The leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) who was unanimously elected as Secretary General and Party leader at the Party’s successful congress over the weekend has issued stern warning against party members and elected officials on several fronts. Mr. Darboe was speaking to thousands of supporters during a rally at the Buffer Zone at the end of the three day congress. Darboe is also the current Vice President of the Gambia.
In what is being regarded as his best and most assertive leadership speech so far, Mr. Darboe rein on his party members especially elected members of the National Assembly, Mayors/Chairpersons and ward councilors. Darboe addressed several politically contentious issues including the confirmed bribery of National Assembly members by the President’s office. UDP National Assembly members were allegedly allocated funds by President Barrow to supposedly buy their loyalty. Some members of the National Assembly confirmed receipt of ten thousand Dalasis (D10,000) in brown envelopes. Darboe warned UDP members of the National Assembly to safeguard their integrity and to desist from anything that would bring distrust between them and their electorates. He said National Assembly members were elected on the party platform and therefore anything that will bring division within the party they must desist from that. Darboe said elected members owe the party loyalty and their popularity because they won their seats on the party platform.
Speaking on the apparent political fight and divisions brewing within the party for several months, Darboe said “There is only one UDP, the 1996 UDP, there is no 2016 UDP” the party leader added emphatically. Mr. Darboe warned that any attempt to refer to UDP as “2016 UDP” is an attempt to divide the party. He said while no one can question President Barrow as the leader of the Gambia, no one can equally question that Ousainou Darboe is the leader of the United Democratic Party”. He assured party members that anyone who wants to bring in division within the party will have to take up a fight with him.
On the well talked about Barrow Youth Movement (BYM), which is one of the major contentions within the party, the party leader said there is only one UDP youth council and no other. That the party does not subscribe to any other youth movement. He said if anybody wants to contest for the party youth representation, he would encourage them to take up positions within the party and be prepared to take over power from senior members of the party. Mr. Darboe was emphatic with his opposition to the BYM and warned villagers and party supporters that messages coming to them alleged to have come from the UDP should be disregarded unless they came from the party executive or him as the party leader. He said members should be aware of the people going around and spreading different messages from that of the party.
Mr. Darboe embraced the fact that President Barrow is the current president and that he should be respected as the leader of the country. He urged President Barrow to return to the party which helped propelled him to the presidency. He said the UDP is very loyal to President Barrow and would encourage him “come home”. Darboe thank outgoing executive members of the party and expressed optimism that they will continue to support the party whether they hold positions of responsibility or not. He said it is democracy so if the people who elected them decides to replace them it should be accepted. He extended gratitude to other members of the United Democratic Party who traveled from the Diaspora to witness the party congress. Darboe said there is no party in the country that loves Gambia more than his party. He said they suffered, they died and they endured all kinds of oppression in the Gambia for two decades. He said the Gambian people have demonstrated their loyalty by overwhelmingly voting for the party across the country.
Darboe’s fiery speech was very captivating as he was assertive and bold in addressing issues confronting his party. He appears to have listened to his party members who have expressed concerns for him to speak up and address the increasing political tension. His challenge of party elected officials to uphold high moral standards and adhere to party principles was the right tone. He asserted that the United Democratic Party survived for over two decades with or without holding any positions within the National Assembly, ward councilors or mayoral positions. He was a different leader who appears to have gathered power and courage from the crowd and recent electoral victories. Many political pundits were glued to the speech and wondering how his message will be received by the President and his inner circle. President Barrow is currently outside of the country attending the Africa Business Forum in Egypt. He is due to return to Gambia early in the week.
Report filed by: Demba Baldeh Associate editor