It is the tone of the opening paragraph that set the message of the write-up, and left me with bewilderment and disappointment. Let me preface by saying that I have a tremendous respect for Lamin Darboe, someone that brings lots of experience from the bench with an unquestionable sharp legal mind that a future Gambia really needs in the new dispensation of justice in the judiciary, a required building block for a viable Gambia. If one of our best hopes could reach to these conclusions, and decided that it needed to be said in order to help in our aspiration to rescue our country from divisive politics, has really left me discouraged and confused. What is really behind some of these accusations leveled by our good Magistrate? There are three issues highlighted in the write up that I would like to give my two cents: CORDEG’s claim or attempt to position itself as an entity lot more relevant than the political parties back home; secondly, that a national project was high jacked by one of the culturally close friends- euphemism for Wolof tribalist, and that CORDEG original intent was the creation of a group that would play a role in helping the political parties in our struggle to remove Jammeh.
As one of the original people that held lots of conference calls to plan and execute the Raleigh conference, I am very much familiar with the contours of the thinking, discussions, arguments and ultimately the finding of a common ground that led to the creation of the Raleigh conference. It all started after the disappointment of the proposed Dakar summit, STGDP refused to give up on the idea of bringing all the players from the Gambia and all over the Diaspora to meet at a location and find a way of harmonizing our efforts in order to remove the infighting among Diaspora groups, and to close the gulf between Diaspora organizations and the political parties on the ground, in order to focus on our collective efforts to confront and hopefully the removal of the Jammeh’s tyranny. The goal was that such a summit will help us find ways to remove Jammeh, and to also start having a conversation for a post Jammeh in order to eliminate the potential power vacuum that we could find ourselves in. During one of mornings commuting telephone conferences, one of the things we capitalize on to deal with the terrible Atlanta traffic nightmare, Banka told me about a call he had from the previous night from one Alkali Conteh. I have known koto Alkali Conteh and have engaged in demonstrations in Wahsington DC with him and have spoken on the phone quite a few times, but that was the first time I have heard of the group GDAG. According to Banka, like us they are also interested in organizing a summit meeting in order to deal with our political situation in the Gambia. They were focus on bringing all the groups in the Diaspora and because of our experience they wanted to coordinate with us to make it happen. Even though, I was not sold on what they wanted to do, we decided to have a conference call to see how we can further deliberate on the idea. From the start of the discussion with GDAG, it was clear that what STGDP had in mind is not the same with the GDAG folks, and GDAG was very apprehensive with the idea of including what they kept referring the “international dimension”. They were very concerned with the financial and the logistical requirement of including political parties from the Gambia and groups outside of the Gambia. After a contentious discussion, the meeting was adjourned because they wanted to go back and talk among themselves. For STGDP, we were adamant that the only summit meeting we will be interested in is to bring all the players from the Diaspora and the political players on the ground in order to create a unified force to effectively confront Jammeh’s tyrannical rule. This new initiative was not going to be like the STGDP effort year’s earlier where organizations in the Diaspora came together to facilitate and play a supporting role to the parties on the ground, we have been there done that.
Of course, in his write up my good friend indicated that the original intent for the Raleigh conference was to create a group that will have a supporting role, which in his argument that some people up to no good with a sinister agenda changed it to suite their grand strategy. Let me be absolutely clear, the Raleigh conference was never about playing second fiddle to the opposition parties back home; in fact the meeting organizers did not want it to be about the political party’s differences or to even bring back the NADD debacle. But, there was unanimity that the political parties are an important group to be included in the meeting, and of course the reality is that there is no way that we can launch a peaceful removal of Jammeh without having all the opposition parties as partners, especially in the event to pursue the electoral route. The bottom line was that there is a need to build a grand alliance and that starts with having all the players under one tent. I really disagree with my good friend that CORDEG has a grand agenda of positioning itself to overshadow the role of the political parties on the ground, especially when the reality that a peaceful and electoral change in the Gambia starts and end with the political parties.
Now, to the last point that CORDEG Executive was high jacked by culturally close friends, brings us to the most irresponsible and odious statement that I still cannot fathom would ever come from the good Magistrate. I have always held the belief that the Gambia is somehow different from other African countries plagued with tribalism, yes, we have sometimes the exploitation of tribal sensitivities to either get ahead but not to the extent of what we have seen in other countries. But, after first reading the so called formation of the CORDEG executive group without regard to diversity from KAIRO News, I convinced myself that this must have been driven by an enthusiastic journalist interested in sensationalism to introduce their new paper, but now after reading this write up from Lamin Darboe for the second time, it is very clear that our collective hope for a new Gambia not saddle with tribal issues is more of a fantasy and we are all poise for a rude awakening. Is this whole pronouncement of democracy, rule of law and good governance, just a cover for something else? I remember in the early days just before the Raleigh conference, I had a discussion with Alkali Conteh as to the selection of a Steering committee that will continue the work of post Raleigh. I suggested to him that what I am about to say might not be very democratic, but knowing all the different groups in the Diaspora and the parties back home – maybe there is a need to try and manage the democratic process. This will give us an opportunity to come with a committee that is balanced, culturally diverse, regionally accommodating if we are ever going to be able to build this big tent. My Koto warned me that we should focus on the democratic process, and we cannot be seen as managing the process. Now, a democratic process was put in place, the people who voted were culturally, regionally and very much group diverse. An executive was chosen out of that process, now how that is in line with the allegation that some Wolof tribalist high jacked the process and Mandikas were left holding the bag – I refused to nuance what my good friend really said.
My good friend has already warned us that time will take care of his concerns, and here I do agree with him that CORDEG will not survive because the very members are not interested in its survival. The people who are suppose to be fighting for the survival of CORDEG has become cheerleaders, furnishing the very cannon fodder that will finally kill CORDEG. A friend always reminds me, of course a sympathizer of the APRC, you guys think that Jammeh is bad but you have no idea some of the folks you guys see as partners…hmmn should I put credence to such a warning? God help us.