Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Some random thoughts on the state of the Gambian opposition

Omar Jallow (OJ) Interim Leader of PPP
"We have a long way to go when one cannot point out the fact that the other (political) parties should have been present" reads an entry in reaction to our Facebook post following last Saturday's Progressive People's Party's (PPP) Brikama political rally that the opposition parties failed to attend.  The non-attendance of the other parties was the essence of our post.

The rally was to commemorate Gambia's 50th Independence Anniversary and a run up to the PPP Party Congress scheduled for later in the year.

Following the successful conclusion of the rally, we noted in our Facebook page that not a single one of the opposition parties invited to grace the occasion attended. The excuses of non-attendance ranged from the ridiculous to the preposterous which caused us to ask, since when did the 18th February 1965, Gambia's National Day, become a party political affair which is how one of the non-attendees described the rally.

Even if commemorating Gambia's National Day by the PPP was a partisan affair, and formal invitations were extended to other opposition parties to attend, we fail to see the rationality in refusing to attend by using lame excuses.    

The Day has always been a national affair.  Just like every thing else in The Gambia these day, 18th February has been politicized by Jammeh and religated to the back burner in favor of 22nd July, 1994 to commemorate his illegal seizure of power from the Father of the Nation, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara.  This is a historic fact that no attempt at  historic revisionism can or will change.  It is a day that should be celebrated by everyone and beyond partisan politics.  Anything short of that benefits Yaya Jammeh.

The exchange on Facebook reveals several obstacles along the way that must be addressed by the opposition if the goal of a unified opposition is to be achieved.  As we said in our Facebook post, the propensity to instinctively point fingers at the person rather than the substance, or lack thereof, of the argument still continues to pose challenges to the opposition parties and their supporters.

If the exchanges resulting from our Facebook post are anything to go by, party affiliation is still very strong, even from those professing to be in support of a unified opposition.  Thus partisanship poses a real threat to a unified opposition.

It must be said all is not doom and gloom despite the potential pitfalls and other obstacles on the way. The diaspora is still disposed, in our view, to engaging the opposition parties on the ground but with a caveat. And that is, the diaspora doesn't seem to have the stomach for business-as-usual, and more openness from the opposition parties during the negotiation process is expected and will be demanded.