At the center of The Gambia’s youngest political party’s decision not to sign an agreement seeking to unite opposition groups to challenge President Yahya Jammeh are: disproportion in convention delegation, recommendation of cabinet positions, premade agreement by a mediation group and attacks on its leadership by surrogates of other opposition groups.
Strongman President Yahya Jammeh is seeking a fifth mandate and is assured a comfortable win without an opposition coalition.
Former parliamentarian for Jammeh’s ruling APRC party, Mama Kandeh formed the GDC this summer and has since gained popular support, taking with him some key members and mobilizers from Mr. Jammeh’s party.
GDC said Sunday it refused to sign a coalition MOU demanding a primary to select an opposition candidate instead of a convention. Party officials say the convention delegation is disproportionate.
According to the party spokesperson, the GDC was invited to talks by opposition PDOIS party. The talks were inconclusive but its Deputy Party Leader Yusupha Jaiteh continued to participate in talks that were transitioned to a mediating group called GOFER. The GDC said it was not a signatory to GOFER and therefore, could not agree to any document from the mediators.
“Those talks were inconclusive and were later handled by GOFER of which GDC is not a signatory. GDC however continued to participate in the talks because it was important for all parties to take part in the negotiations,” said GDC Press Secretary Essa Jallow.
Political observers noted that “if GDC is concerned about a coalition or taking Jammeh out, they can still be a signatory to GOFER but must understand that whiles the euphoria of being popular exist, they can never win an election against Jammeh on their own.”
The GDC leadership decried the recommendation of cabinet positions based on previous electoral votes and the dictation of the policies of the coalition government by a committee. Though new, the recommendation of cabinet positions relegates the GDC to the being the smallest party and may lead to it not getting proper representation it deserves.
“The statistics are five years old and they don’t say anything about GDC. How are they going categories us? If they insist we can say that previous statistics indicate that UDP is on a nose dive,” Essa Jallow.
Mathew Jallow is a public administrator and political activists and says the GDC appears to be more interested in leading than in “literally saving the lives one and half million Gambians.”
“GDC is putting Mr Kandeh’s dream of the presidency ahead of the murders of our citizens and the unmatched state corruption. That to me is downright sick, if you ask me,” the activist said. “GDC keeps harping on the illusion that they will capture most of the AFPRC supporters, but that is totally fallacious and unrealistic.”
Kandeh, who was expelled from the ruling party has denied accusations by supporters of other opposition groups who said the ‘GDC is a defunct APRC party’ seeking to divide opposition votes to give Jammeh a swift win. His refusal to join a coalition has seen an increase in criticism towards him and his party.
GDC accused opposition surrogates of spreading false messages about Mr. Kandeh and says it has always been consistent in focusing its attacks on the President Yahya Jammeh and encouraging APRC supporters to defect to the opposition.
Political observers insist that the continuous attacks however can further cause strain resulting to Kandeh running for office on his own. A third ballot they say will give Jammeh a win but they are hopeful Kandeh will show leadership by “ignoring” and “developing a thick skin” for unconstructive criticism.
GDC last month withdrew from a youth-led coalition talk citing unfair clauses in an agreement that favors an unnamed opposition party with discrepancies over financing.
“Our efforts to break the incumbent’s strength is unprecedented, and GDC is responsible for psyching the general public again into elections as our best option to unseat the incumbent. Our ability to attract large number of ruling party supporters is the catalyst for any election victory,” Press Secretary Jallow said.