“In the past, every effort undertaken by the party to form a united front based on the true and tried principles of coalition building has fallen short,” said Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, secretary general of the UDP, at the opening of a three-day national congress of the party held in Basse at the weekend.
He said efforts aimed at forming an opposition coalition could not work on account of non-cooperation and conspiracy of fringe politicians with few supporters, but “great capacity to feed cynicism”.
The UDP leader noted that the failure of the opposition to form a united front has driven up apathy.This is because “less discerning citizens”, who just want to see a unified opposition, lump all the parties together and blame them “as politicians deliberately letting the country down”.
Lawyer Darboe said the UDP, as the largest opposition party, has been looked upon by its membership and the majority of the population, both within and outside of The Gambia, to bring together the other parties to present a united front.
Consequently, the party will continue to spare no effort at exploring all possibilities of working together to achieve that objective, the UDP leader added.
“However, faced with a tyranny that is determined to use every means to thwart the capacity of the Gambian people to freely elect their leaders, the UDP will not be delayed by dysfunctional and unreliable allies in the opposition.”
Darboe said the UDP has no recourse, but to chart “a clear and achievable course” that directly mobilises all Gambians who wish to act affirmatively to end the existing regime.
The UDP is “the only main opposition party in the country that has always participated in all the four elections” in the Second Republic in alliance with other smaller parties.
In the last presidential election, held in 2011, the UDP formed an alliance with Gambia Moral Congress, one of the small and new opposition parties in the country.
The alliance, led by Darboe as the flagbearer, pulled the second highest vote cast in that election, apart from the incumbent party.
The UDP leader said the party’s relations with sister opposition parties have been “neither up nor down”.
“We have always nurtured friendly and respectful relations with each other, but we have never been able to move to the desired plan of coming together to confront a common adversary,” Lawyer Darboe said.
“The failure of the parties for not coming together is not due to the lack of efforts to do so.”
According to him, the UDP has the capacity to assert “a muscular and defiant political strategy” that can galvanise the whole nation.
“We will succeed if we make our intentions clear to the Gambian people, inspire them on the need for shared sacrifice to save the land of our ancestors from the clutches of a regime that has brought so much pain and misery to far too many households.”
The UDP leader said because of the party’s numerical strength, tested and proven over four generations of elections, it has taken upon itself to lead the struggle to rid The Gambia of “tyrannical rule” as the country is in a “very precarious state”.
In 2012, the UDP with five political parties did not participate in the National Assembly elections held that year.
Darboe explained that the UDP’s non-participation in the 2012 elections was due to “the refusal of the Independent Electoral Commission” to reschedule the elections, to allow time for all stakeholders to discuss the concerns raised by the opposition parties.
According to him, the IEC’s refusal to reschedule the elections was based on the reason that the demands jointly made by the opposition parties were not made timely.
He said:“Drawing experience from the IEC’s reaction to the joint opposition demands, the UDP invited all opposition parties to a meeting to examine the Elections Act and the provisions of the Constitution that affect the conduct of elections, and come out with a set of proposals and demands for consideration and implementation by the relevant authorities.
“My colleagues, leaders of the other opposition parties responded positively to the invitation, and accorded me the honour of coordinating the activities of what has now come to be known as the G6 as far as electoral reforms matters are concerned.
“They demonstrated their absolute commitment to the creation of a level playing field, transparent, free, fair and credible elections.”
At the end of the three-day national congress, UDP leaders resolved “to work with all other opposition parties in wresting power from the incumbent”.
Lawyer Darboe’s explanation of the frustration over forming a coalition comes at a time when the key word on the lips of all concerned Gambians is a united front of the opposition in the forthcoming 1 December 2016 presidential election.