No Halifa! Gambia Can’t Have Another Dictatorship!

By Alieu Manjang

In his yesterday’s press conference, Honorable Halifa Sallah stated that the involvement of members of the cabinet in the nomination of candidates in the upcoming national assembly election will pave the way for the reproduction of another dictatorship in the Gambia. While his argument might be channeled by our constitution that sanctions the separation of government powers by separation of personnel and checks and balances, I contend that the fusion or separation of power of the government is not sufficient for nourishing democracy or fashioning dictatorship. In most third world countries, there is a complete separation of power and the members of the legislature are selected and voted by their constituencies; yet this never brings a surety for healthy democratic government. This is evident in many Arab countries, especially Egypt, and many Latin American and Sub-Saharan African countries.

On the other hand, the concentration of power of the government in the parliament never guarantees dictatorship in countries wherein democratic systems require that top executive members must be a member of parliament. In the Unite Kingdom for example, members of the parliament are elected by their respective constituencies to become committee members of the parliament that preside over the executive agencies. Despite this, the involvement of top executive members in the parliamentary affairs never resulted in the production rubber-stamp parliamentarians or to create dictatorship in the UK.

The reproduction of dictatorship in the Gambia can only be guaranteed if His Excellency Adama Barrow develops a tendency to control all aspects of all citizens so that they become the kind of people he wants.

Moreover, the dictatorship of twentieth century manifested characters which cannot be implanted in the Gambia as far as the recent political awareness of the Gambians and the democratic dispensation are concerned. These character include, but, not limited to:

An official ideology covering all aspects of human existence to which members of the society must adhere

– A single mass party, led by one person and consisting of a relatively small proportion of total population

– A system of terroristic police control making full use of modern technology for spying and surveillance

– Complete control of mass communication

– Control of the entire economy

The demonstration of these characters by leaders like Muammar al Qaddafi of Libya and Saddam Hussain of Iraq made them fit to be called dictators. Yahya Jammeh’s systematic terroristic police control, his complete control of mass communication and the entire economy of the Gambian qualifis him to be called a dictator. Unless Halifa produces a convincing evidence that Adama’s personality is a reflective of some of these characteristics, it will be disingenuous to for him to deduce that the involvement of ministers in the nomination process of their candidates for the legislative elections is tantamount to the reproduction of dictatorship. Parliaments are tools that are exploited by dictators to achieve their control of the nation.

The absence of a dictator means the parallel absence of the exploitation of the parliament to endorse dictatorship in the country. Moreover, the fact that some of the political parties are exerting their efforts to be the majority in the parliament is a common practice in all democracies; this is sought as a quest to guarantee that their vision for development of the countries is not obstructed by their political rivals in the parliament, who might have different visions and ideologies. This explains why prominent political parties like Labor, Conservative in the UK and Democrat and Republican in the US, seek to control their legislative bodies to permit the smooth passing of bills and motions tabled by the members of their parties. The fact that certain political parties in the Gambia are seeking majority in the Gambia should be interpreted along this lines. Unless Halifa has a close-door access to the personal character of Adama Barrow, his assumptions should be interpreted through lenses of politicians’ jealousy over the acceleration of their rivalries and their bid to win the hearts and the minds of the electorate.



  1. Solid Arguments, one of the few you will hear disputing the merits of Sallah’s arguments instead of attacking his person.

  2. To me, you come across as a person who looked at the same crystal ball with the same colours, but offered different explanations to reach desired conclusions.

    Here is an example : “Moreover, the fact that some of the political parties are exerting their efforts to be the majority in the parliament is a common practice in all democracies; this is sought as a quest to guarantee that their vision for development of the countries is not obstructed by their political rivals in the parliament, who might have different visions and ideologies. ”

    Here we see that you have conveniently explained the desire to dominate parliament, as a quest by the dominant party, to guarantee development of the country without obstruction from rivals. What you ignored is that dictators also dominate parliament, where they allow one, and their apologists would give you convenient explanations for it, often, not dissimilar to yours. Have you forgotten Jammeh’s explanations for not wanting to see opposition in the House ?

    The domination of parliament is a noticeable and observable feature of dictatorships, and the Gambia certainly, don’t need scientific proofs to believe this, as we have just emerged from one. So, when Halifa says (assuming that he did) that the involvement of members of the executive in the National Assembly Elections may return us to dictatorship, he has a point. He is not being disingenuous. He is drawing experience from the past. Yaya Jammeh became a dictator because we had a system that was open to abuse.

    You need to revisit all these characteristics you claimed, must be present in a modern dictatorship. I can’t even see how these were reflected in Yaya Jammeh’s dictatorship.
    “An official ideology covering all aspects of human existence” that we must all adhere to…. I know the APRC was stupid, but I can’t remember their official ideology that all must adhere to.

    Let’s be honest to ourselves. Hon. Halifa Sallah has never called President Barrow a dictator. In all his public appearances and statements, he has shown nothing towards the president but maximum respect. He has seen the abuse of Parliament in the first republic and what made it possible; He has seen the abuse of the NA in the second republic and what made it possible. If he cautions the Gambia on the dangers of the future because he recognises the manifestations of the politics of the past again, we should not twist his words to suit our agenda, even if we reject his observations.

    • Bax , first of all Halifa is a political hypocrite because he never recognized that there was dictatorship in The Gambia when Jsmmeh was in power . How can he now claimed that Gambia will return to dictatorship? The man refused to call jammeh’s regime dictatorship. This is hypocrisy of highest order . Where was Halifa Sallah when everyone was calling jammeh’s regime ” a dictatorship “. He never once wanted to admit it and in fact all PDOIS members and their indoctrinated disciples refused to acknowledge that simple fact . You are on record here when you refused to call jammeh , a dictator.
      Secondly, Mr Sallah is too ignorant about parliamentary democracy because party domination in the House of Representatives doesn’t make the government, a dictatorship unless that party gives all power to the president of The country and such system must be characterized by political oppression, human rights violations and authoritarianism . In USA example, the House of Representatives and senate are both control by Republican Party , Mr Trump is a republican president and entire executive members of his cabinet are republicans, does that make USA government ” a dictatorship ” as you implied in your write up . In any functioning democracy, a ruling party dominant is necessary to push the Agenda of the party in power . This is necessary so that members of ruling party can push their policies as result of political support of the members . It makes it easier to achieve their goals if they are the majority. There could even be opposition in ruling party if the policy do not support what the members want . Example, currently conservative or right wing of Republican Party are opposed to president trump health care policy proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare. This is policy disagreement within the Republican Party while the democrats are totally opposed to the proposed bill . Mr Sallah is just empty barrel with little understanding of what is politics and how it works in the 21 st century. The man has outdated political ideology and strategy, left to his dumb ideas , jammeh will still be in power. Dictatorship is a system of government in which power is concentrated in one person and it is characterized by violence against citizens. Such system has hallmark of human rights violations and oppression of constitutional rights of citizens. There is absolute authority and power in the hand of one person. Halifa never acknowledged that there was dictatorship in The Gambia because he was a coward who refused to call it what it was but today he can claimed Gambia will return to dictatorship since he did not get his way . Why he never wanted call jammeh , a dictator in the first place?

      • Max, stop spreading falsehood. Hon. Sallah is the staunchest critic and scrutiniser of Jammeh’s regime. I have refused to call Jammeh a dictator, you claimed. Really ? Sometimes, your sophistry amazes me.

        • Bax , Mr Sallah never called Jammeh a dictator. In fact you have argued that there was no need, so why he now claimed that there was dictatorship in the Gambia. Halifa himself stated that he was not going to call Yaya Jammeh a dictator.

  3. Dormu Rewwum Gambia (aka Luntango Suun Gann Gi)

    Bax: “The domination of parliament is a noticeable and observable feature of dictatorships” …
    Bax, this is a common feature in Democracies too! I have given examples before.
    As for Halifa warning “from his experience”, the fact that many men may beat their wives in our culture is NO EXCUSE for me to warn Bax away from beating his wife! Bax will most likely become indignant and angry at such a suggestion and beat me! No, Barrow has shown no tendency or willingness to become a “dictator” and there is no need for Halifa to warn him of such (except for the purposes of the parliamentary campaign – LoL!)

  4. Let us change the constitution. Let us introduce two terms limit to the presidency and the second round of voting.

    To make the judiciary completely independent let us make the appointment of the Chief Justice and all Justice of the Supreme Court lifetime appointments.

    These and other changes in the Constitution can only make Halifa’s arguments mute. Otherwise his arguments are relevant and germaine. And to the point.

    Without any of these changes we can easily slide back into a dictatorship.

    People are being disingenuous to compare the parliamentary system with our system of executive presidency.

    For crying out loud the person that we elect President can hire and fire the Chief Justice and other Justices of the Supreme Court. The ex- President have done it and this new president has also within his powers the capacity to do it.

    The ex- President had the power and have used it to remove members of the National Assembly from their seats. All he had to do was expelled such members from his party thereby making the seats vacant.

    And in such cases those members could not make an independent run in a bye- election to regain their seats. What has changed? Nothing.

    Why then are people driving the false narrative that because there has been a regime change all the arguments that Halifa is making are no longer pertinent? This is absolutely inaccurate.

    The political culture and the structures that engenders dictatorship and self or party perpetuating rule are still present within our political dynamics.

    If for instance a political party is opposed to term limits and the second round of voting, and that political party also happens to have the majority in parliament what can stop that political party from making sure that there are no term limits and second round of voting.

    More so if the president also share the same political position.

    I guess the other parties can wait for another five years and try to dominate the National Assembly so that we have term limits and the second round of voting.

    In the absence of a system change these are the political realities we are confronted with.

    Why would anything be different when nothing has been done yet in terms of changing the laws?

  5. My in law, I think I should have put “too” after “dictatorships”, because that’s exactly the point I was making. Both democracies and dictatorships manifest this feature.

    My contention is that those who are putting forth the argument for the domination parliament, as a prerequisite to achieving stated development goals in a democracy, as a rebuttal or dismissal of concerns of a return to dictatorship, have failed to convingly make their case.

    That explanation (for the need to control parliament in what they call a “democracy”) is the same that supporters of what we call, a “dictatorship”, will give. So really, it’s all a matter of perspective.


  6. I think those who are voicing concerns about a return to dictatorship have made a far stronger case than those who try to refute our concerns. It’s no good just pointing to the political situation elsewhere (eg: one party holding majority in UK Parliament being the corner of its democracy) and then claiming that a similar situation in The Gambia will produce the same result. This is misleading as it ignores THREE fundamental diffetences between the countries:

    1. How parliament functions and is conducted in the two countries: Members’ understanding of the issues before the house; conducting and engaging in debates relevant to the issues under discussion; voting on motions; scrutinising executive members and holding them to account; etc

    2. What are the practices and traditions of governance or in government: How officials interact with the systems and instruments of governance; how members of the public interact with the systems and instruments of governance/government; how officials and members of public interact with each other; how officials interact with each other whilst executing their duties; etc.

    3. Culture, traditions and religion of the people: How does culture, traditions and religion influence our interactions with the systems and instruments of government ? How do these influence our interactions with officials; how do these influence the interactions of officials with each other whilst executing their duties; etc.

    A few examples may be enough to illustrate my points…


  7. After the 1981 rebellion, the PPP administration tabled a bill to establish the Senegambia Confederation. It was “debated” in the House and passed, thus establishing the Confederation. As far as I can remember, nothing much was said about the protocols of the Confederation by anyone, until PDOIS emerged and began to criticise its defects and unconstitutionality.

    For example, it was pointed out by PDOIS that the designation of the Head of State of Senegal as the President of the Confederation and the relegation of his Gambian counterpart to the junior position of Vice President (at all times) did not reflect the equality of two independent and sovereign states.

    Furthermore, PDOIS indicated that the protocol (law) which empowered the President of the Confederation (who shall always be the president of Senegal) to declare a “State of Emergency” throughout the Confederation and thereby, take control of the economic, political and security affairs of the Confederation was in violation of the constitution of the Gambia.

    To cut a long story short, the PPP eventually realised their mistake and started pushing for reforms, which did not go down well with the Joof Administration and so, he terminated the Confederation. The question is, why did Parliament pass the bill if they were going to ask for reforms soon after ? Didn’t they understand the issue before them, or did they sacrifice the nation’s sovereignty for their party interest ?

    The situation (as far as conduct of parliament is concerned) was no better under the APRC. We have seen how amendments after amendments were made to entrench dictatorship, curtail basic freedoms and mask corruption. Would Parliament in the UK behave like this ? Obviously NO, because the conduct of Parliament in the UK is different. Members may belong to the majority party, but they will not hesitate to vote against a bill, if it goes against the interest of their constituencies, never mind the country.

    So, to just point to the existence of majorities in the UK Parliament (for instance) as an example of democracy and claim that the same majority in The Gambia will have the same result, is grossly misleading.

  8. We do not even have to undertake a research to know that the practices and traditions in government or governance, are completely different in the two countries. Strict adherence to law and the codes of conduct (at every level of government or society) or severe penalties for failure, is the interaction between officials and the systems/instruments of governance in the UK.

    Can we say the same about The Gambia, before and now (including coalition) ? Didn’t we see CDS kidnap, imprison and torture a citizen with no consequence ? Didn’t Yaya Jammeh lead a team of Gendarmes to attack officers at Bakau Police Station ? Did either suffer the consequences ? How could people ignore these differences in traditions in governance ?

    With regards to how culture/religion can influence our relationship and interaction with officials, I will just mention two incidents and compare that to two incidents in UK:

    (1). (a) At the PPP Mansakonko Congress, Sir Dawda announced that he would not be presenting himself for election again. In other words, he was retiring from public office. What happened afterwards ? Did he retire ? Of course, no. Did he mean it ? Not many will say, no he didn’t mean it. So what happened ? The elders prevailed on him to stay and he did. (influence of culture).

    (b) Lt. Yaya Jammeh and his Council swore that they will only rectify the system and go back to barracks. Did they mean it ? I’m sure they did initially. What happened ? Again the elders and the rest is history.

    (2). (a) David Cameron lost the EU Referendum. It wasn’t a vote on his premiership, but he still resigned. Did anyone hear elders prevailing on him to stay ?
    (b) Ed Miliband (Labour Leader) lost badly in the elections he led and resigned. Did any elders prevail on him to stay ?

    These are significant differences that should not be ignored, because one opens the system up to abuse and dictatorship and the other leaves no room for it. Majority is a good thing when the system is right. It is bad when the system is wrong. Our system is wrong and we have had no time to right it. Who can tell how Barrow would react if the elders prevail on him ? We need to think ab out these.

  9. Max…When you are able to make a distinction between a “dictator” and a “dictatorship”, your misery and obsession with the terms may be “cured”.

    “Dictator” refers to a person and when you call your political opponent a “dictator” (rightly or wrongly), you descend into “personality politics.” Hon. Halifa Sallah and PDOIS have made a commitment NEVER to engage in “personality politics”. That is a choice they made and all who claim respect for choices, have to respect this (PDOIS choice.)

    “Dictatorship” refers to a system of governance with certain characteristic features, all aimed at entrenching self perpetuation. There is no shortage of material from Hon. Halifa Sallah and PDOIS to show what their of the APRC rule was.

    Whether he has ever used the term “dictatorship” when addressing APRC’s rule of impunity is unclear to me (it wouldn’t make any difference), but the fact that he has consistently exposed the impunity, opaque and self perpetuating rule of the APRC is unquestionable. And that’s what matters, not which terms he used.

    • Bax , of course word matters a lot . Halifa Sallah use of the words “return to dictatorship” is what caused all this debate. Halifa has never acknowledged that jammeh’s regime was a dictatorship and he never called jammeh himself, a dictator. I have challenged you and your fellow indoctrinated disciples why Halifa Sallah refused to acknowledge that there was dictatorship in The Gambia. In Halifa’s political expression, he never even criticized jammeh for impunity, corruption and human rights violations. He spoke on general terms . Recently, Hon fatty made the allegation that jammeh stole millions of dollars during the last two weeks of political impasse,Mr Sallah condemned Mr fatty and defended Yaya jammeh because he indicated there was no evidence for such allegation. As a spokesman for the coalition, his respond was dumb and irresponsible because it caused severe political and personal problems within the coalition. During jammeh’s era , Halifa engaged in writing diplomatic letters to jammeh while UDP were honest , truthful , confrontational and spoke bravely to the Dictatorship/ Dictator. I remember many times when I told you Halifa never admitted that there was dictatorship in the country. It was his political strategy , the PDOIS relationship/ conduct with both APRC and the opposition leaders that I wrote that PDOIS was an agent of dictatorship. Halifa has history of blaming victims . This is evidence when he called diaspora as “war mongers ” and he further indicated that peaceful protesters were paid and under command of diaspora. That kind of language was exactly what jammeh and his surrogates used to describe peaceful protesters. Halifa Sallah even stated that peaceful protesters was a mistake and he refused to condemn jammeh for his tribal vitriol. If I prepare a political advertisement against him , he will never win serekunda central. Mr Sallah is not a good political strategist and he is always on the wrong side of every major issue . He was against the convention before he accepted it , he was against military intervention to remove jammeh before he accepted that it was the last resort. He was against the diaspora before he accepted our role to effect change in The Gambia. In fact he refused all invitations to meet and sit with diaspora for political engagements. Currently he is against tactical alliance because he is pursuing his selfish personal interest so that he will be the only one who can influence all the independent members of National Assembly. I can list his dumb political strategy/ positions and conducts which are against the positions of the majority citizens. I believe that left to his dumb political strategy and safe political conduct, jammeh will be still in statehouse. I am glad that people began to see his true colors . I have led the efforts to expose his dumb political strategy in this forum and elsewhere, I am glad that today majority see his action as dumb and not a good political strategy. How can he even defended jammeh in the broad daylight against the member of the coalition? That was the worst political move .

  10. Dormu Rewwum Gambia (aka Luntango Suun Gann Gi)

    Bax, really, this matter is pretty simple and straight forward:-

    1. No one disputes that the Constitution needs amending in many areas (to remove nominated MPs, nominated Speaker, firing of Chief Justice, etc, etc). Let Halifa just put the amendments forward in a quite and rational way without accusing people of “dictatorship” or “potential dictatorship”.

    2. Barrow and Co. have shown nothing but GOOD FAITH and Democratic Credentials. Please, the Jammeh Era is gone! Stop the “dictatorship” paranoia. I am certain that Mai Fatty, Darboe and Barrow are the MOST anti-dictatorship people in The Gambia today. Work with them to make the Constitution a VERY DEMOCRATIC ONE.

    • If Halifa gets elected, we will certainly see a lot of bills aimed at changing some of these serious fetters to genuine rule of sanity. There are, unfortunately, serious efforts to deny Halifa and his party any presence in the National Assembly, by the political associates and supporters of the people with this “good faith”. ( and I’m not talking about ordinary rank and file here) That’s something to watch during the campaign.

      Two incidents, coming freshly on the heels of Jammeh’s departure, should worry us.

      1. The assault of Foroyaa journalist at a press conference attended by leaders of three coalition members. Immediately before the assault, as alleged, was a comment made by one leader to another, associating the journalist with a particular party. It is that comment and the reaction of the supporters which is worrying.
      Interestingly, that incident, for whatever reason, did not appear in this medium (as far as I know). Sensoreship ? Definitely not from state.

      2. The request for government vehicles to campaign in the NA elections. The reaction of the Hon.Minister is commendable but he is a professional;not a politician. Imagine if cabinet was composed 100% with members of the same party as those who made that request, and they also controlled NA. Would we have had the same result? I doubt it very much.

      • Gambians should be conscious of the fact that we are trying to carve the destiny of a new Gambia, and as such we have to start the process of doing what we should have done more that five decades ago. Build the institutions and structures that will promote a true democratic dispensation.

        When the Coalition just won the presidential election they were promoting a national consciousness of ONE GAMBIA, ONE PEOPLE AND ONE NATION.

        Throughout the impasse this concept was pretty much ingrained in the minds of the people. Tribal affiliations and tribal loyalty were buried in our subconscious mind and the only thing that Gambians see was getting rid of a dictator.

        Once the dictator was gone, the concept of ONE GAMBIA, ONE PEOPLE AND ONE NATION gradually began to erode in our public discourse and the latent appeal to our tribal affinities took center stage.

        How did we lost the script from that beautiful portrayal of the Gambia as ONE PEOPLE and ONE NATION during the impasse to this ugly diatribe of tribal politics and loyalty to one’s tribe?

        We need people like Halifa to be elected to the National Assembly. He can helped to shape the consciousness of the New Gambia. More so now that the national broadcaster is in the hands of the coalition government.

        • You need people like Halifa to be elected to the national assembly. Other people need me and my likes to be in the national assembly. It is little difficult to take if you try to speak for the needs of many rather than of yourself.

  11. The man has proven himself that he can guide and dictate a process that can produce a favorable outcome. He is not an ordinary person.

    He has the capacity to help the country make good laws. He also has the capacity to help the country create institutions and structures that can entrenched a true democratic dispensation.

    The commitment is there. The sincerity is there. The selflessness is there. And the good and noble intention is there.

    I understand having a cadre of PDOIS people in that National Assembly would be a nightmare for those who want to conduct business as usual. But history is in the making. The Gambia has changed forever.