In our quest to shape New Gambia, we must demand high standard of accountability in deeds and utterances. A way of doing this is to be able to have honest, unadulterated conversations between and amongst ourselves devoid of malice and disrespect, starting with those we admire and hold dear.
There is no denying of the fact that the death of Solo Sandeng in State Custody in April of 2016 and the subsequent arrest and incarceration of Hon. Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and other members of the UDP had had profound weight on the necessity and urgency to remove Yahya Jammeh from power. Responding to such high stake situation, men and women of honor, integrity and service sat down and together, developed a roadmap that would facilitate an end to murderous dictatorship and all its attendant atrocities. Given the proximity of time and the surrounding circumstances, the approach (in relation to technicalities) wasn’t the best but it gave us the best outcome, nonetheless. Through those joint efforts, our country – besieged by tyranny and brutality for 22 years – was freed from economic, social and political bondage, prisoners of conscience were released and the killing of Gambians by Jammeh’s Death Squad came to an end! It was the best news for Gambia and friends of The Gambia in nearly a quarter century.
But the journey to that victory was riveted with compromises and concessions. UDP, the party led by Hon. Lawyer Darboe, had played pivotal roles in those efforts. This means the party had to agree, tacitly or otherwise, on the key propositions of the Coalition. It was because of one such concession that Adama Barrow had to resign from UDP to lead the Coalition. Whether the MOU was signed or not had little or no relevance at this point. The sheer will, honor, trust and respect that bound these great people and guided the process sufficed.
Hon. Lawyer Darboe’s error in judgment came about when he was asked about his position on the agreement that President Barrow should serve 3 years and leave, paving the way for fresh elections. In his response, Darboe said President Barrow was elected to serve 5 years per the Constitution. He buttressed the point by even declaring his intention to go to Court if anyone attempts to Force Barrow to step down after 3 years. This answer did not only catch coalition partners off guard, it threw confusion into the whole dynamics.
As the head of a key stakeholder in an agreement that brought a monumental victory in our country and saw him free from jail, Darboe’s answer cannot be relegated as a mere personal opinion. Some maintain that Darboe was speaking in his personal capacity as a constitutional lawyer but I find such argument insufficient. Would or could Darboe (as a person) have taken his own party (as an institution and partner to the Coalition agreement) to Court? I doubt it. It was a shocking public backstabbing unbecoming of his status. That was neither the right place nor the right time for Darboe to offer his personal opinion. If anything, he should have channeled it to fellow Coalition members during Committee meetings and advice on the way forward.
Now, it is important to add that Darboe’s position may not have emboldened President Barrow. There is no evidence to support that claim. Barrow is his own man and has set his eyes even beyond the current term as early as he moved to State House. Overwhelmed by the new, unexpected experience in terms of prestige, wealth and power, Barrow was going to have a go at Coalition stakeholders regardless of Darboe’s statement. A study of coalition governments and related arrangements in Africa and around the world should give us an idea as to where ours would likely lead us to. It is also worth emphasizing that Darboe and co’s preference to conducting National Assembly elections aka Tactical Alliance was not in any way a betrayal of the Coalition Agreement. No such agreement was in place to conduct the National Assembly elections. Having independent members in that important body with no political caucus would have been a serious problem for our democracy.
However, Darboe’s own role in supporting Barrow reneged on his agreement with fellow politicians and his promise to Gambian people is a troubling betrayal of trust and a serious erosion of confidence. In view of this, I ask honorable Ousainou Darboe to publicly, remorsefully and unreservedly apologize to The Gambian people for his consequential mistakes. Anything less will lay bare the party’s moral weakness if it decides to officially support the 3 years Jotna Campaign.
Zakaria Kemo Konteh is US-based Gambian political and security commentator.