By: Philip Saine
On Thursday 2nd September, 2021 the National People’s Party (NPP) and the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) formed an alliance that seems not to be a popular initiative. The People Progressive Party (PPP) leader also said his party has no problem with the alliance, arguing that in the 2017 National Assembly and Council elections, the PPP put up candidates throughout the country, half of whom were APRC supporters. Whilst there is little or no objection for a merger between political masses this particular one is unpopular for a number of reasons. Firstly, the alliance potentially could undermine the report of the TRRC; the objective is principally for party interest rather than of national interest. Secondly, the merger is likely to try to absolve ex-President Yahya Jammeh from legal responsibility for his actions whilst in office. Another objective for the alliance could be to enhance Barrow’s victory on the December 4th Presidential elections. These reasons and conclusions are being buttressed by the disclosures of Afrobarameter’s recent survey publication that Gambians have expressed mixed feelings for the ex-president Yahya Jammeh to receive amnesty and his assets return to him. According to the survey 73% of people want Jammeh to face justice and his assets confiscated by the state and for all perpetrators of offenses to be prosecuted according to law.
The APRC announcement at a press conference held at Coco Ocean Hotel on Saturday 4th September 2021 that it has agreed to form an alliance with the NPP has triggered a wide-scale condemnation. While it is advocated to promote national reconciliation, this initiative of an alliance is probably premature. The alliance could have been propagated after implementation of the Truth, Reconciliation & Reparations Commission (TRRC) report and after ex-president Jammeh had answered to the numerous allegations. The TRRC sittings had received testimonies that revealed that 240 people were unlawfully killed during the 22 years rule of dictatorship of Jammeh. There were challenges faced by the families of victims of enforced disappearances. We heard of testimonies of a woman kicked in her genital area with a military boots. (The Point for Freedom and Democracy) About three hundred ninety-two (392) witnesses including those who participated in the killings through the instructions of Jammeh have appeared before the Commission and the testimonies of nearly all of them included human rights abuses, killings and mysterious disappearances of people; unlawful detention of people for a long period without access to a lawyer; abuse of power, sacking of government officials without genuine reasons, and misuse of government funds. As early as 1994/1995, Yahya Jammeh started calling journalists ‘the illegitimate sons of Africa’. He illegally and unconstitutionally declared the state Islamic that threatened the religious harmony always known to exist in the Gambia. For all these stated reasons ex-President Yahya Jammeh’s return to The Gambia has the potential, as stated earlier, to create instability because his victims will not forget easily. Some commentators have dubbed the NPP /APRC Alliance as ‘Axis of Evil rather than Axis of Good’. Others refer to it as ‘An unholy Alliance’. Playing politics with the TRRC under the pretext of national reconciliation ‘Never Again!’ would be the greatest deception. The atrocities revealed at the TRRC do not seem to be given any seriousness by the government in all the circumstances.
Some personal opinions were expressed, that the NPP/APRC coalition and the return of Yahya Jammeh would bring peace to the Gambia. However, the persons that made such statements have not indicated whether Yahya Jammeh would be held accountable, whether his allegedly stolen wealth would be returned and whether the victims would be appropriately compensated. The ‘Reparations’ as is enshrined in the TRRC Act are meant to be delivered. Individuals and merged political masses can forgive and forget but this is not the reactions being received from the general population. It should be noted that a national issue, as significant as this, is well beyond two political entities to negotiate away; the alliance has absolutely nothing to do with Gambia as a country. It has all the indications that it’s all about Barrow’s desire to stay in power. It’s for his personal, rather than the national interest. We still remember ‘who held the knife that killed the Lion?’. Matthew Jallow, a distinguished political commentator, has this to say: ‘Everyone should put their presidential aspirations in the back burner for the purpose of putting Gambia back on track. This is a moment when everyone’s patriotism is put to the test. The Gambia deserves it. Citizens need it’.
This alliance, it must be said, even threatens the efforts of national reconciliation and represents an apparent betrayal of the Gambian people notably the victims of state terror and terrorized religious communities. Many who suffered are still distressed as a result of the Jammeh regime. Madi Jobarteh, a reputable political commentator, has justifiably stated: ‘So long as Tinpot Dictator Yaya Jammeh and the APRC leadership remain in denial, unremorseful, unrepentant and insulting victims and Gambians every day, any talk of forgiveness and reconciliation is mere hypocrisy! Here is another related quote from Sidi Cherno Jammeh/World Bank Group–IMF African Society Chairman Emeritus; ‘Any political alliance and/or partnership between President Barrow and the APRC, even by appearance, will tantamount to a stunning betrayal of everything that Gambians fought so very hard for in December 2016. That would be a mistake’.
Sacrifices were made then to make the Gambia depart from Jammeh’s regime and adventurism. People who had been forced into exile have regained trust and confidence and are returning home. Therefore, any MOU agreed upon by the NPP/APRC alliance, if it is in good national faith, should be disclosed and perhaps justified to the public. It shall be for the State and Courts to determine the outcome of the commission and ex-president Jammeh’s return. While the Alliance, which is ‘a marriage of convenience’, may be contracted in the Gambia, it is likely to have its ‘honey moon’ outside the jurisdiction of the Gambia and may involve Ghana and or the ICC. The words of Aboubacarr Tambadou, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General (2017-2020), at the 2020 Opening of the Gambia Judicial Year must resonate in our minds.
By: Philip Saine