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Halifa Sallah takes issue with Gov't on Libya

May 16, 2011, 1:45 PM | Article By: Baboucarr Senghore

Halifa Sallah, Secretary General of the opposition Peoples Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), has made arguably the strongest reaction yet to the Gambia government's recent recognition of the Libyan Transitional National Council of the rebels in Libya.

"The Gambia Government is a member of the African Union. What it should have been doing is to interrogate and influence the policy of the African Union on Libya. In my view, there is a fundamental flaw in the way the Libyan situation is being handled. Ghaddafi made the first blunder which confirms that he has never been clear on what his role is in Libyan history. The same flaw is being made by most African leaders," Sallah said.

In an exclusive interview with The Point at the weekend, Sallah opined that all African leaders should recognise that the right to self determination and independence calls for both a Nationalist Revolution to establish independent states and a Democratic Revolution for sovereignty to reside in the people, and for that sovereignty to be asserted through  the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and association, including the right to form political parties and seek the mandate of the people through free and fair elections.

"Ghaddafi failed to recognise the second phase of the national liberation struggle, which is the democratic phase that makes the people sovereign. As soon as the protests started, the African Union should have intervened to convince Ghaddafi to call for a National Conference to determine a transitional arrangement towards the attainment of the democratic revolution, before any atrocities were committed," he stated.

Instead, he added, Ghadaffi chose the route to civil war by promising to crush those who are opposed to his leadership, instead of opening the democratic space for them to promote the emergence of a new Libya, which is their sovereign right.

According to him, it is this vicious assault on the sovereign Libyan people which compelled the UN to intervene to establish a no-fly zone, and protect those who do not share Ghaddaffi's concept of how Libya should be governed.

"There is now an armed opposition and an armed fragment of Ghadaffi's state power.

"Now, no government exists in Libya which can protect its sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and national unity. The task now is how to establish a government in Libya that will have the legitimacy to govern," he noted.

The renowned politician cum sociologist proposed that the African Union should guide the UN to hold a UN Conference on Libya through which representatives of the armed opposition, Ghadaffi's faction, prominent intellectuals, religious and civic leaders would be brought together under the auspices of the United Nations in partnership with the AU  to develop a National Transitional government and programme, which the vast majority of Libyans could recognise and respect as the  peaceful way forward for the country.

This, he added, is the way forward for Libya.

Libyan Assets Freeze

"The information I received is that the companies are owned by private Libyan investors. If that is the case, the freezing of the assets would not be in line with justice and fairness."

Tractors presentation and influence of elections 

"The developments in Wuli exposed the weakness of the APRC. They could be said to have won not because of the gifts, but by exploiting ethno-linguistic sentiments. This may not work in a presidential election.

"People should weigh how we intend to do things, and how President Jammeh does things. In our view, President Jammeh is only exposing the demonstrated incapacity of his government to address the problem of abject poverty in the rural areas, through these displays.

"He is building an economy based on charity, while we intend to build an economy based on solidarity. In short, what is anticipated is that the governors and chiefs would find land to cultivate and would mobilise innocent rural men and women to produce crops which they would bring back to the President in the name of helping him to give charity to the needy.

"If we were in his position, villagers would have their own farm to cultivate to generate personal income and would join the other villagers to work on a village farm whose produce will be sold to finance the development projects of each village. Any personal use of machinery will be paid for, and the proceeds would be put into a development fund for the villages.

"We all know that minerals are being mined in the country. This generates income for a country which should be paid into a sovereign National Fund. If the Public Enterprises are properly managed, they should generate a dividend which should also be paid into a sovereign National Fund. A country could have joint Public /Private enterprises to create sovereign National Wealth. It is such wealth that is utilised to provide funding to productive ventures in villages and towns to promote income generation and socio-economic development.

"Look at the Gambian private sector. The Government currently owes the banks over 7 billion dalasis. The Government cannot finance its own budget without taking debts, while the head of state dishes out Millions which mesmerize some people.

"Suppose the billions issued as loans to the Government went to the Gambian private sector more people would have been removed from poverty.

"If we were managing the affairs of the country, all investors would have local partners. Those who wish to invest on land owned by communities, Kabilos or individuals would maintain them as shareholders.

"We have an alternative economic policy that could be explained to the people that would enable us to combat the mystification of the resources being dished out by the President.

"In my view, few people could be convinced that a Government which cannot put its youth to work could ease their poverty through the personal generosity of its President."     

Political Situation (Opposition Divided?)

"I don't know how the term (a divided opposition) emerged. A multi-party system presupposes the existence of many parties. Political parties are bound to have divergent views. If people want coalitions, they should just advocate for it without castigating the opposition. Coalitions are strategic and tactical instruments. Their nature and characteristics are determined by the realities on the ground. We stand for the creation of a grand alliance for change. Others may wish to stand alone."

Possibilities for an opposition alliance ahead of November polls

"The alliance of all forces that want change is indispensable, if change is to be effected. All those who sincerely want change must work to create a grand Alliance for change."

PDOIS's position on forthcoming elections

"The purpose for which NADD was established is still valid up to today. The circumstances have changed for some of the political parties, and it appears that they could never become a part of NADD again.

"PDOIS maintains its position that one opposition candidate should contest against the incumbent. This candidate should be selected through a consensual instrument. We conceive a primary to be the best instrument for testing the popular support of the candidates, and their capacity to attract cross party votes.

"However, we are open to proposals regarding the use of other consensual instruments. All parties that stand for an alliance should be asked to put their proposals in the public space for a discussion and consensus building."