The Gambia: Overdue opposition unity puts Gambians on the path to freedom; amidst National Assembly blunder

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By Mathew K Jallow, Madison, Wisconsin

No one saw it coming. It hit the airwaves like a thunderbolt. Its effects, apart from euphoric, are giving Gambians back their long lost sense of hope. The scepticism surrounding an opposition, which for long seemed locked in a state of permanent conflict and grandstanding, has historical precedence, but reconciliation too has always been a possibility. The necessity for the opposition to overcome the insignificant bottlenecks that stood in the way of coalescing around the life and death issues affecting Gambia, is the beginning of the process of re-engaging Gambians across tribe, and political affiliation on matters germane to itizens’ welfare. The Gambia’s future is a collective responsibility, but the established opposition has to lead the way, and their unity, last week, burst out like spring desert flowers, to mark the beginning of re-establishing the citizenship of blue-blood Gambians. For a significant number of Diasporans, past opposition unity, though always desirable, always seemed elusive. But in the end, it is the diaspora civil society organizations that are stalled in conflict of interest and petty quibbles, even as Gambians’ suffering continues to escalate. Support of opposition unity is reverberating in Gambian communities around the world, and its promise is galvanizing citizens worldwide clamouring for political change. This time, the opposition unity glue seems to hold, even as fears of past political single-mindedness cloud the public judgment with apprehension and uneasiness. Hopefully, political events around the world, will, this time around, change Gambians’ minds about the political possibilities, even as the combined opposition and civil society face stiff resistance from a regime, which, by its murderous history, long ceased to have a reason to exist. The opposition needs to leverage the combined power of civil society and the people, which is no match for the guns and bullets Yahya Jammeh relies on, to keep him in power. After all, if Guinea-Conakry did it, Senegal did it, Ivory Coast did it, Mali did it, Burkina Faso did it, it should be a cake walk for a united political opposition, the Gambian population and civil society at home and abroad, to collapse Gambia’s murderous, kleptomaniac regime.

Unlike any other year, since 1994, Gambia is confronting challenges that resonate with citizens of the ECOWAS region who successfully turned decades of political inertia into extraordinary determinations to change their political circumstances. The political world-view in ECOWAS member states, increasingly, has no tolerance for the demagoguery of pariahs like Yahya Jammeh; a view that is supported by the international community, both governments and institutions set up to guarantee human dignity and safety from the political promiscuity of regimes that deprive citizens of their rights. The crux of the mushrooming universal political paradigm centers on returning political power back to the people, to give them the tools to make educated, free and unfettered choices. And political systems in West African countries are increasingly rejecting the ingrained notions of state supremacy; instead, constantly evolving to concede power to the lynchpin of democracy; a free people. In Gambia, where politics have regressed from, perhaps, the most progressive in Africa, to its most savage, the political revisionism the past two decades is unparalleled, as is the high level of brutality and state control of the lives of the people. Yahya Jammeh has crossed every boundary of acceptable human behavior; from open daylight shooting death, to neck breaking, from public executions, to female breast-cutting, and from economic plunder, to the Jolanization of the civil service. It is hard, if not impossible, to even try to epitomize Yahya Jammeh’s monstrous crimes against Gambians, even when he leaves office, Importantly, Gambia cannot be the only country left out on this cusp of political change sweeping the continent, in particular, the West African region. Today, Gambia’s necessary political change is predicated on the predominance of the regime’s demonic moral depravity, which has spurred the rigid opposition to the irrelevant regime, particularly, at a time when rapid regional and universal political change is transforming politics into a more humane enterprise. Gambians can no longer afford the isolation of the country from the rest of the world, and it is Gambian citizens’ prerogative to force political conformity to regional and international social and political norms; For this to happen, change is necessary. The Gambia is consequently now at a crossroads of allowing the political barbarity to continue, or forge a common path to complete freedom.

To say Gambians now face some daunting challenges, is an understatement, and this has worsened with the passing of a National Assembly Bill requiring political opponents of the military regime to deposit exorbitant sums of money that most opposition leaders cannot independently afford. The barriers to political participation, underlies the festering perversion of politics in Gambia, but the shackling of Gambians’ inalienable right to have voices, challenges Gambians to get more involved in satisfying their fundamental citizenship rights. Yahya Jammeh’s fearsome attachment to a universe of asinine politics, has only succeeded in perpetuating his own undoing and that of the eventual downfall of his ruthless regime. When the so-called National Assembly passed the Bill limiting the political space to only the regime supporters, the outcry was swift and relentless. The rubber-stamp National Assembly, has once again, deferred to Yahya Jammeh’s illegal manipulation of the political system, causing an eminent political crisis. The inability of the National Assembly to act in the nation’s interest has baffled political pundits for two decades, but it is their conscious defense of Yahya Jammeh’s scheming to seize the political space, and in so doing, emasculate the political opposition into embarrassing redundancy that has left Gambians fuming, And now, some members of the National Assembly, uneasy with the political chaos they uploaded on the Gambian people by passing the electoral Bill yesterday, have developed short fuses of intolerance, resorting to the unbecoming thug use of insulting language to a media simply trying to make sense of the political insanity they created. The Gambia’s political story has always been punctuated with the actions of the clueless and classless, and the so-called National Assembly has proven once again that they lack the judgement of impartiality; having mortgaged their souls for money to Almighty Yahya Jammeh, who recently earned the unflattering title of Africa’s five most uneducated “so-called” leaders. But the gratuitous passing of the controversial electoral Bill by the National Assembly yesterday may be a harbinger of what will happen to the Bill amending the Constitution Death Penalty Article, making the killing of citizens as easy as drinking water. And a Gambian political dissident aptly characterized the National Assembly this way; “MPs care for their today, more than everyone’s tomorrow.” The wise rambling of an angry dissident. I could not say it bet

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