The TANGO hall in Kanifing was on this Tuesday, March 29, 2016 the scene of a historic Press Conference hosted by a group calling itself the Inter-Party Committee on Opposition Unification. The body according to the organizers, was formed not to compete with the ongoing efforts of the opposition parties but rather to complement the efforts of the Group of 6 (G-6 for short, was formed by the 6 main opposition parties in the country to address the unleveled election playing field) on the issue of Electoral Reform. As part of this agenda, the group will push to get the leaders “united as one opposition family.”
In his opening remarks, one Mr. Singhateh, in an emotional plea, said people have lost hope in the way The Gambia is being ruled by the APRC Party under the leadership of President Yahya Jammeh, and therefore “it behooves us as opposition to come together as one and try to get rid of this despotic regime.” He reminded the attendees, local, and international press that the tactics being used to suppress and oppress Gambians are on the lips of everyone, that the quest for genuine democracy are also being discussed everywhere, how we have witnessed amendments; from the electoral Acts passed through Parliament which are neither genuine nor accommodating, and in the process denying even The Gambia citizens in the Diaspora their right to choose their leaders. The APRC regime, he continues, is “manipulating and clinging to power by whatever means it takes.” The Inter-Party Committee according to him is taking a bottom-up approach to how it will pursue its agenda and urged the people to give support. This, he insists is the way of the grassroots coming together so as to not leave the “mammoth task” of unity pursuance to the leaders alone, but help them achieve that objective through complementing. So as not to create any confusion, he was quick to caution that this is not an effort to create a coalition or selecting a flagbearer, but rather to get the party supporters and sympathizers to come together to achieve the common objectives.
Before the Secretary General, Musa Sonko read the Press Statement of the group, UDP youth leader, Solo Sandeng was quick to butt in to stress the last remark made by Singhateh regarding choosing a flagbearer. He firmly stated that this effort is simply to complement the efforts of the G-6, not to form a coalition but “coming together to fight the bad laws.”
During his turn, Secretary General Sonko started by reminding all that a united front is needed to defeat Jammeh at the polls, and that the uneven playing field was created to stifle the opposition at the polls, it is therefore important the opposition demonstrate their firm stance on individual liberty. He said this group consists of supporters and sympathizers of UDP, NRP, NDAM, PPP, GPDP, GMC, GPD, and independent Gambians and urged all to put country first before any party. “No single Party can defeat the APRC at the polls” he emphasized. Sonko’s particular clarion calls to the population saying “respond to destiny calling”, “wake up from slumber and cast away our fear” were duly noted by observers who say this could prove to be a turning point in this terrorized country’s political history.
The group’s structures according Sonko, are as follows: Central Committee: 5 members per party. Coordinating Committee: 3 representatives from each party. Finance and Fundraising: 5 representatives from each party. Mediation and Advisory: 2 representatives from each party. Regional Sub Committee: 3 representatives from each party. Stressing that Electoral Reform and Electoral Act 2015 is the most important agenda of the body – dealing with all fraudulent practices by the APRC Party, teams will be dispatched around the country to sensitive the Gambians. Alternative moves if electoral reform is not achieved are all in place to strengthen the opposition resolve – this group is willing to among other measures, go to court and stage street protests if it comes to it.
This new initiative according to observers, has given hope to many Gambians who have been waiting for a more determined approached to end tyranny in The Gambia. The hope is that if partisanship doesn’t rear its ugly head, this group could finally prove to be the answer to all the years of prayers of this traumatized population. The world is watching and history is recording.