A far less talked about split; one of, perhaps, even much greater consequence, is the earlier divide between GCC and the concept that slowly and laboriously grew out of Raleigh; now CORDEG. To begin, Raleigh was contemporaneously hyped up in radio and print broadcast as a broad, yet organic representation of willing Gambian individuals and dissident groups members coalescing around a single leadership empowered to steer, the accumulative affairs of the struggle, towards a final push to national liberation. But, a duplicitously crafted leadership, constructed largely around one single organizing group, was more than a simple, innocent veering off from the moral and ethical standards of basic fairness and decency that Gambians expected and so yearned for. Moreover, if Makam Sowe, Vice Chair of the Raleigh Conference host, GDAG, was to be believed, Raleigh was not supposed to morph into an organization through the insidious application of subterfuge, which concentrated power in the hands of what a suspicious Gambian public, rightly or wrongly, perceives as few individuals with a long standing history of affiliations.
But the first real test of the poorly attended Raleigh Conference was what organizers did after the historic event. Originally conceived by the Atlanta based STGDP group, the Conference in Raleigh, which had previously failed to materialize in Dakar, Senegal, two years later, became the much feverishly heralded Conference of Raleigh. But, notably absent from the Raleigh consultations, planning and implementation exercise and executive selection, were some of the most active diaspora organizations of the period; the Coalition for Change Gambia (Gambia), Gambia Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia (Scotland), Human Rights for All (Sweden), the National Movement for the Restoration of Democracy in Gambia (U.S), and United Gambia for Democracy & Freedom (Senegal). Even DUGA, now a fervent supporter of Raleigh, was conscripted after the fact, but had hardly participated in the planning and execution of the Raleigh Conference, or its aftermath. For an organization purported to represent the totality of the Gambia’s dissident movement and unaffiliated individuals, the lingering hallmarks of vexing managerial incompetence, was what eventually knee-capped CORDEG, and for all intents and purposes, rendered it moribund.
The blunders of arrogance and deliberate exclusion of so many organizations and independent individuals from the process of building consensus and
legitimacy around Raleigh did much to imperil its well-conceived concept, but the reservations and shortcomings which I personally, earlier on, expressed so vividly and with such nationalistic fervor, fell on deaf ears, and quickly drifted into the wilderness of oblivious indifference. It was this absence of broad organizational support and participation that was the underlying sticking point that reluctantly compelled both Dr Sedat Jobe, myself and many others, to simply stand quietly on the side, or more powerfully, to withdraw moral support and recognition of Raleigh as the presumed representative of the combined force of the political establishment at home, and diaspora movements abroad. The assumption that the mere presence in Raleigh, of the three main political parties, had by itself, somehow empowered Raleigh with the legal instrument to speak on behalf of the entirety of the dissident movement, is a cunning but disingenuous way to propagandize the Gambians people into believing in the myth and fallacy of Raleigh’s broad-based national character.
It is clear from emerging revelations that Raleigh’s existence as a “presumed” body designated to represent the political establishment and
overseas dissident movement, explicitly botched the democratic process and electoral mechanism in a much more egregious way than hitherto imagined. But, the most amazing Raleigh notoriety; one that will stubbornly cling to the history of the ill-fated organization, was the way in which its executive were revealed to have jockeyed for positions through an insulting, behind the scenes, manipulation of the process, in an often blatant and conspicuous manner. In the end, the like GCC, Raleigh was forced to downgrade to a far less illustrious cadre of Gambians dissidents to lead the challenging effort of dislodging Yahya Jammeh from power. The processes of standing up both the defunct Raleigh Steering Committee and its CORDEG successor, stiffly rejected the ago-old but tried and tested international strategy of populating an organization like CORDEG with and concentrating power and leadership in the hands of a select few of Gambian sons and daughters with illustriousness and preeminence; individuals with admirable resumes, intellectual fortitude and experience, who would be as much at home at No 10 Dawning Street, and they would be in your living room.
As a practical matter, Raleigh taught me many things; not the least that Gambians, despite the horrible situation our country finds itself in, seem not to have learnt from the lessons of history, and are perfectly willing to reject the joys of professionalism for the fleeting gains of bias, convenience and self-interest. Today the unravelling of Raleigh, in the body of CORDEG, is either the manifestation of ignorance or withering indictment of its incompetence. Raleigh’s effort to establish the short-lived Steering Committee of twenty-seven persons, months ago, was an overkill, but the questionable competence of most of its members was even far worst still. The quite dismantling of the Raleigh Steering Committee after an unrelenting stream of public criticism, and its replacement with an even more convoluted CORDEG executive, and the unveiling of its jaw-dropping Manifesto, left Gambians dumbfounded. CORDEG’s Manifesto for a government-in-waiting, or an aspiring political party, complete with “directorates,” and a long list of development outlines, which only a future government; not a civil society organization can be mandated to implement. The single mandate of every Gambian civil society organization is the removal of the cancer in our midst; the regime of Yahya Jammeh. No civil society organization should aspire or assume a future beyond the fall of Yahya Jammeh; as a result, CORDEG ambitious agenda and dream of ruling Gambia after Yahya Jammeh, became its own undoing.
Unless CORDEG is going to bury its head in the sand and pretend nothing happened, it is time for it to reflect and for Gambians to begin anew by forging real unity. As I cautioned a CORDEG executive who is still in denial, even if CORDEG is not bothered by GDAG’s withdrawal of support and recent break from CORDEG, it must be disconcerting to those left to lick the sore wound of defeat. The ineptitude, with which CORDEG conducted itself, questions its leadership and challenges the rationale of any longer holding up Raleigh, now CORDEG, as a paragon organizational success. The struggle of toppling Yahya Jammeh, can only succeed if unity without hidden motives is accomplished, in order to enable the unleashing of the devastating force of our collective power in liberating our country. In intellectual terms, Gambia’s dissident leadership cannot take on the character of a boy-band, as CORDEG has proven to be, but must, instead, be populated by seasoned, but above all, willing and able Gambians capable of representing the struggle on the international stage with grace and ease.
My point is this; it is the same way that the international community has operated, and we have no choice of trying to reinvent the wheel, but to follow strategies that have succeeded in toppling regimes in other countries, throughout history. The challenge now is for UDP, PPP, NRP, PDOIS, GMC, GCC, GDAG, CORDEG, NRMG, DUGA, CCG, MDD, GCHR, HRFA, NMRDG, UGDF, and some other inadvertently overlooked organizations, to create a truly representative dissident movement we can all be proud of.
Next week: How to recreate the struggle into truly representative image of Gambian dissidents; from someone with both the practical experience of organizational management and academic knowledge of the subtle shades of leadership.