Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Gambian Coalition: A Coalition Against What?

President Adama Barrow
The brouhaha surrounding the election of the current Gambian President Adama Barrow over long-term dictator Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh Babili Mansa and Jammeh's inital acceptance and later rejection of the election results and the determination of ECOWAS  to ensure that Jammeh had to go by love or by force, hid a major problem with the victorious Gambian Coalition; it's inherent instability.

The Gambian Coalition that trounced Yahya Jammeh in December 2016 was a loose collection of eight political parties, bonding together by necessity, in spite of their personal and ideological differences, to ensure that their common enemy, Yahya Jammeh, was defeated in the Presidential elections of that December. 
Halifah Sallah

The Coalition Presidential candidate Adama Barrow, in a grand compromise,  had to resign from his own party, the United Democratic Party, and contest as an independent candidate, so that no one party could lay a legal claim to the coalition presidency.

However, the coalition agreement could not negate the fact that these were individuals, many of whom had been political rivals for decades, each with different economic and political ideologies.       As is usually the case with African politics, many of these parties also had different ethnic loyalties. It was a chaotic mix of parties, personalities and opinions, managing to temporarily coexist in an unstable equilibrium.
Ousainou Darboe

In fighting against a common enemy,  the Gambian Coalition had managed to present a united front throughout the pandemonium that followed Jammeh's defeat, followed by his intransigence and refusal to step down from office and his ultimate exile deep into the interior of the relatively unknown Central African country of Equatorial Guinea, where it is reported, he is contemplating going into farming.

Unfortunately, now that the coalition has gotten rid of their common enemy, Jammeh, the common bond that held them together has been severed. In the clamor for positions and influence in the Barrow regime, there were already signs of strains in the coalition's cohesiveness. With legislative elections in the country coming up, the coming days and weeks will be the first major trial of the coalition and already the cracks have appeared and are only destined to widen.

 A lot of ordinary Gambians around the country and in the diaspora failed to see the coalition as nothing more than a marriage of convenience. They truly wanted the Gambian coalition to have some permanence, to be a symbol of ethnic and national unity. In their minds, the coalition would demonstrate to the world that somehow, Gambians were unique and could work together, in harmony for the future of their country. Of course this was always  nothing but a sweet illusion.

Given the competitive nature of the human being and the innate competitiveness of multiparty politics, the notion of a coalition of eight parties working together in harmony, in the absence of their common enemy, was never going to truly work as expected. With their common enemy, Yahya Jammeh gone into political oblivion, at least for the near future, the founding purpose of the coalition no longer exists.  
Mai Fatty

The Gambian coalition was an ad hoc arrangement that worked, and will always remain an example to other African opposition groups. However, any view that it could be a permanent institution symbolizes a deep lack of understanding of human nature in general and  politics in particular.  Any expectation that eight African political parties can continue working together, when the glue that held them together no longer exists, is simply political naivete. At the end of the day, Gambians are just as humans as the rest of mankind and multiparty politics will always be a battle of different interests and different world views, and the two will always be uneasy bedfellows. 

With Gambian Coalition spokesman Halifa Sallah deciding not to take part in the country's executive and erudite lawyer Ousainou Darboe freed from incarceration and now in power, these are two political and intellectual heavyweights with political ideologies so diametrically opposed, that I just do not see a way that they can continue reading from the same playbook. Throw into that mix all the other political and ideological heavyweights both within the country and abroad, with different views of the future and different ideas on good governance, it would be a miracle if the cohesiveness of the coalition survives more than a year. 
Vice President Fatou Tambajang

The coalition worked when it needed to and is still in a strong position to do a lot of good before the cracks become permanent. They can set the stage for what happens in the Gambia of the future and can ensure that the human right violations that occurred under Jammeh will never happen again. The coalition's common purpose now will be to rewrite the rules of the country, guaranteeing the citizens real political freedom. They can also ensure the establishment of a thriving democracy with real checks and balances. They can guarantee the respect for human rights and the rights of minorities, and can ensure that the mistakes of the past 22 years will never be repeated again. 

Together, the coalition can determine the the rules for future political engagement in the country, ensuring a level playing field for all and probably become a model for good governance in the sub-region. The coalition can also ensure education for most and set up institutions that will encourage youths to develop skills for formal and self employment. With all the parties currently working together, the future of Gambia looks bright. However,  power and politics has a way of clouding good dreams, and I hope the coalition stays the course and continue the good fight, at least for now.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Tegloma Washington DC Inaugurates First Female Federation Leader

First Female Leader of Tegloma
Chairman Julia Hawa Conteh
Founding Member and First Tegloma
Chairman Benjamin Blake
Tegloma Federation Inc, is the largest Sierra Leonean nonpolitical organization in the diaspora. Tegloma which means "Togetherness for Progress" was founded in Washington DC in 1975, to promote the culture, welfare and interests of Sierra Leoneans of Southeastern descent living in the United States. 
Displaying the Staff of Office

The Tegloma Washington DC Chapter was the first of the more than twenty chapters which today comprises Tegloma Federation International Inc, an organization that has now spread to three continents.
 At its inception, Tegloma was primarily a Mende organization, as was common with many of the cultural organizations of the period, which were founded along ethnic lines. 
Tegloma Federation Vice Chairman
Mrs Elizabeth Saidu Momoh

However, given the interest in the organization by people who were not Mendes, the Tegloma organization has since evolved to open its door to all Sierra Leoneans and nationals of other countries who were interested in the culture and traditions of Southeastern Sierra Leone. 
Tegloma Land Committee Members
Seisay and Janneh
Tegloma has also become a nonprofit organization engaging in charitable causes in USA and Sierra Leone and was one of the first Sierra Leone diaspora organizations to respond with material assistance during the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone.
Chiefs Summit Host Washington DC
President Moiforay
Secretary General Amos Allie

Tegloma as an organization is comprised of several semi-autonomous chapters in many states in the USA, with chapters also in Canada, Gambia and Sierra Leone. All Tegloma chapters are subject to the authority of the Tegloma Federation Inc, which is the umbrella organization for all chapters.
Some Current and Past Chapter Chiefs

Over the years, many Tegloma chapters in varous states have been led by women. However, the leadership of the main Tegloma Federation administration has been the sole preserve of men, a legacy of the patriarchal nature of Sierra Leone organizations and society. Sierra Leone has always had male Presidents and Vice Presidents throughout its history.

Presenting the Tegloma Staff of Office
Tegloma New England President
"Mama Africa"
However, in September 2016, Julia Hawa Conteh, the former President of Tegloma New York Chapter took a hammer and to the male reinforced glass ceiling of the organization, shattered it and   became the first female Tegloma Federation Chairman and President in the 41 year history of the organization. 

Hawa Julia Conteh had previously lost a Federation Chairman election,but remained undeterred in her quest to make history. On the second try she succeeded as the first lady to win a Tegloma federation election for chairmaan.  Julia Hawa Conteh and Vice Chairman Elizabeth Saidu Momoh finally brought an end to the decades of male domination of Tegloma, under the likes of Benjamin Blake, Lansana Nyallay, Sam Saidu, Allie Foh, Alfred Jamiru and many other past male leaders of the organization.

 Julia's election was a calculated and determined effort that has brought into the organization what the female members of the organization are now calling "Woman Power!" A lady at the inauguration of Julia Hawa Conteh stated that women would lead the organization for the next 40 years. That is yet to be seen.
Tegloma Patrons
Julia Hawa Conteh Recognizing
Chapter Chiefs

Being the first female leader of a male dominated organization, and coming from a culture used to male leadership has not been easy for the new leader of the organization in her first few months in office. Already come of the male members of the organization with strong traditional mentality are in strong opposition to her leadership. Some of the older chapter leaders opposed to her leadership boycotted her inauguration this past weekend in Washington DC.

Hail to the Chief
Tegloma Federation Treasurer
Deborah Bockarie
In spite of the testosterone fueled obstacles, Tegloma's first female leader Julia Hawa Conteh was, in the presence of her husband and family, publicly presented to the friends and members of the Sierra Leone community, at a Tegloma Chiefs Summit on March 4th 2017, at an elaborate inaugural ceremony that was organized by the Tegloma Federation and the hardworking men and women of Tegloma Washington Chapter, led by their dynamic Chief Brima Moiforay. 

Former Tegloma Board Chairman
Abu Bhona
Julia Hawa Conteh who is a member of Tegloma New York chapter decided to have her inauguration in Washington DC, to symbolize the fact that the first female leader of the organization was formally unveiled in the founding chapter of the organization.
Julia Hawa Conteh with Proud

Tegloma Chiefs and members from all over the continental USA flew to Washington DC to witness and participate in the historic Chiefs Summit and Inauguration. The Vice Chairman of the Federation Mrs. Elizabeth Momoh, was also in attendance, including many former and present executive members of the Tegloma Federation administration and board of directors.

Woman Power
Pouring Libations
Rose Mustapha
The Chiefs summit was a mixture of old meets new, with the Keynote Speaker being the first ever Chairman of Tegloma Federation Mr. Benjamin Blake, who spoke of the history of Tegloma and its enormous role in the sociocultural history of the Sierra Leone diaspora. The rest of the Chiefs summit was devoted to contemporary issues such as organizational assistance to Sierra Leone's educational and health sectors, fundraising initiatives and organizational sustainability.
Former Board and Administration Chairmen
Mustapha & Jamiru
Minnesota & Missouri Chapter
Out-Going Tegloma Dallas Chief
Elizabeth Mamie Bockarie

Dinner Break
Tegloma Founding member
Ernest Pekanyande
The ceremonial inauguration was presided over by the former Board Chairman Abu Bhonapha, as the current Board Chairman was not able to attend the occasion. The MC for the inauguration were Dr. Lawrence Sandi and Miss Rosaline Bangura.
MC Rosaline Bangura

MC Dr Lawrence Sandi

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