The Spotlight: Scramble for the Gambia 2016
By Yero Jallow
It’s a new year 2016. As we continually hold Jammeh and his criminal administration accountable on their injustices, human rights violations and total disregard for the law; I hope we on the other side do serious self-reflections. It is an open secret that Gambia’s Presidential elections are fast approaching. Over the past few months, I have seen Gambia’s Opposition parties increase their headlines online, with good politicking statements on Christmas, New Year, et cetera. That is good, even though the timing says everything about politics, politicians and political seasons –the limelight is important no doubt. So far, what all these political parties haven’t addressed satisfactorily yet is opposition unity which is the golden ball. That is an untouchable bone; perhaps because of, “Scramble for the Gambia 2016,” where some of our politicians are consumed in their own bubbles, and too far to realize the urgency of our situation. Some of their surrogates and party supporters are continually falling prey to blind support without the guts to address some of the problems like lack of unity and inability to make headway in election reform. Speaking truth to power starts with us, a self-critique system where we start with our own loved ones, in the case of Gambia’s opposition parties, it is a necessity for their supporters and Citizens at all levels to tune them into a merger, a hopeful way to tackle Jammeh, failure of which we are doomed to an incumbent dictatorship with no term limits.
In the Spotlight review of October 2015, “The Spotlight: The Gambia’s Opposition,” (http://gainako.com/?p=9553 ), the author wrote, “Despite an activist’s hard criticism on some of the operational lapses, I have an unconditional love, respect, and admiration for the sincere opposition and their party supporters doing something to salvage the Gambia from the clutches of tyranny. When history is written, it is such patriotic citizens that shine, and my continued blessing and solidarity for their untiring efforts. The Gambia’s sincere opposition are good citizens, celebrities in their own rights, and such show of national patriotism is national call to duty.”
Currently, the electoral rules stipulate a simple majority win, versus the over 50% majority victory. That means a win of even one vote becomes victory. That means even technical and human errors in counting are enough to have someone win, especially when election results are too close. Preferably, victory based on over 50% votes sounds more like a victory. With the current political setup in the Gambia, with the known simple majority win disadvantage, and the known incumbency with its military, media, and other resources to its advantage, it is a thin chance to see Jammeh booted out, if Gambia’s opposition don’t table out whatever major and minor differences they have.
Let us take a close look at the last (2011) Presidential elections as a case point. (Source: www.wikipedia.org culled from the web on 1/3/2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambian_presidential_election,_2006 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambian_presidential_election,_2011 ).
Total Registered Voter Population: 792,514
Yaya Jammeh (APRC): 71.54% (470,550)
Lawyer Ousanou Darboe, Lawyer Mai Fatty (UDP Coalition): 17.36% (114,174)
Hamat Bah, Halifa Sallah, OJ, Henry Gomez (United Front Coalition): 11.11% (73,060)
Turnout: 83% (657,787)
Apathy/did not vote: 17% (134,727)
From the 2011 Presidential elections, a summation of all the opposition votes and those that didn’t vote doesn’t come close to upsetting Jammeh’s 71.54%. With the simple majority clause in Gambia’s constitution, Jammeh can lead by one vote, and he will still default as the winner of any elections. It makes rigging of votes an option for Jammeh, added to legitimizing his continuity in power. Elections are supposed to give hope to citizens and they should be a mechanism for democracy. Democracy and rule of law will not triumph without free and fair elections. Elections should be a tool for democracy so leaders lead without resorting to greed and power excesses. Democracy should do that control mechanism.
The 2011 election results compared to the 2006 Presidential elections, don’t tell much difference; Jammeh (67.33%), Lawyer Darboe/Hamat Bah (26.69%), Halifa/OJ of NADD (5.98%). Election is about winning and numbers. To win, one needs a winning formula. People are not contesting elections for its sake. Elections are contested to make a difference, especially in Gambia’s situation, where the country is faced with national and financial crisis under the worst dictatorship.
It is an open secret that Jammeh have to his disposal the country’s financial resources; Gambia’s military some of whom are indoctrinated to serve Jammeh rather than the country’s interest, the home based media including the state-controlled media, Gambia Radio and Television Services, which stoops so low and serve as a catalyst enabler for Jammeh’s criminal administration. GRTS defies all logic and good reasoning and their broadcasting is skewed wrongly, always. As a result of the control system on them by Jammeh, they don’t give voice to Gambia’s Opposition Party leaders. Added to these noted facts is the very thoughtful electoral commission, Independent Electoral Commission, which is a shameful puppet and enabler buddy similar to the home negro described by the late U.S Black Activist, Malcolm X, who said that the house negro will say “We are sick” when the master was sick. The house Negro, fondly for his master, is equipped with “Yes Maser” language and takes great pride punishing other citizens at the expense of pleasing the so-called master whose bone crumbs the house Negro greatly suckles. The IEC’s level of enabling is worrying and their ass-kissing tactics are telling a lot on their composition, inability to administer, and their crookedness. It is also a known fact that Jammeh uses language of intimidation, terrorize citizens, and even muzzle the independent press. All these odds combined put Gambia’s opposition on the cliff, slipping down with speed, with slimming chances if ever a chance of winning.
No one ever said Gambia’s oppositions are not trying and it is a known fact that Gambia’s oppositions are operating under the most hostile environment. The talk here is lack of opposition unity. One wonders why the opposition, their leaders, and supposed large followers couldn’t be calculative on a compromised candidate, for the sake of tackling Jammeh well in elections. The age limit at 65 years and simple majority victory are still in that constitution and such irresponsible clauses should have been contested in courts for proper electoral reform. It is a known fact that there were some illegal voter registrations from the neighboring Cassamance/Senegal by Jammeh’s machinery and such a case should have been also addressed with the courts. Elections are won prior and not on the day of elections just as the saying goes, “hay is made while the sun shines.”
Rightly so, Gambia’s opposition have power struggle, otherwise what principles are there to bar them from forming a coalition, as the Gambia is bigger than all of our individual problems and interests combined. It is understandable on what comes with power, its sweetness, the accolades, demonstration of leadership, love for country, and a wish to serve country and citizens. That love for country and citizens should be in fact the driving factor in going into a marriage coalition, in an effort to defeat Jammeh and his criminal administration. Gambians in particular seems to underestimate leading from the behind when even the late Madiba (Nelson Mandela) of South Africa said, “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” We all cannot be in the front. Leadership is about representation where each participant takes a role that he/she is good at, or learns to deliver.
A Fulani adage goes like this, “If you can hardly shed tears, start pulling your facial muscles before you get to the funeral of a loved one.” Gambia’s opposition must do one more push, a push to trash out any differences, and form an honest merger proportionate to their supporters. In any honest merger, it will be fair to proportionate positions and leadership on one’s followers, and work on a combined shadow Government that will see all the opposition in order. This will succeed in turning in the apathy votes and despite Jammeh’s engagement in rigging the votes, a shiny opposition, will do well, and their chance of winning will be greatly enhanced. The job of uniting citizens for a viable opposition doesn’t solely lie on party supporters alone, as the Gambia belongs to all Gambians, and we are all entitled to our opinions on what works, what doesn’t work, what is wrong, what is right, and how the ship of the state should be manned. Leaders can be followed and not worshipped. The simplest litmus test on any leader, whether organization, political, or even ordinary life, is whether such a leader will listen to you. If a leader at any level doesn’t believe or listen to you at lower levels of talk, there isn’t anything that says they will listen to you at higher level or when they come into power. Citizens too have that right, based on the political assessment, to engage their leaders on forming a coalition, rather than doing it alone. We cannot expect a different result if we are doing the same thing over and over. Tough love Citizens and that is what we must do!Happy 2016 Patriotic Citizens and the Gambia must be liberated from the clutches of tyranny!!