In this write up, my goal is to find out why people’s democratic organization for independence and socialism (PDOIS) became an agent of military dictatorship for the past 22 years despite their rhetoric in Gambia’s political dispensation. Pdois as a political party portray itself as not been interested in leadership but they are genuinely interested in freedom and socioeconomic advancement of Gambian people. PDOIS has been in Gambia’s politics in the past three decades and their current support base in the country is less than four percent of the population. But such small percentage of the population continue to be obstacle to any unity among the opposition parties and they are not in line with majority of opposition parties in The Gambia and diaspora activists and citizens.
This observation should be taken with great concern especially considering the need for political change. However such observations should be also taken from the historic tragedy of military in our political process.
Military dictatorship is an evil system of government which is established in our country through a military coup led by Yaya Jammeh. Yaya Jammeh and his fellow soldiers violated the constitution and trust of the Gambian people who paid their salaries and other benefits. After the coup, PPP was banned and NCP also took political holiday. It was during that period, pdois leadership became the prominent players in the country political dispensation and also were able to use foroyaa newspaper to spread the message of their party. Initially, the military junta mistakenly wanted to ban the foroyaa newspaper and that attempt resulted to the protest of the three key founders of pdois and foroyaa newspaper. Dictator Jammeh realized at the time in order to get legitimacy and to be recognized as someone who came to reform Sir Dawda Jawara’s government , he needed to leave foroyaa newspaper to continue its operation in The Gambia. This was strategic and tactical decision which favors Jammeh and also favors the business and political interest of pdois.
Since then foroyaa newspaper editorial board or its founders has not suffered any harassment, intimidation or threat from Yaya Jammeh and his terror machine. Gambians will recall that other newspapers such as daily observer newspaper, The Daily News, independent newspaper and point newspaper faced daily threats, harassment and intimidation in the early days of the regime. This state-sponsored terrorism has resulted to the closure of independent newspaper and exiled of many of its reporters such as Musa Saidykhan, Baba Galleh Jallow and other outstanding citizens. The subsequent killing of one of the founder of point newspaper, Mr. Dedya Hydara also dealt big blow to the paper’s credibility and outstanding performance in our national development. Daily observer later became the mouthpiece of the regime.
In the foroyaa newspaper, even those reporters who are not in line with PDOIS policies and are also against military dictatorship are not spared from Jammeh’s state-sponsored terrorism. Some of their reporters who were of victims of Jammeh’s terror machine during the course of their journalistic work were not given proper treatment or their stories are not published by the foroyaa leadership due to Halifa or Foroyaa leadership’s business interest and also to protect the image of the regime. The evidence of such a disregard to the human rights violations of their employees or reporters are manifested in the recent case of Mr. Mbenga who is currently nursing his torture in Senegal. Cases like that of Fabakary Ceesay , Abubacarr Saidykhan and others all indicate that Halifa Sallah is only concern about his business and political interest as an agent of military dictatorship. How can a party leader and presidential candidate who truly care about his fellow citizens continue to bury human rights violations of his own employees under the carpet?
If Halifa and PDOIS care about accountability and transparency, why did he and Sam Sarr sit on the editorial board of their supposedly independent newspaper? These are fundamental questions Gambians should ask themselves about the leadership of foroyaa and PDOIS. Over the years, pdois political party and foroyaa newspaper leaderships are the two entities which enjoy basic freedom as far as Jammeh’s regime is concern while all other opposition political parties and newspapers were denied their political freedom or their rights to do their journalistic work.
In terms of daily operation of foroyaa newspaper, they never asked hard question directed to the Dictator Jammeh himself. The usual practice of the newspaper is to quote the constitution and ask general questions. Their general questions can be directed to any country political leadership and this is usually done to prevent any direct confrontation with Dictator Jammeh. Foroyaa newspaper never made any headline which directly name Yaya Jammeh in many atrocities committed in the country instead they will mentioned phrases such as ” authorities ” and ” leadership ” in their reporting and editorial despite the fact that they knew Jammeh is totally behind the orders given in many of human rights violations.
In any military dictatorship, there has to be room for legitimacy so that international community will recognize and accept the dictatorship as having allow some form of civility and divergent views. In most cases small opposition parties and newspapers becomes an legitimizing tools for dictatorship. I believe foroyaa newspaper and pdois falls under this group. This is simply based on foroyaa newspaper continue enjoyment of basic freedom while all other newspapers which are deemed as anti-regime were either banned or its reporters face daily threats , intimidation , murder , illegal detention and harassment.
The same basic freedom that foroyaa newspaper experience and their pattern of operation is also the same freedom pdois party continue to benefit from this dictatorial regime.
Pdois has never been denied any permit to conduct their political meetings or rallies. UDP, NRP and PPP were all denied permit by the police to conduct their political meetings. United Democratic Party in particular experience worst treatments from the Jammeh’s terror machine and his corrupt police force. UDP face daily intimidation, torture, harassment and murders from the hands of Jammeh and his terror machine. This is further evidence by countless court cases, imprisonments and illegal detention of UDP members in The Gambia.
In terms of pdois relationship with other political parties and diaspora, pdois continue to be an obstacle for call for unity both within the country and outside the country. This is evidence by the following political refusal and unwillingness of pdois to work with Gambians anywhere in the world:
1. Within the country, pdois leadership refused to attend meeting recently organized by concerned Gambians who are interested in coalition building and electoral reforms instead the party attended selection of Mr. Sallah as their presidential candidate. They cited the timing of the meeting as an excuse for not been able to attend the meeting.
2. Diaspora organization such as Cordeg has invited pdois to a meeting in North Carolina, they failed to attend this conference and provided flimsy excuses, citing venue and the need for diaspora to go back to basis principle of democracy and put their house in order. They also refused to attend the conference held in New York under the auspice of international human rights organizations with partnership with CCG
3. When Jammeh made his tribal vitriol against Mandinka few years ago, a joint press conference was organized and attended by all opposition leaders in the country except pdois leadership. At the time pdois promised to do further investigation before giving any opinion despite the fact that they have heard the same vitriol in the national TV.
4. Cordeg invited all political parties to discuss way forward for 2016 elections, pdois refused to attend and cited that they were on provincial tour meeting their supporters.
5. Recent peaceful protest for electoral reforms led by Solo Sandeng and his group was seen by PDOIS as UDP’s problem and it was a mistake in the view of Halifa Sallah. Mr. Sallah in his press release stated that “When a political leader acts instantaneously on the basis of conscience, even if it is later found that the evidence is mistakenly assumed, criminality should not be alleged…”. This is an indication why they have never supported the peaceful protesters.
Recently, Mr. Sallah also made a direct attack on diaspora in an interview with the mouthpiece of their party on May 25th, 2016. Here is Mr. Salah’s statement with foroyaa newspaper below: “Gambians abroad who engage in war-mongering without combat preparedness only succeed in transforming those under their command into fodders for rifles, bayonets, tear gas and truncheons. They should know that it is not a sign of bravery to take warlike postures when they are not armed and psychologically prepared for war”.
The above statement is irresponsible and disgraceful statement and it is not expected from a man who pride himself as fighting for freedom and socioeconomic advancement of ordinary citizens. Such an irresponsible statement does not reflect the position of thousands of Gambians in diaspora who peacefully protested in various cities across the world to condemn Jammeh’s regime human rights violations of peaceful protesters and the regime dictatorial rule. Mr. Salah’s suggestion that “diaspora’s engagement in war mongering and transforming those under their command into fodders for rifles, bayonets, tear gas and truncheons” fit in the narrative of Dictator Jammeh’s play book of classifying diaspora as enemy of the country.
It is such a direct attack on diaspora and pdois refusal to work with Gambian opposition parties especially UDP and diaspora that it can be concluded that Mr. Sallah and pdois are an agent of legitimization of dictatorship in The Gambia . Mr. Salah’s eloquence doesn’t March with the actions of honest and decent citizens who truly care to liberate The Gambia from clutches of dictatorship. It is also against the patriotic moves done by peaceful protesters who called for electoral reforms which Mr. Salah’s party claimed to advocate for as part of agreement of group of opposition parties. Pdois and its leadership need to remind themselves that in the course of history we have heard about men and women who were classified as violent extremist or terrorists when they stood up against injustices in their countries. Nelson Mandela and Dr King were classified under such category while their fellow blacks were used as an agents to sabotage and discourage their efforts. This is historic lesson Mr. Sallah and pdois must take note of.
Mr. Sallah also failed to understand that diaspora is playing key role in our national development and their contributions amount to 90 million dollars a year more than direct foreign investment in the country. Such an amount is almost equal to foreign financial assistance rendered to the country by donor countries. Diaspora contribution is directly link to our national security. Without economic security which diaspora play huge role, thousands of Gambians families will be without food and other social needs. Therefore it is clear stupidity and dishonesty to suggest that Diaspora is engage in war mongering which is further from the hard truth. The suggestion that peaceful protesters were used and sponsored and are in direct command of Diaspora, is a kind of language we heard from the evil dictator and his various agents of military dictatorship.
From the above evidences and political conduct of pdois and its leadership, it can be concluded that pdois is better off with current political dispensation. It is left to Gambian people to see who they are as an agent of military dictatorship.
Written By Max Jarju
Editors note: The views expressed in this write up, does not necessarily represent the position of the Freedom Newspaper. Thanks for your attention.