(JollofNews) – In April 2016, Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) was arrested by the former Gambian regime of Yahya Jammeh after he led a street protest to demand answers over the death in custody of the his party’s organising secretary, Ebrima Solo Sandeng.
Mr Sandeng had led a protest two days earlier, which ended with Gambian security forces beating and arresting dozens for making a public call for electoral reform and the resignation of President Yahya Jammeh.
A few hours after Mr Darboe’s arrest, Alagi Yorro Jallow, former managing editor of The Independent, the Gambia’s only private newspaper before it was banned by Mr Jammeh’s government in 2005, wrote the glowing tribute below to him.
I know Ousainou Darboe. I like lawyer Darboe.I don’t want to seem like a sycophant, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I admired him. I disagreed with much of what he said, sure, but I recognized he is a giant for justice and down-to earth human inspiration.
I’m touched and inspired by his latest statement “I’m ready to go the streets to demand justice for my children”, he added “ If they want to shoot, let the first bullet land on me.”
Here is a man I trust more than I trust myself, a man who understood the sufferings and conditions of the Gambian people : Our idiosyncrasies, language, philosophies, spiritualism and our political demands.
Ousainou is a unique political figure at a unique moment in Gambian political history. Through his leadership and courage, he did not write his political obituary into the new era of politics characterized by dictatorship and tyranny. Darboe is being praised rightly for his inspirational ability to rise above the brutal dictatorship unlike other politicians and civil society activists who have written their political obituary and nailed their political ambition in the coffin.
If Ousainou Darboe has ever committed any political sin or blunder, his recent actions have forgiven him for the simple fact, he demonstrated a source of inspiration to the oppressed people in the Gambia. Darboe made unparalleled personal sacrifices .The indefatigable spirit which he demonstrated throughout his life continue to inspire present and future generations.
Darboe will always be remembered and honored by all Gambians as one of the leaders, liberator, a wise, courageous and compassionate leader, and an icon of true democrat.
When history speaks of the very best examples of humanity, we will speak of Lawyer Ousainou Darboe. His life is dedicated to greater good. He held strong beliefs and did not give up on his dreams to end tyranny in the Gambia.
The art of great statesmanship entailed two qualities, “extraordinary devotion” to public good, and “wisdom in deliberating about it”. This tend to support wise judgment, which on the personal level would lead to integrity and in the public sphere that lead to the promotion of political fraternity or “emphatic pluralism”.
Darboe is perhaps the most respected person in the legal profession. However, few have recognized that the values that Darboe put his life on the line for democracy, human rights and rule of law are the highest values of the legal profession, shared by many lawyers around the world.
In all likelihood, Darboe’s life in law played a significant role in the formation of his character as a decent human being.
By focusing on providing legal representation to the Gambian people who may have otherwise entered courts without proper representation, Darboe serves as a sort of legal aid and public defender wrapped into one, fulfilling the core mission of the legal profession by providing access to justice.
Recognizing Darboe as the ideal lawyer is the type of reorientation that would highlight the real tangible goods that lawyers can contribute to society today, including the ability to help provide access to justice and create civic cohesion. Ousainou Darboe’s image should replace image of the scales of lady justice as the iconic image of the legal profession.
Alagi Yorro Jallow is founder and former managing editor of The Independent, the Gambia’s only private newspaper before it was banned by the government in 2005. He was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, a 2007 Nieman fellow and is the author of Delayed Democracy: How Press Freedom Collapsed in Gambia published in 2013.