According to reports monitors in Jarra Soma UDP congress has it that Mr. Darboe went unopposed in the recently concluded congress of the party held in Jarra Soma, a town in the Lower River Region, though sources close to the UDP earlier predicted a tight race for the party’s candidacy.
In 2009, Mr. Darboe was reported to have been over aged to stand for the country’s highest post, the presidency, however, the UDP debunk those claims by saying that their leader was eligible age wise. He is 61 this time and might have been given his last chance to contest for the presidency as his age will not permit him to run for the 2016 elections, thus he goes unopposed at the party’s second congress.
The democracy of opposition parties has been questioned over the years as almost all have had their leaders perpetuating at the top in every presidential election. However, the recent congress of the People for Democratic Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) and the United Democratic Party (UDP) is at least a sign of democracy at the level of a government in waiting.
Nonetheless, there had been a greater call for opposition parties to build credibility, having loose most of it after the split of the National Alliance for Democracy and Development before the 2006 presidential elections, which saw Jammeh’s Alliance for Patriotic Re-orientation and Construction (APRC) party retain office.
“The levelness of the playing field is not measured by only the opportunities afforded to each contestant in presenting his program and policies to the electorates. We have witnessed instances of the executive tampering with the independence of IEC by removing its members including chairmen,” the Daily News quoted Mr. Darboe as saying at the rally held a day after the congress.
Darboe argued that so long as IEC members are appointed by the president, they would remain at his mercy, thus calling for an equitable procedure for appointment of IEC members and make their removal strictly in conformity with the law to ensure their independence without fear of reprisal.
Mr. Darboe also gave a catalogue of events on the journey his party has taken so far since inception in 1996 amid challenges in face of bitter harassments mainly arising from the ruling party and her agents.
This he said include physical attacks, arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, murder, imprisonment, disappearances and denial of permit to hold rallies among others.
He also lamented the absence of Mr. Femi Peters our Campaign Manager, who is facing a one-year imprisonment term for holding a political rally without permit and Kanyiba Kanyi the constituency Secretary for Kombo East, whom he alleged was abducted by National Intelligence operatives during the 2006 presidential election campaign and has since not been seen.
Mr. Darboe on his lengthy statement, made numerous challenges facing Gambians from good governance, human rights, poverty, the education system, corruption, the cabinet, legislature, and the judicial system.
However, reports gathered by this paper do not tell if Darboe has made mention of what his party has to offer (Manifesto) provided that it succeeded in winning the elections next year.
The count down to the 2011 elections started in late 2009 with the APRC embarking on what it called a nationwide familiarization tour. NADD also stormed the provinces with a view to explain to the people what Agenda 2011 is all about. The Agenda is precisely a document advocating for a ‘government of the people and by the people’.
However, the leader of the Peoples’ Progressive Party Omar Jallow (OJ) argued earlier this year that Agenda 2011 is more or less a carbon copy of the principles that set up the failed National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD). The PPP still remains a member of NADD.
The UDP also embarked upon party activities with a rally at Ebony Junction in Serrekunda but their activities came to a halt soon than had it started with the arrest of its Campaign Manager, Femi Peters.
The NRP, whose leader has been quite for some time said recently that it will not go into an alliance for now while Gambia Democratic Party for Development (GDPD) led by Henry Gomez has not been effective in the country’s political process since the Independent Electoral Commission put it to him that he was not eligible to stand for the presidency in 2006.
With the introduction of the newly Gambia Moral Congress led by Lawyer Mai Fatty, who has been reported to have been on the length and breath of Europe establishing foreign grounds for his party abroad. Gambians can see a closely fought contest in the 2011 elections in Banjul provided that the oppositions bid to form an alliance went successful. However, this will have to begin with the building of credibility of the electorate.