Pa Modou Bojang
Pa Modou Bojang

(JollofNews) – The continued detention and unrelenting trial of the opposition United Democractic Party (UDP) leader and other executive members of the party have forced some party supporters to reevaluate their possible participation in the December elections.

The validation of their position could be grasped if we reflect upon their demands for electoral reforms, which encouraged the party’s youth leader, Ebrima Solo Sandeng, to hold a protest with his colleagues at the Westfield Junction, Serekunda, which led their arrest, torture and Mr Sandeng’s death in the state custody.

The UDP’s propagation for election boycott can be comprehended in the context of illegality of the detention and subsequent trial of their leader and executive members, whose court proceedings are fraught with blatant and broad day-light transgression of the country’s legal framework.

The recent comfirmation by Yahya Jammeh’s regime that Solo Sandeng died in detention is another conceivable reason that explicates the stable position of the some UDP members for boycotting the elections. While the party demands for electoral reforms, the release of its executive members from custody and an investigation into the death Solo Sandeng are of uncompromised and genuine demands, the question that begs itself is whether the possible election boycott is a solution to the standing and existing political dilemma which is the daily concerns of  Gambians, both at and abroad?

The irreversible and brute fact is that, non-participation of the UDP in the elections would not secure the release of the UDP executive members from Mile Two, neither would it embolden Jammeh’s to launch an independent investigation into the death of Solo Sandeng.
Similarly, the boycott of the elections by the UDP would not be a stimulus for regime to reverse its position in relations to the indiscriminate arbitrary arrest, detention and mysterious killings of innocent Gambians, nor will it hearten Yahya Jammeh to retreat from physically and verbally targeting Mandinkas as the “the enemy of his regime”.

More importantly, the abstention of UDP from participating in the elections would not delegitimise the elections result and it would not dissuade other opposition parties to contest with APRC in the polls. This is even acute when we put into thought the persistence of PDOIS and PPP to contest the forthcoming coming elections.

Therefore, the UDP need a serious discuss to lay down alternative viable means to ensure the departure of Yahya Jammeh from the State House. Two months ago, mass protest was apparently trusted as feasible and practical device that would warrant the departure of Yahya. However, the regime’s violent response to the last biggest protests on 9th May did not only subsided the scale and scope of these protests, but it proved that protest is not a viable means to confront Yahya Jammeh.

Similarly, military option personalised in possible division and split within the Gambian National Army was projected to be another possible device that could led to overthrow of the regime. However, this option has been observantly ridiculed by insiders based on their presumption that it is only Yahya Jammeh’s loyalist- most of whom are Jolas- have access to arms while others-especially Mandinkas- remained unarmed and under the close watch of their colleagues.

Gambia opposition UDP protest
UDP Leader Ousainou Darboe, fourth from the right, leading protest in April.

Although, mass protest and split of the GNA are not elusive projections in near future, as of now, the elections remain within-reach solution to end the 21 years of tyranny in the Gambia. This is even more acute when we understand that the UDP’s boycott of the elections is nothing but granting Yahya Jammeh another five years mandate to rule Gambia with more dictatorship and absolute ruling; more violation of basic human rights; more economic regression , pervasion of poverty among Gambians and reckless spending and exploitation of the limited resource of the country; more arbitrary arrest, trials, mysterious killings, disappearance; more self-imposed Gambian exiles, political asylum seekers and economic refugees in Europe; and more tribal politics, deepening of Cassamance cum Jola hegemony, hatred among tribes and humiliation of tribes, especially Mandinkas.

Therefore, the UDP should take a pragmatic approach to part take in the December presidential elections. As it stands today, the UDP is proved to be not only the principal and well-supported opposition party in the country, but it is also the party that defies and threatens Yahya Jammeh’s grip on the power.

The increasing concerns of the regime over the stable growth of the UDP supporter across the country has pushed Yahya Jammeh into label the party as a tribally motivated party. Although PDOIS remain resilient in challenging the regime, it never constitutes a threat to the regime, and it influences remains current among intellectuals while its messages are beyond the comprehension of many ordinary Gambians.

Accordingly, the UDP should discuss among themselves to select a flag bearer and a strong charismatic leader to participate in the elections, while they will simultaneously work on ensuring the release of the party members from the prison.
Even though the existing electoral law constitute leverage that enable the APRC vis-à-vis other parties, reflecting upon the political scene and conduct of polity in the Gambia confirms that Yahya Jammeh’s legitimacy and popularity as president is constantly declining not only among Gambians as a whole, but also among civil servants, military, APRC militants and among Gambian Jolas.

This, and the recent currency of Gambia’s political development in the eyes of international community and international media; the increasing frustration of Gambians at home and abroad with Yahya’s bigotry comment against the Mandinkas and his arbitrary arrest, disappearance and killing of Gambians are strong indications that he will unprecedentedly struggle to win the votes from his strongholds.

Lawyer Darboe and his supporters being led away in handcuffs
Lawyer Darboe and his supporters being led away in handcuffs

These developments are sufficient justifications for UDP to contest in the upcoming polls. More importantly, the fact that Gambians are becoming politically aware and matured constitute another leverage that would permit UDP to easily get its message across without counting on the GRTS campaign for UDP as smart-mobile phone revolution in the Gambia and thrive in number of online radio will also permit UDP to permeate campaign messages to wider population.

Meanwhile, as considerable number of Gambians in the diaspora are frustrated and antagonised by conduct of politics in the Gambia, the influence of these people over their friends and loved ones in the Gambia in propagating against voting for Yahya Jammeh would serve the interests of the oppositions in general and UDP in particular.

Finally, the series of protests that were waged by some UDP youths over the past  months did not only lift the moral spirit of the Gambian youths to defy the fear of Yahya Jammeh, but it also exalted the image of UDP as an opposition party while the image of PDOIS and PPP have been defamed severely.

This is another leverage should have positive impact on the vote aggregate of the UDP should it decides to participate in the election. Overall, the UDP’s election boycott is not only fruitless in the ongoing efforts to displace Yahya Jammeh, but it also constitutes a long-waiting and melodious news that Yahya Jammeh will like to hear.