Wednesday, October 28, 2015

GAMBIA: In defense of the opposition parties

Some members of the Gambian Opposition
The Gambian opposition parties have come under severe and, some would argue, unfair criticism lately.  The pace of the criticism has been incremental as the 2016 presidential election draws nearer, and the tone, furious, bordering on contempt for the leadership.

The interim leader of the PPP, Omar Jallow has been spared of the venomous attacks directed at his colleagues, partly because of his unequivocal stance on the need for a unified opposition.  By taking himself and his party out of the leadership race, he appears to have insulated himself from the wrath of the pundits who have become increasingly hostile to the opposition parties.

The outburst of criticism is primarily the result of frustrations of diaspora Gambians, brought about by what is seen as lack of progress in addressing the urgent issues leading up to the upcoming presidential elections.  There is also the lack of appreciation of the difficult and downright hostile environment the opposition parties must operate at great risk to their personal safety.  We have experienced similar frustrations which we have made known by reminding the opposition leadership of rapidly closing window of opportunity in our recent Facebook page in which we wondered how the opposition can participate in the the 2016 without a comprehensive electoral reform.

Any criticism of the opposition, at this critical juncture, that extends beyond raising the alarm on the closing of the window of opportunity for any meaningful electoral reform to include demanding change of leadership of opposition political parties is, in our view, inappropriate and intrusive, especially if the demands are coming from non-members of the opposition party in question.  As a prominent member of the diaspora radio commentator correctly opined recently, the opposition parties are the only legal entities through which we can channel our efforts to effect democratic change.

Supporters of individual opposition parties in the diaspora have been overtly sensitive to criticism of their leaders who are being asked to vacate their leadership positions in favor of younger candidates because current leaders are either over the presidential age limit or have been perennially leading their respective parties. While opposition supporters may have a point, it is also healthy to open up to, and tolerate criticism - criticism that will promote dialogue among partners in the fight against a dictatorship that is certain to maintaining the status quo for as long as we inadvertently promote disunity within the various opposition parties.

It is perhaps time for critics, including political activists in the diaspora, not aligned to any political party, consider joining existing political parties to effect the change they wish to see or form their own.  These are options worth considering, given the numerous concerns raised about the perceived deficiencies of existing opposition parties.