Halifa Sallah

(JollofNews) – The leader of one of the political parties in the Gambia’s coalition government has warned against the distortion of the coalition agreement which gave birth to the government of Adama Barrow.

Halifa Sallah of the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), said the rules relating to the birth of the coalition are clear and must not be distorted.

In the run-up to last year’s presidential elections, opposition parties in the country formed a united from and successfully challenged former long-term ruler Yahya Jammeh in the polls.

As part of a memorandum signed by parties in the coalition, the president after winning the election would govern the country for three years before dissolving the government and calling for fresh elections.

The parties also agreed that in the interest of fairness, the incumbent would be disqualified from contesting future elections.

However, eight months after winning the election, President Adama Barrow is refusing to give a definite answer whether he is going to respect the coalition agreement.

The leader of Mr Barrow’s United Democratic Party (UDP), Ousainou Darboe, who is also minister of Foreign Affairs, is urging the president to stay in power for five years as stated in the country’s constitution and has threatened to take legal actions should the president step down after three years.

Mr Darboe, who was in jail when the agreement was made – for taking part in an ‘unauthorised’ protest against the regime of  Yahya Jammeh –  also argued that the memorandum establishing the coalition government was not agreed and signed by leaders of the coalition government.

But speaking to reporters shortly after returning from his tour of European countries including Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Germany, where he held meetings with Diaspora Gambians, Mr Sallah insisted that the three-year transition period was endorsed by all coalition partners.

“Whoever disagrees with me can debate me on the issue on national television,” he said.

“This agreement has been signed by everyone who is member of the coalition. The custodian is Ajaratou Fatoumata Tambajang, who is the chairperson of the coalition.

“What we agreed cannot be distorted, and must not be distorted.”

Meanwhile, a respected civil society activist, Madi Jobarteh, has called on  the coalition partners to clear air over the memorandum of understanding.

“Since the opposition convention in October 2016, all of its leaders, individually and collectively including President Adama Barrow have consistently told Gambians that they had signed a memorandum of understanding to come together as a unified force to bring about change in the Gambia,” he said.

Mr Jobarteh added: “Whether the MoU was signed or not, the fact remains that no Gambian newspaper (at home or abroad) has ever published the signed copy yet. When you do a Google search for the Opposition Coalition MoU, it does not show! Therefore, where is our document? Who has it? Why are these politicians bickering over a document on the basis of which they came together to form a Coalition? It was that Coalition that obtained the support of Gambians to vote for Adama Barrow as president.

“Therefore, the members of the Coalition, individually and collectively including Pres. Adama Barrow owe Gambians the truth about the signed MoU which they need to produce for the public. Gambians have held the view that the document was signed. Hence it would be indeed an act of betrayal and falsehood for them to have failed to sign the document and not only kept quiet about it but also continue to give the impression that they signed it.

“The issue that citizens must recognize here is that this MoU is a national document. It is a historic document that recorded and cemented a national liberation process and achievement. Hence the Coalition MoU must be a document to be put in our national museum and archives for posterity. It is a public property and it must be in the public domain. Thus, this document is too important to be played with as a toy by the country’s governing politicians and their parties. The issue of this document is even more pertinent given the issues therein that have become punching bags for opposing parties and their supporters.”