YEMEN IN POLITICAL COMMOTION: THE NUANCE OF THE SAUDI-LED AIRSTRIKES

The current geopolitical antagonism and bedlam that has enveloped world politics has raised an alarm to the whole world, and particularly the one that has plagued the Arab World. From Tunis to Algiers, Cairo to Tripoli, to Damascus, the Arab World is in total turmoil.It is indeed unspeakable for seeing the mass killing of innocent Yemenis on their own territory, code named ‘Operation Decisive Storm’, an act pioneered by Saudi Arabia and supported by the coalitionunder the excuse of rescuing Yemen from Houthi control who took political power afterousting the government of former president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The Saudi-led airstrike came at a time when the Syrian conflict top global political agenda, with great powers rendering their contentious supports to the warring parties in the conflict. It equally came at a time when the world was attentively following the nuclear negotiation between the so-called P5+1 and Iran. It further came at a time when the Libyan crisis was getting more and more exacerbated due to conflicting interests that emerged between different interest groups in the country, and when Egypt could not settle down from the political uproar it experienced since the ousting of former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

The Houthis also known as the Ansar Allah (Partisans of God) in Yemen first started their uprising in 2004 led by Hussein Badr al Din al-Houthi who wanted a greater autonomy for the northern Saada province from which the group hails. With the outbreak of the Arab Spring in 2011, Yemeni’s rose up against then President Ali Abdallah Saleh. After winning election in 2012, Hadi became internationally recognised but domestically contested among some Yemenis.

IS THE ACT AN INVASION OR NOT?

Any attempt to answer this very enthralling question should start with looking at the intention of the act itself. What is an invasion in the first place as one may be tempted to ask? In a simple rather than an obfuscating term, invasion simply means a military offensive in which large parts of combatants of one geopolitical entity aggressively enter a territory controlled by another such entity, generally with the objective of either conquering, liberating or re-establishing control or authority over a territory. It is clear that Saudi’s objective is the re-establishment of control or authority over Yemen by reinstating Hadi.

Those that do not take the act to be an invasion maintain that, the conflict does not involve the presence of ‘ground operations’. But ground operations were initially reported to be carried out by Saudi and Egypt. Clearly looking at the act of Saudi together with their intention, one would realise that re-establishing power for the former president is their primary target. Is there any better way to describe this act other than an invasion?

However, it should be clear that religious sentiments must not shape the stance of any third party as far as objectivity is concern in proffering possible solutions to the crisis. If Saudi’s action is to prevent the shite from gaining dominance in the gulf region, then I bet this is not the best way as mighty Iran is on the side ready to counter any act of aggression to be carried out by any country against its immediate interest. It is also very clear that the Houthi’s strategy of political transition by initially creating a five-man presidential committee with executive powers was not in any way a prudent move in setting up a government for effective control.

However, there is a very important question that I intend to explore here: Is the Saudi act justifiable from a legal and religious perspective and even political as well.

THE LEGAL PERSPECTIVE

My concern here is not to show solidarity to either the Shite or Sunni sects but to reveal the ghastly acts that Saudi and the coalition had and continue to commit on innocent civilians in the gulf region’s poorest country. All true followers of the Sunni sect will undoubtedly be against the killing of innocent people. To start at the regional level, I wonder what audacity does Saudi have that warrant her to blast-off airstrikes in Yemen. Do not talk about the use of any legal reason by Saudi as a member of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf(Gulf Cooperation Council GCC). In fact, Yemen is not a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council and even going by the charter of the Council, article ten established a Commission for the Settlement of Disputes between member countries.

Again, going by the charter of the Arab League, which both Saudi Arabia and Yemen are members of, article six clearlytalks about ‘aggression’ or ‘threat of aggression’ by one state against a member state, given the right of convocation of the council by the state which has been attacked or threatened with aggression.

Again, the intervention from an international legal perspective is a clear violation of article 2(4) of the U.N charter, which prohibits the forceful intervention of countries in the internal affairs of other member states. Saudi went on with the act without U.N mandate and both Saudi and Yemen are members of the U.N. If Saudi’s move is to help in the restoration of democracy in the country by reinstating Hadi, certainly bombing is not the solution.

Is Saudi acting on the exercise of the right to self-defence as enshrined in article 51 of the charter? No way can it be justify that Yemen is a threat to Saudi as they have not even launched an armed attack that could warrant the exercise of the right to self-defence. Again not in any way can Yemen be regarded as an aggressor since no act of aggression could even be spot out, even though what constitute ‘aggression’cannot still be established by international legal standard to some degree. In fact, if a party is to exercise article 51, then it should be Yemen because an act of aggression is being committed against her.  Jus in Bello is then lost. I am taking it to be Yemen because it is not only the Houthis that are dying but innocent Yemenis as well, even though the targets may be directed at Houthi held towns.

Again, from an international legal perspective, the 1949 fourth Geneva Convention on International Humanitarian Law, relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, particularly Protocol additional to the Conventions, Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts are hereby violated.

The Specific Provisions stipulates that persons who do not take a direct part or who have ceased to take part in hostilities are entitled to respect. In all circumstances, they are to be treated humanely. Protocol II specifically prohibits violence to the life, health, and physical or mental well-being of people. Children are to be also evacuated to safe areas when possible, and reunited with their families. It further strengthens the protection of the wounded and sick as well as medical and religious personnel. Attacks are equally forbidden on civilians and on ‘objects indispensable to civilian survival’. Finally, impartial humanitarian relief organisations such as the ICRC are to be permitted to continue their humanitarian services. Do not talk about ‘Collateral Damage’ because a law is first been violated making the act deliberate.

However, not all these rights may have been violated but some are evidently violated as Humanitarian conveys were being obstructed by Saudi tossed airstrikes. More seriously, innocent civilians are being killed by the airstrikes which include children.  Even though, the conflict may be a Non-International Armed one by virtue of the two major parties as in: The Coalition on one hand and the Houthis on the other who are not a legal representation of Yemen in the conflict. But despite that, Jus ad Bellum is also lost as combatants and their objects are not differentiated from the non-combatants.

POLITICAL PERSPECTIVE

At this juncture, it will be critical to look at the motive of the Saudi move. It is crystal and abundantly clear that since the U.S invasion of Iraq back in 2003 as part of the‘war on terror’ proclaimed by Bush just after the illustrious 9/11 attacks on the country, the Sunni- shite rivalry came to gain momentum in Iraq and the other Arab countries. Promoting the Sunni cause is the concern of Saudi and the presence of the Houthis in Yemen could be a potential threat to that. . It is clear that America is a friend to Saudi and any threat to the latter’s power in the gulf will undoubtedly be a threat to both American oil and strategic interests in the area.

Interestingly, we have again seen great powers manifesting their opposing stances in the conflict. No wonder, mighty and controversial U.S have once again unsurprisingly showed its support to Saudi by declaring the rendering of both logistical and intelligence supports. Conversely, Russia has brazenly condemned the Saudi-led act whiles aiding the rebels with Iran joining the latter, a proxy war in place.

Again it is clear that since 9/11, America’s stance toward Islam has been one of an opposition. We all know that the world leaves in an age of polarisation which made the realist affirmation of ‘power politics’ spottable. It is the game of interest. It is for this reason that both Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’imAmitav Acharya in their chapters in the co-authored book ‘Worlds in Collission: Terror and the Future of Global Order’ demystified Huntington’s thesis of the ‘Clash of Civilisation’. Well that is another kettle of fish.

Why is Iran supporting the Houthi rebels? The answer to this is simple and straight forward. As a dominant Shite country, allowing Saudi to restore the Sunni led regime of Hadi will augment Sunni power in the gulf. It is clear that preventing Shites from dominating the Arab World is Saudi’s concern.

However, since the ousting of former president Abd-RabbuMansouriHadi by the Houthi rebels, Yemenis have come to realise the need to settle down politically to avoid any prospect of social unrest. The military coup cannot be recognised as a good step in helping improve the economic situation of the country and should be condemned in the strongest term possible, but the previous ousting of then president Al Salehshould have been the concern of all and must have to be condemned by all if the idea of setting a good par for the progress of the Yemeni people is anything to go by.Being the poorest country in the Arab World, Yemen could have been working on improving her situation to meet the economic needs of its own people. Following the suspension of aid by dozens of countries, the World Bank followed suit by suspending its operations, making the country vulnerable to severe economic danger. Politically therefore, the act is unquestionable by virtue of the workings of international politics based on ‘politics of interest’

THE RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVE

To a religious point of view, it must be understood that despite the complicated nature of global politics, religion will have little say in determining who does what and how as far as analysing inter-state relations to some extent is concern. Islam is a peaceful faith that preached the peaceful coexistence of mankind and further asserts the right to life, making the religion the mother of Human Rights. Sunnis are the true followers of our beloved prophet Muhammed (S.A.W) who strict to the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Islam first clearly guarantees all the fundamental human rights key among which is the right to life, while prohibiting the wrongful taking of an innocent life. Every human being of which ever country, believer or a non-believer, in a forest or desert is endowed with certain basic human rights and it is the duty of every Muslim and non-Muslim alike, especially Muslims to recognise these rights. As Allah said in the Qura’an:

“Whosoever kills a human being (without any reason like) manslaughter, or corruption on earth, it is though he had killed all mankind.” (5:32).

To further emphasize the importance of life as an inalienable right, Allah the great grand architect of the universe boldly stated in his holy book:

“Do not kill a soul which Allah has made sacred except through the due process of law.”(6:51).

In addition, the holy prophet (S.A.W), the greatest of all human beings to have stepped on earth, has declared homicide as the greatest sin after polytheism. A tradition of the prophet reads: “The greatest sins are to associate something with God and to kill human beings.”

I hereby asked: Under what circumstance of religious principle is the Saudi act justifiable?It is apparent that Saudi and the so-called coalition are taking innocent lives in Yemen which is totally prohibited by Islam as the above chapters and verses can attest to. I am of the resilient conviction that the Saudi act is being both politically and religiously motivated, considering the continuing manifestation of the Sunni-Shite communal rivalry or animosity persistent in the Arab World, and the involvement of both Muslim and non-Muslim countries in the conflict who affirm their supports to Saudi based on political and religious reasons.

My recommendation here is simple and straight forward. Let Saudi stop the act with immediate effect and the International Community employ a peaceful means of settling the political crisis in the country through diplomatic means.

Author: Essa Njie

Graduate Assistant, Political Science Unit the University of the Gambia

 

 

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THIRD WORLD WAR: IMMINENT OR FAR FROM REALITY

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When political analysts and international relations experts observe the nature of current geo-political realities, divergent predictions are presented on the global stage of political discussion. From history, has there been right predictions in the past centuries as to how global politics would look like in this very 21st century? From this, one may be prompted to put forward the famous prediction made by Samuel P. Huntington, even though a highly contested one among few Western scholars and writers, and some anti-western writers, that the 21st century conflict would not be primarily ideological as we have witnessed in the cold war era or economic, but rather cultural. A conflict that would occur between differing civilizations of the world all in the name of defending cultures or civilizations. But is the clash of civilization a reality? A question that I intend to explore in another material.

Articles have been written and comments have been made on the imminence of World War III. But what is crucial here, is the fact that world politics has taken a more dangerous dimension with no country to blame the other for carrying out an action, but just to commit itself to the game of reality, realists dogma of power politics. I have in few instances written on worldwide politics and its current predicaments especially relating to realism and its place in the arena of the game. But here I want to fundamentally examine whether a ‘Third World War’ is imminent. Do not be scared much, the layman in international politics after setting your eye on the heading of this piece, but be a little scared as no nation could be an exception to the gloomy and more turbulent world should World War III be a reality. Certainly the United Nations will be a defunct one just as the League of Nations was when it failed to prevent the outbreak of World War II as mandated for the maintenance of global peace and stability.

Former U.S Treasury Official Dr Paul Craig Roberts warned that with the eyes of the world focused on Greece and Ukraine, WWIII is imminent and that all human life is now in grave danger. Not only is this limited to Roberts, but even former adviser to the Russian president, Andrey Lllrionov in a forum in Lithuania once said that World War III could be imminent as president Putin had been creating strategies for a major 10-year war since 2003, signalling the possibility of a third global combat. This he analyse in the context of the president’s long-term planning of military operation in Crimean and Ukraine. Some writers have also said that WW III will almost certainly never happen. Getting all these viewpoints, one can move on to critically examine if a future global war is imminent or far from reality.

As far as the struggle between U.S and Russia is concern, two powers that would occupy centre stage in the era of WW III, some writers like Andrew Cockburn documented that the former’s military is lost in abstractions and is no longer capable of conducting conventional warfare. Some analysts maintained that Washington is today the greatest threat to life on earth with the claim that America has been conducting a long war against humanity by virtue of the many invasions and interventions it had carried out right from the 20th century to the 21st century

Writers such as James Lindsay has asserted that September 11 signalled the end of the age of geopolitics and the advent of a new age— the era of global politics. The challenge U.S. policy experts face today he maintained, is to recognize that fundamental change in world politics and to use America’s unsurpassed military, economic, and political power to mode an international environment conducive to its interests and values.

Michael Tchong has proclaimed that World War III is already here and that we as people of the world are losing. He went on to assert that not reacting to the threat of cyber warfare is tantamount to raising the white flag. His argument on the arrival of World War III has to do with the danger of cyber warfare which he believes is a threat to man and the world today. The reality is that World War III he posits is being fought in cyberspace and most real-life interaction will be handled by robots. In the same line of argument, asserting the imminence of even the existence of third World War, King Abdallah of Jordan advances that the world is facing a third global war which is against humanity. To him, the war is within Islam, a line of argument that I do not want to belabour on much, in which unfortunately over 100, 000 Muslims have been slayed by ISIS alone over the past two years, and that does not even count for the other atrocities like-minded groups have also done in Africa and Asia. He warned that the world must therefore act fast and holistically to tackle the response to what he called ‘Interconnected threats’

One point noteworthy is that the outbreak of World War III if there would be any would not surely be limited to the two countries and their cronies as active players but surprising groups and entities would form part of the mighty and befuddling battle. Unquestionably, no preventive measures are underway to stop WWIII from becoming a reality.

When U.S intervened in Iraq, article 51 of the U.N Charter was used as a point of justification and no one was there to correct the situation even though the high probability of intervention was foreseen by many, as a result Iraq is today a failed state or what Robert Jackson call a ‘quasi-state’. Here I put forward questions:  When Russia decided to go in for the annexation of Crimea in 2014, why was no one there to correct the situation. When tensions in the Korean Peninsula was scarily getting to its height, why was and still no one there to correct the situation? When U.S and its major ally, Saudi Arabia initially decided to render support to the opposition in Syria, a point made blank by the latter’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir   and other U.S top officials including president Obama for the unseat of president Assad either through political means or force, why was no one there to correct the situation? Again when Saudi decided to launch series of airstrikes in Yemen on the pretext of security in the region, why was no one there to correct the situation? When Russia decided to spark bombs in Syria claiming to have done it in the fight against terrorists with Putin calling for the support of others including the so-called ‘Global Coalition’ to join the crusade, why was no one there to correct the situation? The implication of such is currently seen it the confrontation between Moscow and Ankara with regard to the former’s use of the latter’s airspace last month while launching airstrikes in Syria. As America continues to commit atrocities in Afghanistan through the launching of Air Drones on a routine basis, after ousting the country’s Taliban regime in 2002, why is no one available to correct the appalling situation that innocent Afghans are going through? All these undoubtedly are potential sources of a more turbulent world order that would start with a ‘central war’

With all these questions asked and demanding answers, where does the world stands today in avoiding the outbreak of World War III when the world has allowed power politics to be the order of the day with all states pursuing their so-called strategic national interests? What and who then can we rely on to ascertain that WW III is certainly far from reality. Some have talked about the continuity of the cold war. Realist like Kenneth Waltz have talked about the continuity of international politics which we can say describes the current geo-political realities. It might sound crazy but not one to claim that probably the occurrence of WW III will be better for the world as it will lead to power backfiring on those responsible for our unsafety just as the Anti-comitant pact of Germany, Italy and Japan had experienced when they embarked on expansionist nationalism all in the strive to conquer or dominate territories especially in Europe through the policies of rearmament and military expansionism.

The frequent terrorist attacks that has become so prevalent in many parts of the world is a potential source of a third World War. Today, no government, nation or country can claim to be safe from this scandalous act (terrorism), as no one can identify who certainly is a terrorist. An ardent follower of international events will grab the technical comprehension of this point.

Is World War III then imminent or far from reality? Well few have argued that it is never imminent, but something far from reality. But many have argued that the war is so imminent with some claiming that is has already begun. But the perfect answer to such a question will be provided by time.

 

Author: Essa Njie, Graduate Assistant,

Political Science Unit, The University of The Gambia

 

 

WILL THE OPPOSITIONS PRESENT A COALITION AHEAD OF THE 2016 POLLS?

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 “It may be unwise to speculate what might happen so far in advance of the next election. But the opposition parties currently seem to pose little threat to his predominance – the UDP is in decline and the NADD in disarray – and there are no signs of a new generation of opposition politicians emerging.”

David Perfect 2008

Without doubt, in all democracies globally, whenever the opposition finds it tricky to unseat the incumbent, they always resort to a “Coalition” or “Alliance as the last resort”.  “Electoral coalitions as they are sometimes referred to “are becoming increasingly popular among opposition parties in Africa because they offer many advantages with respect to reducing party fragmentation and increasing incumbent turnovers”, stated Danielle Resnick. And according to American political scientist, Samuel P. Huntington, Two-turnover of governments is a necessary factor for the consolidation of democracy in Africa. Just in few African countries were electoral coalitions able to defeat incumbents. Kenya in 2002 under the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) experienced it. No wonder in neighbouring Senegal, a country described by many as an example of a democracy in Africa alongside Ghana, opposition parties had to form a coalition to unseat Abdoulie Wadd in 2012 in the second round of voting. It goes without saying that the embracing and consolidation of an admiring democracy will be an illusion in contemporary Africa when the oppositions are incredible in posing threat to the incumbents. I am not inferring that oppositions in the Gambia are incredible because that is another bond of contention among the country’s political luminaries. I do not want to be very conclusive in this write-up with regards to the fate of political parties in the country’s 2016 presidential election. Rather I intend to explore two very fundamental questions that many have asked and continue to ask till this day: Will the oppositions present a coalition ahead of the 2016 polls? Is coalition the only hope for Gambian oppositions? Whether discussions are on for a coalition to be form or whether the oppositions have even agreed on forming a coalition, I am less interested in that because those are yet to be known to the public. I do not want to rely on Scuttlebutts and tittle-tattles in this piece but present to the readers, facts that are unfolding currently.

In preparation for the 2006 and 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections respectively, after challenging the incumbent in previous elections (1996, 1997, 2001 and 2002) with no way out, opposition parties in the country decided to come together in January 2005 and formed the “National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD) to contest in the 2006 polls and get a desirable result. At a point in one way or the other, fractions in the NADD gave an easy way to the incumbent to sweep the polls with over 60% of the votes. Why did the NADD fail? I do not need to go all the way to Foroyaa to ask Halifa Sallah, neither do I need to go to Fajara to ask Ousainou Darboe nor Hamat Bah in Sinchu to get an impeccable answer to this query. Certainly it was as a result of disagreement over the position of a standard bearer. This answer is not hypothetical or putative, rather it presents the fact. Darboe himself had given weigh to my answer in an interview with The Standard Newspaper in May 2014 where he said that the NRP and the PDOIS did not believe in the format of the coalition that they (UDP) proposed, which culminated in the early demise of their coalition after the 2011 polls.

“We had proposed that the legitimate and sensible way to come together is to have the leading party as the flag bearer-of course you know which was the leading party, UDP”…….said Darboe. (Also see David Perfect’s material on “Politics and Society in The Gambia since Independence, P433) on the failure of NADD.

Why did they disagree over who should lead? I may not be in a better position to provide a perfect answer to this question. But through my interaction with a UDP enthusiast, he told me that the standard bearer of the coalition should have to come from the UDP but not from other parties, using the justification that they (UDP) are the biggest among all the oppositions and if there is to be any coalition to challenge the incumbent, the UDP should lead for others to follow as this is always the case in countries where alliances are being formed against the incumbent. “Even in second round voting, the candidate or party with the highest in the opposition camp always lead”, he maintained. Certainly, Darboe was going to be the standard bearer of the NADD. Again, I am not conjectural in this statement.

A sympathiser of PDOIS told me that sometimes you do not have to look at the party with the majority of membership to choose the leader of a coalition. In other words, you should look at the one with leadership qualities even if the person is from the minority party. “Leadership qualities”! Who has the qualities then? I questioned him. Of course he was going to tell me Halifa has and he did tell me. But I failed to encourage the discussion further. Again, this answer is not conjectural from me but concrete. Was the battle between the UDP and the PDOIS for leadership? I assumed yes. A good political analyst will easily twig my analysis below.

If not between the two then, why did the PDOIS maintain the NADD and the UDP form an alliance with the NRP and the GPDP of Henry Gomez? Ops! Henry Gomez led the GPDP fresh devotees to the IEC house along Kairaba Avenue on nomination day to also contest, only to be disqualified by the panel. I can still picture the frustrating smile on his face. He left the office and joined Darboe and Hamat, forming the “UDP-NRP-GPDP Alliance (Alliance for Regime Change). It was the 2006 election campaign. Oh! I can still reminisce the political euphoria in my area (Tallinding) when women on the campaign trail with melodious voices sang in Mandinka “KUNSAALI FELENTINGWO JUMALENG SABAN JANGOTEE? HENRY GOMEZ” (Twins are here, who is the third one? Henry Gomez). Meaning, Darboe and Hamat were the twins and the third was Henry. They were triplets in a sense. I can remember Henry’s famous slogan in the 2011 campaign “MOBEYEH BAALU” (Let everybody survive). The only Mandinka term he could probably use as a ‘semester’ or ‘malango’ to tell Gambians that the cake has to be equally distributed. Jammeh’s slogan was “ALSAMADEHH (Good morning)”. That I can also hark back to. This was used even at night meetings as a greeting and it became a famous slogan among the APRC aficionados. Halifa on his campaign podium will analyse the budget allocation for the year and the country’s economic situation. In Mandinka he will say “BANKOO LA ARANKESO, BANKOO LA NAFULO, DALASI MILLION KEMEH DALASI MILLION TANGLULU ANING FENG”………Never mind! That is just a reflection on the political elation.

 

Now back to the issue. Even though the NADD could not work for them, the UDP and the leadership was hopeful that the alliance formed could pose threat to the incumbent and probably win the polls. Surely, the fragmentation in NADD was a good news to the APRC and a disgrace and disappointment to the oppositions and their followers. Darboe finally led the Alliance but was defeated alongside the NADD led by Halifa. Many were of the view that 2006 was the best chance for the oppositions to win power but things went the other way round giving smiles to the APRC sympathisers.

Again, if is not a leadership struggle between the UDP and PDOIS, why did Darboe in the same interview with The Standard point out the PDOIS among the other opposition parties that if it had the numbers the UDP has, they would have demanded what the UDP did: “If the other parties were in our position and we suggested otherwise, they would have dismissed us as people who were very irrational. I know if PDOIS have the numbers we have, they would not have accepted that somebody else should lead them. I guess they wanted to have experimentations. They tried it with NADD but it failed; it was a debacle. We proposed a format that is acceptable which can be done in the first round without waiting for the second round. We are working on the ground even though certain people are trying to create obstacles for us but that is not halting our efforts”.

These points have indeed backed my answer that it was nothing but disagreement over who should lead the coalition resulted in its disintegration in both the 2006 and 2011 presidential elections. It also goes to back my point that the struggle was between the UDP and PDOIS leadership. The high speculation in town was, either Darboe or Halifa was going to lead the coalition. It was a battle between a democrat and a socialist. I am not finger pointing but endeavouring to put the record straight.

In the same interview, the UDP leader echoed his support for the creation of a United Front (Coalition) to challenge the APRC in the 2016 polls. In the words of the politician “The UDP has always advocated [for] a united front. It is not an idea that is new to us. In fact, immediately after the rally meeting in May last year, I took it upon myself to write to all political parties inviting them to a meeting so that we can at least put in place the nucleus of a united front which we hoped, and still hope could grow towards preparing us for 2016 and 2017 election cycles. It was on account of that initiative that we were able to have a joint press conference organized by UDP, PPP and GMC. Subsequent to that we had two rallies; one at Tallinding Buffer Zone and another one at Brikama. The senior citizen, as affected by the senior citizen clause expressed that the UDP initiated the idea of the meetings and that the party will continue to drive for a united front.

Are other parties also ready for a coalition? Omar Jallow alias OJ of the PPP in an interview with the same newspaper in April 2014 urged the ‘disparate’ opposition factions to put aside party difference and present a united alliance ahead of the 2016 polls. “Our doors are open and we will continue to engage other opposition parties if they are honest and want change in this country. Each party knows that it cannot do it alone, then let us please join the alliance, come together, sign a memorandum of understanding and use that as the basis of our campaign throughout the Gambia for the next one-and-half years before elections. We should come with a single candidate to lead the alliance to be able to effect change”.

Could it be OJ himself that will lead the coalition come 2016 if there would be any? The PPP with its trifling number? Oh! Will Darboe and Halifa accommodate such an idea? Do not talk of Mai and Henry because they might not even be available. Prove me wrong by coming to join the coalition if there would be any.

A week later, a riposte came from Mai Ahmed Fatty of the GMC rebutting the statement made by OJ in the April interview: “Ousainou Darboe and I will continue to engage other political parties to fulfil the aspirations of thousands of Gambians who look onto us not only for leadership but meaningful change.” This statement of OJ according to Fatty “connotes a sense of acquiescence on the part of the rest of us, which is incorrect. PPP and GMC are equal partners with the UDP at Gambia United for Change (GUC), and we remain partners. By excising other leaders out like he did, you seek to belittle their contributions, or negate their role.” Expressed Mai.

In a radio talk show (Civic Engagement Hour) with Bakary Fatty in December last year, Hamat Bah of the NRP said his party is ready for a coalition ahead of the 2016 polls so as to unseat the incumbent.

What does Halifa have to say on the issue of a coalition? In a story published by jollof news, it seems the man and PDOIS are interested more in electoral reform than a coalition. Indeed the PDOIS might be interested in a coalition but reform is its main priority for now.

In the words of the socialist:

“The People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) is in fact playing an instrumental role in the negotiation for electoral reform and no one who understands how those proposals are being prepared would imply that PDOIS is holding out or could be side lined…..It is also important to point out that the negotiation is about electoral reform and not about forming a coalition….At the moment there is no discussion about a coalition because the time for that has not arrived. Organised political parties do not form coalitions by word of mouth. All agreements between political parties must be put in writing and are signed by authorised signatories. Even the setting up of an interparty committee was premised on a memorandum of understanding signed by all parties.”

“Hence, at this moment what is expected of credible opposition parties is to hold party congress and formulate policies on when alliances would be necessary and which form of alliances would be acceptable to each party.
PDOIS is the only party which has formulated proposals on how a united front could be built which is to be submitted to a congress so that it could form part of the PDOIS manifesto for the 2016-2018 electoral cycle.”

I found the second paragraph of Halifa’s statement interesting: It connotes that the oppositions will have to decide whether it is time to form a coalition or not and in addition, will have to look at the type of coalition each party will approve. Readers please reflect on my initial argument about disagreement over the position of a standard bearer…

 

IS COALITION THE ONLY HOPE FOR GAMBIAN OPPOSITIONS?

Will the APRC be shaken by a coalition? Surely, no ruling party pray for a coalition to be form against it. It might take Mayor Colley as the National Mobiliser of the APRC to employ all political strategies so as to cajole the opposition not to form a coalition and convince Gambians to vote for his party. It might take them to also bring Yankuba Touray (Yanks) to do the usual campaign. It will be intriguing then. There is currently a prediction that the APRC will sweep the polls come 2016. Governor Omar Khan of CRR told The Standard Newspaper that the APRC will sweep the polls come December 1st, 2016 with a ‘landslide victory’. “The APRC is going to win landslide. I am certain of that”. On the issue of a coalition, he said the oppositions are just making noise. As I stated earlier in this piece, I do not want to quickly prognosticate the outcome of the polls in my analysis. Can the UDP alone unseat the APRC? What of PDOIS? What of NRP? Ops! The “reasonable capitalist” party of Mr Bah. What of the PPP? OJ said that no one party can do it alone. Am sure Halifa, Darboe and Hamat are all aware that it will be hard for them to do it alone. What then could be the best option for the oppositions? A coalition may do for them but even that is not certain.

In the 2001 presidential polls, an alliance was formed which comprised the UDP, PPP and GPP. This could not stop Jammeh from winning as his party gained 52.84% of the total votes while the alliance hoarded 32.59%, 7.78% went to the NRP while NCP and PDOIS accumulated 3.77% and 3.02% respectively.

In the 2006 polls, despite another merger, this time between the UDP, NRP and GPDP, the APRC was able to get 67.33% more than 10% compared to the 2001 polls, while the alliance (UDP-NRP-GPDP) got 26.69%, and the NADD which comprised PDOIS and NDAM of Lamin Waa Juwara managed to gain only 5.98%.

In the 2011 presidential election, despite an alliance again which comprised (UDP-GMC-PPP-NCP), Jammeh swept the polls with 71.54%. The alliance led by Darboe got 17.36% and the United Front, another alliance led by Bah got only 11.11%. (African Elections Database: Elections in The Gambia, updated March 2012).

One can now realise that alliances were being formed against the incumbent but no way out for the oppositions. But one may suggest that all the oppositions need to come together to form a single coalition and not to have different ones as had happened in the other polls. But even if they come together, will Gambians vote for them? That is another issue but unless the experiment is tried, the oppositions will not know whether coalition is the best for them or not.

The oppositions are still eying for an electoral reform. Will the IEC listen to them? Another matter I do not intend to belabour on for now because the clock is fast ticking. But whether a coalition is formed or not, Gambians will have a choice and decision to make: Either to maintain the APRC in power or vote in a new party, the options of continuity or change of leadership.  A Political Science student at The University of The Gambia, Omar L. Ceesay opined to me that the oppositions will unseat the incumbent once they form a coalition because Gambians have the desire to vote for them. “I think the oppositions will win if they are able to come together and present a united front to Gambians. Yes they will win, I am confident”. A Development Studies student also at the UTG, Ensa Kujabi on the other hand said that even if the opposition form a coalition they will find it fiddly to unseat the incumbent. The president he maintained, got the support already and disunity is evident in the opposition camp. “Even if they should unite, disagreement over the position of a standard bearer will ensue and as a result, one party loyalists may not want to vote for the other and as such, it would become hard for them to achieve victory in the polls. The oppositions should not wait till the last minute to choose a candidate, that will defeat the purpose of a coalition and that is the signal they are sending.” Time will corroborate one’s opinion right.

In the final part of this piece, I have a message for Gambians. We all have a duty to this country. It is our fundamental responsibility, a sacred duty for that matter to register and vote in the 2016 polls, although some would argue that they will not vote because none of the parties is enough convincing to earn their votes. In his article on National Assembly, Talibe Gibran expressed fear that there might be voter apathy in the polls because of the D100 charge on voter card re-registration. Voter apathy some political analysts believe which I undoubtedly capitulate to, is a consequence of two factors: either the citizens are dissatisfy with a system or are presented with implausible oppositions. However,, the IEC must remember that it is not a profit making body, rather it is mandated by the constitution as part of the “public service” (see section 42 (1)) of the 1997 constitution to be “responsible for the conduct and supervision of the registration of voters for all public elections and the conduct and supervision of all public elections and referenda” (Section 43 (1) (a)) of the same constitution. Then why charging the D100? Is that a form of punishment on me and my other fellow citizens for having our voter cards lost or damaged? Do you want me to buy my vote? I am not saying I have misplaced or lost mine. Do not get me wrong please. Just think of the electoral consequences of such a decision. Governor Khan again said it is not a problem for ‘true sons and daughters’ of The Gambia to pay hundred dalasi to get a voters card so as to exercise their constitutional right. He opined that those that don’t pay to get their cards are not true Gambians. I am sure no sovereign Gambian of constitutional eligibility would want to be branded as a false Gambian by Mr Khan. I am a true Gambian and I believe many others are with or without the D100 charge. So spend the D100 you have to make the politicians know that you have a choice to make. I would especially want to re-echo the urge made by the Speaker of the National Youth Parliament, Samba Bah, for Youths to register and vote in 2016. Indeed all have the duty to vote, young and old of constitutional qualifications but the young especially must take the lead.

In addition, we expect not to see the gladiatorial politicians stump the podium only to narrate stories and act dramas. We expect not to see the transitorial political participants supporting parties on opportunist base. We expect to see campaigns base more on programmes and policies and not on glorifying the past and making unrealistic pledges.

COME 2016, WE WILL VOTE!

Author: Essa Njie, Graduate Assistant, Political Science, University of The Gambia

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Hello and welcome to the njiejattaperspectivecom. The blog is meant for information and knowledge sharing on contemporary issues, especially relating to politics and society at both national and global levels. I will take you through an academic sojourn of simplifying current domestic and international issues. My writings will draw in to my trainings as an upcoming academic and a former newspaper journalist. I am an ardent student of Gambian politics. It will avail readers the opportunity to grab a better understanding of issues that unfold at both national and global spheres of politics.