Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The visit of Stephen Schwartz to Banjul

U.S State Department's Stephen Schwartz is scheduled to visit Banjul tomorrow, Wednesday, December 11th 2013.  He is the Director of the West Africa Department responsible for all affairs affecting the region as it relates to U.S. foreign policy.

According to Gambia's Daily Observer, the Jammeh regime's newspaper of record, Mr. Schwartz will be in Banjul to "meet with government officials and members of civil society..."  It is also understood that the Director of the West Africa Department will conduct a press conference at the end of his visit - date unknown - to discuss what we hope will be issues of mutual interests to all parties and issues that constitute American policy towards The Gambia in particular and the West Africa Region in general.

I assumed that the opposition leaders will be meeting Mr. Schwartz, if not when I suggested on my Facebook page earlier that I hope the opposition leaders will make it a point to meet with him to emphasize the need to bring pressure to bare on the regime that continues to employ repressive tactics against the civilian population and opposition party leaders and supporters.

As at this writing, several members and supporters of both the UDP and PDOIS have either been jailed or have disappeared within the last month alone; the latest victim of the regime is Ebrima Solo Sandeng, the Executive Secretary of the UDP youth wing who was arrested by the notoriously violent NIA, and has still remained unaccounted for.  All of these missing persons and those dragged to courts manned by mercenary judges are political prisoners and should be presented as such.  They have all been kidnapped or framed because of their political views and not because of the contravention of any criminal law.

I have also suggested that whereas it might be necessary to stress to Mr. Schwartz the need for fundamental revamping of the country's electoral laws, including the Chairmanship of the Independent Electoral Commission, the opposition's strategy should now shift to the legality of the regime itself.  The opposition, in my view, dropped the ball when ECOWAS declared the 2011 elections were not free and fair.  It is never too late to start challenging the legitimacy of the Jammeh regime given the deteriorating governance environment, and the mismanagement of the economy by an inept team of managers.

The opposition should make it clear to the Director that they will no longer legitimize the regime of Yaya Jammeh by participating in elections are are continuously rigged and the electoral laws skewed in favor of a corrupt and repressive regime.

A change in strategy is imperative if the opposition is to make any headway in its fight to replace the regime. This is a regime that has outsourced its most critical institutions necessary for peace, security and the rule of law i.e. the security services and the judiciary to mercenary judges and foreign fighters who, obviously, have nothing at stake, and thus no interest in a future Gambia with secure borders, a well-manged economy and the re-institution of the rule of law and a robust democratic culture that was once the pride of the country.