In July 1994, a group of disgruntled soldiers of the Gambia National Army overthrew the democratically elected government of President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara claiming that it was a corrupt and inept government that had destroyed the country and clung to power for over three decades.
Initially, according to these soldiers, they intended to simply reform and sanitize the politics of the country and return it to civilian rule after a short period. But some of them – mainly Yahya Jammeh and those in his ilk – had other plans. They betrayed the rest and clung to power and doing almost all the things they accused the previous government of, and doing worst.
That ‘Messiah’ government under the leadership of Yahya Jammeh became the worst nightmare for Gambians. It turned out to be a brutal dictatorship which had no respect for human rights or democratic systems and the rule of law. It has been accused of countless violations of human rights with thousands of Gambians fleeing the country in order to avoid arrest, torture, illegal detention or summary execution.
The economy became so bad that tens of thousands of young Gambians decided to risk their lives and use the illegal back way to reach the shores of Europe in order to make a living. Hundreds perished in the high seas. Yet, no one dared talk about it here at home less one is branded an unpatriotic citizen which had serious consequences.
In late 2016 – the year that elections were to be held – the opposition parties in the country saw the need to come together and present a united force against the incumbent Yahya Jammeh. The Gambian population supported this idea and people were over the moon with excitement. The masses took ownership of this idea and made it a reality.
The Coalition was formed and they campaigned on a three-year transitional period in which reforms would be introduced. These reforms were to be as wide ranging as possible. They were to include security sector reform, electoral reform, constitutional reform, civil service reform, prison reform and so on. After all these, the transitional government was to give way to new elections which will be held under a new dispensation.
However, shortly after the new government took power, it began to emerge that the very Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which was supposed to have brought them together, and which was supposed to bind them, was not even signed by the different parties. It came out from one individual, was denied by another but none of them showed proof that it was actually signed.
Now that the president has gone his own way (or so it seems), the need to come together and discuss the issue of three years or five years has again come to the surface. Only, the meeting could not achieve anything as they disagreed on the modalities on how to go about it. Whereas one party is insisting that they first sign the ‘unsigned agreement’ before any review, the others wish to go ahead and review it with a view to amending it to allow President Barrow to complete the five year mandate which is actually what the constitution says. Thus, the talks have all but broken down as at least two of the main parties are no longer interested in any coalition talks: the PDOIS and the UDP.
The issue though is this: how on earth was it possible for these politicians not to sign an agreement which was to be used as a basis to get elected? Weren’t they aware of the seriousness of the situation of the Gambian people? Were they only eager to be voted into office and cared less about the masses?
If indeed they were motivated by rescuing the masses from the clutches of dictatorship, then they could have signed the MoU. This was the basis from which their legitimacy sprang. How then could they do this to the Gambians only to start trading accusations at each other? Each party wishes to ride on the high horse of righteousness and blame the rest.
Well, to me – and I am sure to many Gambians as well – all the political parties in the Coalition share the blame for our woes today. They have all failed the electorate, and woefully for that matter. It is indeed very unfortunate that the leaders we put our trust in could fail us so miserably and now turn round to fill our ears with claims and counter claims!
What this means is that from henceforth it will be very difficult to have coalitions in this country as no one will trust the other considering what the president and his allies went through.
So, the failure to sign the MoU was a crime against Gambians!
Musa Bah is a teacher at Nusrat Senior Secondary School. He is also a
writer, novelist, poet and social commentator. He is currently the
vice president of the Writers’ Association of The Gambia.