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.

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