President Adama Barrow

If you are confused and angry about Brexit, then why you don’t try Gambian politics instead? The power struggle between President Barrow and his former deputy Lawyer Darboe reached its climax last month when the latter was axed, along with two other senior UDP officials. In the current political climate, it would not be surprising if more will follow them in the coming weeks.

However, it may sound odd to you, but in the Gambian political sphere, a power struggle between ruling elites is actually a common occurrence, But it has never before reached a situation where people belonging to the same political family clash so forcibly. As you can imagine, I am extremely discombobulated and I wondered how did we get to this stage so quickly? Well, while you may come to your own conclusion, this is my take.

From 2016, I closely monitored the major political debates taking place in the Gambia and I noticed that from the beginning of 2018 until relatively recently, the political trend in the country was rapidly nose-diving from ideological politics towards identity politics. It is quite obvious that political discussions in the Gambia are centred on tribes and regions. 

Consequently, tribal sentiment and envious rhetoric have become prevalent, both online and offline. People used the virtues of democracy, such as freedom of speech and freedom of expression, as cover to incite violence and bullying.

Thus, the country became a perfect breeding ground for hate speech and unruly behaviour. The reckless behaviour of the few, on social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp, spread unfounded stories online as well as fake news offline, hence the violent tendency of the youth in the country is going through the roof right now.  Such behaviour has escalated tension, mistrust and grievance between people of the same political class.

This is how it began. Senior members of the APRC scuffled for a while over the party leadership. Then a massive resignation from the GDC executive followed, the NCP executive were fighting for survival whilst two senior members of the PPP battled to control the party. The power struggle surfaced between President Barrow and Lawyer Darboe which is currently tearing the UDP apart. Why… why… why, the wise man asked? Because democracy without responsibility meant that there was no substance in the political process, and social segregation and tribal prejudices would be the order of the day.

We cannot take democracy for granted. Our biggest challenge is no longer the threat of a military takeover like 1994, or a rebellion like 1981, but it may now be civil disobedience like that in the DRC and terrorism like that in Mali. We have lot at stake right now, and for God’s sake let’s allow the Government to govern.

Our development partners, particularly ECOWAS, the AU, EU and USA are closely monitoring the situation. Currently our biggest foreign exchange is peace and stability and we have a lot of potential in terms of human capital and natural resources.  We have approximately 31 months to go to the polls, hence all our major political parties have time on their side to put their house in order before is too late. Until then, Barrow’s National Development Plan is the only and best way forward.

Furthermore, I totally disagree with pundits who are insinuating that President Barrow will fight for his political survival come the next general election, citing the recent dispute between him and Darboe.  In reality a power struggle between two important politicians belonging to the same political family doesn’t usually affect the incumbent! Examples are many, but for now let’s use the UK, USA, Senegal and Kenya as recent examples.

Elections are usually decided in the few weeks leading to the polls, not almost three years before. Barrow has many national and international advantages. For instance, Transparency International, the Freedom House Democracy Index and the Economist Intelligence Unit are all happy to rate the republic of the Gambia high in their measuring indices. This is a clear testimony which shows that the country, under the leadership of President Barrow, is actually on the right track.

In my opinion, all that he ought to do now is to focus on improving the economy for ordinary Gambians, empower talented citizens from the grass roots, and adhere to our international obligations.

In addition to that, he must continue to engage people at all levels in pursuit of political unity in the country. Last week in New York City, Hon. Darboe said that “for 22 years the only agenda for the opposition in the Gambia was to dislodge President Jammeh from power”. Amazingly, in 2016, that was precisely achieved by the Coalition under the leadership of President Barrow.

Hence it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to brand Barrow as useless and incompetent and set an alternative agenda which is not yet understood and approved by the public.

I bet you anything, if microeconomics continues to grow in The Gambia at current paced then in 2021 Barrow second term is not only possible but his landslide victory will be far greater than most people had predicted.

By Yaya Sillah

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