Pa, you have a done a great job for the past ten years in exposing Jammeh and his criminal regime and we sincerely thank you for that. You have saved a lot lives and contributed in preventing a lot injustices that befall a lot of people. Freedom radio and newspaper is a household name and the international community depends on freedom for information that the local media will never carry for fear of reprisals.
You are a university graduate journalist and an investigative journalist as well as a social communicator. The media is too important in any facets of democratic life of a nation. Because of the press, history is made in many occasions. Dictators and even democrats most feared instrument is the press. Unfortunately for Gambians the local press is totally mute, muscled, intimidated and reduce to music and sports with ZERO news for the opposition activities. Politicians on the ground can only depend on their town meetings to communicate with the electorate, which again the local press even fears to air or print. Therefor the opposition totally depends on the online press to pass their messages. Now all of us know that Internet access is readily available but very expensive for the ordinary Gambian to afford. Nonetheless we cannot but depend on the online media to spread the message in the Gambia. If the local media was free in the Gambia, no politician will worry about the online media. Presently the opposition audience is exclusively in the Gambia specially so when Diaspora Gambians do not have the franchise to vote yet. We know the importance of the diaspora and that is why the right to vote for the diaspora is one the electoral reforms demand of the opposition tabled with the IEC.
A politician job is about elections and laws and nothing else. A human rights activist job is fighting for the rights of people to be uphold and respected and the journalist job is to fight is to hold everyone on check so that information travels freely for public scrutiny. Trying to turn a politician into civil right activist is a non-starter. Politicians and political parties are generally governments in waiting ready to work with civil right activists and human right organizations if they fight for peoples and civil right. A case in point is “Y’ en a marre” of Senegal which engineering the change of Abdoulaye Wade in 2012 is not a political party. But they did a great job in galvanizing people and the opposition political parties for creating a level playing field hence the chance for Macky Sall party acceding to the presidency. “Balai Citoyen” a CRO of Burkina Faso is another case in point that did a similar job in empowering the people and political parties in Burkina Faso that sent Blaise Compaore running for his life, hence the election of Roch Mark Christian as the new head of state. CRO s are very important in nation’s democratic live. However no single group has the monopoly or the power to direct the struggle. All of us are equal stakeholders and are bound to accommodate each other to achieve a specific objective.
Unfortunately Civil rights organizations are non-existent in the Gambia and the many professional associations existing cannot even defend themselves much more defending other people rights. Allusion is made to the lawyers associations, trade unions, medical associations etc. So we are welcoming and looking forward for “CROs” like of DUGA to come hold the next democratic government in check.
Now Pa, since you are not political scientist or a professional politician then you should also accept that political scientist and professional politicians know a thing or two that you do not know just like you know a thing or two in journalism that politicians do not know. That’s a fact you have always hammered to your audience whenever your job strategy is criticized. We should therefore accept that each has an expert role to play and the combinations of all our efforts will produce the desired results that benefit the public.
In your Sunday leral show, you said that after 21 years of going to elections with Jammeh, the opposition would never beat Jammeh in the elections. You ask what has changed. You said Jammeh will rig and steal the elections even before the word go. Let us first of accept that in Africa, both dictators and so call democratically elected presidents steal and rig elections in their countries. It therefore not right to think that it is only dictators that steal elections. It took Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal 30 years of politics before finally winning Abdou Diouf in the year 2000. In 1988, Abdou Diouf stole the elections. 1988 was a hot electoral year in Senegal and a state of emergency was imposed to calm the contest. In 1993 again Abdou Diouf stole the elections and in many constituencies the total number of vote cast far exceeded the total number of registered voters. Lol! For one week the results could not be proclaimed the tension was so high which resulted in the resignation of Judge Keba Mbye and the assassination of Judge Maître Seye. Abdou Diouf was forced to bring in Abdoulaye Wade in the government after having been discharged and cleared from killing of Maître Seye. Two years after Abdoulaye Wade withdrew from the government and contested and again won the year 2000 elections leading to Abdou Diouf to finally accepting lost and bowing out of office honorably. Senegal is still considered a democratic country. Also note that Internet and the online media did not exist in Senegal in the election year of 2000.
Today we have the Internet and Jammeh cannot do a damn thing about it. The Internet will change the world of information dissemination whether Jammeh likes it or not. The media being the fourth estate of any nation is now accorded a mass communication channel to pass go. All what we need to do is to combat election rigging.
The percentage of stealing votes varies from constituency to constituency and from election to election. Statistics are very important in elections. Percentage point is the least important factor in analyzing election statistics. When using percentages even 10 votes or 10 goats or 10 cars can constitute the 100% in a given circumstance or any percentage point for that matter. The number of vote count is what matters in analyzing elections results. I therefore laugh when you said Jammeh pulled 72% of the votes in 2011 therefore he will win in 2016. That is wrong, if such is the case Abdou Diouf will never loose elections to Abdoulaye Wade. Abdou Diouf lost because three factors. 1- People had enough of him and voted massively. 2- Electoral reforms took place and photo ID and indelible ink was used for the first time. 3- The media made sure the results were communicated live so as to dispel any future counting tricks, manipulations and cheating.
Now in the Gambia we have all the above factors present except the presence of the private media. Spot counting of votes is now included in the new electoral laws passed by the APRC.
To add a little humor in Jammeh’s vote rigging let me remind the readers about Janjanbureh constituency in 2011. Janjanbureh had about 3000 total registered voters and after the counting the vote cast over 6000 tokens cast were counted. APRC were caught red handed.
If spot counting is done with a high voter turnout and the press present to communicate the results live, votes rigging will be reduced considerably or even eliminated. Also bear in mind that there will International Observers will be on the ground and opposition officials in the polling booths.
Now Pa whether the opposition stands or not, Jammeh will field bogus candidates to contest the elections. Granted you will say Jammeh is illegitimate but will that deter Jammeh from continuing to be president? Will this make the population go in the street and “Taal pneu-yi” using your expression? No. What make people go out is when Jammeh tries to steal their election victory and nothing else. The only justifiable case for insurrection in the Gambia is when the opposition wins and Jammeh refuses to go, then Gambians are in a legitimate cause to insurrect and chase Jammeh out of office regardless of the collaterals.
Pa, the Gambian security situation is totally different from that of Senegal. In Senegal 100% of the national army and 100% of the Republican guards are all Senegalese. Back home the Gambian army and the State guards are infested with Casamance Jolas who are there ONLY loyal to Yaya Jammeh and not the constitution or the Gambian people. This is a fundamental reality that unfortunately many of us fail to factor in when analyzing the Gambian security situation. The only country I know which had a similar problem is Libya’s Colonel Gadhafi. Gadhafi brought in the Malian and Niger Touaregs into his army to oversee the regular Libyan army for over 30 years before his overthrow. (Remember Gadhafi’s mom is a Touareg from Mali). How did Gadhafi go? By armed struggle of course. The Gambia is in the same position as in Libya. Either we take up arms and fight Jammeh’s army or we try the peaceful election way and hope to win in the eyes of the world thereby giving us the legitimacy to insurrect honorably knowing that the world would not standby and watch Jammeh massacre jubilant people in the streets. International observers will report to World leaders if such a scenario happens after a clear election victory and might even mandate Senegal to intervene militarily to calm the situation. Elections are very important to the civilized world.
The Gambia has an extremely delicate problem that only thorough analyses and prudent measures can save us from Jammeh. The choice is ours, we either take up arms and fight Jammeh’s security forces, an eye for eye a life for life or we employ the politicians election route and make sure Gambians vote massively against Jammeh. In the absence of the above let us not blindly ask the people to go in the streets and get beaten, arrested and tortured and released thereafter after pressure that is not fair.
Finally Pa, we want you to come home and establish your TV station and Radio Station in free and democratic environment. You will create employment for our youths and that is what the country needs.
Written By Baboucarr Bojang, Banjul