When a mass mobilisation campaign erupted that Barrow’s Fan Club is to hold a rally in Brikama and it was announced that all Gambians were invited to be present to hear a message from President Barrow, many people anticipated hearing something decisive. They did hear something decisive.
What he said was anticipated to be a message he would deliver at the concluding stages of the Coalition 2016 meetings convened by Madam Fatoumatta Tambajang. The fact that he said it at a meeting organised by his fan club confirms that he does not want to hide behind Coalition endorsement in order to confirm what many thought but could not confirm that he is an executive president and not a coalition president; that he will serve a five year mandate and will subsequently seek a mandate after the end of his term. Contrary to this, the Coalition agenda calls for a three year mandate and for the incumbent not to seek another mandate after serving a three year term.
President Barrow has therefore finally decided. Those who are engaged in coalition talks should also conclude their meetings and tell the Gambian people what they have decided. This will then conclude one chapter of Gambian history. A new chapter will now reopen with a new page. This page would now scribble the deeds of those who seek to preside over the affairs of this nation. Will it be a history of liberation and prosperity or oppression and poverty? Will it be a history of conflict or peaceful multi party contest and genuine and peaceful transfer of power from one leader to another? History will tell.
The original objective was to have an independent presidential candidate who will serve a three year term and will not contest the next election so that anything one who occupies that position within those three years will not perpetuate oneself while in office. The person would be accompanied by independent NAMS who will together build the instruments to build a country where free and fair elections and the accountability of the government to the people will be a culture. The departure from that trajectory is now fraught with a lot of uncertainty.
In the last edition of Foroyaa we buttressed that the Gambian people should know what happened during the past twenty five years. When Mr Kinteh of the TRRC spoke about the failure of big parties not holding the Jammeh administration to account we urged caution that misstatements should not be allowed to form our history. Only the truth could set us free. We emphasised that equating politics with numbers is a short-sighted view of politics since those in power must have greater numbers before coming to power and if politics is equated with big numbers, then those with numbers could be expected to be there forever.
This editorial has no other aim but to awaken Gambians from their 54-year slumber. And let us repeat again and we hope our words will not be misconstrued because of political allegiances. We have emphasised that after the acceptance to hold election in 1996 what emerged in The Gambia was Coalition politics. APRC was a coalition of the willing and the aspiring beneficiaries of the change and the UDP was a coalition of the banned PPP, NCP, GPP and those traumatized by the coup. By 2001 the coalition started to crumble and NCP joined the APRC coalition while UDP boycotted the 2002 National Assembly elections.
The greatest assault on the integrity of the 1997 constitution occurred in 2001. Coalition building again commenced after the UDP boycotted the 2002 National Assembly elections and the consolidation of the NCP/APRC coalition. This gave rise to the NADD coalition. History teaches that once the moves were made for a new coalition by 2003, the assault on the Constitution increased by removing the second round of voting.
The NADD coalition could have delivered what Coalition 2016 delivered in 2016 if it did not disintegrate and collapse. The attempt to form another coalition in 2011 failed leading the UDP coalition to have 17 percent of the votes and the United Front 11 percent. In 2016 GDC also emerged as a coalition, where former MPs in Jammeh’s administration who were elbowed came together to split the party. Coalition 2016 was also a coalition.
It is Coalition 2016 that succeeded in effecting the change and this is what enabled the TRRC to be constituted. This is why they have a Constitutional Review Commission. Hence, members of the TRRC should not be talking about big parties or what not. They should be narrating history where for 22 years the political parties could not build a sovereign people who would have one voice and act in unison to remove a government that had overstayed and build a country that they could all take ownership of. Instead the parties were divided and each was struggling to show that they have the majority not knowing that the real majority that matters is that which makes the ruling party the ruling party.
The real task now is to raise the awareness of the Gambian people so that each would become a sovereign person who knows the type of Gambian he she wants and works with others to bring it about.