By Yankuba Jallow
Honourable Halifa Sallah, the co-chair of the Inter-Party Committee (IPC) has called on all political parties to educate their members on the code of conduct for political parties.
Below is his verbatim speech delivered before sixteen political party representatives at the convergence held at the Ocean Bay Hotel on Friday, 20th November 2020. The gathering brought together political parties to discuss the IPC Memorandum of Understanding, the Code of Conduct of Political Parties and the 2020 Elections Bill.
“Duty has called and 16 political parties are here assembled to answer its demand. We are gathered here for one single purpose to build a partnership for the consolidation of peace and democracy in our homeland. This occasion is graced by the Chairman of the IEC. It is also graced by our partners – the resident rep of the UNDP, representatives of EU and ECOWAS.
We recognise that partnership is equity; that development requires drive and owners. We are the owners of The Gambia. We are the owners of development. Support is therefore just a supplement – not a substitute for self-reliant development. That is why we have decided as political parties to convene this meeting today to become the architect of our own democratic process.
Democracy is a tool and process. The process is rooted in our very rooted establishment of our Republic. Because we are sovereign, the authority to govern must be drive from our consent and those charged [with the responsibility] to govern must exercise that authority to promote our welfare. That is cornerstone of our constitutional existence. And that process of participation in determining representation all the way to rendering services requires a custodian and that custodian is the IPC- the Inter-Party Committee. We are the ones that mobilise the Gambian people to become part and parcel of our political parties; we mobilise so that ultimately we select leaders and participate in elections and run governments. So each party is preparing to govern and those given the responsibility to govern [should] discharge that responsibility not to a single party, but towards a whole nation. But the tool to determine representation has a custodian and the custodian is the IEC. That is why we are partners and that is why we are here today.
All of you must know the origin of the IPC and I will conclude.
It was the IEC that aimed at establishing an Inter-Party Committee in 2000. Eventually, it could not materialise then a crises occurred in 2005 leading to 2006 when NADD leaders were arrested and [former] President Obasanjo [Nigeria] was the chair of the African Union was appealed to by the Common Wealth and they agreed to form a team and send a team to the Gambia in order to facilitate negotiation between the existing government and the opposition. And out of that the Inter-Party Committee was crafted, but eventually fell into ruin until 2016 when the UNDP invited all the political parties including the IEC represented by the current chairman who was not the chairman then for us to discuss whether we will rejuvenate the IPC pending the 2016 presidential elections and the electoral cycle. We agreed that it rejuvenation was necessary in order to build a peace architecture for the country pending elections which were anticipated to be very explosive. Indeed, the crisis intensified and we started to meet almost on a weekly basis at the IEC to deal with the crisis, but also to craft the memorandum of understanding in order to be able to build a democratic process and peace process at the same time for the political parties in this country. We succeeded in crafting the documents, but never signed it until the 7th April 2017 after a new political dispensation had come into being. That is the lesson. Leadership is temporal and transient and when we occupy that position it is best to build a process that can have continuity and that can serve for eternity. Who will be there tomorrow no one knows. We only know who is there today. We signed the memorandum of understanding and we as IPC did create the basis of gender participation by ensuring that the two members will also have an alternate and one of the three must be a female. In essence, the IPC is on a very sound footing of promoting gender participation in the political process.
The members are here today to go into the Code of Conduct so that we acculturalize the content because it is based on four pillars – that peace and stable society underpin by floristic, democratic [and] transparent political dispensation offers possibility for prosperity and general wellbeing of our people – that we must have a pillar of tolerance between the person occupying the Office of the President and those in the opposition so that we see each other as partners in development – that those given the given the responsibility to govern should govern according to the Constitution of the land; that is the rule of law, but at the same time the right of the opposition to hold the government accountable to the people must be safeguard and guaranteed – and through dialogue and cooperation we should be able to co-exist in peace and tranquillity to ensure that we have an electoral system that will bring about free, fair, transparent, peaceful and genuine elections were the results will constitute the undiluted decision of the people which will be accepted by all and where there is dispute, we will resort to the agency for the agency responsible for dispute resolution. That is the architecture of our memorandum of understanding.
The Code of Conduct requires from us political tolerance so that we assemble and have our political activities without any interference. We distribute our hand bills and have demonstrations without any interference – that we are able to engage and mobilise in all forms of political activities without interference. That we will use language that is not inflammatory or defamatory – that will show respect for each other and that will not promote any form of violence, no form of intimidation, no destruction of people’s handbills or emblems, but will respect each other and that will ensure that we have separation of powers. We will respect electoral outcomes and where we have differences we establish this Inter-Party Committee to solve our dispute. Where the IEC and political parties will be able to write to the IPC and the next following meeting, the IPC should sit down and handle any disputes brought to its notice.
Honourable party leaders and honourable members of political parties, this is what we have crafted for ourselves and for posterity. We are here today to remind ourselves what we crafted so that we can now start the new process of sensitisation not only for ourselves, but also our members and the general public at large so that a political culture will evolve that will guarantee the peace and tranquillity that we desire base on justice and democracy that we crave and the type of institutions we want to build so that any of us would be able to assume office and none of us will be frightened because we know whoever is there will continue to respect the architecture that we have put in place. I will conclude by thanking all of you for being here and we hope that this team-approach will now flourish and our partners will give us the support that we desire in order to achieve our aim and aspiration to craft a system where we will consolidate peace and democracy in our homeland.”