Apr 25, 2008, 6:47 AM
As the countdown to next month’s presidential election gathers pace, four opposition parties Saturday signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a United Front, which paves the way for a convention to select one candidate to face incumbent President Yahya Jammeh in the polls.
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The move comes after weeks of talks between seven political parties, including the main opposition United Democratic Party and the Peoples Progress Party, foundered with no agreement on who should put up the candidate.
Saturday’s signing, described by many as historic, now sees the four opposition parties heading for a convention scheduled for this Thursday 3rd November, in which a candidate will be selected to represent them.
According to its vision and mission as set out in the MOU, leaders of the opposition parties said they are compelled by time and circumstances to commit themselves to the type of change that will place the country right into the hands of the Gambians people after 41 years of Republican existence.
“The concentration of power in the hands of the executive and the constant amendments of the constitution to erode the functioning of a genuine multi-party system, especially the second round of voting and its replacement with a first-past-the-post system, thus making the opposition parties to be disadvantaged by their shared numbers, makes it prudent for the opposition to establish a grand alliance not to seek power for its sake or effect change for its sake, but to empower the people to build a durable democracy…,” the leaders said in their vision and mission statements.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Sidia Jatta of the National Alliance for Democracy and Development, NADD, said ‘yes this nation need thinkers of big things, but this nation also needs doers of big deeds,’ and that he wants to be part of those who are going to do big deeds.
“Five years ago, we had a ceremony similar but different from this one. Five years ago, we had a ceremony at Palm Grove hotel to sign a Memorandum of Understanding creating NADD, but the fundamental difference with this one is that nobody was prepared or nobody committed him or herself body and soul to the implementation of the NADD MOU,” he recalled.
According to him, this time, the flagbearer of this United Front is prepared to swear to commit him or herself to the implementation of the national front MOU body and soul.
Noting that leadership is just symbolic, Sidia Jatta promised to lay his life for the liberation of the country.
“I want to make here a promise that I am prepared to lay my life in whatever capacity for the liberation of this country, and that is why for the last 25 years, I have nothing to do in this country but to serve the cause of the liberation of the people of this country, and that liberation is in sight,” he said.
He told the cheering crowd that the United Front is going to usher in a new life for everybody in this country.
“We are going to cut the chains of slavery. For me, leadership is just symbolic. Every deserving citizen is a leader, and I am one of those citizens,” he said.
The leader of the National Reconciliation Party, Hamat Bah, said the gathering indicated that they are making history, in the sense that they have men and women, young and old, who are committed and dedicated to the cause of this country.
While he recognized the efforts that were made by the pioneers of independence at the time when the British government thought that The Gambia was not viable as a state, and could not exist on its own, Hamat Bah said during the course of history, they realized that something happened in 1994 and the hopes of many Gambians were raised that we were gearing towards a better future.
According to him, some were apprehensive; some were supportive of the bloodless coup that was led y then Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh, “but as time goes on, we came to realize that due to the extreme tolerance of Gambians, we became victims of our own tolerance”.
“We have a leadership that abused our tolerance and imposed intolerance in the entire system and the country, and that is what we are witnessing today. It is rather unfortunate that those in power today did not recognize the tolerance of Gambians, and did not respect it as a result of which the country lost a lot in the last 17 years,” he added.
Noting that no single party can remove the ruling APRC party from power, Bah said a United Front government will make a difference in aspects of Gambian society.
“We will not go after anybody; we will welcome everyone as Gambians and everybody will be treated freely and fairly like any other Gambian. We want to assure all Gambians, including the head of state, that we will take no revenge against any Gambian. What we want is to reconcile Gambians,” he said, adding that, despite this, a United Front government will establish the truth for the purpose of the records and history for people to read who did what and when was it done?
Also speaking at the signing ceremony was Henry Gomez, leader of the Gambia Party for Democracy and Progress, who called for commitment by all stakeholders to put the interest of Gambians in the forefront and work towards liberating this country.
For him, it has always been predicted that a United Front will fail, but this is dependent on what they agreed and committed to execute.
“We are all obliged to come up with objectives and well calculated decisions not for those of us today, but those of the future generation,” he added.
He also called for the respect of the objective, suggestions and decisions proposed by all political parties committed to the United Front.
“We owe it to ourselves, our party sympathizers and the average Gambians. In this light, the United Front is reminding parties present of their total commitment to terminal power and the successful formation of a transitional government if elected by Gambians for the realization of real democracy and progress,” Gomez stated.