The bigger picture

In its twenty five year history, each time the UDP gets abused or its rights violated, the party sought redress in the courts. In each of these instances, the courts’ rulings exposed flaws and cracks in our supposed ‘democratic’ culture. In addition to that, the rulings did one of two thing; consolidate the rule of law, or expose weaknesses in the judicial system (read mercenary judges).

For example, when the issue of the inclusion/omission of the word “secular” became one of the most contentious issues in the debate regarding the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) issued draft constitution, the clarification on whether the 1997 Gambian constitution specifically designated the country as a secular state came from the 2001 court ruling in Kemeseng Jammeh versus the Attorney General when he (Hon. Kemeseng Jammeh) challenged the constitutional amendment by the then Yaya Jammeh government which sought to designate The Gambia as a ‘secular republic’. The Supreme Court ruled and upheld Hon. Jammeh’s objection on the grounds that the amendment was unconstitutional. A precedent was set that was relied on in our quest for a new constitution. That was the precedent used to clarify for all that The Gambia has in fact always been a “republic”, and never a “secular republic”. At the time of challenging the issue in court, Hon. Kemeseng Jammeh was vilified, called names and labeled anti-minority. It took the debate around the new draft constitution to clarify that in fact the Yaya Jammeh government acted unconstitutionally in amending an entrenched clause.

This time around, as UDP seeks to challenge the election results of the just concluded 2021 polls in court, the myopic ones saw this as motivated by the singular desire to see a UDP government at any cost. Unsurprising, as such a view emanates from the false premise that UDP acts only in UDP’s interest. But IN FACT, UDP sought first and foremost to expose malpractice in the process. What the courts do with the evidence presented in entirely the court’s decision.

Yanks Darboe, one of those who helped in building the legal case, posted this with regards to the petition filed at the Supreme Court:

The UDP’s grounds will challenge the fairness of that election in light of myriads of corrupt malpractices identified by evidence gathered by the party against the ruling NPP and the Independent Electoral Commission. It will be a landmark case, which will hopefully lay the foundation for fairer presidential elections in The Gambia and provide ethical guidance for achieving the same henceforth. It will further, hopefully consider and recommend the expected etiquettes of the Independent Electoral Commission to ensure fairer conduct of such elections in the future, which will undoubtedly imbue public confidence in the IEC from its currently battered reputation!! Well done the  United Democratic Party for once again taking the lead in strengthening Gambia’s democracy and jurisprudence in this area!!

Well done indeed!

See, when the UDP decided they will challenge the declared results, all daggers pointed at the party. “Sore losers; they care only about Darboe being president; they are seeking to destabilize the country; they feel entitled to the presidency” etc. None, not even civil society organizations were advocating for calm and let UDP pursue whatever redress they seek through the processes ACCORDED BY LAW. “Let’s give peace a chance” was all that mattered, not the fact that citizens deserve to know what evidence UDP uncovered and what the courts will have to say about that. It was a concerted effort across the board to put pressure on the UDP to yield and “give peace a chance”, the party’s rights and that of fellow contenders be damned.

When the argument is made that one’s exercise of one’s rights as accorded by law is antithetical to peaceful coexistence, then two things stand out. Either the the law that accords such rights is flawed or inadequate; or that law enforcement is incapable of safeguarding the law. Neither augers well for our democracy.

Now we wait for the legal arguments and the Court’s ruling/recommendations as it relates to the evidence presented to them. The ruling that the courts will set may not result in a nullification of the declared results, but the recommendations they make will help in leveling the playing field, and set a precedence to be used as a reference point for future election conduct and grievances that may result thereof, provided the courts admit the evidence and act on it.

Here is what that means; the age old argument that incumbency accords certain advantages to the incumbent in elections is ubiquitous in our political space, that argument in itself highlights an un-even playing field. Maybe it’s time we undo that.

With a favorable verdict in this case, which highlights the issue of state resources and public servants being used to a political end in favor of the incumbent, there is the potential that your preferred candidate in future elections would not have to worry too much about running against an incumbent. I say potential because the state has been known to flaunt court orders without consequence.

Let’s say, for argument’s sake that UDP ceases to exist after this election, wouldn’t their current and past legal actions serve to benefit future contenders? THAT is nation building. THAT is seeing the bigger picture and a manifestation of selfless commitment to real issues much bigger than the party’s current sentiment of disappointment.

But that outcome of a positive impact on our overall political and legal landscape would require citizens to closely monitor issues and keep an eye out for instances where the law and judicial precedent gets violated. That kind of citizen is unfortunately uncommon in our neck of the woods. All it takes for us to agree or disagree with an issue is determined by who is involved in that issue and how we feel about him/her.

To build a better nation, we need to assess issues based on relevant facts and try to minimize our focus on personalities and our individual egos as much as possible. Then, and only then will the tag that democracy is noisy would’ve meant substantive and meaningful noise, not a mere shouting match.


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