By Demba Bah
Below is the statement of Halifa Sallah, the Secretary-General of the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) delivered on Friday, 9 June at the party’s headquarters in Churchill Town.
“The political tension which gripped the Senegalese nation for the past two years is clouded with the uncertainty of the candidature of both the incumbent who is presumed to be seeking a controversial third term and the leading opposition figure who was cleared of rape and attempted murder charges but convicted on corrupting the youths which renders him ineligible for the February 2024 presidential elections. The verdict prompted a nationwide protest in which lives and property were lost. The leadership of PDOIS said Senegal is a neighbor and whatever happens there will happen here. “We share a common heritage and destiny.”
They gave an example of the Casamance conflict which has rendered the residents of the Foni Bintang internally displaced. ‘Right now there is fighting in Casamance and the shells are landing in the Gambia. In that sense what happens in Senegal will have direct impact in the Gambia. If there is peace in Casamance, the Gambia will also enjoy the dividend.”
For them, there is competitive and combative politics which are sometimes confused and as a consequence people lose sight of what politics is all about. But in reality, it is the republic that gives power to the people and whoever is interested must seek it through the mandate of the people by presenting programmes *_-and that is what competitive politics is about.
They will support you on that basis, says the leadership. But if you have the combative approach, they say there will be two conflicting camps both of whom will be showing a position of strength. This could be explosive if state power through the security forces is utilized against the other who in turn may resort to any other force such as militia or any type of force. In the end there will be civil war as has been the case in many parts of the continent, the PDOIS leadership warned. They say the root cause of civil wars is combative politics not competitive politics. They insist, if there is to be peace in Senegal, all must adopt competitive politics and abandoned combative politics. Then the supporters of both camps will see themselves as citizens first who own power and have a birth right to seek mandate from others without imposing one’s will on them. Where conflict exist, the PDOIS leadership says the source should be identified for a conflict resolution through negotiations. If we want to move forward, lessons must be learned from the past not dwell in it. For that will bring about anger, frustration and lack of satisfaction. If peace is to be achieved, we must get rid of the combative politics and embrace the competitive politics. To move to that level they say, require some form of negotiation and intervention. In Senegal, there are veteran politicians the likes of Wade, Batchilly and many others.
The head of State could begin consultation by inviting them and allow them to freely express their opinion on what the source of conflict is and promise to take into consideration all statements presented. The same for the civil society, religious leaders, all people of goodwill- from Ecowas, AU, UN- so that it will be seen by the Senegalese people as a period of consultation, a period of dialogue, a period of national conversation on the way forward. This the leadership say is the way forward.
Their advice on the other hand is never leave the peace of a country in the hands of security forces. They argue in a republic, security forces are not designed to maintain peace in a country but to preserve the territorial integrity and secure its people. The peace of a security force is the peace of the bullet, baton or tear gas. It is peace based on coercion. It can stabilize but the wounded hearts will always continue to be there. When it inflames again, no one knows. Using security forces to control all the people for peace is something inconceivable. It is the duty of the civil authority to ensure peace not military authority. When the situation is out of control, then security could be handed to the military on a temporary basis and quickly resolved for civil authority to take over and carry out national conversation. The PDOIS leadership ended their press conference with a caution throughout Africa that, “if we are to get rid of coup d’etat, we must have governments capable of ensuring peace without relying on military authority. Otherwise, the military would see itself as maintaining peace and think that civil authority is not capable of ensuring peace and take over government. And finally with a note of optimism, they say let the Senegalese people see what has happened as a spontaneous action, of course preyed by certain conceptions of the political situation and open up a national conversation and move into competitive politics so that the people will determine their manner of government. ‘That is what they wish for Senegal and the Gambia, the leadership concluded.
Next is about The Gambia