Is Gambia in need of a National Conference?

Foroyaa gave example of the consultation being done by President Macky Sall of Senegal with all sectors of Senegalese society in the form of a National Conference and enquires whether President Jammeh will follow suit, especially when a major political conflict exists between the UDP and the State.

Such intervention by Foroyaa is often mistaken as advice to the president. It is important for all Gambians to know that a president takes views that help them to consolidate their power base. Do not ever think that they are taking advice from any opponent as a favour to such opponent. They would take from opponents what serves their interest.

It is, however, naïve for opponents of the government to believe that they could only fish political power by leaving the government to wrong with impunity without any attempt to guide the leaders.

Half-hearted solutions to problems are more beneficial to the public than full hearted disregard of them. This is simply what Foroyaa is doing.

It is interesting that the debate is going on among the Gambian community on the issue of a National Conference. It is therefore necessary to shed light on the issue and leave Gambians to decide what the country needs.

Foroyaa did not call for a National Conference of any sort. It was simply  making reference to what is happening in Senegal and raise concerns whether the Gambian head of state would also think in that direction.

References are made to promote fresh thinking by policy makers. Whether we like it or not, their actions and reactions must affect all of us. It is better for them to be influenced to do the right thing rather than to leave them to go astray and do the wrong thing that affects us.

Who is benefitting by keeping the UDP executive in jail without bail? Only heartless human beings would want such incarceration to be prolonged. The sooner it ends the better the Gambia. Hence the sooner the State opens up to put an end to this incarceration or even enlarges dialogue to expand the democratic space the better for the country.

On the issue of National Conference, we would like to state very clearly that there are two types of national conferences which are evident to most political thinkers and practitioners. The first type is a national conference of all stakeholders comprising political parties, civil society segments, religious, traditional and civic leaders, academics and representatives of the disciplined forces that is convened when the government of a country loses legitimacy and the ability to govern a country. This could result from a coup d’etat like in Mali, mass uprising as in Burkina Faso or invasion as in Uganda during the time of Idi Amin. Such national conferences are geared towards the establishment of transitional instruments, institutions and a provisional government aimed at establishing a constitutional and democratic order through free and fair elections within a given time frame.

The second form of national conference occurs when a government realizes that the population would best be served by constitutional, legal, institutional and electoral reforms so that the democratic space would be expanded through respect for human rights and the opening up of the governance environment to facilitate freedom of political expression and association in order to facilitate the peaceful coexistence of all stakeholders in governance and the holding of free and fair elections whose outcome is accepted by all.

It is left for Gambians to debate what type of national conference is needed under our times and circumstances.