The Gambia: Beyond Party Leadership; Towards A National Movement

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The Gambia: Beyond Party Leadership; Towards A National Movement

By Mathew K Jallow

Clearly, political events over the past two decades have shown Gambians’ incredible capacity to let each national crisis lapse without appropriately responding to the gravity of each situation; the Koro Ceesay assassination, mass students’ massacre, witch-hunting, mass incarceration, multiple executions, citizen abductions, stifling of the independent press, monopoly of political space, and everything in between. And to-date, hundreds of Gambians and non-Gambians have been killed at the behest of the regime, thousands have fled, thousands more are caught in the prison dragnet, and a fearful nation left at the mercy of Africa’s inarguably worst regime, since Idi Amin Dada. Yet after each deadly encounter with the military regime, Gambians, paralyzed by fear, have remained completely mute as fellow citizens are victimized by a clueless regime. But, there is only so much any nation can take before standing its ground to protect its citizens from a callous regime. Besides, dictatorships by their very nature have a finite shelve life, and their end is generally determined by their brutal past. Yet, this is no comfort to a people who, for two long decades, have suffered incredible degradation of their humanity. But, all that is about to change, if events of the last two weeks truly mark a turning point in a nation where fear and terror are injected in the body politics under the guise maintaining national security. Gambia is a country where state institutions have descended into pathetic dysfunction, where the political establishment has nearly degenerated into pitiful redundancy, where the Constitution and the laws of the land have dissolved into irrelevance, where killings, torture and maiming is public policy, where a nation teeters dangerously on the edge of political and economic collapse, and where the peoples’ freedom and liberty is determined by the unconstitutional powers of “one person.”

UDP’s return, yesterday, from the most successful political junket, since Sheriff M. Dibba hit the dirt roads of Baddibou decades ago, is, hopefully, only a sign of things to come. The Gambia’s back is on the wall, and the UDP leader, Hon. Ousainou Darboe, and the brave men and women of the UDP, have opened a window to hope for Gambians. Both in the diaspora and at home, an infectious sense of political awakening is permeating every segment of Gambian society. There is euphoria for a new beginning, across the land, empowered by a sense of fearlessness not seen since the heydays of NCP and GPP. The criminal indifference to the regime’s pervasive human rights abuse since 1994, has no basis in logic, but more; if Gambian with the power to stand up to the regime recoil in fear, the whole nation will be doomed to surrender its dignity to the brutal regime. UDP’s triumphant return to jubilant Kombo crowds is more than the banal expression of party politics; it is a true manifestation of a deep desire for political change. It marks the beginning of the unraveling of a political system grounded in the futile effort of creating a permanent state of crisis, chaos and dysfunction. It would be an understatement to characterize Yahya Jammeh’s military regime as a complete failure; it is a national disgrace and a disaster waiting to happen. Yahya Jammeh’s unilateral decision-making, even over who lives or dies in Gambia, has crossed every boundary of acceptable behavior; thus validating Gambians’ deeper commitment to justice and rapid political change. The groundswell of public support coalescing around Hon. Ousainou Darboe and the UDP, the last two weeks, defies the heavy-handedness of a regime, whiich, as a matter of public policy, has often used fear and terror as instruments of political control. Yahya Jammeh and the AFPRC military regime have so cavalierly butchered citizens and non-citizens for the past twenty years, without being brought to account or suffering consequences for its actions.

This week marks a renewed commitment to political change in the Gambia and it is an irreversible trend; better still, it will deconstruct Yahya Jammeh’s AFPRC military regime’s invincibility and flame out his regime’s sense of entitlement to the political power Yahya Jammeh has welded with devastating cruelty. Yahya Jammeh’s habitual projection of deadly force, designed to silence his critics, must never again be allowed to go unchallenged. Additionally, the combined force of the opposition should be leveraged to preempt effort at curtailing the Constitutional rights of Gambians to freely express themselves; its people, the press, the state institutions, and the opposition political establishment. UDP has created a window of opportunity to demonstrate Gambians’ ability to challenge a regime decidedly bent of criminalizing every aspect of Gambian life, but more important still, the UDP and Hon. Ousainou Darboe, have a unique opportunity to galvanize Gambians into creating a national movement for change. This is his moment to cast UDP, in conjunction with other opposition parties, as a national movement to combat the impunity that has turned every Gambia into a victim of state overreach. The infectious desire for political change that runs through the length and breadth of the Gambia, can no longer be effectively expressed within the narrow confine of a single political party; rather, the struggle for political liberty has to assume a broader national character moving forward; a national movement that spreads to reach every level and classification in Gambian society, if you will. Gambians have been willing to fight for their own liberation for far too long; what they lacked is reliable and steadfast political leadership. This time around, hopefully, Hon. Ousainou Darboe will surrender to Gambian’s desire to create a mass movement, and to help lead a nation, in agony, out of political limbo, towards the bright lights of liberty and freedom. Over the many years since 1994, Gambians have made many false starts, but this is an opportunity Gambia cannot allow to fizzle out just like that. We can make change happen, and in this journey, UDP’s Hon Ousainou Darboe, must be given the unreserved support of a nation. For now is the time to turn a moment into a movement. This is our task now, Gambians. Let’s do it.

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