By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The leader of the Gambia’s biggest opposition party has condemned President Adama Barrow for “gradually becoming a dictator in the county”. Delivering his New Year statement to Gambians the former Vice President and Political Godfather of the President listed numerous reasons why he believed “anybody thinks that am wrong, engage me and ask me to give you the evidence and I’ll give you the evidence” to prove his allegation.
Speaking to members of the press days after President Barrow delivered his New Year message, Ousainu Darboe met members of the press yesterday 4th January 2024 at the United Democratic Party (UDP) headquarters in Manjai. According to the opposition leader who went head to head against former President Jammeh who labelled himself a dictator for development, the current President Barrow is copying Jammeh’s playbook.
“Fridays are the days that are assigned for the arrest of alleged suspects who have committed crimes. Fridays are the days that are assigned to do that so that Saturday and Sunday, they can be kept in custody and while the clock ticks, the minutes for them to clock the 72 hours before any action is done”, said Hon Darboe.
However, Hon Darboe recalls that the Friday arrests “was the Yahya Jammeh style of doing things. That is the dictator style of doing things and that is why I do not hesitate to say that Adama Barrow is gradually becoming a dictator in this country and these are the crux of it. If anybody thinks that am wrong engage me and ask me to give you the evidence and I’ll give you the evidence. Adama Barrow is gradually becoming a dictator in this country”.
Numerous persons have been arrested in the previous year especially after President Barrow declared that his critics who had been granted bail by a Judge would be re-arrested. This forced the National Human Rights Commission and the Gambia Bar Association to issue separate statements condemning the President’s statement. In addition to this, several arrests took place in the aftermath of the President’s statement which saw the arrest of Madi Jobarteh a renowned Human Rights Advocate and Alagie Borra of Kerr Fatou to name a few. Eventually, the Courts granted Alagie Borra a ruling in his favour against the State to compensate him D500,000 for his unlawful arrest and detention.
The UDP leader faced multiple arrests during the leadership of the former President with his last arrest paving the way for the Opposition Coalition in 2016 spearheaded by the UDP Vice Treasurer Adama Barrow. During the years of the previous dictator Jammeh, UDP Party supporters were victims of human rights violations. In fact, current President Adama Barrow was a member of the UDP which endorsed his Presidency until Darboe fell out with Barrow in 2018 forcing the formation of the National Peoples Party (NPP).
Since then, President Barrow has been making overtures to former President Jammeh, currently in exile, to strengthen his political base, however, that hasn’t gone exactly as planned. First, former President Jammeh rejected President Barrow’s overtures and after his exile to Equatorial Guinea, Hon Fabakary Tombong Jatta took control of the party. After supporting President Barrow’s second term in 2021, Hon Jatta was rewarded as Speaker of the Sixth Legislature cementing the Association for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction’s (APRC) support for President Barrow’s NPP.
According to the UDP Party leader, “there is a lack of respect for the rule of law by the government. When I say by the government, I mean either the central government the executive itself or its agencies such as the security. We’ve now seen that the Yahya Jammeh style of Police Operations has really reared its head and indeed it has taken centre stage”.
In addition to the arrests of persons on Fridays, Darboe highlighted numerous examples which he believes prove that the government is going against democratic norms. One such example is the threats against the press and the unfair coverage of the State Broadcaster towards various political parties and the incumbent.
Darboe highlights that the State Institutions are being weaponized by the Government against citizens. He called on the media as a “witness to how the State is weaponizing institutions in order to thwart our democratic process. Measures are being taken to silence opponents, the press has been threatened in the past year, all in a bid to silence them. The press is a very important component in the promotion of democracy in the country. Where you have a free press, you can be sure you can have a true democracy. But alas this is not what is really happening in the country”.
It can be recalled that Journalist Mankajang was arrested for following a story in Senegal after the shocking shooting and killing of Police Officers at Sukuta Traffic Lights in the Gambia. This is one example of Journalists facing persecution for doing their work.
Turning his attention to the increase in nomination fees to D1 million Hon Darboe recalled “that in 2015 or thereabouts Yahya Jammeh made such a proposal and the entire political class including those in government today, raised hell against it. That in fact, was a ploy by Jammeh to keep out potential opponents because it would be reducing participation in the Presidential elections only to the level of those who are rich. Those who can offer better ideas and those who can be better leaders in the country, because of their weak financial condition cannot afford the D1 million. We all cried against it and I think it was then Yahya Jammeh decided to reduce it from D1 million to half a million”.
Highlighting the apparent contradictions of the current administration Darboe notes that the government is not really committed to “ensure there is true democracy” because it called “all the legislation by Jammeh anti-democratic” but “can now turn around and really want to implement such measure that is an anti-thesis of what this government has stood for. It’s also a sign or a step towards muzzling democracy, towards scuttling the ability of Gambians to really partake in Presidential elections”.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the press you can be sure that when I condemn this, I’m not doing it for the UDP because UDP has the money to pay D1 million for its candidate, so it’s not for us. It’s for others who really are not in a position to do so. The independent candidates may not be in a position to do so” argued Hon Darboe.
Hon Darboe compared the current regime of President Adama Barrow to the previous regime of President Yahya Jammeh in numerous instances during his speech.