Gambia: PDOIS Leadership Never Condemned The 1994 Military Coup

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Max`s claim that Sallah and Gambian intellectuals contributed to the prolongation of military dictatorship by helping to formulate their agenda is farfetched from the truth. I wish to draw his attention to the fact that the PDOIS leaders (Halifa and Sidia) were the only politicians who defied the military rules in the early days of the coup, in particular Decree No.4 that banned activities linked to political parties including publication. In light of the military penal codes, the Constitution was suspended, House of Representatives dissolved and Political Parties were banned ” , an extract from Sulayman Bah’s recent article titled “There is Nothing for Halifa to Apologise for!”.

History is a very important factor which determines where we are heading to as a country. If we are not honest with history, we will fail in whatever we intend to do in the future. The Gambia has gone through a very difficult period in the last 22 years. One of the most important things we need to consider if we truly want to heal as a nation is to own our mistakes. It is for this reason that our political leaders including those of PDOIS should own the mistake they committed in the early days of 1994 military coup. Gambian intellectuals’ contributions to 22 years of military dictatorship cannot be emphasized. The PDOIS leadership never condemned the 1994 military coup. This was the first mistake they made. As an opposition party which claimed to stand for democracy and rule of law, PDOIS should have forcefully condemned the Junta and even encouraged Gambian people to protest against illegal overthrow of a democratically elected government. When militants of PPP staged a peaceful protest near USA embassy to express their outrage about the overthrown of Jawara’s government , PDOIS leadership never joined them . So what has PDOIS done to ensure that Jammeh and Junta members return to Barracks? They have done nothing. Instead they claimed that their letter of rejection of ministerial positions was meant to activate the base for resistance if Junta failed to follow their recommendations to open up political space for political parties and other stakeholders . This is the biggest hoax ever since PDOIS entered the Gambian politics.

A PDOIS letter to the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council dated July 27, 1994, titled “ letter of a member of PDOIS Giving  Reasons For Not Accepting Ministerial Post “, Mr Sallah indicated that:

It s very obvious to me that the most practical and urgent task for your council is how to constitute a governing council comprising of people who are deemed to be incorruptible and knowledgeable. This is a commendable object . Sincerity is , however, very significant when it comes to accepting a position of public trust “.

The above quotation is a clear suggestion that Mr Sallah never condemned the coup makers though he never considered any position from them . The letter to the AFPRC should have demonstrated PDOIS full condemnation of the coup but to commend the criminal Junta for “constituting a governing council” was not only a disappointment but it was contrary to democratic ideals and rule of law . This is why Halifa Sallah should take full responsibility and apologize to the Gambian people. PDOIS was even selectively allowed to participate in our politics while PPP was banned . We must remember that Jammeh was a student of PDOIS school of thought at the time before he became a brutal dictator. He was actually a student of Sam Sarr at Gambia high school. Jammeh and many young Gambian students at the time have positive perspective about PDOIS political philosophy. When Jammeh became president he extended the same impression and never considered PDOIS having any significant threat to his presidency but lawyer Darboe was his sworn enemy. In Mr Bah’s rejoinder, he simply classified Lawyer Darboe as a coward who hide during the early days of military coup while Halifa was considered a fearless lion hearted hero. That was unfair characterization.

The misconception about PDOIS leadership protest against the ban of Foroyaa newspaper which was an organ of PDOIS needs to be corrected for the sake of truth and historical record. The publication of Foroyaa Newspaper led to arrest of PDOIS leadership for violating decree #4  which was formulated to ban all political activities and media publication with political affiliation. Decree #4 did not ban registered newspaper which has no political affiliation such as The Point Newspaper and The Daily Observer . These newspapers were in operation during the implementation of decree #4. Foroyaa’s affiliation with PDOIS was contrary to decree #4 which led to its leadership’s arrest, prosecution and conviction. They were fined and Foroyaa Newspaper later resumed publication as a registered independent non-political affiliate media organization even though the paper continued to be run by pdois leadership. PDOIS Leadership’s protest has nothing to do with defiance to political activities,  rather it was about Foroyaa newspaper which served as a propaganda tool for PDOIS and source of income for the leadership of the party . If PDOIS was actually interested in defying infamous decree # 4 , they would have staged a political rally but leadership never attempted any political activities during the implementation of decree #4. Therefore, it is a misconception to state they have actually defied the theme of decree # 4. I commend PDOIS leadership’s role to stand up for their media business interest but I hold them accountable for their failure to defy the Junta through political activities or refusal to condemn the coup. Pdois leadership was convicted because of legal ground which considered Foroyaa as a non-independent registered media organization with a political affiliation. This is the verdict of historical evidence which is legal binding and can be found in court records . I challenge anyone to come up with evidence to deny the conviction of pdois leadership on this legal ground.

If PDOIS leadership, other political leaders and intellectuals apologize to Gambian people, it will send a powerful message that our leaders are not perfect and they can make mistakes. It will also be inspiration for those coming to testify in the TRRC to tell the truth . What had happened in The Gambia in the last 22 years was collective failure on the part of citizens. We cannot place blame entirely on Dictator Jammeh for various human rights violations and economic exploitation as we are currently seeing in the country. I believe Gambian people made Yaya Jammeh the monster he became. Military leadership and political leadership including Jawara’s regime officials must all take responsibility for what had transpired in The Gambia. To single out PDOIS leadership especially Mr Sallah to apologize was simply based on the reason that Halifa Sallah was the first politician to send rebuttal to TRRC. The consequence of his rebuttal is that many people would not take any responsibility as we are currently witnessing in TRRC hearings. This will make TRRC a dog and pony show where we will continue to see questionable testimonies emerging on daily basis. Therefore, PDOIS admission of failure to condemn the coup as a political party and their subsequent efforts to advocate and support referendum which gave birth to 1977 constitution that entrenched Jammeh in power for 22 years is as necessary as  testimonies from perpetrators of political oppression and economic exploitation in front of Gambian people. They should take full responsibility for those actions.

Finally, I recognize and appreciate the role played by Mr Sallah to end Jammeh’s witch hunting debacle. His effort and selfless sacrifice in that critical time was exemplary leadership and is still admire by patriotic citizens.

Responsibility to tell the truth should start with political and military leadership if we are truly interested to see better Gambia in the future.

Thank you.

Written By Max Jarju

Editors note: The views expressed by the author do not represent the position of the Freedom Newspaper. Thanks for your attention.

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