By Kebba Jeffang & Amie Sanneh
Opposition parties in the Gambia have met on Wednesday 14th September 2016 at the Kairaba Beach Hotel near Banjul to commence discussions on the modalities of forging a Coalition that would select one single candidate to contest the December 1st Presidential election against the incumbent President Yahya Jammeh.
The level of involvement of opposition presidential candidates or political parties at this closed door meeting at the Kairaba Beach Hotel varied as some decided to send only observers while others decided to attend or sent both representatives and observers, yet others were absent.
The Presidential candidates who attended the meeting were Dr Lamin Bolonding Bojang of NCP and Halifa Sallah of PDOIS.
Mr Musa Sonko, deputy party leader of the NRP represented Mr Hamat Bah whom he said is out of the jurisdiction.
Mr. Yusupha Jaiteh, deputy party leader of the GDC represented Mr Mamma Kandeh who is also said to be out of town.
The two presidential candidates who did not appear or send representatives to hold briefs for them are Mr Adama Barrow of the UDP and Dr Isatou Touray, the Independent candidate.
In terms of the observers, the Independent Candidate Isatou Touray sent Mrs Amie Bojang Sissoho and Mrs Ramzia Diab; UDP sent Mr Alagie Darbo; NRP sent Mrs Awa Bah and Pa Touray Bajinka; GDC sent Mr Samba Baldeh and Mr Modou Baldeh and the PDOIS sent Mrs Amie Sillah and Mr Suwaibou Touray.
Mr Henry Gomez called and promised to send two representatives who did not appear.
The PPP and GMC sent neither representatives nor observers.
The participants ultimately agreed to reconvene within a week to engage in further discussion on the topics raised.
The objective of this conference of opposition presidential candidates and party representatives, which was held behind closed-door, according to the officials, is to strategise on the methods to be adopted in identifying a unified presidential candidate for the opposition parties in their bid to remove the ruling APRC party from office in the forthcoming presidential poll.
After the meeting, which lasted for about two hours, this medium interviewed some of the party representatives for them to share with the public the outcome of this landmark event.
Mr. Yusupha Jaiteh, the deputy party leader of the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC), said they have discussed about the way forward for the formation of an alliance by the opposition parties. He said during the meeting they exchanged some constructive ideas that will lead to an alliance. However, he said, he could not give the details at the moment.
“We will have another meeting in one week’s time,” disclosed Mr. Jaiteh.
Halifa Sallah, the Presidential Candidate of PDOIS, said political change requires three fundamental steps namely the purpose, the means and the method to achieve the means.
“So we convened this conference of presidential candidates attended by five political parties and others did send their party representatives and the representative of the Independent candidate to be able to sit down and agree on the purpose, means and the methods. One thing that everybody agrees to is that 1st December 2016 should lead us to another country; that change should occur in December 2016,” he said.
On how that change is to be brought about, Mr. Sallah said “that would require a candidate who has 51% or more of the votes cast by the registered voters. How do we get that candidate is what we are now strategising on because if the candidate is not available then we must develop a method of getting that candidate. And if the candidate is available we must identify that candidate for the whole nation to know.”
The PDOIS Presidential Candidate added that they have not reached at a point of identifying a candidate but have gone a long way in discussing and exchanging ideas on what methods they should utilise to get that candidate.
“Consensus is building and the recommendation is very clear in that we should reconvene in less than a week to be able to work on the strategies and we hope that all the presidential candidates would actually be present. This is how far we have gone so far,” concluded Mr. Sallah.
Madam Ramzia Diab, a former Nominated National Assembly Member in the Second Republic, who supports the independent presidential candidate, said she is there as an observer.