The truth shall not be sacrificed for convenience or compromised in the face of mendacious propaganda; it is too fresh in our memories to let that happen.
To every action of man, there is a reaction. The change we are celebrating today has been in the works for many years. Yaya Jammeh’s comeuppance was inevitable, and with it would be born a New Gambia, that was inarguable. The catalyst to that, the final straw that broke the camel’s back was placed in April 2016.
When the late Solo Sandeng and co dared to stand in the face of the tyrant in defiance of his ways; the ball was set rolling and the events that ensued would be the snowball that only grew in size the further down the hill it rolled aimed for Yaya’s big head.
The notion that the very Honorable Ousainou A.N.M Darboe should be grateful for the formation of the coalition is peddled by those ignorant of the facts leading to his incarceration or those deliberately trying to deny the truth in an attempt to vilify the man and besmirch his reputation for want of political gain.
What followed Solo Sandeng’s cold blooded murder was a show of sincere; strategic leadership, bravery, and above all responsibility on the part of the UDP under the leadership of Hon. Darboe. If one does not understand the statement he made prior to taking to the streets, find someone to interpret his words and see the sacrifice and brave stance the UDP leadership was about to take. In sum, Hon. Darboe knew first-hand the beast he was about to confront and was expecting nothing less than bullets raining on him and all who braved the call to march with him, he stated as much. We do not need to dwell, for those loudest in criticizing him today showered so much praise on him few months ago that our jalibas would have fallen short if they tried.
Prison was not an option he would have betted on. That show of leadership and courage was what got the masses out from behind their veils of fear, at least those not so front and center within the UDP. The fact that Yaya Jammeh would so brazenly kill Solo Sandeng and dared the UDP leadership to do something about it, turned around and arrested the entire executive and threw them in jail re-echoed the words of Hon. Darboe the previous election cycle; ENOUGH was finally ENOUGH. For Yaya Jammeh to put his hands on the entire leadership of the biggest party in the country and nothing to come out of it was a dream too farfetched; but first the democratic route had to be exhausted. Can you imagine if Darboe and UDP decided to take the route of the courts to seek redress in the case of Solo Sandeng?
That defiance; that leadership was what spurred the call for the coalition to finally emerge or spell doom for every single politician in The Gambia as far as relevance in the Gambian political landscape was concerned. They felt the pulse of the citizenry and chose not to be relegated to the dustbin of political history; and we are grateful for their foresight.
The Coalition was not formed with the goal of freeing Darboe and co from jail; it was formed to end tyranny in The Gambia. Of course with a new dispensation all political prisoners would be set free as was the case. But with all previous attempts failing despite the efforts of the tireless diaspora, this was an opportunity not to be missed at any cost and that fact was made vehemently clear. In the face of such heavy handedness and daring moves by Yaya Jammeh, no single politician stood a chance at winning the hearts and minds of Gambians if they refused to join the efforts and be part of a united front at the upcoming polls; that fact was not lost on any of them. So partly, it was to save face or save their political careers, but mostly because the Gambian people DEMANDED that they do before we sink into anarchy. Who owes gratitude to whom then in that case?
The same peddlers of this mendacity would turn around and say that had Hon. Darboe not been in jail the coalition would not have emerged; silently wishing misery on a man who gave so much for his country. Ask the diaspora movement that made several attempts at bringing the political parties together for unity talks; one party was consistently absent from most talks, so for the others at least we can say they showed goodwill.
What the Gambian masses wanted at that point was unity at any cost, whatever it took. Our only guarantor of a peaceful transition was increasing the chances of the opposition against Jammeh in our first past the post system by uniting them. That is the reason why for weeks on end, Mama Kandeh was everyone’s villain, and rightly so; the one person that posed a threat to any union by going solo. His praise singers today were his loudest critics few months ago; how times change!
The narrative that Gambians were sold the articles of the MOU as a pretext to them voting for change is another fat lie. Gambians voted for one thing and one thing only: get Yaya out! So no one is betraying them based on the MOU adherence or lack thereof. Gambians were not privy to any terms order than the mode of the union; Party led versus a convention to select a flagbearer. The suggestion of the later made people grew disillusioned and despondent. With so little time to the elections and so short a window for campaigning, the PDOIS was proposing a convention to nominate a candidate; not saying it was the wrong approach, but many felt there was not enough time.
In a nutshell, the Gambian people have grown wary and impatient. All Gambians cared about foremost and made such feelings known was a united front at any cost. Priority #1 was Jammeh out; after him the house would be put in order. That haste and lack of time was what resulted in the oversight on the modalities of contesting the national assembly elections as it came to pass. All anyone (including the politicians) cared about was how to rid us of the tyrant.
So why is it that all of a sudden everything is supposed to be hinged on that MOU? Even if that should be the case eight parties, including the independent candidate were the parties to the MOU, all eight by all indications are on one side save one. It was an understanding between them, the constitutional provision is already clear as to when elections are to be held. Even Mama Kandeh; anaa la kung bay recognized that there will be no constitutional violation if they decide to stay together for a five year term. “Three years or five years; GDC is ready to go for elections anytime.” – Kandeh.
If they decide that at this point the agreement should be revisited and scrapped in the interest of national unity at this crucial stage of our new democracy, what constitutional provision are they violating? None; that’s how many! If they do not agree at scrapping it then the logical thing will be to vote on which direction to take, in which case the majority will carry the vote as is supposed to in a democracy. So why should the entire coalition bend to the will of the breakaway PDOIS camp. If there is any violation of the terms of the agreement of the MOU, they authored that by refusing to join the executive arm in any capacity, but as usual we made excuses for them.
Say what now; it will be an honorable thing to do if they uphold the agreement? Then lose faith in them. Rescind your non-existent support for them, campaign against them and rally voters around the honorable ones; how about that for a democratic option. That narrative is insincere and serves the interest of a minority, a very small minority.
All that aside, let us be sincere in our fight to win hearts and minds. Hon. Darboe is not a flawless human being just like any of us gracing this beautiful earth. He makes decisions based on his best judgement; both from experience and from theory. Do not vilify him because he saw an alternative route to contesting the national assembly elections than Hon. Sallah did; that is just strategy. You can disagree with his approach, with his politics, or simply with his person. But do not try to take away from him what he earned with sincerity; his reputation and his leadership. The man literally laid down his life and shouldered the responsibility of answering for the lives that may have been lost alongside his should Jammeh decide to use bullets instead of chains. That responsibility will weigh on any man, but he took it on nonetheless because that was what he believed to be right. The Gambia today owes him so much; and he has expressed his gratitude to The Gambians for answering the call of national duty when it was made; please do not try to take that away from him and the UDP leadership; they earned it; politics can be messy but it shouldn’t be THAT messy. We can do better and we should.