Saturday, April 18, 2015

The standoff reveals Jammeh's insidious tactic of dividing the opposition forces

UDP Leader , Ousainou Darboe
As we enter Day 3 of the standoff between the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the security forces of the regime at Fass Njagga Choi in the north of the country, it may appear to be too early to draw lessons when the stalemate is still playing out.  While it may be premature to draw lessons, we beleive observations are in order at this point.

When the UDP applied for the use of a public address system (PA system) for their proposed 10-day tour of the country, it took an inordinate time - a well tested routine of the regime to discourage and demoralize the applicants - so Ousainou Darboe decided to go on with the tour without the use of the PA system which exempt him from securing a permit.

According to those familiar with the electoral laws, the UDP did not need neither a permit nor permission from Yaya Jammeh to conduct a village-to-village and people-to-people tour across the country.

In the case of Omar Jallow (OJ) when he organized the PPP rally in Brikama, he applied for a permit, and when it was not forthcoming, he led a delegation to the Inspector General's Office to demand the reason or reasons for the delay.   The IG issued the permit on the spot for the use of the PA system.

It is not certain whether it was because OJ told him that the rally will proceed even if he had to shout from the top of his lungs for his message to be heard by those who took their time and risk the wrath of the security forces.  We now know that persistent defiance is one language that this regime comprehends very well.

At the precise time the Brikama rally was on, PDOIS party stalwarts were in Kartong on their village-to-village tour, unhindered, and rightfully so.  Since they were not using a PA system, they did not need a permit.  Halifa and leadership of PDOIS have been carrying out their sensitization tours, as far as we can ascertain, since the ban on political activities/campaign was lifted in 1996.

Why is it that the UDP is now being denied the same right guaranteed by the same law that protects PDOIS.  UDP has made it clear that they will not use a PA system.  They were on their way to conduct the same people-to-people tour that PDOIS has been engaged in for nearly two decades.

What is still puzzling to us is this:  If no permit is necessary to conduct political tours, and rallies (provided a PA system is not used), why didn't the opposition employed the people-to-people or the retail politics approach sooner to bring this vexing issue to a head much earlier than now?

In spite of it all, we continue to support the stance taken by UDP to demand equal treatment under the law.  We will continue to speak clearly and openly (on behalf of the non-players) about what is being spoken behind closed doors for fear of being branded.  We do not mind the branding at