Discontinue Inter-Party Talks Till These 6 Conditions are Met!
According to the privately owned Gambian daily, The Point, all the seven registered opposition parties have been locked in talks with the ruling APRC just three weeks after the coldblooded murder of Solo Sandeng, a UDP militant and the arrest of nearly all of that party’s leadership. The parties were said to have come to terms to “collectively address the current political tension ahead of the presidential election slated for 1 December 2016.” They were reported to have agreed “to jointly establish an ad hoc committee which will be in dialogue with all the civil and security authorities to address the current political tensions and prevent future ones.” The political parties were said to have made this agreement at an inter-party committee meeting recently held at the head office of the Independent Electoral Commission in Kanifing.
But The Point article was rather short on the content of the communiqué even if it came through that: “Aside from addressing the current political tension, the parties have agreed to reconvene and structure the interparty committee to promote peaceful political party activities, and the holding of free, fair and genuine elections.”
The article mentioned that they are to transform the interparty committee into “an effective and efficient crisis prevention management and resolution mechanism. The article went on to state that “The meeting reviewed the existing memorandum of understanding that established the interparty committee, to ensure its observance”.
It was mentioned that the “The UN resident coordinator and the ambassadors of US and EU were also in attendance as observers.” Finally, the article stated that: “The communiqué was signed by the representatives of APRC and the opposition parties namely, GMC, GPDP, NCP, NRP, PPP, PDOIS and UDP.”
But listening to an online radio‘s interview of the PPP leader O.J. there were many who phoned in to condemn the inter-party meeting and even condemn it as an act of hypocrisy. Is that not so?
Well, let us look at it. Let us start by asking what is this Inter-Party Committee? The Committee was established more than a decade ago when ex-President Olesegun Obasanjo visited the Gambia to mediate between the Gambian dictator and the political opposition. The committee came out of this proposal. But it was meant as a medium to facilitate dialogue between parties in government and those outside government. The murder of Solo Sandeng and the detention and torture of protesters is not solely a UDP affair, but that of the whole political opposition and even the whole nation, especially when almost all the UDP leadership is being incarcerated. Therefore what should have been done before calling an inter-party meeting was to call a meeting of only the opposition parties.
Such a meeting could then table conditions before agreeing to meet with the APRC. Conditions more apt would be:
1. That the APRC Government should institute an independent inquiry into the killings or disappearances of Ebrima Solo Sandeng and others.
2. The second would be the release of all persons detained in connection with the April 14th and 16th events.
3. The third would be the dropping of all charges against all thirty seven persons
4. The Government to compensate all injured and or manhandled by the security forces during the events.
5. Prosecuting all those found culpable in the unlawful arrest, detention, torture and killing of peaceful protesters.
6. Broadcast and publication of an official apology to the victims and their families.
The meeting of the opposition parties therefore should have been a platform for tabling and agreeing on the conditions before agreeing on meeting through the inter-party committee.
Meeting with the APRC was indeed a terrible mistake because they needed such a meeting more than the opposition. It would help ease both the domestic and international pressures mounting up against them as well as the international isolation. It would somewhat lighten the aura of notoriety that shrouds over the Jammeh regime. Dictator Jammeh’s threat of throwing out the Senegalese ambassador as a result of the massive protest demonstration at the Palias Obelisque in Dakar that Friday is ample evidence of his vulnerability to outside criticism. Holding a meeting of the Inter-Party Committee with him observed by the Resident UN Rep, the US and E.U. ambassadors was giving him a lot in exchange for nothing.
But was it all just a mistake of O.J., Hamat Bah , Halifa Sallah or was it deliberate? Well the UDP was also present and Kaironews reliably learnt that just before the UDP leadership went out for their protest meeting that Saturday 16th April, party leader, Ousainou Darboe asked Hon. Dembo Bojang (popularly known as By-Force) not to join them as they would need some executive leaders free and alive in case of anything and he could not have deliberately went into the folly of attending such a meeting.
Kaironews also reliably learnt that the call for such a meeting was an initiative of O.J. A source who was at the UDP leader’s house on Sunday 17th April had reported that O.J. had made this call at the gathering that day. When he tried to act as Chair for the discussions that spontaneously sparked off that day, the lady, who is a UDP Executive member had to stand firm, saying this was a UDP gathering that could not be chaired by a PPP member… Interestingly enough, days earlier the PDOIS leader had sent a letter to Mrs. Tambajang and her Committee of Concerned Citizens explaining why they would not attend her meetings of trying to unite the opposition. In his words, seen by a Kaironews source there was already an Inter-Party committee and there was no need of forming another one.
Perhaps that gathering and its lack of direction from the leadership of the opposition political parties exposed the calibre of political leadership material and their seeming lack of vision and lack of well-thought out direction or most likely perhaps down-right political opportunism. Only the APRC and Jammeh stand to gain in this saga. Jammeh has once again it seems outwitted and outsmarted the opposition leadership. With this ineptitude of short-sightedness and lack of visiona by the opposition party leadership, one wonders whether they have the wherewithal to effectively challenge the dictatorial and brutal regime of Jammeh.
Anyway, as so many people rightly said it is better we aim our guns against Jammeh than against each other. More important it is not late on this particular case. We are now calling on the seven opposition parties engaged in the Inter-Party talks to discontinue the talks if those Six demands are met. We call them to send only two of the representatives to present these demands to the Government of the Gambia.