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City of Banjul
Sunday, January 24, 2021

The government and the opposition

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 There’s so much cult of personality and political diatribe. The relationship between the government and the opposition is largely marred by distrust and almost all avenues for constructive political dialogue are apparently stonewalled. For instance, in analysing the government-opposition relationships, three indicators could be key: the creation of interparty committees, information exchange and incentive management. Under the current political state of affairs, the political leaders in the country have failed to utilise those tools for cooperation. The country is paying a high price for the difference. 

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In a recent interview with The Standard,Majority Leader Fabakary Tombong Jatta said: “I used to go to the Independent Electoral Commission as a representative of APRC at the inter-party dialogue. It is not true that the APRC abruptly put an end to it. I was also there when Olusegun Obasanjo was chairing those reconciliation meetings and we had several meetings with the opposition. What I am saying is that we will not allow them to penetrate us with their ill-intentions and destroy us. Even at those forums, you could see that there was hardly any sincerity in some of them. 


“At one of the forums I even said that there was this cry that the opposition are tortured, their houses are burnt, journalists are arrested but have they ever talked about the fire disaster in my compound at Tallinding in 2001? That was the worst of all political fire disasters that you could imagine. None of them even talked about the fire in my house and I had to even tell Ousainou Darboe why they are not talking about the fire disaster in my compound. Am I not a Gambian? This fire was ignited by supporters of the opposition UDP. And none of those people have been taken to court. These are the reasons we don’t trust their sincerity.”


Being in the opposition is not just about opposing the government. Neither is it about being an enemy. There are occasions when the opposition agrees with the government or complements the efforts of the government. If the government proposed a solution that is soundly based, it is only natural for the opposition to lend support. However, representing an alternative government, the opposition must also question the policies of the government of the day and produce different policies where appropriate. It is thus important that the government remains answerable to the public at all times and the opposition remains good enough to put a spotlight on serious issues and have them resolved within a reasonable time. 


In that regard, the government-opposition relationship should not only be solely derived from power relations and institutional factors. It should also be seen as a matter of democratic legitimacy. This is an ideal that both the government and the opposition should work towards realising. The opposition should be ready to offer genuine support to the government where the wider public interest is at stake. The government, on the other hand, has the greater role to play in enlarging the democratic space for the opposition to play their indispensable role in the democratisation process and socio-economic development endeavours of the country. When that environment is created, the solidarity that the opposition manifested against last month’s attack on State House would not be a rare instance. In fact, cooperation with the opposition by allowing them to conduct their legitimate businesses without undue interference will close the door to all possibilities of insurgence. Therefore, as we countdown to the 2016 elections, we hope to see the opening of a new page in the government-opposition relationship.     


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