Friday, April 22, 2016

Why meet with a discredited regime?

OJ, Darboe and Momodou Sanneh 

The news that members of the opposition parties met with the so-called Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as part of the regular consultations process under the aegis of the Inter-Party Committee was met with ferocious condemnation from the online media of the diaspora community. Social media was full of criticism of the actions of all those in attendance which were seen as an act of betrayal of the cause of justice for Solo Sandeng and the two others dead in custody and Ousainou Darboe, members of his executive and party supporters who are currently in custody and are faced with charges resulting from peacefully marching on public space for less than 1,000 meters.

The week long protest demonstrations in demand of reform of the country's draconian electoral laws was met with disproportionate and violent reaction by Jammeh's paramilitary forces who arrested unknown number of protesters which led to the subsequent death of Solo Sandeng, a youth leader and two others.  The fates of dozens of others are still unknown, including a dozen persons currently in custody at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) suffering from severe and life-threaten wounds sustained by torture.

The International community led by the United Nations Secretary General, US. Department of State,European Union, United Kingdon Government and ECOWAS have all condemned the violent crackdown and the death in custody of Solo Sandeng and others.

It is in the midst of an intense international pressure that Jammeh would like to seek relief from by diverting public attention away from the stinging criticisms to small talk of presidential elections - elections that are already rigged by Jammeh and his IEC.

The Inter-Party Committee meeting which was attended by  the APRC, GMC, GPDP, NCP, NRP, PPP, PDOIS and UDP concluded with a signed MOU in the presence of the UN Resident Coordinator, the American and EU Ambassadors as Observers.  The MOU states that the parties agreed to meet again to "revitalize and restructure...the Committee to promote peaceful political party activities and the holding of free, fair and genuine elections."  The parties also agreed to form an ad- hoc committee to "address the current political tensions by engaging in dialogue with civil and security authorities."

The general feeling in the diaspora among supporters of political parties and other unaffiliated activists have come out strongly against any engagement with Jammeh and his APRC at this time. The immediate issues and problems facing the country are about the death in custody of Solo Sandeng and two others, the numerous protesters arrested and in custody of the National Intelligence Agency and, of course, the leaders of the United Democratic Party leaders currently in jail for peacefully demonstrating against the death of Solo Sandeng and other protesters.

No other political activity or issue than the death of Solo Sandeng and matters related to recent developments should occupy the time and energy of opposition politician from now onward. National and not individual political interest should be the main driving force.

By engaging Yaya Jammeh through the IEC at the Inter-Party Committee meeting, the opposition have inadvertently extended a lifeline to a despot who has been in the international limelight for all the wrong reasons.  In our view, it was an error that must not be repeated.