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  • Writer's pictureMaa Touray

Opinion: The Gambia: “Country First” - Don’t Be Fooled by It

The Gambia: “Country First” - Don’t Be Fooled by It


Jaha Dukureh in an interview with both the Fatu Network, and then What’s On-Gambia stated she joined the People's Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) party in order to put country first when it comes to politics. Jaha, without doubt, is a great asset for any political party. So, PDOIS should be happy for having her.

However, with putting country first as her premise for joining PDOIS, when asked on the Fatu Network to rate President Adama Barrow’s performance on a scale of 0 to 10, she said she would rather not comment on that. On What’s On-Gambia, when asked of her view on President Barrow’s performance, her response was “no comment”. When asked her thought on President Barrow running for a second term after refusing to honor his promise to serve only three years, her response, yet again, was “no comment”.


Now, how couldn’t she have any comment or wouldn’t want to comment on anything President Barrow, if politics for her, is about country first when President Barrow refused to honor 3 years agreement because of his personal interest? And currently, holding the country to ransom vis-à-vis the rejection of the Draft Constitution 2020 (DC 2020). Interestingly, Jaha apportioned the blame to the National Assembly for this rejection, conveniently, ignoring the elephant in the room. No one is saying she should poke the elephant(bear). But, refusing to call him out for the being the main reason for the rejection of the DC 2020; and failing to spearhead the move for system change we should have had as she lamented about, and not to have moved the country where she expected it to be, today, five years ago; then where does her claim of putting the country first stand? And, this will beg the question: Why wouldn’t Jaha Dukureh want to offend President Barrow by calling him out? Whose interest is she trying to safeguard by not doing so? There is an old saying: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”. To this, I will add “fool me for the third time, let thunder strike me!”.


Now, going back to PDOIS as her choice for being a ‘party of country first’, as a distinction of it not being a party of ‘party first’, I supposed. To this, I will say what an irony. One thing, when it comes to putting party interest first, none can compare to PDOIS. It is the ‘baddest’ in that, and as result the worst when it comes to putting country first. How many times has PDOIS compromised on their principles or stand to put country first? For them, it is either their way, or no way at all. The interest of the country will have to align with theirs first. Don’t be hoodwinked by their acting all intellectual and being the most politically woke party in the country. It is all a façade, as they are a political party, and not a charity or humanitarian organisation. So, everything they do, at the end of the day, is to gain political capital.


Let us look at the reasons given by PDOIS for not joining the Cabinet when the Coalition government came into being. Halifa Sallah, the leader of PDOIS, in March 2017, speaking at a Press Conference in giving the reasons why PDOIS didn’t join the Cabinet, stated: “In terms of governance, we believe in separation of party and state matters. If you compare our principles and that of others, you may judge others wrong because we have different principles and approach to issues. Essentially, there are fundamental principles that will not make me Secretary General of the PDOIS if I am a Cabinet minister”. Clearly, from the above statement, it is all about the party and the position of secretary general. Every other thing in that statement is a red herring, or noise to cause distraction.

In August 2017, in an interview with Ebrima Dibba of Denmark, a staff writer at Freedom Newspaper, Mr. Sallah stated, yet again, the reason he didn’t join the Cabinet was because that would avail him to be fired by President Barrow which could jeopardize his political career and future presidential ambition. Even though he went on to talk about the importance of National Assembly, which without doubt was true, it is not difficult to see that being used as a façade for his real intention of self-preservation for his future presidential ambition. Strictly speaking, in politics, nothing unusual about that. It is an issue here because we are talking of a ‘party of country first’.

UDP and PDOIS leaders Darboe and Sallah

And let us examine the attitude of the ‘party of country first’ as relates to contesting for National Assembly (NA) elections by Coalition partners. It was well understood that at the time of signing the Coalition agreement for contesting presidential election, that for NA was not included. So, two proposals emerged as to the format to be used by them for contesting the NA elections: Tactical Alliance (TA) and Independent Candidates (IC).

TA was supported by the United Democratic Party (UDP), the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) and the Gambia Moral Congress (GMC). In explaining the format, Ousainou Darboe, the leader of the UDP said: “. . . under the TA, parties would sponsor candidates in the constituencies where they are sure or satisfactorily believed to be stronger than any other party in the Coalition. In that case no other Coalition member will contest that particular seat, but rather they will all come together to support and campaign for that candidate,”. He went on to say “TA will also ensure that multi-party democracy is maintained, as each MP will belong to a party in the House”.


The IC format was proposed by PDOIS. By this, the Coalition was to contest elections using independent candidates under its name. All potential candidates would have to resign from their parties like President Barrow did for the presidential election. However, the TA group’s misgiving about this format was that putting up independent candidates in all 53 constituencies without party affiliation will bring chaos as the MPs would be loosed canons without any sense of belonging.

To TA’s point, parties are the mark of representative democracy as we have in The Gambia. So, one would wonder on what was the IC format premised. And, what actually would have been the value of independent NA members forming the majority in the Assembly? They surely wouldn’t have been in any position to direct the proceedings in the Assembly as they wouldn’t have neither the majority, nor the minority status for not being a distinctive party. And thus, none of them could become neither the majority nor the minority leader.


Well, in the vote to decide on which format to use, presided over by President Barrow, six Coalition partners voted for TA, PPP voted for IC and PDOIS abstained. PDOIS’ action can be interpreted as disdain. Why didn’t they vote for the proposal they birthed and campaigned for? This however, was not surprising to many, knowing with PDOIS, one has to agree with what they propose, or they wouldn’t be part of it.


And for Mr. Sallah, later on, to state that “there cannot be true and functional democracy if the executive is openly trying to control the narrative at the legislature”, is nothing but disingenuous; as he knows that is what happens in all democracies especially when the same party in charge of both the executive and legislature. So, here too, it is easy to see how for PDOIS, it is about party interest, as they understood that with TA format, they would have lesser number of seats in the NA, and therefore less influence, compared to the bigger parties.

Furthermore, it is important to know that there are many folks who go about throwing the ‘country first’ card around. They mostly do it for the show of it—using it as an insignia of political sophistication, to show they are the most patriotic and politically woke of citizens. Don’t fall for it, as it is not hard to differentiate them from those who genuinely and sincerely use the term. You wouldn’t have to look hard to see how disingenuous their ‘country first’ utterances are. These were the folks who were all over the place shouting at the top of their lungs, and painting their social media platforms ‘country first!’ during the debate and the vote for the Local Government Bill 2020 (LGB 2020) in July 2020. They however, chose to look the other way or were indifferent when the Draft Constitution 2020 was being debated and rejected in the same National Assembly in September, 2020.


One would have expected them to make more noise of ‘country first’ after this rejection as this Draft was more about the country first than the LGB. It was about the soul of our nation, as it were. But hell no! In fact, those who were shouting ‘country first’ during LGB 2020 debate, were part of the ones celebrating after the rejection of DC 2020 —all for safeguarding the interest of an individual. And recently, they are part of those saying they would agree to changes being sought by President Barrow on the Draft to serve his personal interest even if that will be to detriment of the country.

Therefore, when next you see or hear ‘country first’, look at the person it is coming from to see whether you should take them seriously or not.


Editor's note:

Views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of GunjurOnline. Got an opinion article for publication? send it to us at GunjurNewsOnline@gmail.com

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Copyright: 2017 - 2022 | GunjurOnline™
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