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Halifa Sallah says Gambian youths want change

Oct 10, 2011, 1:40 PM | Article By: Baboucarr Senghore

Ahead of scheduled presidential, parliamentary and local government polls, Halifa Sallah, Secretary General of the Peoples Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), has opined that the mood among Gambian youths is that of a desire for change, but that individual parties cannot bring it about.

Sallah, who was speaking in an interview with journalists at Election House last week, said the response among Gambians on the issue of a proposed united front by opposition parties is that they want change, but individual parties cannot bring about change.

“Many people felt that many people, because of voter apathy, will not go and register, but if you look at the register, it is the young people of this country who are in the majority. This shows you the future. Why would they go and get a voters card? I believe the mood is for change,” he declared.

Sallah, who lost to incumbent President Jammeh in the 2006 presidential elections, further stated that without the mechanisms that can bring everybody on board, voter apathy will be the order of the day.

“If one asks Gambians, at the moment, what do they want, the response will be that ‘we want change but individual parties cannot bring about change, go and unite’. From here to Koina, that’s what we hear from people who want change,” he added.

Commenting on his party’s position on the much-talked about opposition united front, Sallah said PDOIS does not believe a multi-party system exists as it should be, and that opposition parties need to recognize that they will not have a level playing field for the operation of all political parties to contest an election.

According to him, the fact that The Gambia does not have a second round of voting is to the disadvantage of the opposition.

“So our position is that the opposition should be conscious of this fact, and see the need to file one candidate. That is our position, and we are going to propagate that,” he said.

He explained further: “If different people have interests, we recognize that as some politicians have told us that they do not want to lose advantage by giving an advantage to a particular political party. So we say, yes, let’s find a mechanism to address that, and that’s why we are saying that a convention provides a solution to that problem, because every person who wants to become a candidate can come before the convention and put your case, and anyone who is selected will be accepted by all.”

“If that happens”, he went on, “it will mean that the candidate selected is not the candidate of a political party, but the candidate of a convention and, if we campaign, whatever result we have is the result of a convention.

“If we have victory, we run a transitional government for a period that we all mutually accept, and then the next following election anybody who wants to seek the mandate of the people will go ahead and seek the mandate of the people on a level ground. That is our position,” Sallah added.

He further stated that there is no ownership on the issue of a united front, noting that it is not PDOIS, not Halifa Sallah, or Ousainou Darboe, but that it is something that belongs to the Gambian people united for change.

“We believe that, in fact, if we want to make an impact, to effectively change this country, that is the way forward,” he asserted.

Halifa also dispel suggestions that leadership problem is the main obstacle to the issue of a united front, saying that he does not see how that could be a problem.

“You want to be a leader; this person wants to be a leader, you have to go for elections anywhere to be selected to be a leader. We said, now why don’t we because of our mutual disadvantage enhance our advantage by coming together, and agree that anybody who is selected we will accept that,” he continued.

Sallah added that every party has interest in leading The Gambia, and it is their right, but it is more difficult to sell PDOIS, UDP, Halifa Sallah or Ousainou Darboe in the country, at the moment, than selling a united front.

“You can sell a convention easier than you can sell a political party or a personality in this country, at the moment,” Sallah stated.