By Lamin J Darbo
Its leadership is almost entirely Diaspora-based, with some absent from The Gambia for two, maybe three decades. Under Professor Jammeh’s Constitution, none of those leaders are qualified to contest any public elections slated for 2016/17. Outside the cyber political world, the organisation and its leadership are unknown, and crucially, to all but probably a negligible fraction of the home-based electorate. With no money on the table, it nevertheless pretends to the title of “… home to Gambian opposition political parties and Civil Society organisations at home and in Gambia’s various Diasporas”. Without so much as a passing justification, it seeks to wholly diminish the established and singularly significant home-based political opposition by proposing to commingle its influence in an egalitarian commune populated by purported civil society entities peopled, in the overwhelming number of cases, by a handful of individuals. Even more egregiously, what should have been a national project was hijacked and placed in the exclusive control of three very close social and cultural friends.
Welcome to the make-believe world of The Committee for the Restoration of Democracy in The Gambia (CORDEG). As if to compound the illogical and unsupportable claim it is “… home to Gambian opposition political parties and Civil Society organisations at home and in Gambia’s various Diasporas” it asserts that “CORDEG recognises the autonomy of its constituent members as equal partners in the struggle to democratise The Gambia”. Whoever its “constituent members” maybe as of March 2014, it is unreasonableness personified to contend that CORDEG itself has the clout to demand “equal partner” status with political parties whose followership number in the hundreds of thousands!
As the latest organisational progeny of the Gambian Conference on Democracy and Good Governance, Raleigh, North Carolina, 17-19 May 2013, CORDEG was originally projected as a facilitating mechanism for party-based opposition unity in Gambia’s fight for national democratisation. At least that was a plausible understanding of its primary objective based on the marketing literature put out by conference organisers. In the subsequent Raleigh Accord, some reference to the G6 was maintained but the role of home-based political parties was progressively diluted to a point all specific reference to their very central significance to a project that must be fought and won inside Gambia’s geographic contours was dropped from the just-published CORDEG “vision” statement.
Without question, there is a yawning gap in CORDEG’s incomprehensible reasoning. As an “independent, non-profit transnational democratic umbrella organisation that is committed to peaceful, non-violent democratic change in The Gambia”, it stands to reason that CORDEG can effect change in The Gambia only through the electoral process. With no political base where it matters – in The Gambia – and deficient in critical aspects of the political process such as funding, it is hard to appreciate the locus of the leverage CORDEG assigns itself as the “… home to Gambian opposition political parties and Civil Society organisations at home and in Gambia’s various Diasporas”. The established political parties have no reason to subsume themselves in an unknown entity that purports to control them and their clear influence. Herein CORDEG’s disconnect with reality as far as Gambia’s political terrain.
Or maybe there is no disconnect, but what calculations are driving CORDEG’s so far opaque strategy are too opportunistic to openly communicate without triggering great public disquiet. It is an open secret that Gambian public life under the Professor is unsettled enough to collapse either of its overwhelming weight vis-a-vis its utterly weak foundation, or with a little push from some hostile quarter. Should that happened in a chaotic manner on the stretch to 2016, it would completely alter the dynamics of play in the country’s political topography. Like any of the endless array of Diaspora-based organisations, CORDEG would likely want a seat at the table of inevitable reconciliation around a transitional national unity government. There are various other scenarios present in a seismic national event that ruptures the current status quo and elements within CORDEG may want to hedge bets just in case. On the formation of the National Resistance of The Gambia, Yero Jallow of Gainako Online Newspaper profoundly reflects: “Is it by coincidence all these groups are emerging or do the fortune tellers of the land revealed a secret that some of us are not aware yet? I just find things very interesting nowadays. It is as if people are clearly seeing Jammeh’s demise”.
If CORDEG’s focus is sincerely on a peaceful change of government, the key question is why it treats the established political parties as though they are in the same league as some of the Diaspora’s less than ten-people organisations. Can it be that CORDEG harbours the ambition of morphing into a political party and under that calculus may consider it unwise to get too cosy with any of the current crop of home-based political parties. If that is the case, CORDEG ought to dispense with all pretense and consolidate on that independent and legally permissible basis. Or is it intending to travel the fictional route of sponsoring an independent presidential candidate outside the explicit blessing of the established parties, or some of them at least. Whatever its real intentions, CORDEG can achieve nothing meaningful without expressly recognising the stranglehold of the established home-based political parties on the electorate that must decide the outcome of any election. Even more crucially, it must embrace Gambia’s true diversity in its critical decision-making organ.
We can all admire the personal achievements of some CORDEG members but that unquestioned reverence must never extend to matters touching on critical issues of Gambian public life. By all means celebrate the friendships and other relationships but do not require us to endorse pronouncements grounded in mere assertions, and visions that fell far short of what it takes to bring personal and national political salvation to The Gambia. What CORDEG placed on the table is not a national vision. It is a vision for personalities and a quite marginal group when what is needed is a selfless commitment to the creation of a national tent large enough to accommodate all colours of opinion but realistic enough to cede leadership to the more compelling players inhabiting the storm centre of Gambian public life.
In light of its comparative strength and appeal, CORDEG is best advised to pitch its tent in the domain most suited to its objective character, advocacy that has as its central element the facilitation of opposition party consolidation where it matters, inside Gambia. If, like others, CORDEG projects itself as an entity committed to forceful change in Gambian public life, this rejoinder would not be necessary as it would then be operating under different justifications and rules, and more crucially, on its exclusive resources to realise its objective. In the political world, it denotes unreasonableness of the highest order to seek to either proactively control or diminish the significance of entities without whose willing cooperation and resources there is absolutely no chance of achieving ones desired objective. As CORDEG advanced no reasonable explanation to its boldest assertion of not conceding any supremacy to political parties with supporters in the hundreds of thousands, its true intentions may at best be regarded as mired in opaqueness. To recognise no distinction between established political parties on the ground, and few-person entities like the myriad of so-called civil society organisations in the distant Diaspora, is the very epitomisation of fantasy.
This apparently characteristic opaqueness on critical questions is threatening to be the albatross around CORDEG’s neck. In the run-up to Raleigh, the conveners of the conference were marketed as STGDP, based in Atlanta, and GDAG, based in the host city. After Raleigh, DUGA-DC was retrospectively included among the conveners. No explanation was ever advanced. Even more crucially, when CORDEG’s leadership team was unveiled, GDAG, the other principal to Raleigh, came out utterly empty handed in the executive and sub-executive line up. Again, no explanation whatsoever even though this turn of events is potentially the most fatal development going to CORDEG’s very questionable credibility. In case any is tempted to advance the democratic process as having spoken on the leadership issue, I strongly suggest that a fair and visionary group would exercise heightened and appropriate sensitivity in the overall circumstances it was confronted with as far selecting its top echelon team. To its regrettable peril, CORDEG blatantly ignored common sense!
For example, CORDEG purportedly ‘elected’ three socially and culturally connected individuals in the persons of Dr Abdoulaye Saine (Chair), Ms Sigga M Jagne (Vice-chair), and Abdulai Jobe (Secretary General), and probably imposed them on the group as the untouchable Executive Committee (EC). Were the participants in its so-called executive elections on prior notice that “the EC is CORDEG’s top-tier administrative group, responsible for overall policy, strategy and implementation of CORDEG’s programs and projects, with the Secretary General (SG) serving as the hub for CORDEG’s specialiased Committees/Directorates”. These three very close friends are “also responsible for Foreign Affairs/International Diplomacy, strategic partnerships and overall management of CORDEG”. Or were the responsibilities attached to the positions after the elections? If the latter, the overall process does not pass the smell test!
Stated unequivocally, Dr Abdoulaye Saine, Ms Sigga M Jagne, and Abdulai Jobe comprise CORDEG’s equivalent of the UN Security Council with power to veto anything they don’t like. The public deserves clarification on whether the so-called “vision” statement predates the elections, or whether the “vision” statement was crafted after the elections. I cannot accept that some of the independently minded individuals I encountered in this struggle, and who participated in CORDEG’s so-called elections, would have voted for such a perverse arrangement had they known they were endorsing a dictatorship of three social and cultural chums in the sense that the “Steering Committee”, and the “Specialised Committees/Directorates” are utterly redundant in the area of crucial management decision making. In light of the above, I emphatically reject the claim in the so-called “vision” statement that CORDEG “enjoys wide mandate and legitimacy, as the recognised representative and voice of the Gambian opposition the world-over”.
Notwithstanding the claim of “home to Gambian opposition political parties and Civil Society organisations at home and in Gambia’s various Diasporas”, we know there are other Diaspora groups with competing priorities and some are calling for even CORDEG to join them. The claim and the reality therefore diverged. Indeed CORDEG continues to ignore the fact that not all political parties were present in Raleigh, and some prominent participants are now leading groups with quite a militant approach to ending public lawlessness in The Gambia. CORDEG’s very deficient “vision” statement can only make it impossible for those outside this architecturally flawed “umbrella” to want to peep in, much less join its cover. Although there appears to be many unanswered questions around CORDEG’s intentions, or at least the intentions of those steering the entity in the unlit pathways of potential deception, what is explicit in its own “vision” statement is alarming enough to scare me away.
Those who contend for the proposition that unity is the highest value we should aspire to in our fight against atrocious public lawlessness in Gambian public life are counselled to embrace the more admirable philosophy of objective reason and fairness as the highest foundational values of any viable national space. As currently constituted, CORDEG’s “vision”, and top leadership team, lacks both reason and fairness! CORDEG will therefore struggle for traction. Don’t take my word for it. I am more than content to leave the verdict in the hands of that great arbiter of human affairs – time.
And in case any is tempted to brand legitimate queries on seminal national issues as a distraction, I suggest some inner self-conversation around the fundamental question of what you have done/are doing for the vital struggle for a democratic Gambia that the person supposedly causing a distraction has no done. In the event of a struggle for an affirmative answer, that inner conversation should constitute cogent instruction that more self reflection may be required. And in the event of an irresistible temptation to don a mask and hurl abuse, ask if you are any better than the faceless criminals wreaking havoc under colour of public authority on defenceless fellow citizens in The Gambia
Needless to say, I shall not be supporting CORDEG as currently constituted and projected!
This statement on CORDEG by Lamin Darboe is unnecessary and uncalled for towards an organisation recently formed to liberate our beloved country. We are tired of pseudo academics when all they can do for the struggle is to criticise and become pen activists. All that Mr Darboe wants to say and too afraid to say, is that Prof. Saine, Sigga Jagne and Abdoulie Jobe are WOLLOFS and he does not like Wollofs. That he is left out in the leadership. No they are not “friends” as he chooses to say. His tribal sentiment is noted but deplored. We do not have time for tribalism now but to win the struggle.
When Sedia Bayo announced his defunct cabinet mostly of Mandinkas, why did Mr Darboe not speak out? Yahya Jammeh openly insulted the Mandinkas and the UDP party. Why did Mr Darboe not mobilise Mandinkas to stand against Yahya Jammeh. Let be known that it does not matter who leads the struggle, whether Wollofs, Mandinkas, Jolas or any tribe for that matter. All that we want is leadership and to move forward. Lamin Darboe, Yankuba Darboe and Abubarcarr Saidykhan are all tribalists who do not want a WOLLOF leadership. Call a spade a spade. Their diatribe on CORDEG is meant just to derail the process.If you don’t want to be lead, you cannot be a leader.
CORDEG is here to stay. It needs to be given time to develop, not over night. Its Vision Statement is objective. Its Mission Statement is noble. Yes Lamin Darboe can stay behind, but we are moving. We want progress but not re- winding the clock backwards.
A concerned Gambian
OMG another NAAD in the making. I wonder who this guy thinks he is. CORDEG is not a political party. This is all in your head. I am disappointed as a lawyer you should know better than assuming, you cannot support your rant with facts.
The bitter truth is that just like Mathew Jallow you feel entitled to be included, since that did not happen you are automatically against it.
With attitudes like these, Jammeh will be at the state house for a long time
Thank you. i can now see the comment.
HI LET JAMMEH BE THERE FOR ANOTHER HUNDRED YEARS,WHO CARES GAMBIANS,BUT NO MANIPUATION.
With attitudes like these we deserve Jammeh. If no one is ready to sacrifice their personal ambition for the good of the country let Jammeh at least maintain the peace. The Senegalese rallied around Sall in a month, it is taking us two decades to unite. something is wrong with this picture.
Thank you Lamin. An eye opener. You cannot have a bunch of friends attempting to pretend they are all for good. The same people spoil NADD and now they want to dress in a new clothes with the same agenda. No way.
Jason, no we don’t deserve Jammeh, we deserve Gambians who will not be cronies of one another, and CORDEG is just a bunch of cronies. Whatever Lamin Said is right from the CORDEG mission statement. Hence, don’t try to cover up a miscalculated scheme.
The learned former magistrate, you have hit the nail on the head. I love people who tell the truth as it is. CORDEG is a bunch of old wine in a new bottle.
We want to hear from CORDEG leadership. Why are they not responding to Mr. Darbo? Are they not man or woman enough? Those who cannot sustain the fire in the kitchen must leave.
Lamin J Darbo,
May Allaah be pleased with you! You‘ve just poured the terse! Its enemies will naturally be averse. I wished I had time to write more of what your piece has just preempted. At middle school, I learned that P.S Njie was so popular in the Greater Banjul Area while Jawara rallied the rest of the country (the poor trader, the farmer, the market woman, etc) to defeat Mr. Njie. You probably can shed better light on that than I ever could.
You wrote with professional restraint. The political correctness you picked is still lecturing me.
“Socially and culturally connected individuals…” defines CORDEG well. I know it’s so difficult to write for the public. And your maturity courts a revered chastity. I’ll pick with my bare hands what that maturity would rather pick with a stick: CORDEG equals a TRIBAL clique! Period! But they still want people to think it’s mere coincidence to have such strategic allotment of functions to cronies.
If it’s an iguana that will rescue Gambia, I’m ready to rally behind Mr. Iguana. And I need no fame, money, or titles. That’s why I’ve never put my real name on any of my articles. I’m saying this because some believe CORDEG is being attacked by those who weren’t included in the executive. Heavens! Is CORDEG harvesting anything worth our while? Your writings impress me a lot, Mr. Darbo.
To CORDEG members: If you guys create a golf club or Facebook group and do whatever pleases you with it, Gambians will seldom care. But you can’t accord it what your CORDEG claims! Dr. Saine, a fine education usually savors its corollary. Please look at the top four slots of CORDEG and think. And once you finish that thinking, kindly tell Gambia what honestly comes to your mind?
If I knew your email, I’d have written to you directly because some sensitivity chases this whole issue. And I’ll be the last to beat drums of Gambia’s conflict, tribal or clique!
Mr Mendy am glad someone is reading between the lines. Mr Darbo feels entitled, in his email reply to the community of Gambian scholars the first comment he made was CORDEG is not taking into account the
hierarchy of the players back home. With people like Darbo nothing can be achieved. Unless we leave our ambitions and tribal differences aside noting can be achieved.
I was at the Raleigh Conference, it was amazing how hard the organizers worked to put it together. Who cares if Sigga and Dr Saine are Wollofs.
Both Buba Mendy and Jason Miller should know that, Gambians will not allow any organisation to pretend to us that, they are untouchable and beyond criticism. Lamin J Darboe did what Gambians committed to honest brokerage will do. He analyse the document CORDEG placed in the public domain. What is wrong with scrutinizing such document? We will not give any blind trust to anybody or any organisation. The mere fact that, Lamin analyse the document means, he is committed to openness and transparency. The nonsense of attacking people’s personality because they critique a mission is outdated. Jason and Buba Mendy should first write a defense for CORDEG, with facts and proofs instead being emotive and classically character attack. Where did Lamin Darboe mention Sigga and Abdoulie Saine as Wollofs? Respond with substance..people cannot be deceive with choreograph plots. We want to end dictatorship, but not in a desperate bid by allowing a group of dishonest folks to manipulate us. How did the voting take place, which group voted for who. Let all that be made transparent. Some of these organisations are two men group, some three to four individuals. Gambians are not that desperate, we want to end dictatorship and cronyism. Let CORDEG respond to all the criticism with substance, not with people hiding behind Jason Miller and Buba Mendy. CORDEG cannot aim to use radios to defend themselves, we want permanent records, let them write. No radio chats..
Lamin, I am very thankful that we have Gambian brothers like you. A law student like me cannot but appreciate your firm eyes on Gambian public affairs. Thank you. I am wondering if CORDEG will answer to your paper with deep analysis. You did well. CORDEG cannot hide.
Bravo Magistrate Darbo. Motherland needs your invaluable inputs. May Allah bless you for telling the truth. I love people who are truthful.
Thanks Mr. Darbo. Your English freaks me. I call you Gambia’s Shakespeare. Am disappointed that the so-called educated Gambians are complaining about your language. What a pity!
This culture of bullying the Mandinkas needs to stop. Anytime a Mandinka speaks his/her mind is branded a tribalIst. What the hell is going on? Mandinkas are being bullied all over the place.
CORDEG, in my view, is not tribal but the fact that three top positions in the group are filled by Wolofs or Wolof assimilated Serers gives an inadvertent perception that it is a Waw Waw club. So let CORDEG sort out the perception and let’s move on.
waw!!!!!very interesting debates going on here….however, the sad truth is if this is what it will look like after jammeh,then its safe to say he is the best thing to happen to us…i like many Gambian both in and outside the country do not give a monkey what tribe our leader belongs to..nonetheless we deeply care about who they are ,what they gonna do and how…there is nothing wrong in being a proud fula, mandinka wolof ,jula you name it but only care about a proud Gambian nothing more nothing less…enough of this nonsense of tribal affiliation.
Come Mal. Jammeh is not the best to happen to us. There is an issue here. Let’s deal with it an move on. There is no need to glorify the status quo.
Come on Mal!! Jammeh is not the best to happen to us. There is an issue here. Let’s deal with it an move on. There is no need to glorify the status quo.
He! Brothers Jammeh is not the best but i think he is better then the so-called Drs who have not bean in Gambia for more then 30 years even before Yaya came to power. we are tired of the so-called Dr Saine and groups.
You saying that because you don’t know Dr saine. He is the most gentle and humble man I know.
I agree with Mal, Dr Saine is needed by the struggle. Having said that, the talk about CORDEG not reflecting the demography is legitimate and should be addressed.
WHAT “DEMOGRAPHY”? “This cause is bigger than any individual or group of individuals,” elites, cabal, clique, cronies, opposition political party, party leader and tribe!” I HEREBY DECLARE THAT WE ARE “GAMBIAN” CITIZENS AND ALL OF US “FRANCHISED” AS “SOVEREIGN CITIZENS” TO DECIDE DESTINY OF THIS NATION.
COMPATRIOTS! BE INSPIRED BY THIS MESSAGE QUOTED;
“””We ask ALL OUR CITIZENS to be an integral part of the change they seek by getting involved in whatever capacity suits them. Change is always a difficult task and along the way it is easy to become despondent, fearful, tired, angry, and sometimes be tempted to throw in the towel. But because the cause we have embarked upon is a just one that must be pursued, we must all strive harder to achieve these important goals. We however, can do it ONLY IF WE CAN COME TOGETHER AS ONE AND FACE THE OPPONENT. This cause is bigger than any individual or group of individuals.” By Lawyer Ousainou Darboe as UDP 2011 New Year Message
”We ask all our citizens to be an integral part of the change they seek by getting involved in whatever capacity suits them”… & “This cause is bigger than any individual or group of individuals,” elites, cabal, clique, cronies, opposition political party, party leader and tribe! UNITE AS GAMBIANS BUT IF YOU THINK A SINGLE POLITICAL PARTY CAN GET RID OF THIS MONSTER AND IS AN ALTERNATIVE TO APRC YOU HAVE A LONG WAIT!
BACK TO TO DRAWING BOARD FOR A UNITED NATIONAL FRONT IN SPIRIT OF NATIONAL UNITY & SOLIDARITY.
NADD BLUEPRINT FOR GRAND COALITION AND NON-PARTISAN; THROUGH BALLOT BOX AND ANY MEANS NECESSARY!
Change must come from within and not outside. So CORDEG and all others are wasting time. period