The Interparty Committee on Opposition Unification (ICOU) and some independent contestants and their supporters yesterday held a press briefing on electoral reforms in the country.
The ICOU is made up of the United Democratic Party (UDP), the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), the National Convention Party (NCP), the Gambia Progress Democratic Party (GPDP), the Gambia Moral Congress (GMC), the National Democratic Action Movement (NDAM) and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and some independent contestants.
Held at TANGO, the press briefing was well attended by various opposition political leaders notably Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, leader of the UDP, Hamat Bah, leader of NRP, among other representatives and sympathizers from various political parties.
“A united force to challenge the ruling APRC party in the December 1 presidential election is the best option for defeating President Jammeh at the polls,” said Musa Sonko, Secretary General of the ICOU.
He said Gambians living in and outside the country are all yearning for unity among all the opposition parties, to salvage the country from the trend it is taking.
“The deteriorating economic situation causing immense suffering to all Gambians is unsustainable and unbearable and, therefore, needs urgent and concerted efforts to restore the ailing economy,” he said.
Mr Sonko further stated that the “uneven political playing field in favour of the APRC, since its transformation from a military junta to civilian rule”, and the recently enacted elections amendment Act 2015, “are all designed to stifle” the prospects and chances of the opposition to effect “the most-needed change” of government and system.
He noted that the committee is an instrument through which “unconstitutional rule, unjust electoral laws and the uneven” political playing field in favour of APRC regime is to be challenged and liquidated.
“In order to remain united in the pursuit of our collective objectives, we have adopted the principle and policy of putting the interest of our country first before that of any party or individual.”
Mr Sonko said further: “We urge all our diverse party supporters and members to give the committee maximum support, for the path to The Gambia’s salvation and redemption lies in the cooperation and unity of the opposition parties.
“The committee sees the hope of tomorrow in these patriotic citizens in whose hands, more than ours, will rest the final success or failure of our cause.”
He added: “So whether you are a supporter or sympathizer, high standard of strength and sacrifice is required from you, but with good conscience. Our only sure reward and history, the final judge of our deeds, let us all go forth together in fortitude and rescue the country we all love so dearly, knowing that here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.”
Kebba F. Singhateh, chairman of the ICOU, said the formation of the interparty committee was based on the response to the universal demand by the electorate and other realities and considerations, members and supporters of the opposition parties to close their ranks and work together for the attainment of a genuine electoral reforms, and “if necessary put up a single candidate against President Jammeh in order to effect change”.
According to him, this time around the relations between the respective parties are based on mutual cooperation, trust, respect and understanding.
“We have adopted persistency and consistency in the pursuit of our principle, resolutions and discipline in the execution of our common methods of application to facilitate the smooth running of the affairs of the interparty committee.”
He added that subcommittees have been formed to facilitate and ease the functions of the main committee.
Mr Singhateh stated that some of the adopted resolutions and actions to be taken are operational legality which, he said, would ensure that the committee operates as a legal entity, and that it has decided to operate under the umbrella of the respective political parties and try not to register the committee, since it is a pressure group and not a political party.
He said: “There is unanimity to the pursuit of genuine electoral reforms, as has been demanded by the group of six opposition parties after unity has been achieved, as this is the most important agenda of the committee.”
He also said: “Even if the opposition parties agree on a single candidate, that candidate’s chances of winning would be very slim due to what he described as “bad electoral laws and rules governing the electoral process”, and the uneven political playing field ever since obtaining on the ground.”