Some said the solution to our political problem lies with the ballot box. They suggest a perfect coalition of the opposition could defeat President Yahya Jammeh. This is a good hope except that both former President Jawara and Jammeh each secured at least 50 + 1% in every election. For this approach to work, we have to first remove Yahya’s grip on everything electioneering. Hence at this point a coalition or no coalition will not be our essential bottleneck. But the bigger problem is not just Yahya going or staying. Many people assume we will attain the democracy we deserve if we remove Yahya from the helm of our affairs. It may be probably better or worse because the removal of Jammeh can simply change the guard. How about if we simply fight for a free, fair and equal opportunity for all Gambians.
Others said let’s use the courts to seek redress for our problems. But this can only be effective if there is some functionality in the system. Does it mean anything if we win all the court cases but still the broader injustice and undemocratic governmental apparatus remains in tact? Under functioning systems courts ensure adherence to laws but not so much to ensure democracy. Both Russia and China have courts but they’re no democracy by any means.
Others said violence/coup – the outcome of such a change is always something else except democracy. Look into history of forceful takeovers in the world, including our own Gambia. But also advocates of this approach are all or mostly living far away from Banjul. My question then becomes: who will bell the cat by picking up arms or taking to the streets?
The diaspora on the other hand continues to battle for recognition. CORDEG [Committee for the Restoration of Democracy to the Gambia] made public its mission statement. This followed a similar announcement by GCC [Gambia Consultative Council] a week later. Ever since much has been talked about unity but not what has been done or planned to be done. The postures over we’re the umbrella body; apex organization or coordinating agency overshadowed the task at hand.
I believe all of these efforts, thoughts, arguments, debates, etc. have vital place in our struggle. However, until they follow some nature chronology, logic or practical methodology they mean nothing as standalone, in some upside down mix or in some jumbled up mixture. The point is – of course we will need elections at some point but if we start with it – we will simply run into a cul-de-sac.
Here’s what I think is our best option to make the Gambia ‘A Functioning Institutional Democracy’.
1) We need people who represent us – I called these people ‘The National Face’
2) We need to tell people what we exist/represent – the problem. This is what I called – ‘A Democracy Vision’. This is probably the most important task we have at this point. Making Yahya ‘The Problem’ is neither unifier nor asking all to rally behind one opposition candidate is a unifier. Beyond that we have to have the right problem to be able to get the free world to our aid.
3) Leverage 1 – mobilize and Organize Gambians (the whole – not just those considered opposition). Remember this is an agenda to create a democratic republic – not selecting/electing a president.
4) Leverage 2 – influence the International Community and raise funds and impose consequences for the violations our basic republican rights
5) Engagement – pursue Banjul on all aspects of our ‘Democracy Vision’ for overhauls and reforms. Involve foreign nations through their missions in Banjul on our positions (compounding leverage 2). Harness the participation of local political organization and their grassroots support base (compounding leverage 1) not to go to election but on the institution of democracy (level playing field).
6) Use of Leverage 1 & 2 as bargaining power – local gatherings and expression of solidarity with demands of change on the table. Influencing international community to hand down sanctions, travel bans, international courts, limiting/cutting budgetary supports, etc.
7) Repeat these processes over and over as needed/necessary
This I believed is our best political option. I welcome you sharing what you think are our best options.
Continuing to vent our frustration over what Yahya did or did not is not an answer. Hoping that somebody exists who will do it on our behalf is a fantasy. We will get support if we look for it but we have to do this by ourselves. The importance of doing it ourselves is sustainability.
How to constitute ‘A National Face’ and elaborate/formulate ‘A Democracy Vision’ are very detailed subjects that we would need time and wisdom debate. As hard as it maybe look, most of these will come natural as long as focus on the fundamental purpose. Sectional interests are always distractions and will tempt to crop in if absoluteness is not exercises at every stage.
Building up ‘Political Leverage’ is an irritating, time demanding, very politicking and costly process – even the closest allies may have different interests that will have to be accounted for in order to succeed. Goodness it’s not impossible and very possibly once we get hold of the strategic ends it could move at an appreciable pace.
Engaging Yahya’s administration politically maybe a bite in the chin for some but it is the most practical option. In addition, establishing a negotiating agenda will not be quick or easy because Yahya current posses all the jokers – hence he has no incentive to give up anything. We will continue to develop leverage that will at some point tilt that equation and we hope at some point Yahya will be asking for our mercy. This will be the time when we will all or most of the jokers..
As with any proposal projecting into the future, this has some built-in assumptions. That means not everything is likely to happen as stated. Fortunately, this proposal has very practical assumption that in the event of a need for adjustment will be create room for several other options to jump on.
Please folks to come out with their best ideas so we can begin a national discussion to move forward.
Burama FL Jammeh