“Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed”, Mao Zending
“Any Coalition has its troubles as every married man knows”, Arthur Hays Sulzberger
These are not normal times. These are extraordinary times. And extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. The vitality of democracy is civic participation. And the success of any democracy in any nation depends on the vibrancy and efficiency of the legislature.
The legislature meets the aspirations of the electorates, and has its key function of making laws and providing oversights to the executive arm of government. I believe the coalition won the presidential election on a coalition ticket, why can’t they campaign and govern the transition agenda in furtherance of the aspiration of the people who voted for them on the same platform.
I suspect coalition members, Halifa Sallah and Ousainou Darboe’s, positions are being oversimplified. The noisy National Assembly election argument over political populism versus identity politics is a dead end. Don’t fall for it. There is smart identity politics and dumb identity politics, progressive populism and reactionary populism. It’s not either or and never has been during the presidential election. The Gambian people were hoping for a bloc coalition to emerge in the National Assembly and deny the APRC any chance of domination in the National Assembly.
Halifa and Ousainou please assume center stage. Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang and Seedia Jatta: it’s great to break ranks and work for something better. You can make the deal too. Your sensible center, if you hold together, you can reshape the committees, share chairmanships, and unite as a coalition bloc against the most dangerous APRC politicians we’ve seen in twenty-two years under dictatorship.
There is an urgency for the coalition not to allow the opposition to take charge of the National Assembly. As a reminder, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party receives 43.9 percent at the Reichstag elections, which allow the Nazis to later pass the Enabling Act and establish a dictatorship. And any mistake by the coalition would be a recipe for Jammeh’s return and that is unacceptable. The Gambian people have decided. There is one group of people who can do a lot and very urgently. And that President Adama Barrow’s presidency will falter without a coalition bloc in parliament.
So here is what I think everyone in Civil Society including the press must reach out to Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang and Seedia Jatta or any other influential coalition member, the first question must be, how to save the survival and what to do to combat the split from the coalition? If they dodge and leave, keep with the follow ups, stand if they refuse to give a satisfactory answer, and don’t vote for them next elections.
I fear for the health and safety of our democracy. I fear for people in our society who are vulnerable and different. I fear for the rule of law. But the antidote to fear and horror is not withdrawal. Neither can it merely be righteous indignation. We need to understand why many people who are not bigots voted for the coalition. We need to summon courage in the face of what will likely be abuse of power accompanied by threats and intimidation of opponents. And we need to never lose faith in our new democracy and its core values. I hope I am wrong, and I think I could be wrong, but I fear the next three or five years could test our nascent democracy to a degree we have not seen in 22 years.
The press has never seen anything like this before. The public has never seen anything like this before. And the political leaders of the coalition parties have never seen anything like this before. I believe the coalition is by far a better alternative to Jammeh.
What can we do? We can all step up and say simply and without equivocation: you must unite to govern in unity for the best interest of the Gambian people after decades of dictatorship. And if someone won’t set us right, we know that there is such a thing as the truth and we must do whatever is in our power to diminish the Satan’s malignant reach into our society.
Facts and the truth are not partisan. They are the bedrock of our nascent democracy. And you are either with them, with us, with our Constitution, our history, and the future of our nation, or you are against it. Everyone must answer that question.
Folks, Yahya Jammeh didn’t’ lose the election because rising inflation, fuel and food prices, the reality is that Gambians have been beaten into docility by hunger, disease, poverty and sheer need. The unprecedented rise in the cost of living and the deplorable state of hospitals have put the people in the exact position that Yahya Jammeh and his cronies want them to be; a place where many are too worried about their next meal to care about abstract political ideas and rights.
Yes, these are divisive economic and social issues, but so is every civil rights campaign worth the fight. Jammeh lose the elections because the Gambian people have multiple aspirations and frustrations, multiple motivations for voting him out. The smartest, most successful presidential campaign of modern times. Adama Barrow’s 2016 insurgency; recognized the power of electioneering to UNITE class aspiration, identity politics and religious differences rather than pit one against another.
Any campaign that expands the citizenship rights of an oppressed group is going to initially threaten a lot of people’s entrenched values; that doesn’t mean we banish it from the electoral platform.
Progressivism defined purely by economic issues is an arid politics that misses the complex, overlapping, deeply felt motives that bring Gambians – of all classes and backgrounds – to civic participation.
Alagi Yorro Jallow
The author is the founder and managing editor of The Independent Newspaper in The Gambia, which was arbitrarily shut down by the Jammeh regime. He is the author of the widely read book, Democracy Delayed.