In their book “How States Think,” John Mearsheimer, (the American political scientist, University of Chicago), and Rosato explore how political activists and officials utilize logical techniques to gain victory and thereby harm their opponents. In this situation, Barrow’s NPP not only secured the UDP’s politically loaded wagon, but also abandoned the party in despair and suffering. One could argue that this is Sabally’s largest betrayal or shift in allegiance in recent Gambian political history.
In light of this scenario, questions emerge as to why the UDPs failed to anticipate and adequately handle such a circumstance. How should the party handle this situation, and can its leaders afford to remain silent?
As a long-standing opposition force in The Gambia, the UDP has exhibited continuity and played a critical role in driving political development. However, internal conflicts have emerged in recent years, particularly among important personalities aligned with Adama Barrow’s new political enterprise. This action ultimately aided Barrow’s return to power in 2021.
The sudden departure of former campaign manager Momodou Sabally has caught the UDP off guard. The response, or lack thereof, of the party demonstrates a lack of confidence, resilience, and devotion to its essential ideals and principles. This quiet not only makes the UDP vulnerable, but it also allows opposing camps, particularly the NPP, to prosper more.
It’s evidence that Barrow’s political tactics is yielding positively and in a very fast-paced approach ahead of 2026. This is manifested through their ability in silencing a rival political opponent and a leading political scientist, Dr. Ismaila Ceesay whose 2021 endorsement of the incumbent Adama Barrow left a divided political camp (Citizens Alliance), with many denouncing their membership. The question is, would the United Democratic Party allowed to be defined by the president’s and NPP’s strategic and calculated political move?
How should UDP Respond to This Quagmire?
A competent political organization typically relies on political strategists who employ credible evidence and scientific analysis to navigate political movements. The UDP’s executive leadership should conduct a thorough assessment of their decisions and reevaluate their political strategy. In contrast to the United Democratic Party, the NPP strategically and rationally secured Sabally, making it a calculated decision that was extensively discussed within the NPP’s executive committee.
The UDP leadership ought to have explored political strategies to preemptively address Sabally’s departure, especially if rumors about secret dialogues or conversations had reached them. While it’s conceivable that the UDP’s executive committee may have been aware of the move, their failure to retain Sabally or sack him before his formal announcement to the incumbent’s party allowed him to be politically exploited by the NPP while causing serious political damage to the United Democratic Party.
Compounding the issue is the UDP’s decision to adopt a “not talking” approach. This silence leaves party members in limbo regarding the party’s stance and future direction. Contrary to historical norms of prompt and vocal decision-making, the UDP’s leadership took three days to appoint a new campaign manager and refrained from holding a press briefing.
This delayed response exposes a leadership breakdown within the UDP, revealing weaknesses that define the party’s current political trajectory. To remedy this, the UDP needs to react swiftly, break its silence, and normalize the ongoing political situation. In this context, communication is imperative, and addressing the issue openly is better than maintaining silence.
Taken together, while being more tolerant and respectful to diverging views will yield a positive outcome the United Democratic Party should strategically explore all available options to internally and externally assess its political structure ahead of 2026 presidential elections.
Penn State School of International Affairs