Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is Raleigh dead ?

No, not Raleigh the city, but Raleigh the political process that was sold to the political parties and activists alike, as the vehicle capable of bringing the opposing parties in a unified coalition against the dictatorship in The Gambia.

When the Dakar venue for the meeting failed to materialize, the good folks of Raleigh, Atlanta and Washington graciously stepped in to save the day by suggesting Raleigh as the alternative venue. Gambians from all corners rallied around the organizers to stage, what was billed as the most important meeting of opposition ever.

Despite initial reluctance in some quarters to support the idea, the meeting was convened and leaders of all major political party, with the notable exception of one, attended Raleigh.  Interspersed with the political party leaders were keys players in the Gambian political scene and leaders of civic and activists organization.

The two-day meeting culminated in a Communique, signed by all parties, which set out to construct a structure named the Steering Committee, and to provide a framework within which the political parties are expected "to pursue an Agenda for Democratic Change in The Gambia."  Besides the coordinating function which runs throughout the Committee's terms of reference, its main task is "the effective crafting and representation of the Agenda for Change." There's the resource mobilization function of the Steering Committee which can only be successful if the main task of crafting an Agenda for Change must first be successful for the stakeholders and potential donors to buy into the enterprise.  Thus, getting the Agenda right is a necessary prerequisite, in our view, for the rest to fall into place.

Extensive discussion took place during, but principally, after Raleigh, regarding the size of the Steering Committee.  In their desire to be inclusive by ensuring that all geographical areas where Gambian exiles reside are represented, organizers extended membership to 27 individuals.  The size became a topic of discussion, and so was the composition.  It is unclear where the Committee stands on both issues as at now. A Steering Committee of 27 members spanning three continents, even with modern communication technology, was considered unwieldy which may hinder the work of the Committee in building consensus around contentious issues, especially in drafting an important and complex a document as an Agenda for Change that all parties involved can support and rally around.

The Chairman of the Committee has yet to be named.  An announcement of his imminent selection proved to be premature.  Leadership is of utmost importance which should have been resolved by the party leaders and representatives of civic and activists groups.  In fact, the size and composition of the Steering Committee should have also been resolved before they departed Raleigh.   As a result of these omissions, delays in the process are almost inevitable which may dampen interest and enthusiasm.

It's been eight months since Raleigh, and yet we are unclear as to where we are for lack of information.  A one-pager from either the organizers or the members of the Steering Committee will help allay worries that Raleigh is on its death dead which would be a shame after all the effort and hard work that went into making it happen.