By Omar Bah
The United Democratic Party has come under intense criticism from both supporters and opponents for accepting controversial former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Lamin Babadingding Jobarteh into the party.
Jobarteh was among Jammeh-era officials accused of human rights violations during testimonies at the truth commission and critics said his admission into the UDP is a betrayal of the victims.
The former AG was welcomed back to the party together with 25 National People’s Party supporters by UDP leader Ousainu Darboe on Saturday at a Saruja rally, where Jobarteh even mounted the podium to speak.
“The UDP leader Ousainu Darboe is on his way to ruling the country and whether one likes it or not, what Allah determines can never be stopped. Lawyer Darboe is the one who will rule this country,” Mr Jobarteh said at the rally.
Commenting on the issue, social and political commentator Coach Pa Samba Jow wrote on Sunday: “According an alleged torturer such prominence by a party that purports to support the victims is the height of irresponsibility, and clearly another slap in the face of the many victims. No amount of spinning can explain away this blatant betrayal by UDP. Jobarteh was no ordinary member of the Jammeh clique. He has been accused of some very heinous human rights violations against Gambians. If the UDP can openly embrace an alleged torturer, what will stop them from embracing the torture party if the opportunity presented itself? You cannot claim to have a disdain for Jammeh’s human rights violations, but turn around and embrace his alleged torturers.”
Jow added that Jobarteh however has a democratic right to support any party, just like the APRC has a right to coalesce with any party, but no party of conscience, especially a party whose members suffered the brunt of Jammeh’s dictatorship should embrace such characters. “Just like the Jammeh/Barrow alliance, this act by the UDP is also betrayal of the Jammeh victims,” Jow added.
Ahmed Manjang, a member of Team Essa Faal, also wrote: “What happened to your moral compass? The kettle should stop calling the pot black, NPP and their parent party the UDP are 6 and 9. How can you justify adding within your ranks the man who allegedly added legal touch to the brutal killing of the Mile II nine? How could you put my brother Amadou Scattred Janneh in such a funny position? Winning the election by any means is too cheap, this will not bring the desired change we are all yearning for. I call on many victims of Yahya Jammeh to protest against this blatant disregard for their pain, grossly insensitive”.
Bamba Mass, a stauch supporter of the UDP based in the UK, wrote:
“TRRC report is up in 2 days, therefore UDP should distance themselves now now from anybody adversely mentioned before the TRRC report even comes out.”
Bamba later explained that Mr Jobarteh’s involvement at the rally was a decision of the UDP regional committee in CRR and not the executive. Many neutral commentators said Mr Jobarteh’s presence and admission to the party is PR blunder for the UDP and they should rectify it as soon as possible.
UDP NAM explains
However, the UDP NAM for Fulladu West Sanna Jawara who organized the Saruja rally, reacted: “The UDP leader was only acknowledging an act of gratitude shown by Babadingding Jobarteh to a prominent member of the party and philanthropist, Alhagie Conteh of Dabanani. It will not affect in any way his attitude towards UDP’s commitment to the full implementation of the recommendations of the TRRC.
“Lawyer Ousainu Darboe does not favor relationships over justice. Just like in my own case back in 2009, where he defended somebody who stole from me £40,000. If he can do that professionally with a nephew like myself that underscores his general professional outlook in dealing with issues of justice and by extension which emphasizes his character in upholding the universal values of justice, freedom and human rights.
“This matter should not be misconstrued as a political gesture.”