opposed The Coalition 2016 filing candidates to what he dubbed ‘Tactical Alliance’ to protect Barrow. But protect Barrow from whom? Mr Darboe has effectively stalled the democratisation of The Gambia he supposedly fought for with his litigation threat but along with it he might have unintentionally buried his own political future. Time will tell!
Ousainu Darboe may have been too naïve to think that Adama Barrow was his errand boy. I couldn’t think of anything remotely sensible why Mr Darboe didn’t want the enforcement of the Coalition Agreement. Now it appears he knew or feels Dr Barrow has his own agenda and no one is going to hand over the presidency to him.
The agreement wasn’t unconstitutional as proclaimed by Mr Darboe. The constitution does not require Dr Barrow to vacate his office after three years but he’s at liberty to resign in compliance with the Coalition Agreement. This is what was expected when Mr Barrow accepted the terms of the Coalition 2016. To ignore it as nothing has been agreed upon is worrisome in several ways. How can a man who has no regard for his own signature respect any others should that not serve his interest? How can we know Barrow will respect and faithfully execute laws that were not signed by him and are on the ways of his personal interest?
To be continued.
Born to Baddibunka parents in the Kombo South village of Jambur, the author attended schools in Cyprus and USA and is certified in Forestry, Finance and Applied Economics. After high school he worked for The Gambia Government and ActionAid for about 10 years before relocating to USA. He led the registration of the National Democracy Endeavour (NDE) to remove Yahya Jammeh.