By Kebba Jeffang
The congress delegates of the United Democratic Party (UDP) on Sunday, April 03, 2016 elected Lawyer Ousainou Darboe as the Secretary General and the party leader at the just concluded congress held in Basse in the Upper River Region.
The party leader told the media that the congress has mandated him to discuss with other opposition parties the issue of coalition formation ahead of the December 1st Presidential election.
Mr. Darboe also clarified that the selection of a flag bearer is constitutionally vested in the National Selection Committee and not the Congress.
During the Congress, the party officials’ election was preceded by resolutions and some Constitutional amendments.
Among the adopted resolutions, the party leader is mandated to create platform to discuss with other opposition parties in forming a coalition or alliance.
Under the new Constitutional amendment tabled by the party’s youth wing, the Congress is vested with the power of electing the party officials such as deputies for the various positions; the Secretary General is no longer empowered to do so. However, the Secretary General is given the power to nominate 6 ordinary members instead of the original 5 people. The 6 people will be selected from all the six regions of the Gambia and the adopted resolution on that was that at least 2 of these nominees should be youth. Mr. Darboe will be deputized by Aji Yam Secka who was also elected by the delegates.
Mr. Dembo Bojang, retained his National Presidency after being elected while Ya Mundaw Yabo was also voted in as the deputy National President.
Other elected officials included Mr. Lamin Dibba as the Senior Administrative Secretary deputized by Alagi Darboe, Mr. Solo Ebrima Sandeng was also elected as the National Organising Secretary being deputized by Lamin Marong. Mr. Femi Peters was elected Administrative Secretary of External Affairs, Mr. Amadou Sanneh who is currently serving a jail term at Mile 2 was also elected in absentia as the National Treasurer while Mr. Fabakary Colley was voted as the Campaign Manager.
Speaking to the media shortly before his election, Mr. Ousainou A.N.M Darboe, the party leader described the relation with other opposition political parties as cordial. He said the opposition parties in the Gambia are in good terms contrary to some online media reports. He cited that during his party anniversary, an NRP delegation was in attendance while PDOIS did not only send a solidarity message but also a handsome donation. He said during their standoff incident in Fass Njaga Choi in NBR last year when his party was intercepted by the police, PPP, GMC and NRP all sent a strong delegation and PDOIS also sent a welcoming solidarity message. He said this is a clear manifestation of unity and understanding among the opposition parties in the Gambia.
“The oppositions are friends and brothers and have a common purpose and charging a common destiny. So there is no amount of reification and misinformation that will really keep us (the opposition) apart and we are working together for the interest of this country. Some online paper reports give the impression that the oppositions in The Gambia are enemies and eat each other’s throats. Seeing the presence of PPP and NRP delegate in the person of the Minority Leader is clear manifestation of the existing unity,” said the new UDP leader.
On Electoral reform, he said in his view, the IEC, the National Assembly and the Executive have rejected their proposals on the issue of electoral reform. He said the IEC is mentioned because it is the institution responsible for electoral matters in the country. He said neither the IEC, the President nor the National Assembly have taken any step to accommodate their (the opposition) demands and proposals. He said therefore, with that rejection, parties have to decide on their own what they would do. He said since 2012 the opposition got together as parties and decided that they should not participate in the parliamentary election. “Should any party unilaterally break that pact?” He asked.
He said “it is my view that very soon a meeting would be convened so that the parties will decide whether to either break that pact or renew it so that the Gambians would know whether or not, with or without electoral reform we go to the polls,”
However, he said he doesn’t want to say UDP stance when his party has a pact with the other political parties and he has to agree with those parties to bring the pact to an end.
Whether UDP is hoping for a boycott in the absence of Electoral reform, “well I have been given mandate by the congress to discuss the issue of electoral reform with my colleagues (opposition parties) which we have done. And now the issue of boycott really is not a matter I can on my own give an answer because I will really be deciding for the organ that should make such a decision.”
With regards to a coalition, Darboe said “the congress has mandated me to discuss with my colleagues in the other opposition parties the formation of a united front that would select a credible and a single candidate to contest the December 1st Presidential election. We could not do it without the mandate of a congress. But now the congress being the highest organ has given us the mandate to do so.”
Regarding whom the flag bearer of the party would be, Mr. Darboe said it is unfortunate that many people get this wrong. He said it is the responsibility of the National Selection Committee to review the application from interested people who aspire to become a Presidential candidate, National Assembly, Mayoral or Councilor ward candidates under the party’s sponsorship.
He said the committee will review the application to make a selection of the most suitable candidate. He said this is backed by the party’s constitution.