Why UDP Prefers Different Route

Gambian people have democratically elected government. What we need now is to implement coalition policies that would advance the country’s democracy, rule of law and economic development. This can be achieved either with or without coalition independent members in the National Assembly. The current political, economic and constitutional reform agenda favours all political parties including APRC because those unconstitutional laws formulated by APRC members during the former regime were designed to favour military dictatorship and its leadership. There is a shift in the political strategy of APRC that wants to be democratic. This is necessary since the evil dictator is not in the country and does not have political capital and financial freedom to do whatever suits his political needs. This is evidenced by APRC members’ willingness to work with coalition government to repeal the age limit in the constitution.

The formation of the coalition was a political strategy meant to ensure the removal of military dictatorship. But there was no agreement on how the coalition should contest the National Assembly election. Gambian people must remember that coalition was formed based on compromise, for it was the best strategy at the time. The UDP has given up its absolute advantage of the party-led coalition and allowed convention which subsequently selected Mr Adama Barrow with overwhelming majority. He became the coalition’s independent flag bearer. UDP’s political capital, pragmatic leadership and democratic values in allowing small political parties to have equal political footing has led to the coalition’s victory. Now that we have independent coalition president, it is time to let political parties to decide what is in their best interest as well as in the best of the country. By that we can have vibrant democratic culture and multiple party democracy based on rule of law and participatory democracy.

The split of coalition will be done because of the following reasons below.

The UDP as a party has been in existence for over 20 years with solid political structure and strategic plans in The Gambia and diaspora. It is the biggest party with grassroots support in almost all part of the country. The party has suffered more than any party in the fight to restore democracy and constitutional rule in the Gambia. The party wants to maintain its legacy and political structure and support base throughout the country and in the diaspora. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the party to fill in their National Assembly candidates for the election. This is the reason why I think UDP wants to go it alone. As a pragmatic party, it is in their best interest to maintain their influence and political capital in the next three years during the transition period. Allowing the coalition independent candidates to represent all the constituencies in the National Assembly election will effectively lead to demise of UDP as biggest political party in the country. We must remember that some of the members of the coalition do not have huge support base or the support base of some small parties are concentrated in one region of the country. The leadership of these small parties do not have much political capital and influence like UDP has at the grassroots.

I think the reason why small parties in the coalition want to have coalition independent candidates for the National Assembly election is to enhance their political leadership influence, support and capital during the transition period. As explained above, We must remember that some of these small opposition parties do not have support base beyond one or two constituencies in the country and their political base/structure in diaspora is virtually nonexistent. Therefore it is an opportunity for them to build their strategical plans and structure during the transition period so that they can prepare for future presidential and National Assembly elections. Thus they are totally in support of coalition independent candidature. There are also independent candidates or private citizens without any affiliation with any political party who are making names for themselves in order to gain political recognition, influence and capital during the transition period. The majority of these people were silenced about human rights violations in the country for past 22 years. The country’s current democratic environment give them opportunities to build their political base and strategic plans for future elections. Many are political opportunists with new slogans designed to gain support and be recognized. During the course of political impasse, they became prominent with their new slogans. These group of political activists do not align themselves with the political ideology of UDP or any existing political party prior to political impasse.

So What is the consequences of not having coalition independent candidates in National Assembly?

I think there will be minimum consequences that will affect the agenda of president Barrow since all the players in Gambia’s politics are now embracing democracy and constitutional reforms. Mama Kandeh’s GDC and APRC alliance is a dream that might not work in any time sooner because some APRC members have seen GDC to be responsible for their lost of election. Beside Mama Kandeh’s GDC won only in Fula or minority tribes dominated areas in the presidential election. GDC is going to be in competition with NRP in those areas while UDP might do well in all the constituencies the coalition won in the presidential election. It is in the best of GDC to go alone since this is their first ever political contest at the National Assembly level and they are also looking for political structure and support base throughout the country. Some APRC members might maintain their seats in the areas the party won in presidential election. So there could be a balance National Assembly where we can have legislative debate based on substantive ideas from different political ideology but not from one political perspective whose majority vote on party line. This is good for the country’s democracy. In the case of overwhelming coalition independent members in the National Assembly, there would be simple majority which will support virtually all agendas of the coalition government whether those agendas are constitutional, better policies or not. There are concerns expressed in some quarters that there might not be justice for victims of repressive regime when we do not have coalition independent members in the National Assembly . I think such concerns are not factually true because the truth and reconciliation commission will be set up by justice department/ ministry . Private citizens can also file criminal complaint against the human rights violators in the former regime. Therefore I think without coalition independent members we can still have justice for the victims. We can also have majority of members in the National Assembly who are affiliated with the coalition government.

Politics is a game in which every player has to take account of his or her advantage in order to be successful. I think it is in the best interest of UDP as a party to contest the National Assembly election based on the reasons outlined above.




  1. Well, at least you are being honest to point to the real motivation, which is to protect their party’s interest, rather than the alliance’s envisaged project to create a level political environment. Viewed from this angle, it is obvious that PDOIS’ absence from the cabinet was just a timely convenient excuse. From your analysis, the UDP would have abandoned the coalition strategy even if PDOIS accepted cabinet positions. Well done mate.

    • Bax , coalition is not a political party but alliance with the objective of removal of former Dictator from power. There was never an agreement by coalition to have independent candidates for National Assembly election. Tactical alliance or each party nominate their candidates in various constituencies is the best strategy to ensure that the party’s maintain their political support base and structure. PDOIS is in support of coalition independent candidates because they do not have political support base and structure throughout the country. In this situation they are the sole losers because their 0.3% support base is not going to help them . So they are trying hard to get more independent candidates so that these new political activists will in future support PDOIS political ideology and candidates in National elections.

      • Max…”The opposition is not a political party…….There was never an agreement by coalition to have independent candidates for National Assembly election.”

        Comment: This is a straw man argument. No one is making these claims. What many people are saying is that the alliance partners and almost everyone who was heard, pre-presidential election, was calling for political parties to suspend their party activities and come together, first, to maximise chances of defeating Jammeh and then, to carry out reforms necessary to create a level playing field, before all can go back to their parties and contest free and fair elections.

        The “conflict” is whether the alliance should sponsor single candidates who would not represent any parties or whether alliance parties should contest on their own tickets, but agreeing to a tactical arrangement, where alliance parties support, rather than contest, against each other. Four of the coalition parties and independent, as far as I know, support the independent strategy whilst the remaining three parties prefer party led tactical alliance.

        Tremendous efforts are being made by UDP activists (it is no longer just ordinary people any more) to reduce this impasse as a “conflict” between PDOIS and UDP. The airwaves are now being polluted with constant and relentless attacks against PDOIS, Halifa and Seedia Jatta. Remarks are being made that border on tribal politics, intolerance of divergence, misinformation, deceit and outright lies. It is unfortunate, but that’s the reality we are dealing with today. Gambians must prepare themselves for this new reality.

  2. It is now politically convenient for the political parties to assert their independence and protect their interest.

    But when they were negotiating for a coalition and went through a convention to elect a presidential candidate, they have in essence mutually agreed to subsumed the viability of their parties existence for the next three years to a coalition that assumes the functions of a political party.

    Now this is no longer the case. We are back to the same arguments to rationalize a political approach that has given rise to the perpetuation of political power and control. People now have no problem with this.

    • Kamalo and fellow disciples are back with the same old tactics and outdated political strategy. You guys need to take politics 101 class and get the basic education. Halifa is not a good political strategist because his ideas are always wrong and dumb in many given situation.
      Off course the political parties needs to maintain their structure and support base which is essential for multiple party democracy. Stop making things up here, there was no agreement among the leaders about independent candidates for National Assembly election. Where is your evidence? Off course each party has its political power and structure which is why they contributed to coalition.

      • Why are you demanding evidence for something no one is claiming ? I told you, this is a straw man argument.

        Halifa (PDOIS) may not be a “good strategist”, but it was his strategy of independent coalition candidate, who was elected by voters to lead a non partisan coalition, that delivered the victory. Halifa did propose holding primaries to elect flag bearer, but he also stated that he was open to other options. In fact, he has demonstrated this by being part of the convention that elected Hamat Bah as flag bearer of the United Front. Furthermore, a primary and a convention have something in common, even if they are different. They are both candidate selection processes which involve election by voters.

        UDP Presidential candidate, Adama Barrow (then), now President Adama Barrow, adopted that strategy as a UDP alliance option, alongside their original party led one, only after much public pressure. The position of the UDP until then, was a UDP party led alliance, or no alliance at all, which had no room for (all stake holding) voters to select the flag bearer.

        We can say categorically that this option would never have been accepted by all and therefore, Jammeh would still have been there because he would have contested and easily won against a fragmented opposition, as he did for 22 years.. It is important that we remember this when we make claims of whose option would have kept Jammeh in power.

      • Max, the truth of the matter is political parties that subscribe to the coalition agenda should hibernate for the next three years.

        We should not be talking about PDOIS, UDP, NRP GMC OR GPDP. We should be talking about the coalition period.

        And it makes a lot of sense, taking into the consideration the structure of the coalition, its agenda and its aims and objectives to contest the parliamentary elections under the coalition banner.

        And since the coalition has used a format of fielding an independent candidate in the presidential elections to represent all the parties to the coalition, they should also use the same format of fielding independent candidates in the parliamentary elections to represent all the parties to the coalition. What is so difficult to understand about this?

        Party politics can resume after the coalition transitional period of three years. By that time the coalition government with its coalition majority in the house would have:

        1. Change the constitution of the Republic to have presidential term limits

        2. Make the appointment of the Chief Justice and all Justices of the Supreme Court a lifetime appointment. They can only be removed for high crimes and misdemeanor and this should be done through the National Assembly.

        3. The president can appoint Judges but the National Assembly should confirm them. The president cannot also fire Judges and Magistrates.

        4. Review the Media Bill and all other obnoxious laws in the constitution so that it will reflect laws that are just and fair in a democratic society.

        5. Give Gambians who hold citizenship in other countries the right to dual citizenship so that they can come home and form political parties, serve in the government and national assembly and contribute their quota to national development.

        6. create a level playing field for electoral contest for the presidential elections, national assembly and other elections through an election act that will reflect all the concerns that have been raised about elections over the years.

        When we are done with all these in three years time, all the parties can go back to base. We will have a robust competition between all these parties to vie for the presidency and national assembly seat.

        • You guys are the sole losers in all this fight . This is the last opportunity for Halifa Sallah to make any progress in politics. Let him follow simple common sense practical solutions then he can be speaker, otherwise he will be another loser for the next five years.

          • The one who has been instrumental in formulating the coalition agenda and guiding its process can never be a loser.

            It will even be much easier for Halifa to do what he is most capable of doing now that we have a democratic process that is evolving.

            Remember we have been around for more that 30 years under the most difficult of circumstances. What we have now is just going to be “chicken change”.

        • Oh, have you missed it Kamalo ? They have now torn the 3 year coalition agreement and thrown it into the dust bin. Barrow will not step down after 3 years. That’s their declared position now. Darboe made the remarks as reported by Fatunetwork.com.

          I heard a prominent UDP activist on this very Kairo medium, with my own ears, saying a similar thing. That when the time comes, the 3 year term has to be discussed. Well, the implication is as obvious as day light.

          It’s a complete betrayal of our trust. That’s the new political reality, unfortunately.

          • Bax, the good thing is that we no longer have “the iron law of oligarchy” looming over our heads.

            The coalition is built on trust and a memorandum of understanding.

            The political parties have before the Gambian people pledged an oath and signed this MOU that they will keep their promise.

            When they elected an independent person as the presidential candidate in the coalition convention they had essentially declared that party politics for them was dead for the next three years.

            This is evident in the provisions of the memorandum of understanding, unless they did not know what they agreed upon or they have no desire or the commitment to fulfill the promises they have made.

            If they do not want to keep their promise it will surely come back to haunt them.

  3. “There is a shift in the political strategy of APRC that wants to be democratic. This is necessary since the evil dictator is not in the country and does not have political capital and financial freedom to do whatever suits his political needs. This is evidenced by APRC members’ willingness to work with coalition government to repeal the age limit in the constitution.” noted as bargaining chip for selfish and partisan interests; to a APRC supposed to have faced banning and treason prosecution among other bloody atrocities.

    Take note that Yaya Jammeh is still leader of APRC and they are loyal to him, so would do everything possible to bring him back. As long as APRC is active he stands chance of coming back home. The APRC Presidential election petition already registered in court is due to be heard in May, 2017. APRC is a hostile destablising political party that should be deregistered as a political party but not allowed to participate in Legislative National Assembly.

    • Dawda, stop fear mongering and be realistic that Dictator Yaya jammeh will never come back to Gambia as a party leader . I don’t understand why PDOIS disciples are not in line with the majority. The coalition was formed to ensure that the dictator was gone and there was no agreement among leaders during the formation of coalition to have independent candidates. So why you so fixated about independent candidates? It is this kind of foolish arguments that prolong dictatorship and I have characterized PDOIS as an agent of dictatorship. Why PDOIS is always proposing dumb ideas?

      • Sorry to inform you that you missed my points.

        !. Its not fear mongering but dynamics at play. APRC are still controlling narrative and its National Assembly members active in legislation towards finishing their term. Why some Coalition partners need them to fast track illegitimate appointment of VP. Some form of blackmail in guise of reconciliation.

        2. If APRC are actively involved in Constitutional matters (through National Assembly) Yaya Jammeh’s Presidential election will be heard and so long they are active it won’t be stable for the Coalition government.

  4. Max, your this article is not only racist, but it is lso moralĺy and interllectually bankrupt. Yoour conclusipn that GDC won in Fula dominated constituencies and that his compititor in those arears will be NRP is premised on the fact the heads of these two parties are fulas. That is not only insulting to the electorate, but also dehumanizing. Your racist attitude should stop forthwith. I am a fula and I will never vote for anyone unless I believe that the candidate is competent enough. If I feel that none of the contesting candidates are competent, I will rather stay at home and abstain, even is my own father is a contestant. STOP the RACISM and be sensible.

    • Mr samba , I am sorry that you sound offended by my analysis of the pattern of voting process . My analysis was based on evidence of voting pattern in the last presidential election. Mama Kandeh’s GDC did well in only areas which are predominantly Fula or minorities areas . He has never won in any area which are predominantly mandinkas areas. This is the fact you need to understand. There is some Tribal politics In our political system though people like you may not subscribe to that idea but illiterate or educated voters in Sami may not have the same thinking .
      Please don’t accuse me of racism. I am a black indigenous Gambian. Racism only apply to situation where we have different races but in The Gambia we are all black Africans . So your effort to attach a label which doesn’t fit the situation is misleading , therefore I will give you four Pinocchios – whoppers for mischievous mischaracterization . I think you wanted to accuse me of tribalism rather than racism. I am not a tribalist. I love all indigenous Gambian tribes . I am a strong advocate of Nationalism and plights of indigenous citizens irrespective of tribes .

    • Samba, I want to believe that Max’s statement is based on the statistics of the election results which speak for themselves. In that respect I will not describe it as “racist.” It highlights a fundamental issue in our society that was entrenched by the previous regime which we are finding difficult to breakaway from.

      I appreciate the way you approach and handle such issues by looking at competence rather than ethnicity affiliations in your voting decisions. Let us all do it that way and emphasise that message rather than the ethnic dimensions. So therefore look at Max’s article in a positive light rather than in a negative light. The country is going through tense and critical moments just now but am confident that we will overcome them and that everyone will end up assuming their natural positions.