In the Gambia, recrimination continues between the two opposition candidates who lost last Friday’s presidential election to incumbent Yahya Jammeh. Yesterday, opposition candidate Halifa Salla of the National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD) told the Voice of America that the opposition defeat was the result of voter apathy caused by a split in the opposition alliance. Now Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the man who won 27 percent of Friday’s vote tells English to Africa reporter James Butty that Mr. Sallah’s assessment is wrong.
“The excuse being advanced by Mr. Sallah is untenable; it’s invalid. The voter apathy is not due to a split in the opposition. The opposition certainly polled as much votes as they could, and when you talk about the opposition in the Gambia today, it is the UDP and the NRP/GPDP alliance. That is the reality. So it is not true that the voter apathy was due to a split in the opposition. That is absolutely incorrect.”
Darboe says the opposition defeat was the result of President Jammeh employing the full force of the government machinery on his own behalf.
“What accounted for my defeat is certainly intimidation, harassment, the participation of public officials in the campaign. They were visible and seeing everywhere campaigning for the ruling party. They were intimidated. Some of them were told that if the opposition won in their areas they will be dismissed and the district chief will also be dismissed. And because of this the people did not go out to vote.”
Darboe says the results of the September 22 poll showed that he was the better of the two opposition candidates who could have unseated President Jammeh, and he dismissed any suggestion that had he and Mr. Sallah united that President Jammeh would not have won.
“I do not think that is a valid argument. The NADD Party [National Alliance for Democracy and Development] was under delusion. They felt that the Gambian people were for nothing other than NADD. And that is why they refused to come and join us. After all, NADD was not the only platform for unity. We had the united front with NRP, the GPDP. Why didn’t they come to join that alliance so that we could defeat Jammeh. But they refused to do so, and they wanted us to resign our party and go and join their party which we could not accept.”
Darboe says there is a big lesson in his defeat that he says the opposition in the Gambia and Africa in general can learn from.
“The lesson that can be learned from my experience is that the leaders of the opposition parties have to be realistic. Accept that in any given situation, the party that is likely to win, all other opposition parties must rally behind that party. It is no use trying to ideologue; it’s not use trying to theorize the situation when in fact the person putting forward the theory quite well knows that the theory does not mean anything to the electorate. I think that is what opposition parties in Africa aught to learn. We have to be realistic. We have to forget our small empires and rally behind the party that is likely to win.”
Darboe says he rejects the election results. But when asked what he is going to do next, he says his party was collecting information from its various agents, and that after evaluating information, he will then decide what to do next.