Murtala Touray

((JollofNews) – It is now official, Gambians have been short-changed! The People voted for a Coalition government only to be offered in the end a government of the United Democratic Party (UDP) with almost two-third majority in parliament. Yet, President Adama Barrow and UDP leaders want Gambians to continue to blindly believe that the country is still under a Coalition government.

Let’s face it, the political transition is over and The Gambia is now under a UDP government.
Lest we forget, Barrow is a UDP stalwart dressed in Coalition’s clothing. Barrow was the tentative leader of UDP when Ousainou Darboe was put behind bars by former President Jammeh in April 2016. Barrow later resigned from UDP to be the presidential candidate of the Coalition, which eventually ended President Jammh’s 22-year reign of terror.

Once Darboe left prison, he automatically regained his position as the leader of the UDP party, which Barrow is still loyal to by his own admission. The Coalition, which was built in Darboe’s absence, crumbled in his presence with the creation of his tactical alliance. Thus, building a coalition within a coalition!
So, it is in Barrow’s interest to keep proclaiming the existence of the Coalition; if he says anything to the contrary, he will lose his legitimacy.

On the other hand, it should be the duty of informed Gambians to tell it as it is and try at all cost to prevent the nation from sleepwalking into another long era of one-party’s domination of the state.

The outcome of the parliamentary elections showed that Gambians have a huge task at hand to build a multi-party democracy. The parliamentary results confirmed that there is currently no match for UPD. Not a single party in the country is likely to wrestle power away from them in the years ahead. In short, UPD is almost certain to dominate the Gambian political landscape for at least the next two decades.

At present, Darboe is the most powerful man in the country. He is the “holy trinity”: the head of UDP, the kingmaker in the Barrow administration and above all the “father” of President Barrow. Well, Barrow in his own words said that Darboe is a father-figure to him. In many traditions, including The Gambia, the child has to acquiesce to the dictates of his father or risks being ostracised.

With UDP now the ruling party, Darboe is effectively the de facto president of The Gambia. Darboe has the power to make or break the current government. As the head of UDP, Darboe can influence which policies and laws should be passed or stalled in parliament. More attention should now be given to Darboe’s utterances and actions more than Barrow’s. Darboe’s statements carry weight and could signal a policy stance of the Barrow administration.

Ousainou Darboe

Darboe has already placed the appointment of the Vice President in the back-burner until he makes up his mind whether he should take it for himself or give it to a loyalist instead of confirming Fatoumata Tambajang.
Nonetheless, in the event Barrow falls out with his father-like figure Darboe, there is the danger of a government paralysis as it is the case currently in Guinea Bissau.

The government of Guinea Bissau is almost at a standstill without a national budget for almost two years. This is due to an ongoing conflict between President Jose Mario Vaz and his former party, PAIGC, which is the ruling party. The conflict started when President Vaz dismissed Domingos Pereira as his Prime Minister in 2015.

Pereira as the leader of PAIGC has been working with the PAIGC-dominated National Assembly to undermine President Vaz’s government. Vaz has appointed his fifth prime minister in less than two years, and each time PAIGC will reject his appointment. Nothing is working as the country is embroiled in a political crisis. PAIGC has turned Vaz to a lame duck president who is unable to govern until he meets their core demand, which is to return the prime minister position back to the ruling party.

It is still early days in The Gambia and all is well within UDP as the party celebrates its legislative victory at the expense of the Coalition. The Guinea Bissau lesson is that the government can be thrown into a turmoil if conflict arises between Barrow and Darboe further down the line.

For now, the people’s struggle should focus on preventing the country from sliding back into a de facto one-party state as it obtained under Jammeh. This is to prevent our good-intentioned UDP leaders from not being corrupt absolutely by absolute powers.

By  Murtala Touray  

The author, a Gambian based in the UK advising government and corporate entities on commercially-relevant political and security risks