By Alhagie Jobe
Gambia’s first female Independent Presidential aspirant Dr Isatou Touray has finally cleared the air about her position in the coalition saying she did not pull out and has not made any decision yet and that her options are still open.
Dr Touray’s remarks came following Sunday’s National Convention of Opposition Parties in which she did not participate prompting rumors that she quitted and is confident of defeating incumbent President Yahya Jammeh without an alliance.
During Sunday’s convention, Adama Barrow was elected as coalition leader among the seven political parties that attended and participated in the convention, to face President Yahya Jammeh in the coming December 1st elections.
At Tuesday’s Press conference at her offices, Dr Touray insinuated that she was discriminated, marginalized and suffered information black out in the whole process of the coalition convention including who funded and how delegates should be lodged.
“I’m discriminated, marginalized and suffered information black out in the whole process of coalition convention including who funded and how delegates should be lodged. I was not served with the document that all Presidential candidates were supposed to sign until the 31st October, 2016. There was a deliberate effort to marginalize me, there was no transparency and I never knew where the funds came from. I was kept in darkness and Fatoumatta Tambajang of GOFER was not forthcoming. The warming up was not towards me” Dr Touray said at the press conference.
According to Dr Touray, democracy should start with them as party leaders if they really want to remove a dictator. She said want to promote democracy in The Gambia adding every Gambian want a positive change for the country.
“We all want to restore democracy, respect for fundamental freedom and human rights and strong institutions and also to promote freedom of expression. I am here to help move Gambia. This is not about opposition, it is about the people. Why am I being marginalized? The principles of democracy have been flawed during the convention. I want to tell the world out there that the misrepresentation in the social media does not bother me. I am doing the right thing in a professional way. The smear campaign does not tell well. Why should political parties abandon their existing parties and look for an independent candidate when an independent candidate is already among the midst,” she queried.
Narrating her story about the convention, Dr Touray repeatedly said she did not pull out of the coalition and that is why she came in and did not form a party but make sure that we have a new republic by building strong democratic instruments which will have democratic dispensation which is today lacking behind.
“And to build a very strong economy and level the political playing field so that the sovereign will of Gambians will always prevail in their choices of leaders and with that goal that I believe in. Together with the people, I decided to engage into coalition not for myself but for the country and the people on the fact that democracy has been destroy in The Gambia and the freedom of expression has been completely out of the way and many other issues that are affecting everybody individual Gambians and the institutions and find ways of building the institutions that is why I came” she said.
According to her, she wanted to come out and set standards and setting standards means starting from themselves as leaders who are aspiring to bring in a third republic that will base on principles of democracy, transparency, accountability.
“This is why I came in the coalition. And again, when I came in to join the oppositions, I came in to ensure that we remove the current dictatorship in The Gambia, I came with a purpose to work in unity together to be able to achieve the singular goal of removing this regime so that The Gambia regain its dignity and integrity in the community of nations and The Gambia be able to build up a younger generation that are going to take leadership and responsibility in the future and creating an enabling environment for the people”, she said.
Dr Touray then made it clear that she has never insisted to be a leader of the coalition but instead presented herself like any other qualified party leader interested in salvaging the country from the current situation.
“If you look at what happen during the process, I have in many ways tried to present issues that were imagining on power point. I have not shared them with the public because I felt it was an internal matter. I decided to pick every concern that was brought in and put it on power point and shared it with all of them. I did the first presentation on why I am out to join them so that I would convince and alley any fear that I have come to tell them to abandon their parties or to abandon their principles; but I said we have to change our strategies to able to move The Gambia forward. I came the second time during that meeting and I presented something and there were comments. I went back and when I came back for the third time, I came with everything that they suggested which I felt were very critical and important and also responding to the needs. In that presentation, I brought in all the concerns and it was on that day when I did that presentation that it became quite clear that I was an unwelcome guess. I was sidelined, I was marginalized, I was discriminated but that did not affect me because I felt I have come to join this space to move democracy for the people. In the discussion, I was not considered but I took time to remain in the meeting until everything was over and I was given a second chance to talk. I explained that I am available, I am still an option and they can rely on me and am still an option that they can trust. I told them we are here to move the country not our selfish interest and that is why I came out as an independent candidate in order to promote the will and concern of the citizen both within and in the Diaspora and not our own will” she explained in a loud torn.
For Dr Touray, since her engagement was about setting the standard in preparations for a new dispensation for the public and she realized that she was not being recognize within the space, she decided to go on a campaign to talk to the people.
“I told my people since we have done all these efforts and we are not been recognized and coming out publicly will not be a political maturity, let me go out in the country and meet the people and it went out to be a very successful campaign because I was dealing with issues” she said.
During that period she was meeting the people, she said she was kept in darkness and FatoumattaTambajang for one reason or the other was not forthcoming saying she realized the type of system going on during the process.
“It was unfair and undemocratic, lack of transparency in the process and that I was marginalized for not being part of this process”.
For Dr Touray, the entire process of the convention showed no sign of respecting transparency and accountability which is a none-starter if they want to change things in the positive direction.
Neither confirming her support nor opposing the elected coalition leader, Dr Touray said she will get back to the people at the appropriate time.
“I cannot make any decision at the moment. I have to go back to the people and I have to discuss with them. The options are open and let us see how we move on from now” she noted.
Dr Touray finally assured that she is still committed in promoting democracy, salvaging The Gambia and not to only make change but change for what.
Earlier, Campaign manager Amie Bojang-Sissoho said during the convention, what they did not know was who is going to pay for the party delegates to come for the convention, arrival dates, lodging, feeding and where the meeting will taking place.
“We had no information regarding those issues. It was not possible to call our people to come here when we don’t know the time and venue of the convention. So, it was not possible for our people to be part of the process” she said.
Ramzia Diab, a senior member of the camp also spoke at the press conference.
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