By Tumbul Trawally, Seattle, USA

Nothing wrong with Coalitions—But with Whom 

Forming a Coalition is very natural in politics and is a tenet of democracy. However, it is totally wrong to form a Coalition with a party that has inflicted so much pain. After all the Atrocities and Human Rights Violations by the APRC, it should be considered a pariah party and shunned by all decent Gambians. Gambia has seen its fair share of Coalitions: it goes back to the merger between Reverend J. C. Faye’s Democratic Party (DP) and Garba Jahumpa’s Muslim Congress Party (MCP), in 1962, to form the Democratic Congress Alliance (DCA). The likes of the late A. B. Njie, B. O. Semega Janneh, and Alhagie Cham Joof were members of the Democratic Congress Alliance. Ahead of the 1962 general elections, the Democratic Congress Alliance formed a Coalition with Sir Dawda’s Peoples Progressive Party (PPP).


It is hard to believe, but Pierre Njie’s United Party (UP) formed a Coalition government with Sir Dawda’s PPP after the 1962 general elections. In 1965, Garba Jahumpa joined forces with Pierre Njie’s United Party to defeat Sir Dawda’s PPP’s desire for a {Republic}. In March 1968, Garba Jahumpa disbanded his Party and joined the PPP. As you can see, Gambia is not new to Coalition governments. However, none of these political parties brought misery and despair upon Gambians. No one can say that about the APRC, with a straight face! No amount of desperation or desire to cling on to power should warrant forming a Coalition with a murderous party, like the APRC. Germany did not rehabilitate Hitler’s NAZI Party after World War 2; Italy did not rehabilitate Mussolini’s Fascist Party, either. The shocking part of the APRC saga is the leaders’ lack of remorse.

Yankuba Touray still thinks he did nothing wrong; Edward Singhateh lied before the TRRC; only Sanna Sabally came close to providing vital information to the TRRC. Meanwhile, Yahya Jammeh believes that his victims deserve what befell them. How can anyone give legitimacy to such a Party? It is hard to fathom! Reconciliation and Rehabilitation begin with admission of Guilt; we are yet to see that. In most countries, the APRC would be banned. The party inflicted so much pain—it is hard to describe in words.

When violence is perpetrated against citizens by those supposed to protect them—the pain subsides over time—but never completely goes away. Ask the Koro Ceesay or Deyda Haidara families.   Trust me on this! My family experienced it—first hand. My father was a quintessential member of the PPP; in fact, he was the Party’s Councillor for the Jokadu East Ward (1971-1979). He switched his party affiliation in 1975 when Sheriff Dibba formed the National Convention Party (NCP), due to familial ties. During the 1982 general elections, Dr. Momodou Manneh, then Minister of Economic Planning & Industrial Development, held a rally in Dasilami village. Coincidentally, the rally was held next to my brother-in-law’s compound. At the rally, Dr. Manneh insulted my father and other prominent members of the NCP. My sister heard the insults and reciprocated. At that point, Dr. Manneh unleashed his goons, who beat her to a pulp! The beating resulted in a miscarriage. She never fully regained her health and passed away in 1992, ten years later.

This was before Facebook or Twitter; as a result, Sir Dawda never heard of the incident. In this age of Social Media, the State House and Sir Dawda would have learned of the incident within hours or days. Fortunately, in 1984, the technology of the day –a cassette tape recorder—became the undoing of Dr. Manneh, when an NCP sympathizer surreptitiously recorded his tirades at a rally. I am certain the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat generation are saying to themselves, what? How Ancient! Dr. Manneh insulted not only opposition members, but he insulted some PPP members, including the then Chief of Jokadu, Alhagie Abou Khan. Sir Dawda dismissed him when the tape [glacially] made its way to his desk. Sir Dawda protected every Gambian, regardless of party affiliation. He paid no attention to tribal or political dogma. Dr. Manneh claimed to have a PhD in Political Science, but did not know what a [ratio] is during a Parliamentary Debate. I was in the gallery; the whole chamber was aghast at his ignorance!

After Dr. Manneh’s dismissal, Sir Dawda dispatched B. B. Darboe, then Vice President, to Jokadou to apologise, on his behalf, to the Chief and his subjects. What was actually galling: was after B. B. Darboe’s apology tour, Dr. Manneh’s close associates in the Cabinet: M.C. Jallow, Lamin Kiti Jabang, and Amulai Janneh held a meeting at Dasilami, refuting what B.B. Darboe said to the Chief and the District. Can you imagine anything remotely close to that happening today: ministers countering a Vice President’s statements? It was on a weekend, so it is possible that B. B. Darboe may have been unaware of their trip to Dasilami, much less their rebuttals. This was the era of the “Communication Black Hole” that we lived in.

This year’s campaign should be peaceful and cordial. Let the winner become the president. On a lighter note–my question to Gambians: why do we have so many political parties? It looks like only the Trawallys and Jobes have not formed a political party. However, the Contehs, Njies, and Gayes need not seek the presidency: they are woefully unqualified. Laugh!!!!!!! I argued in an earlier posting that the presidency should be based on a majority vote, not our current system of plurality. In a majority vote, the winner will need at least 51% of the votes to become president. In a plurality vote, the presidency could go to someone who won only 10% of the vote, as long as he/she had the most votes, individually. In such a scenario, the winner caters to the narrow group of his voters, at the expense of the majority. That is not democratic. It is a shame that the Constitutional Review Report was not enacted into law; it would have taken care of that and the presidential term limit.  One thing I can say for certain, the losing parties will disappear after the elections; they will be absorbed into the winning party. Some of these presidential aspirants only want to raise their profile or for a future cabinet position.

Let us pause for a moment and reflect on the Political History of the Gambia. From Edward Francis Small to Rev. J. C. Faye to Garba Jahumpa to Pierre Njie to Sir Dawda—the Gambia never had a vindictive, brutal leader. These men were decent–but had different ideas of developing Gambia and moving it forward. It is similar to having different routes to get to Serrekunda. The ultimate goal is to get to Serrekunda through different roads. In 30 years, Sir Dawda executed one person, Mustapha Danso. Mr. Danso killed Eku Mahoney in 1980 and participated in the 1981 abortive Coup of Kukoi. Eku Mahoney was an uncle of Sir Dawda’s children from his first marriage. We still don’t know the exact number of Yahya Jammeh’s victims. Sir Dawda was one-of-a-kind-Leader! I love him–with all my heart. May Jannatul Firdaus be his eternal home and that of all our past leaders.


Tumbul Trawally
Seattle, USA

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