The looks on Yahya Jammeh’s face are always priceless; nervous, insecure and intimidated. Hon Ousainou Darboe on the other hand, exudes dignity, and is as sure of himself in public, as he is around his old high school buddies. The difference in demeanors between UDP’s Hon. Ousainou Darboe and Yahya Jammeh are a striking mirror of the chasm in their intellectual mismatch and political consciousness. It came to a head last week when Yahya Jammeh’s banal antics finally rubbed the always quite Hon. Ousainou Darboe and his UDP caravan, the wrong way. Evidently, Yahya Jammeh’s provincial mindset lacks the capacity to comprehend the most basic tenets of the Gambian constitution.
The regime choreographed stand-off with the UDP, over the UDP’s constitutionally guaranteed right to hold rallies using loud-speakers, is the latest symptom of the military regime’s hitherto complete and unconstitutional monopoly of the political space in the Gambia. The contentious issue around the UDP/Yahya Jammeh’s military’s stand-off centers on the banning of the use of public address system, which apart from being unconstitutional, and not legally binding, will have adverse effects on UDP’s ability to more effectively communicate its agenda during political rallies. The loud-speaker ban tantamount to censorship of a political party, and is, therefore, disallowed by the Constitution, and counterintuitive in the UDP’s efforts to propagate its agenda to its constituents. For too long, Gambia’s opposition has been hamstrung by unilateral, draconian laws that effectively straightjacket the opposition into self-censorship and pathetic powerlessness.
The complete domination of the public space by the military regime under Yahya Jammeh, has periodically been reinforced by gruesome acts of violence on innocent Gambians, designed to instill more fear and preempt the opposition’s political effectiveness, and it has worked well; until now. Hon. Ousainou Darboe and his entourage must demonstrate political fortitude in order to perpetuate the view of not putting up with Yahya Jammeh’s ugly political stunts. And as Ousainou Darboe and his supporters languish in Fass Njaga Choi, it behooves opposition leaders of other parties to join him there as a show of political solidarity.
The Gambian diaspora and the political establishment have a compelling need to see the political opposition coalesce around Hon. Darboe, in defiance of the unilateral laws passed by Yahya Jammeh to stifle the opposition. The Fass Njaga Choi stand-off, over the use of loud-speakers in public meetings, speaks to Yahya Jammeh stifling of opposition’s effectiveness. Over the past two decades, there has been intermittently spiking of the political temperature to unsuccessfully provoke reaction and the use of brutal force by agents of the regime.
But the stand-off, this week, represents a new departure from the craven political system that vividly demonstrates the desire to monopolize the political space, at the total exclusion of the combined opposition. As the rest of Africa stands its ground, in opposition to the life-time imperial regimes, the UDP’s defense of its own constitutional rights, has opened a window to active participation in Gambia’s political life, for the opposition.
In this stand-off, Gambians have a momentum, which highlights the necessity for political change, and cannot afford indifference to what is happening by not trying to create a critical mass of dissent; not only by the UDP supporters, but all Gambians, regardless of tribe and party affiliation. Today, Gambians have an opportunity to enshrine the stand-off saga as both a pivotal moment in Gambian politics, and as a catalyst for political change.
This is not a run-of-the-mill confrontation with Yahya Jammeh, because Hon. Ousainou Darboe, as head of the main opposition, is no ordinary politician, and any tiff that involves him, will not be treated lightly by a watchful international community. Yahya Jammeh is aware his cruel record is now public knowledge in the international community, and we should spare no opportunity to further tarnish his record; a record drenched in the blood of Gambians and non-Gambians alike. The stand-off in Nuimi between Hon Ousainou Darboe and Yahya Jammeh, tacitly acknowledges the on-going suppression of free speech as an underhanded violation of Gambians’ constitutional rights, and by extension, the violation of UDP’s right to use loud-speakers in its political rallies, for more effective communication.
Clearly, Gambians around the globe are livid over the UDP/Yahya Jammeh stand-off, particularly at a time, when democracy and the rule of law are breaking in African countries, near and far. The time to stand up for our constitutional rights is long overdue. Hon. Ousainou Darboe and the UDP have shown the way. We call on all young Gambians to coalesce around their interest; support Hon. Ousainou Darboe in this stand-off. The time to stand our ground is NOW.