The leader of the Gambia’s largest political party rejected as worthless calls by his critics that his jailing last year was the pathway to opposition unity.
UDP leader Ousainou Darboe said his absence from the Kairaba unity talks never gave birth to the coalition that defeated ex-President Yahya Jammeh.
Gambia’s opposition parties have always fallen apart in the middle of talks since 1996. A major failure to unite in 2006 left deep fractions that soiled hopes for future talks.
Darboe was arrested and jailed last year during opposition protests sparked by the death of the UDP Organizing Secretary, Solo Sandeng.
Sandeng was tortured to death by Jammeh’s men and Darboe, joined by his party leaders led a protest demanding the surrender of Sandeng’s remain.
The wave of crackdowns by security forces angered Gambians, who demanded that the opposition unites ahead of the elections to present a united front to challenge Mr. Jammeh.
Darboe and PDOIS leader Halifa Sallah have not been seeing eye-to-eye, but Darboe says their differences were not the main reason they have been unable to unite.
He was in prison when the last talks were held giving Mr. Sallah some leverage. However, the UDP presidential hopeful, Adama Barrow won the opposition primary.
Gambia’s seven opposition parties united behind Barrow, who resigned from Darboe’s UDP to become an independent candidate. He is expected to serve three years as transitional leader.
But smoke is already emerging with Barrow likely to serve the full five-year term he was voted to serve on December 1, overriding the coalition agreement.
Mr. Darboe said the coalition MOU was never signed and that the Constitution takes precedence. He disagrees that there would have been no coalition to defeat Jammeh because he would have challenged the three-year transitional part of the talks.
Cracks have already emerged in the coalition with parties failing to stay united or running under a tactical alliance during the parliamentary elections.
UDP won an absolute majority in April’s parliamentary elections. All other parties won five seats or less, a few others won none at all.