There have been crucial developments in the past days in the tiny West African nation as prominent candidates have filed their bid for the next presidential elections. Two political events in the media spotlight and that come at a time when the country is engulfed in an unprecedented political crisis.

adama-and-isoLast Friday, all eyes were directed towards Gambia’s largest city Serrekunda where the first female presidential candidate was set to announce a run for the presidency. Renowned anti-Female Genital Mutilation activist, Dr. Isatou Touray’s decision to enter into the political arena seems to have ignited a new spark all across the country.

“Alerted by a deep sense of concern for the Gambia, committed to our country’s advancement, unfettered by repression, abuse, impunity and persecution, I have observed the current dispensation over the years,”
Dr. Isatou Touray said in her Acceptance Speech provoking waves of jubilant applause in the gathering.

If her speech has met expectations,  her resolve to make change possible has earned her many followers.

The long-time activist who established a strong reputation of rights defender for women and the girl child decried what she describes as a ‘dire situation’ that Gambians are confronted with under the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) regime.

“Too much power is concentrated in too few hands and we need a new approach to government that involves the people in decisions that affect them. Those who make decisions on behalf of others are too often not accountable,” she said.

Many observers believe that a possible major breakthrough in Gambian politics could be made with her candidacy as Dr. Touray has always posed herself as a vanguard for the common people.

“Dr. Isatou Touray is offering something fresh for all those who are tired of trying the same monotonous style of doing things. For those who believe that democratic transfer of power is possible through the ballot box, Dr.Touray offers a reasonable opportunity for them. She is tested and trusted in community development and serves as a credible alternative towards a breakthrough,” Gambian intellectual and filmmaker Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu told this reporter.

Her nomination raises questions about her ability to put gender equality to take center stage in her political agenda.

Sankanu warned against the way gender is being abused by ‘various chauvinist fronts’ to sell their agenda.

“I believe in competence and equity… If a woman can do the job better than a man, she should be given the chance and due respect to prove herself. I don’t believe in the politicized “gender equality” charade through which women are reduced to cheerleaders or promoted as mascots of political correctness for the sake of quotas and political convenience,” he said while citing the example of Germany eing governed by a woman since 2005.

A UDP Revival?

While the candidacy announcement of Gambia’s first female presidential hopeful appears to have got all media attention, the United Democratic Party (UDP) endorsed its Presidential nominee in spite of the jailing of party leader Ousainou Darboe and dozens of supporters.

Party treasurer Adaman Barrow won on Thursday the party’s nomination and has since taken the mantle of leadership.

Adama Barrow,  51, is a real estate developer and has joined the party since 1996. His nomination is prompted by the jailing of party leader Ousainou Darboe and other supporters including 14 executive members who are serving a 3-year imprisonment. Two prominent party members have also been pronounced dead while under State custody.

“There comes a time in the life of an oppressed nation when its people just get up and say enough is enough. We have seen it over and over again throughout the whole world.  Gambia is not going to be an exception.”  said UDP Presidential hopeful while accepting his nomination.

Barrow described his nomination as ‘a great responsibility’ and  said he is accepting it with an ‘unquestionable belief in Allah the Almighty’ and the confidence he bestows  in the Gambian people. “I know the Gambian people are yearning for change,” he stated.

The newly nominated Presidential candidate denounced the current political situation which led to the arrest and jailing of party members.

“The majority of the arrested executive members are over sixty-five years old. Three of them are over seventy,” he said. “Winning the elections will enable us to remove them from unlawful imprisonment and then to take their rightful places among their fellow Gambians.”

The current political dispensation has left many wondering whether credible elections could be held in Gambian while authorities continue to turn a deaf ear to numerous calls for decency.

“Our situation today is very murky. The present establishment has reduced our political system into nothing as such trust and believe in the system is at all-time low,” said prominent youth activist Sait Matty Jaw.

 However, he went on,  as a fervent believer in elections and democratic process as the right and most efficient means to effect change, it is prudent that we go to the polls.

“I strongly believe that Jammeh can be unseated through the ballot. We also, know that the present condition favors Jammeh more than anyone else, but we also know that there is huge discontent within the population,” he said.

Jaw urged the country’s opposition leaders to find effective and efficient means to tap into growing anger in order to achieve change.

Other political parties that have already nominated candidates to vie for the presidency are the ruling APRC, People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) and the newly formed political party Gambia Democratic Change (GDC) which has reached a crescendo of popularity.

In the last presidential elections held in 2011, official results announced by the country’s electoral body indicated that President Jammeh emerged victorious with 72% of the vote, while UDP leader Ousainou Darboe and Hamat Bah of the opposition National Reconciliation Party (NRP) trailed with about 17% and 11%
respectively. As Gambia Elections Chief  has revealed that the re-demarcation has resulted in 53 constituencies, fears are mounting about a possible creation of “ghost” polling stations by the APRC regime….

Written by Abdoulie JOHN

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