By Rtd. Lt. Col. Lamin Gano
A number of criticisms and labels are made against Gambians in the diaspora (GD henceforth) especially those in Europe and North America. One of those criticisms is that when it comes to Gambian politics, GD are as disunited and uncooperative as the opposition political parties in the country. These differences are played out daily on the various diasporian fora such as online newspapers/ radios, blogs, Facebook pages and other social media. For the purpose of this blog post, I will highlight just two.
The first difference in my opinion is on political affiliations. One way to notice the different political affiliations of GD is through our different online radios/newspapers. While one media house is busy glorying and representing Halifa and the PDOIS as the best option and deligitimizing all the others, another media group will be riding on the PPP platform and claiming that OJ is the promised Messiah of the Gambia. At the same time, you will hear another media entity claiming that the only opposition party that can take on Jammeh is the mighty UDP. I even recently heard from a pundit that the UDP does not even need a coalition and will kick Jammeh out of the State House in December 2016. Some even claim that Hamat Bah is the main man as he has abandoned his cows for the love of country.
The second area of difference among GD is on the method on how to bring about a political change in the Gambian. There are different groups including the following:
The No Fifth Term Group: Members of this group believe that Jammeh has completely expired and therefore he must step down immediately to pave way for a free and fair elections amongst the rest of the opposition parties. If Jammeh fails to step down, then they are calling for a total boycott of the elections.
The Coalition Group: This group does not believe that Jammeh will voluntarily step down and therefore claim that the only way for a political change is for all the opposition parties on the ground to unite and present a single candidate to take on Jammeh.
The Riot Group: This group believes that the political landscape is so skewed in favour of Jammeh that not even a coalition can win against Jammeh. This group is saying no to elections all together and are calling for Gambians to rise up like the Burkinabe did against Blaise Campaore. They believe that a popular uprising will send Jammeh running across the Kanilai-Cassamance border.
The Use of Force Group: This group believes that Jammeh will not step down, that elections cannot take him out and that Gambians are either too peaceful or too scared of death to rise up against Jammeh. So they believe that the only way to bring about change is through the barrel of the gun.
The Peace, Security and Democracy Group: This is the group where I belong. We also believe that the Second Republic has indeed expired and that the majority of Gambians are craving for a Third Republic so badly that there is no way Jammeh can win in December 2016. But unlike all the other groups, we firmly believe that The Gambia can and will have a peaceful political change through the ballot box and not through the barrel of a gun. We believe in peace, security and democracy.
My opinion about the GD is that their differences is actually not a sign of disunity but that of diversity. Furthermore, the collective desire for a Third Republic among the majority of those in the diaspora is a far stronger uniting factor than their differences. To borrow the quotes of an iconic leader talking on climate change, “what unites us is stronger than what divides us”.
In this regards and based on the fact that our constitution stipulates for us to elect a President every five years, my postulation is that whether Jammeh steps down or not; whether there is a coalition or not; whether there is a popular uprising or not; and as long as the use of force group stays on Facebook and there is no outbreak of armed violence in our country; Gambians will go to the polls on 01 Dec 2016.
Therefore, my challenge to my brothers and sisters in the diaspora is that you must not leave any stone unturned in making sure that you cast your votes on 01 Dec 2016. Our constitution clearly gives every Gambian above the age of 18 (including you the diasporian) the right to vote so therefore you must exercise this right for the first time in 2016. In this age of information technology, every Gambian living abroad who has a passport or an appropriate Identity Card should be able to register and vote with the click of a mouse or a tab on their smart devices. There is no need to fly to Banjul or to a Gambian embassy/consulate. Lack of funds/resources is not an excuse because there are thousands of organizations, agencies, departments and pro-democracy movements that would be more than delighted to finance such a process.
A few months ago, I read on one of the online newspapers that there are about 100,000 Gambians living in the diaspora. Assuming that there are one million Gambians legible to vote this year and one candidate ended up running against Jammeh, just imagine the power of 10% of the votes which is literally in your hands. All that you people have to do is to constitute a small committee of prominent Gambians in the diaspora such as Imam Baba Leigh, Dr. Seedat Jobe and the like to come together, strategize and make it happen.
While hoping that the GD will take up my challenge and make it a success, there is only one caveat to my challenge. Since you people have problems with my comrades-in-arms farming and dancing for my godfather, you must not vote for a Serrer person who will turn them into fisherman!!!
Long live the Republic of The Gambia and long live the peace and security it is so well-known for. Together, we can and we will make the Gambia smile better!!