The Editorial Board of Kairo News this morning dispatched an open letter to the leadership of the newly established Committee for the Restoration of Democracy to the Gambia (CORDEG), raising concern about a whole range of issues, including the public’s right to scrutinise the leaked document.
Read below the full text of the letter.
March 14th, 2014
AN OPEN LETTER TO CORDEG LEADERSHIP
Dear Mr. Chairman,
We write to you with the deepest sprite of human relations and love for our Country.
Our dear Gambia is undoubtedly in real deep Trouble! For almost two decades, Gambians have been governed by the most improbable type of mad tyranny. Gambian masses are yet to see any light in the dark tunnel ahead. Everyone in the country has something to lose in the continuity of the mad and virulent dictatorship. Ironically, the key players – the people, their political representatives and leaders – have yet to come together and assemble their resources in order to easily take the bull by the horns. At home the parties have been unable to get together, communities are being torn apart as the flames of ethnic tensions are being fanned most especially by government leaders. Since the inception of this dictatorship, tens of thousands of Gambians have fled from the terror and the economic hardship. The Gambian émigré population has more than doubled under these years of privation and oppression. Though most of these émigré Gambians tend to turn their backs from the fate and condition of their folks and country, there is a dedicated few who have consistently manifested concern over the appalling state of things back home. Though Gambian immigrants generally live in better organized, enlightened and affluent societies, they have not appeared to be better able to display any better in organization and front-building. Like microbes, their groups, organizations and coalitions multiply by division, leaving a dizzying array of acronyms that few can manage to comprehend.
Democracy, the best system of government, has been tried and tested; the one we all hope and strive for our dear Gambia is party-based. It is modeled on Westminster and its other variations. Democracy is based on the weight of numbers. To be able to have any chance of attaining political influence like-minded citizens must come together and form organizations, and reach out to other citizens in order to create their kinds among other citizens and the general public with the ultimate aim of boosting numbers among electorate to be able to muster political influence and power.
The like-mindedness is centered on principles, policies and programs. No two persons agree on everything all the time but those who share the most thoughts and feelings on what the principles of politics should govern based on (e.g. democracy, republicanism, monarchy, market economy, liberalism, political Islam, permanent democratic renewal, etc.). What policies of governments should be (for instance a policy of fighting unemployment through self-employment), through programs (of skills training, soft loan disbursement, business advisory services, tax-cut incentives, etc.). If all is well, then citizens belonging to the same party share more opinions than they share with others not belonging to the same party. The groups of organized citizens, or parties must compete for the support of the rest of the electorate to be able to get the critical majority needed to practice its policies and programs in government.
This is broadly what it looks like in almost all multi-party democracies the world over.
But there are occasions in the history of most people and their states that they are thrown into emergency situations caused by either natural or political calamities, aberrations or abnormal flukes when it behooves on all the parties in a given political arena to temporarily bury their hatchets and come together for redress. The realization that The Gambia and her peoples find themselves in such a situation cannot be over-emphasized. Many of us were keenly watching developments emanating from last year’s Raleigh Conference for Democracy and Good Governance and the Committee for the Restoration of Democracy to the Gambia (CORDEG) that stemmed out of it. We all genuinely hope that endeavor will finally succeed in bringing together the broadest front exclusively for the defeat of the bloody Jammeh autocracy and the restoration of democracy.
Yes, those are the two objectives around which a genuine National Front can be built. To be effective and sustainable such a front cannot broaden its objectives by bringing in principles, policies and programs cut out for political parties in the coming post-Jammeh era. Forming of fronts, we dare say, is as old as the political parties themselves. Since parliamentary politics is the game of numbers, parties have long ago forged alliances in order to maximize chances of electoral victories. But those are usually fronts of convenience. What we are tasked with today is to forge a Front for National Salvation, the holiest of fronts. During the Spanish Civil war of the 1930s democrats, communists, trade unionists, Trotskyites and nationalists all joined together to fight fascism. This coalition lost only because Hitler was openly supporting Franco while the rest of the world folded their hands and looked on until Hitler entered Poland in 1939 followed by almost all of Western Europe. Then the politicians of the West began to smell the coffee, resulting to the founding of the largest front. That was not a front of convenience but for survival against the NAZI peril. Ours too is as important as that!
We have been alarmed and shocked by the elements itemized below on the leaked draft CORDEG Vision, Mission and Objective document. This document resembles a political party manifesto. Let’s revisit the leaked document published by American Street News and see whether CORDEG has deviated from The Raleigh Accord.
1. CORDEG endeavors to build a country that once more enjoys respect and goodwill of the international community; a country that can once more take its rightful place among respected nations of the world, (especially the Commonwealth).
2. CORDEG’s objective is to build a market-driven, social-democratic society where principles of supply and demand prevail but also where the state plays a crucial role in social-welfare concerns to protect the most vulnerable in society.
3. CORDEG seeks to build an economy that is friendly and rewards personal effort, economic risk-taking and initiative, and endeavors to attract/encourage foreign direct investment for profit and realization of national development goals, respectively.
4. CORDEG’s strategy focuses on building an alliance between the state, the market, and subsistence farmers/small business to stimulate and grow the economy, create jobs through entrepreneurship and investment in a middle-class. Agriculture, fisheries, as well as tourism and development of water resources for irrigation, energy, and recreation will be the foundation on which various sectors of the economy will hinge. Cereal/ foods production primarily to meet domestic demand and needs and secondarily for export will be given priority. Education systems must reflect these national goals and geared to producing young critical thinkers, problem-solvers, technical training for consumers and producers of technology, as well as a medical infrastructure that emphasizes prevention over heavy investment in invasive surgeries and technologies.
Mr. Chairman, as some of us were part of the drafting committee of The Raleigh Accord, it would be disservice for us to be quiet while the very essence of going to Raleigh is being defeated. It is our conviction that the above itemized statements are not only beyond the mandate of CORDEG but also out of touch with The Raleigh Accord. As a National Front, CORDEG’s key role is to rally the opposition under one roof and provide them support in their bid to defeat President Jammeh instead of being a competitor. National Fronts cannot be expected to issue out political manifestos, as such documents are crafted by political parties and pre-party organizations. Fronts are transient and temporary organizations with limited goals and programs geared towards providing space for the broadest form of coalitions. We believe this has been sufficiently provided for by the Raleigh Preamble.
We must not fold our hands and watch CORDEG assume the role of political party, let alone a government in waiting. Raleigh delegates did not task CORDEG with designing a set of governance policies. This is not a slip of the pen or the tongue, the drafters seem to get it all wrong and must go back to the drawing board and revisit their committee’s mandate thoroughly. Since The Raleigh Accord has sufficiently dealt with this issue so there is no reason to reinvent the wheel.
Mr. Chairman, we therefore urge you to make this Document public to allow those expressing different or even contrary views, opinions and ideas, to do so in the interest of making CORDEG a truly National Front as envisage in the Raleigh Accord. Attempts to trespass on the rights of the home-based opposition parties must of course be firmly resisted by all fair-minded citizens.
So, let us not spoil another golden chance, especially when we are yet to recover from the NADD misfortune. We continue pay for the price of wrecking NADD and so we will until we are able to form one linked to the masses of people and led by committed volunteers from its ranks. What we saw on the leaked CORDEG document is clearly the wrong way of going about business. The four points above, found in the said document, are totally way off the line and must be revisited. CORDEG leaders should simply go back to the drawing board because they seem to be encroaching into the domain of the political parties who will not hesitate to pull out in protest. Let’s remember that some have already packed up while others are sitting on the fence. Also, because the Font’s focus of tyranny overthrow and democracy-restoration threaten being pushed out of focus. And because all that presently divides the opposition political parties risked being tabled and fought over inside the front, thus possibly rendering the front ineffective. Political polemics, as we all know, consume a lot of energy, time and concentration. All of these are in great demand by any successful front.
Let’s do the right thing to get out country from the brink of tyranny. We have power to wield the storm. As a watchdog, we will not hesitate to blow the whistle anytime our collective interest is at stake. We will do so with professionalism, objectivity and maturity. History will judge all of us sooner or later.
Please accept the assurances of our highest consideration and fraternal esteem.
In the Service of Our Country
Kairo News Editorial Board