In the spring of 2015, President Yahya Jammeh wanted to make electoral regulation changes that would force opposition parties to divulge the source of their funds to the state.
It appeared as an audit for the parties, which were mostly sponsored by their leaders and some few business associates, who were avoiding a public show of support to the opposition.
Opposition leaders knew that such an audit may see many of their financial supporters targeted and cried foul.
Opposition supporters, leaders, and pro-democracy defenders say the audit seeks to undermine funding and that parties should not be subjected to it because they receive no state funding.
Gambia’s parliament that summer, overwhelmingly voted to pass the bill that enforced these changes. Opposition leaders Ousainou Darboe, Mai Ahmad Fatty, Halifa Sallah and Hamat Bah denounced it and vouched they will not allow the auditing of their parties.
The changes they say peddle into law calculated mechanisms aimed to usurp the powers of the electoral commission and restrict political participation to entrench Jammeh’s rule.
The conditions such as the increase in required deposits for candidates, the need for political bureaus in every district and the already low funding forced the deeply divided opposition to unite.
They defeated Jammeh and are now the ruling coalition government. But their supporters have suddenly forgotten that they are now becoming the advocates of bad policies that they once frowned upon.
Supporters of the UDP and GMC, especially have recently demanded that opposition leader Mama Kandeh declare his source of funding after he and his party sponsored the construction of a bridge, boreholes, donated to school children, and provided relief to flood victims giving them cash, cement, and food.
They have forgotten so soon that they were on the other side of the aisle that Mr. Kandeh is on less than nine months ago and refusing to release the source of their funding.
They, therefore, have no moral right or authority to demand that Mr. Kandeh, who they disrespected as jobless to release the source of his funding. Being a politician and an opposition is a job and job that Kandeh, so far, is doing well.
I am neither a supporter nor a donor of the GDC, but admittedly, Kandeh and the GDC has set a precedent throwing into the garbage the politics of empty promises of white elephant projects.
He is shaping himself into a strategically well calculating action-oriented politician. His tacticians are really at work beating the government in addressing the needs of some communities that have been ignored for the longest since independence.
The quick reaction of Kandeh to the needs of the people of Kuntaur is giving him an upper hand in a region, where the former government, APRC won in the last election and can still be looked at as an opposition stronghold looking at the parliamentary election votes.
He won at least five seats, most of them from the country’s Central River Region. In the presidential race, Kandeh won districts like Nianija and Niamina West and he pulled closed numbers with the veteran party in many other districts just months into his emergence.
He should, therefore, not be undermined, taking into account the dissolving of Jammeh’s APRC into other parties, most especially into the GDC.
Nevertheless, it does not give government supporters the impetus to demand the release of his source of funding. They never did when they were an opposition, so Kandeh would not.
In your own words: It will tantamount to undermining opposition funding and targeting of financiers, which is a calculated mechanism aimed to usurp and restrict political participation to entrench your own rule.
So-called government supporters must remember that just like when they were the opposition, Kandeh and the GDC do not receive state funding and shall, therefore, not divulge their party financial institution.
The parties of the coalition can be comfortable now to tell us who was and is funding them but they certainly were not when they were in the rough tidings of being looked as the state’s enemy.
Yes, campaign financing guidelines must be set but our democracy has not reached the point where business and people that financially support opposition groups will not be targeted.
We are yet to have independent institutions and, for the most part, we are still entrenched in the same system of politics that regard oppositions as enemies of the state.
Under the current dispensation, only members of the GDC can hold Mama Kandeh accountable on their party financing and ensure laws are not broken and if you are not a member of the GDC party, and were against your party being audited, how and where Mama Kandeh and the GDC gets their money is absolutely not your business.