Tuesday, March 25, 2014

All's not well at the APRC: A civil war in the offing ?

Banjul's Mayor Lie Bah
The selection of Mayor Lie Bah as a delegate to the APRC Congress, scheduled to have taken place from March 21-23 2014 is causing a near open revolt within the rank and file of the ruling party.

Originally, the Congress was to have been fully financed by Yaya Jammeh.  He later decided to solicit the contributions of private businesses.  When the contributions were not forthcoming, he decided to look for other means of financing the Congress now that all private sector options have failed.  It now appears that government will end up footing the bill through Social Security and Gamtel/Gamcell.  It is no coincidence that the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) has stepped up its tax collection operations, using extreme measures to meet its collection targets.

However, as an observer opined recently in what he referred to as the post-Boubu Na Tchuto era. the cash-strapped Jammeh has curtailed his extravagant life-style, and it appears the APRC Congress is a casualty. The party extravaganza without an official announcement and no new dates.   The size of the delegates have been reduced from 5,000 to 1,000 delegates thus leaving a lot of the grassroots out in the cold.

The Banjul Mayor who won elections under the Independent banner has, as since his election as Banjul's CEO, successfully maneuvered his way back into acceptability within the high echelon of the party. Or so he thinks.  The party base in Banjul and the Greater Banjul Area seem to have a different agenda - to get rid of Lie Bah whom they see as an opportunists.  The disgruntled APRC supporters who turned against their party in favor of the Independent Lie Bah are equally determined to make his political life miserable.  He's getting it from both ends of the political spectrum.

The Indepenedence day celebration speech, written by the Secretary General, and delivered at moments notice as by 'The Lord Mayor of Banjul' was, according to a source, the "opening salvo of an outright war" against what whom they see as an opportunist.  The fact that Lie Bah stumbled over the speech in an embarrassing fashion was gleefully greeted by the grassroots as further sign of his unfitness to be Mayor of the capital city.

Lie Bah's apparent rapprochement with Jammeh, and the blanket amnesty or pardon extended to all Independent candidates who ran against the official candidates of the APRC seem to have renewed his confidence and strengthened his courage to pointedly criticize the GRA and blamed it for the city's eroding revenue base.  This is a calculated move on his part because he is counting of Jammeh's support, a support that will not come because the GRA is the new tool in the armory of the dictator - it performs the dual role of collecting the much-needed revenue and doing do using intimidation to keep the populace in check.

KMC's Mayor Yankuba Colley

Supporters, as well as opponents of the Mayor did not lose sight of the fact that he accepted the pardon extended my Jammeh, and in doing so he was admitting that he was a member of the APRC, a membership he's denied in the past.  The new partnership between Jammeh and Bah is seen by the rank and file as one of convenience at their expense.  Breaking up the marriage appears to be the intent of those we were able to talk to.  One of these disgruntled grassroots operators promised to "strike back' without elaborating further.

The publication of this piece was delayed, in part, because we were waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It did drop with the publication of Mayor of KMC's interview complaining about the same GRA and Gambia Tourism Board (GBA), as the Mayor of Banjul.  He is also accusing the two agencies of usurpation of powers vested in the Banjul City Council, the KMC and other Area Councils by the Local Government Act.

These two Mayors have committed grave errors in criticizing the GRA, a creation of Yaya Jammeh to bloster a sagging revenue base for both the government and for Jammeh's pockets.  never mind that revenue collection has increased but at great expense to business expansion.  In fact, the gestapo-style tactics employed as the one we saw against the women at the Tourist Market has succeeded in driving  many businesses into bankruptcy.  Others have fled to neighboring countries.

True to form, as this blog post was being written, the GRA was busy threatening threaten to bulldoze stalls at the Tourist Market in Banjul.  Going after these women with bulldozers is not only draconian; it is insanity.

Now that the two Mayors are on record criticizing the GRA, they have landed themselves in trouble with the dictator, opening the likelihood that both being sacked through a vote of no confidence by their respective APRC-dominated Councils.  Knives have already been drawn by the grassroots.