To many Gambians it was unimaginable that a government that led the country to its political Independence and was in power for more than quarter of a century could just disappear from the political scene just like that. The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) led by Sir Dawda Jawara who is still alive and living as an eldest Statesman in Gambia built what has become known as ‘The Gambia’ from virtually nothing from the British Colonial rulers.
The PPP government flawed as they were founded government institutional frames that currently exist in the Gambia. Jawara and his government built a solid judiciary system that had some degree of independence that presided over the judicial system of the Gambia with little or no political interference from the executive. A strong Civil Service work force was established from undermanned and under-educated citizenry that was presided over by an independent Public Service Commission that makes personnel decisions and largely followed a respectable standard of appointment and promotions in the civil service. A viable women’s bureau which empowered women and encouraged their participation in the political system and promote their own well-being was established. A fairly independent media and press freedom was largely present in the country with journalists mainly free to hold the government accountable and report issues without fear of arrest and intimidation.
The PPP government also created a public transportation system consisting of both land and maritime transportation that connected rural and Urban Gambia with moderate fares the public could afford. This certainly made a huge difference in the lives of the ordinary Gambian who could travel from Basse to Banjul within a day. The road network although not available in all parts of the country was also fairly standard with the trans-Gambia highway running from Banjul to Basse. The Agricultural industry Gambia’s main productive sector was also fairly decent compared to other sub-regional countries.
Gambia also had a decent educational system that produced students who were able to compete in International educational institutions like medical schools, law schools and other areas of discipline. The Health Care system was also moderately decent where primary healthcare was delivered to the local population in the form of dispensary services and mobile medical clinics.
The greatest area the PPP government and Sir Dawda made an award winning record Worldwide was in the area of Human Rights and respect for the rule of law and due process. The government was internationally recognized as “champion of Human Rights” with the African Center for Human and People’s Rights headquartered right in Banjul mainly due to the government’s Human Rights Records. This is certainly a precious right that the Gambian people wish to have back compared to what currently exist in Gambia.
Certainly the PPP government was far from being perfect or flawless. There were several areas the government could have improved such as establishing strong democratic institutions with Presidential term limits; more open voter registration, independent electoral process, uncompromising stance against corruption and providing access to clean drinking water and stabilize power and electrical supply across the breath of the country. These were some of the major deficiencies of the PPP government which unfortunately led to their overthrow by ill-trained junior military officers who were hungry for power. Notably all these weaknesses are easier to eradicate and cure than an oppressive regime bend on killing citizens.
For 20 years now Gambians have seen a stark difference in what existed during the PPP and what has turned out to be a State terror on citizens. President Jammeh’s APRC government brought nightmare to the people all in the disguise of security and ‘development’. If accorded the chance to do it all over again, the Gambian people will certainly take their freedom and dignity over the so called white elephant development projects mainly designed to concentrate power in the hands of one ruthless leader.
The country’s Democracy and multiparty system equally suffered in the hands of President Jammeh and his APRC government. Political parties and partisan politics have become a criminal enterprise with opposition leaders and supporters branded as unpatriotic and virtually rendered unemployable unless they join the government. As a result of this assault on Democracy for the last 20 years opposition parties have become mere entities headed by few individuals with no power to challenge the ruling party. As a result of Jammeh’s success in dismantling opposition politics in the Gambia, political parties need a new breath of fresh air and revamping.
The recent announcement of the resurrection of the old PPP party can only bring new dynamism in Gambian politics. Not only does the party have more experience personnel like O.J and BB Darboe who have been in the political scene for years, but they also have a record to run on compared to the currently existing political parties like the UDP, PDOIS and NRP who have never been in government as parties. The resurrection of the PPP will do a few things to Gambia’s political establishment. First, it will force the parties to take themselves more seriously and rejuvenate their party bases. They will be forced to be more active or risk losing their bases which were originally PPP bases and to some extent NCP which is no longer in existence.
If the PPP were to come up with young and more dynamic leadership especially selecting a strong Gambian woman to head the party backed by young educated Gambians and experience former government personnel and politicians, they will be a force to be recon with in the political arena. It is an undeniable fact that Gambia’s current opposition parties have equally reached the end of their first political life cycle and are due for reorganization. For example the UDP is at a cross roads with its current leader Ousainou Darboe reaching his political climax and may not be eligible to contest elections anymore in Gambia. There is no publicly known viable successor to Mr. Darboe which is likely to throw the UDP into internal political turmoil which may lead to selecting a leader who is less known to the country. The PDOIS though well-established will always remain PDOIS as they are not open to change not only in leadership but political process and messaging to the people which is not selling well. In the case of NRP and GMC these two parties currently only exist as one man parties with GMC’s leader in exile and no other known executive members open to the public.
The APRC can only stay in power through oppression and political intimidation and will do anything to stay in power. This is not sustainable and it is a safe bet to say that the Jammeh government is standing on its last leg and No Jammeh means no APRC. As a result, the political environment in Gambia is ripe for political rejuvenation and any group that is willing to hit the ground running is more likely to dominate the political future when change occurs in Gambia which is predictably sooner rather than later. The resurrection of the PPP cannot therefore be any better than a time when political change is inevitable and the wind of change is blowing rapidly.