Sunday, February 12, 2012

Things Fall Apart: Darboe Explains

 Juwara is irrelevant
In spite of his shocking political u-turn, Lamin Waa Juwara, leader of dormant ruling-party-aligned opposition-NDAM never misses out in the country’s political debate. He jumps at every chance to chastise his former opposition allies for his own political failures, in particular and that of Gambian opposition in general.
He would not forgive them, especially Mr Ousainou Darboe, leader of main opposition-UDP, for the disintegration of alliance of opposition parties called NADD, ahead of 2006 presidential election over the selection of a presidential candidate.
With yet another failure of opposition unity talks initiated by his former party, UDP, ahead of this year’s presidential polls, the firebrand politician, who knows no ceasefire, is at it again. He shoots at any soul that moves in the opposition camp.
However, for Ousainou Darboe, a soft-spoken astute lawyer cum political figurehead of UDP, his former chief propagandist turned political enemy is no longer relevant in the country’s political equation.
“As far as Juwara is concern, I would not respond to him. I respond to people who matter,” Darboe told KISSYKISSY MANSA at his Pipeline house on Friday during an exclusive interview on a range of issues ahead of the decisive Nov.24 presidential election.

NADD still haunts
But generally, when it comes to the hot issue of Gambian opposition’s failure in forming a united front against self perpetuating Gambian president Yahya Jammeh, views and opinions vary as wide as those who present them - it ranges from greed to lack of interest of the country at heart.
For instance, following a deafening clamor for opposition alliance ahead of 2006 presidential polls, Gambians in Diaspora invited all opposition parties to a forum in U.S where they have agreed to unite.
But according to Darboe, when a proposal for a party led alliance was put on the table, representatives of PDOIS, PPP and NDAM opposed it.
“I cautioned against the formation of another political entity because individuals can come together to form a party, but registered political parties cannot form a political entity,” he said.
“I suggested that the party that has the larger support should infact provide the candidate. When it comes to parliamentary, we look at the strength of various parties in various constituencies and support the party with bigger support in a particular constituency.”
The UDP leader explained that while negotiations were ongoing, two bye-elections emerged.
He went on: “In the Jarra West bye-election there was suggestion for independent candidate, but I said my party will not support a candidate on an independent ticket. After all, that is a UDP stronghold. We ended up fielding   in a UDP candidate and he won.
“A similar one was proposed for Sareh Ngai and I told them I would not commit my party’s funds for independent candidate. That area was a PDIOS stronghold and the reasonable thing to do is to put up a PDOIS candidate there.
“That was the state of affairs until in April 2005 after signing MoU for the establishment of NADD; some insisted that NADD must be registered. I told them if you do, you will run into some constitutional problems because an individual cannot belong to two parties. The result of the registration, we all know,” Darboe explained.
Of course, the results was catastrophic as UDP and NRP unceremoniously quit NADD and joined forces, leaving smaller parties such as PDOIS, PPP and NDAM after Darboe’s bid for a party led alliance did not have the support of others, save NRP.
Both alliances suffered embarrassing defeat to the incumbent. But ahead of this year’s presidential polls, Darboe’s UDP mustered the courage to convene a meeting for all non ruling party aligned political parties for a possible united front.
Although the meeting did not achieve its intended objective, Darboe believes he had done what was expected of him.
“We all talked about it in the media, but I mustered the courage and took the initiative in the honest believe that what we all say in the papers is what we mean. But I never thought the issue of selecting a flag bearer would be a problem,” he said.
UDP leader however said he is neither disappointed nor surprise about the outcome of the talks because half way through the discussion, he knew it would not be an alliance of all parties.
“The convention was suggested and I said, convention takes place with people in the same party,” he said.
He pointed out, as in NADD, the idea of a convention it is the same, but with different approaches those that refuse to rally behind him are still holding firm.
“The most pragmatic thing to do was a party led alliance. If you do a convention in a presidential, when it comes to parliamentary will you do the same for the 40 plus seats.

Why the failures?

And when KISSYKISSYMANSA challenged Darboe as to why for several years, after several attempts, Gambian opposition parties can’t get united, his response was swift.
“It all depends on our views on how things should be done because there are differences in our views on how things should be done?” he said.
And KISSYKISSYMANSA’s follow up question was as well swift: “So, you can’t compromise those sacred views for the interest of the people?”
But Darboe believes that his party has compromised virtually everything, yet to no avail. He said: “It is unconstitutional to prevent anyone from contesting elections and from supporting a candidate, but UDP agreed to the proposal that a presidential candidate who wins under a UDP-led alliance would become neutral after a five year transition despite the fact that transitions are for countries emerging from a state of conflict or military overthrow.
Nonetheless, Darboe, who declined to comment on the details of the convention for fear of representation, as well refused to apportion blame for the failure of the talks.
“I had told them, if we had succeeded, it would have been a mutual success. But now that it failed, as the convener, I take the blame.
“But I think I would have had a bigger blame, if I had not taken the initiative because everybody was looking at me as a bigger party.”

Can’t blow own trumpet?

The most common practice in forming an alliance against the incumbent is that a bigger party leads and others follow. This does not say that this majority principle is unbendable, but why is it not applicable to The Gambian situation.
And I asked Darboe: Is it that those opposing a UDP led coalition did not trust him or that they don’t believe that a UDP led government will provide a better leadership.
“That question should be properly addressed to those that have been refusing. It will be wrong for me to assign any reason for them,” he responded calmly.
“But will a UDP led government cater for all their needs?” I asked further. “We will cater for the needs of all Gambians,” Darboe replied.
He then went into his well-known undisputed profile: “All my life I have fought for justice. That has been my trademark. Infact some people believe I have been running a human rights organisation that has not been formalized.
“I have taken the former regime to the courts on its excesses and I have been taking the current regime to the courts on its excesses. I always stood by the weak and the poor and this is what I have been fighting for and this is what has landed me for the first time in detention during the former regime before I even got into politics.
“I have lost certain privileges because of my stands and I will continue on that. In 1996, I could have stayed away and do exactly what a lot of my colleagues are doing – amass wealth. I am not a very good lawyer, but I put efforts in my works.
“If anybody can not have faith in me there is nothing I can do about that, for I will not climb to the mountain top and blow my own trumpet.”

Hoping against hope

Apparently, the UDP-initiated talks for a united front ahead of this year’s polls have so far yielded no desired results, but concerned political parties have expressed the need and desire to try unity, again and again and again until such time that is late.
Darboe re-iterated this stands: “We hope that before the nominations, there will be some changes of heart. I just received regulations from IEC that candidates can withdraw even after nomination, but not later than Nov.17.
And he is hoping against hope that come Nov.24 there will be only two candidates running for presidency - one from opposition and one from the ruling party.

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