If the rebuttal to Madi Jobarteh’s letter to Madam Secka, lobbying for UDP rallying behind Dr. Touray, was meant to cement the broader UDP support together against self-concocted fears of doom of the support base by the emergence of Dr. Touray in the scene, then the shots have misfired terribly. Dr. Touray complements and not undermines UDP. Thus I will precisely and compactly explain why the fears among some supporters and/or members of the UDP are unwarranted.
The letter, by now identified as emanating from a member but not from the leadership, is influenced to a greater extent by anger and rage at what is seen as an entitlement being snatched away by a novice. To put that into context, Mr. Conteh asked why UDP is being asked to approach Dr. Touray and not vice versa. Does it matter who approach who in this national enterprise. Dr. Touray has announced her candidature and the UDP have promulgated their 3 roadmap for the election. There also existed an inter-party dialogue committee formerly headed by Lawyer Darboe with the mandate to bring parties and individuals together for a common ground against the incumbent. Hence by virtue of that mandate, given to lawyer Darboe in his capacity as UDP Secretary General but also in recognition of the fact that the biggest party is the biggest organization to steer such a compromise. Therefore, even if Mr. Jobarteh never intervened, on own accord, on behalf of Dr. Touray, it is perfectly normal and a sign of strength for the biggest party to welcome a new independent candidate – a candidate who hasn’t till dato openly voiced any grudge towards the party – into the opposition party fraternity. It is also strength for a bigger party to go into compromise, essentially to lay off fears of smaller parties aside, that the next republic will be different. They want Assurances that they will have the necessary space in the next republic to operate independently without been consumed by bigger parties.
The entrance of Dr. Touray is an opportunity. She has being around all these 20 years and had not entered the ring. Her leading Gamcotrap is probably a reason to remain political neutral. She may have her preferences. Who knows! Her entrance does not mean that she is a savior nor can she make miracles. Her entrance is another effort by not only UDP members or supporters to pursue all possible options to avail the country from abyss and bring to book all those responsible for the untold atrocities. If she has not emerged, there would still be Joof , Kandeh, Bojang, Juwara, Fatty etc. vying to command the opposition coalition. There is no certainty that without her the selection will be straight forward or at best the selection will be in favor of UDP. That is why the notion that she complicated the selection process is strongly refutable.
I admit that it is reasonable to expect and understand the party’s wish that she join them and put herself to party nomination. This approach has 2 fault lines. 1. She comes in as a newcomer and vying for a leadership of a party that is 20 years old. This will be seen as opportunistic and may not go well with the other leaders of the party who have worked hard for the party. Putting someone in the party hierarchy in front of them is not fair and can shake the party. At this trying time, UDP need a seasoned party executive to fill the void and hold the diverse party wings together. This challenge was mastered by UDP in selecting Adama Barrow as the flagbearer. 2. Lawyer Darboe was mandated by the other opposition parties to forge a unity. Now the jailing of Darboe has created a vacuum. The brutality and the vacuum gave rise to the need for a unifying formula. Since we are not in a democracy or semblance of it, and it is only prudent to encourage the other parties join you, in the absence of which, strategizing for a neutral candidate without prior party belonging and acceptable to all becomes a necessity. Therefore a unifying formula is sought. If Darboe accepted the mandate, then I expect that he is aware that many options for opposition a coalition are on the table. Therefore Dr. Touray’s entrance as an independent candidate is comprehensible and is a furtherance of the search for a unifying formula. Joining the UDP at this stage may undermine the neutrality that may be essential for the breakthrough.
The emergence of an independent in the person of Dr. Toury is under attack from different forces. From
Sam Sarr to ex-lieutenant Gano to Pa Nderry and the Mr. Kandeh followers. If anything, I would response harshly to ex-army Gano’s malicious indulgence of scaremongering the prospect of UDP leading the coalition. He wrote “UDP must NOT lead the coalition” and argued for that bogus claim with the notion that UDP is angry and would be out for revenge and “his god father” will never allow that. Thereby displaying his own ignorance of the empirical evidence, that dictators are always brought down by their fiercest opponent -not apologetic minions. It is against this background that it provokes great concern, when the members of the UDP so-called UDP diaspora blast in the same horn as the notorious fellows above. The reason for this scary undertaking is self-evident.
First, Sam Sarr wants to entrench the impunity in the country. Mr. Gano hasn’t settled yet as to what he really prefers. The status quo under the solace of his „godfather“ or a new start preferably with Mr. Kandeh. Pa Nderry M’bai is probably out for business and has badmouthed every decent Gambian in the name of journalistic Ethics and is essentially ready to derail any effort for opposition unity, despite his longstanding
achievement in placing the regime in bad limelight. There are then the sincere Kandeh supporters who were caught off-guard by the entrance of Dr. Touray in the ring. Their reaction is normal because their candidate hasn’t yet proved to a be force to reckon with apart from pulling large crowds at the moment. So their anxiety to the emergence of Dr. Touray is understandable. But not so for UDP. The party is huge and command respect and goodwill not only from its members but across the large section of the Gambian society. It is also a diverse party that touches every Gambian family testimonied just recently with the selection, as flag bearer, Adama Barrow. A multi tribal, multilingual, devoted longstanding member of the party. The party is
endowed with intellectuals providing counsel and needed foresight for the party’s future sustainability.
There are thousands of well-wishers of the party providing knowledge to the decision makers in the
party and providing donations. Therefore the party is well established and still on sound footing. It is tested and has proved to be the force to reckon with on the ground. Therefore there is absolutely no need for anxiety and absolutely no reason to use Madi Jobarteh’s letter to question Dr. Touray’s integrity.
Secondly, the letter was addressed to Madam Secka. Individual commentators can respond to Madi
Jobarteh in their capacities as private supporters or members of the UDP. Responding to his claims or view point is perfectly Ok as long as the leadership of UDP is not projected as the responder. The
response, as it is coined, risk undermining the leadership, which Alkali Conteh intended to spare the
„insults“. The party leadership did not responded and that is good so. Their silence and cool head must not be interpreted as show of defenselessness, in the contrary it demonstrate the maturity of the party to handle supposedly
insults directed at them or the entrance into the candidature ring of an independent candidate whose
political leaning is not very far from them. The Intervention of UDP diaspora into discussions is welcome and they are a force within the wider UDP fraternity.
Nevertheless the intervention must be channeled through the party central before direct or indirect responses perceived as insults or
belittling of the party. This approach is necessary now than ever before. The party’s leadership is in jail. The deputising leadership is doing a wonderful job in catering to the expectations of her members and supporters and at the same time answering the call for national salvation. They have a task at hand and the the dictatorship is doing everything possible to sow discord among the rank and file of the party on one side and the well-wishers on the other hand. Putting pressure on the party to do action detrimental to its well-being is being provoked every day and the leadership of the party cannot afford to have its own members going unruly in response to people who also have being victims of the tyranny. It also shed a grave concern on the state of the communication between the party leadership and wings operating
elsewhere in the world.
In concluding I want to re-emphasize the fine line between the party line and individual wishes. A political party leadership, anywhere, is selected to act on behalf of the party members. We cannot all sit in the executive committee thus we trust our voice onto people we deemed fit to carry the banner of the party in dignity and commitment to bring us success and national redemption. Therefore we are participating what is termed
representative legitimacy. That being the case, it is conditional that party members entrust their
communications, that have potential to generate controversy, to the leadership for accurate reasoning and action.
It is in that spirit that UDP selected a flag bearer to represent the party to the outside. In his accepting speech, Mr Barrow sworn to continue the rigorous fight against the dictatorship and stretched his hand of
compromise to his „sister“ opposition parties. In that gesture, one can clearly recognize that the party is leaning towards dialogue with the sister parties in the opposition. After that, the party issued a 3 point roadmap for the incoming election. Therein, as option 2, the possibility of an independent candidate from the civil society is prominently underscored. Therefore it is fair to say that the party, in the event of an agreement, is poised to condone and support a Dr. Touray, Mr. Joof or someone else’s candidature.
I will end this essay by quoting Mr. Dodou Jawneh who cautioned that “people have to understand that
the predicament that UDP leadership faces is a national tragedy that hurts ordinary citizens as much as it hurts UDP supporters”.