As the famous controversial campaign manager of the First H W Bush, Lee Atwater, once quipped out of frustration: “we are throwing the gauntlet in South Carolina”, basically making it clear that the campaign will put in all their effort in South Carolina to save the campaign for the presidency.
It was evident at that point, Lee Atwater, who has developed a reputation as a political mercenary, decided that every tactical opportunity has to be explored to win the presidency. Well, the rest was history; H W Bush was elected as the 41st President of the USA. There is no doubt that our fight to save our country from the clutches of tyranny is at a crucial point, and a dire need to indeed throw our own gauntlet in 2016, and recognize that the Gambia cannot afford another term under the Jammeh tyranny.
Like most Gambian, based on our experience in past elections, I am very much concerned with the viability of pursuing the election strategy. There is still not a level playing field, the Govt. continues to use intimidation, bribery, stuffing of the voter ballots and without a doubt will not hesitate to do whatever it takes to steal the election again.
Then the question becomes, why we would even entertain the election route, thus legitimizing the dictator. Although challenging the Jammeh Dictatorship in past elections was not successful, there were indications that formation of an alliance of opposition parties can be the key to bring down the Jammeh tyranny. The formation of an alliance couple with a unify show of force to challenge the regime has never been explored.
Let me be clear that there is a distinction between a show force and pursuing violence. Gambians are ready to vote against Jammeh out of office, and what is needed is the right strategy and show of force to challenge this brutal dictator.
To pursue an effective strategy for the upcoming elections in 2016 has to take a collective effort from the Diaspora with political forces on the ground, based on the sole mission for a regime and system change. This will bring about replacing the Jammeh hegemony with a transitional govt. that will focus on building the institutions of democracy, rule of law, good governance and leveling the playing field. First, Gambians in the Diaspora, which include civil society organizations, independent human rights activist and independent media, coming together and coordinating their efforts toward three fundamentals issues:
Enfranchising Gambians in the Diaspora the right to vote;
Leveraging the political forces on the ground to come together and demand the political reforms, as stipulated in the G6 document that they all agreed to;
Gambians in the Diaspora and political forces on the ground come together and fight for the cessation of violation of civil and human rights, which the present Government continues to use the courts and outright violation of the constitution.
As it is becoming evident in the Diaspora, a new generation of Gambians has given an added voice to the change agenda we have been seeking for the past couple of decades. This has created a new enthusiasm that we have never seen before, and an opportunity that if exploited to its fullest, can help in the area of raising of funds and also leveraging our partners on the ground because they will recognize the power of the voice coming from the Diaspora.
The idea that we have to come together under one structured organization, in order to exploit our numerical advantage is unrealistic and not really required. Now, coming together base on issues that we shared and organizing ourselves by forming loose ad hoc committees to pursue the change agenda, especially in partnership with political parties on the ground to create a new partnership, is a clear and attainable strategy that can be pursued.
This can be done and still maintain the independence of these various civil society organizations, media houses and political parties on the ground.
The first phase of the strategy to prepare for the elections in 2016, is for all of us in the Diaspora to consolidate and pursue the three highlighted issues: join forces and demand for extending voting rights to the Diaspora; leverage political forces on the ground to come together and demand political reforms as stipulated in the G6 document; and join forces with democratic groups to expose the continuous violation of civil and human rights by the Jammeh’s dictatorship.
The second phase of the strategy is to extend our influence on the political parties, putting the emphasis on the need to come together under one tent to pursue the strategy of making a countrywide tour, and appeal to Gambians to join them in their demand for political reform. As a group, they will also take their message to the international community, letting the outside world know in no certain terms that in the absence of political reforms through leveling of the playing field, Gambia could become a failed state.
The strategy of touring the Gambia is vital in re-establishing trust among the opposition parties, and the main focus is to ask Gambians to join them in their quest for a level playing field which ultimately safeguard the security and peace in the country. The opposition parties coming together and making this countrywide tour will send a clear message to the entire population that they are indeed a credible alternative to the nightmare.
Also, this will be the first effective challenge to the Dictator, and has a possibility of emboldening the population that the time is right to bring down the Dictator. The majority of Gambians at home is hoping for an opportunity for change, and by creating a unify force that will expose the excesses of this government in a red meat style delivery will be the right strategy to mitigate the fear factor the Dictator has created over the years.
As a poor Farmer told us years ago, give us the right Chariot and we will ride out of this terrible dream, and begin the arduous task of building the new Gambia.
In addition to touring the country, taking the message for the need for political reforms, they will also embark on taking the same message to the international community: the European Union, African Union and EOWAS. For the international community to see that we are united in our fight for political reforms, and that it will only take free and fair elections in the Gambia, in order to eliminate any possibility of civil strife. As the political parties remain united, take their message to Gambians at home, Gambians in the Diaspora and the international community, they will be setting a solid foundation to contest the elections, even if those reforms are ignored by the regime.
Like all of you, the majority of Gambians wants to see the end of this nightmare we are in, and I am convinced that by coming together in an alliance, demonstrate the readiness for a show of force and real funding from the Diaspora, Jammeh can lose by a huge margin, even without the electoral reforms. But, it is absolutely necessary that the first phase of the fight in 2016 is the demand for the needed electoral reforms.
THE FORMATION OF AN ALLIANCE TO CONTEST THE 2016 ELECTIONS:
This is the part that has always eluded us in the past; of course everyone understands the difficulty and the complexity for such a strategy. The elimination of the second ballot by Jammeh was very deliberate, knowing fully well that a formation of an alliance by the opposition will bring an end to whatever political advantage he can ever muster.
The APRC has always been fully aware that the power of the incumbency alone will not keep them in power. They started out with the banning of the PPP and other major parties that were deemed to be a threat electorally, of course injecting the age limit was a preempt to sideline the political stalwarts with name ID from the PPP and NCP, and finally the elimination of the second round of voting to make it difficult for the formation of alliance.
Now is the time for us to play the best card we ever had- alliance of all opposition parties, and in the process not only bring change to the state house, but a system change that will begin the building blocks of a true democracy. So that never again, our country will be high jacked by special interests, dictators of any kind, elites who think that power belongs to them, and put the Gambia back as one of the civilize countries.
Experience has taught me that coming up with a proposed scenario for an effective alliance; to confront the APRC in 2016 has to really come from the political parties themselves. Like us, they are convinced that the best strategy to peacefully remove the present status quo and replace it with a durable system can only be done through an alliance of all opposition parties.
Essentially, Gambia is very much committed to regime change, but cannot settle for that change without a total overhaul of the politics of yesteryear, and replace with a new dispensation in line with the twenty first century.
There are different kinds of alliance formation: whether it is party led alliance, the NADD type of alliance or any form of alliance for that matter, the fundamental requirement at this juncture is an alliance that all the political parties on the ground are committed to, and willing to demonstrate the show of force to the regime with a clear message that the elections cannot be stolen or outright violation of the election laws are not going to be tolerated.
Past experience during the NADD days have shown us the parties’ commitment to contest the election under an alliance platform, and only ran into trouble during the selection process of the flag bearer. Even though, the grass root participation is vital for a successful alliance, but taking the discussion behind the scenes after consultation with the population can help to bring a breakthrough.
In conclusion, as we get ready for the beginning of the New Year, we are getting to be confronted with a political calendar that will not be favorable to the alliance strategy. The first quarter of 2015 – January to April should be seen as the window to launch the first phase of the campaign for the electoral reforms, as stipulated in the G6 document, by making a countrywide tour by all the opposition parties.
They should come up with a budget that can be sent to the Diaspora, so that they can begin the work of raising the required funds for the tour. The parties will also send an envoy to the international community, making it clear as it relates to their position to the elections in 2016.
The message to the Gambian people and the international community will be one of unanimity, and commitment to save our country from sliding into the abyss. As they continue to campaign and make the demands for the electoral reforms, they will also be engaged in preliminary discussion of other options in regards to their participation in the 2016 General elections.
The 2016 General elections is slated for November of 2016; therefore, by the end of 2015, the opposition parties would have had a unanimous position in terms of the kind of alliance, program of the alliance, a detailed program of a transitional Government that will implement the required system changes, and a saleable candidate that can be used as a flag bearer to take on Jammeh.
Like most Gambians, we are all left with the notion that Jammeh will do whatever it takes, even use violence to stay in power.
Jammeh is not suicidal, and when confronted by the overwhelming power of the people under a united alliance, the only path for him is to respect the will of the people. Jammeh can be defeated if all parties, including the Diaspora pulled what I called the spirit of Lee Atwater, a political mercenary who understood the art of running and winning political campaigns by relying on a winning strategy.
This, fellow Gambians, can be a peaceful route to bring about change and the building blocks for a viable democratic Gambia.