If we had any doubts at all as to the political dominance of the UDP in post-Jammeh Gambia, I think the recently concluded mayoral and regional council elections would have put such doubts to rest.
The common perception that the Coalition government has been a disappointment has not hurt the UDP, a key member of the Coalition, at the polls, even though President Barrow has been the object of much criticism and ridicule. The electorate appeared to have put the Coalition’s shortcomings squarely at the door of President Barrow.
Stripped of any party support, the president could quite easily be made the fall guy for everything that is wrong with the Coalition; while the ‘partners’ position and consolidate themselves in readiness for the next elections.
The political excitement that followed Jammeh’s ousting, the sense of liberation, the relentless opinionating garrulity, in the social media, in the print media and on the airwaves, in popular conversations, whether in taxis, vans or on the ferry suggesting a re-invigorated political consciousness and activism, turned out to have been a short-lived, romantic affair: less than half of the registered voters bothered to turn out in the National Assembly elections last year, and in the recently concluded councilor and mayoral elections.
Perhaps our politicization or indeed our patriotism itself has been only lip-deep; or perhaps in post-Jammeh Gambia, most of us have become comfortable and secured not to bother to vote; or is it that we are cynical of our current crop of politicians, or that there is a genuine lack of political enlightenment? Whatever the reasons, there is a hell of a lot of votes out there to be won by a political leader who can tap into the significance of our time, and has the right mix of talent and charisma.
The string of reforms planned by the Coalition government is an index of the sclerotic rot at the heart of our public institutions. There are plans of constitutional reform, civil service reform, security reform, electoral reform, administration of justice reform, etc, etc. Jammeh’s wasn’t the sort of administration that encouraged and cultivated talent.
He used talent as mere instruments to his sordid ends. His style of governance opened the floodgates for opportunists, second-rate technos, and ambitious half-baked upstarts, to fill our public institutions, forming a structure of ‘yes-men’, which constituted his ‘scaffolding’ of plunder, the sort the Janneh Commission is bringing to light, in damning detail. The vulgarized texture of public life, from quite early on in his regime, was palpable to any discerning observer. And the cumulative effect of this decay is what we are laboring through, nearly two years on from our Democratic Revolution.
Report by Momodou Alieu Sidi Mboge