Gambian opposition leaders met Wednesday in Banjul with hopes to form a coalition for the West African nation’s December election that will see the country’s eccentric ruler, President Yahya Jammeh seeking a 5th mandate.
Opposition groups are holding unity talks in which they are expected to select a candidate to challenge the incumbent whose party has vowed to win with a landslide.
They are expected to meet next week for a fresh round of talks in Banjul.
The race for The Gambia’s presidency this year saw the emergence of a new party, GDC and a formidable rights campaigner as an independent candidate. The country of fewer than two million people have seen the political landscape greatly shifted.
Tensions rose after rare protests became a daily occurrence, leading to two deaths and jailing of more than three dozen opposition activists including the main opposition UDP leader Ousainou Darboe with his executive.
Party-led coalition talks have failed since 2006 and opposition groups boycotted parliamentary and local government polls in 2012.
Opposition leaders have since mulled a coalition led by an independent candidate with contention over the length of stay for such a transitional administration.
A youth-led unity effort last week urged their party leaders to support a non-partisan independent candidate who will serve only one term and prepare the nation for free and fair polls in which all political parties can take part without the current imbalances.
Wednesday’s talks were described as fruitful but one political party was left out. The Gambia Moral Congress said it has not received an invite to the coalition negotiations from the PDOIS party, which initiated the talks.
Gambians are optimistic that political leaders will be strategic to form a coalition though its egocentric diaspora constituency have been submerged into political bickering, deeply dividing the once pro-coalition force. The diaspora is the opposition’s biggest donor.
President Yahya Jammeh won the last race to Marina Parade with more than 70% of the votes in what ECOWAS said was “an unacceptable level of control of the electronic media by the party in power… and an opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation.”