Political violence is never spontaneous, it builds up over time and Gambians should be concerned for 2026

Part I

The 2026 elections are shaping up to be the most contentious and most vulgar if the reactions from within the National People’s Party (NPP) following the shellacking of the party at the hands of the United Democratic Party (UDP) in the just concluded local government elections is anything to go by.

From the president down to the ordinary supporter of NPP the reaction to the rejection of the NPP by the Gambian voters has been one of shock, dismay, anger and lashing out. It is as if people voting for mayors and chairmen whom they have faith in, and based on their track record was the worst thing to befall the country. The president has been fueling that sentiment when he declared, prior to the casting of the ballot, that if any of his party sponsored candidates lost the election to a UDP sponsored candidate, he’d prefer death than be so humiliated.

President Adama Barrow, to the disappointment of many, sees himself as the sole benefactor of The Gambia, to whom all owe loyalty. He has no regard, nay, he does not understand what democracy is or the values thereof. As highlighted in a previous article, Barrow wants total submission and unquestioned loyalty to him and his agenda. An agenda that sadly bears no dividends for The Gambian people. Adama Barrow only offers lip service to democracy.

After the contested December 2021 election results and his subsequent swearing-in in January 2022, Barrow was basking in the euphoria of his unexpected win when the National Assembly elections took place in April of the same year. His main rival, the UDP challenged the election results of the presidential elections citing malpractices, but the Supreme Court refused to hear the case dismissing the evidence on a technicality. The party supporters and officials were despondent following the declaration of Barrow as the winner by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in an election that many observers believed was already in the bag for the UDP. So the NPP was somewhat complacent and thought the UDP was too broken to pose any threat in the National Assembly elections, they were wrong. The UDP won 15 seats becoming the largest opposition in parliament only 3 seats behind NPP’s 18. Combined, the seats won by other registered parties and independents together, the opposition have more seats in The Gambia’s current parliament than the ruling NPP. That was a morale booster for the UDP and a shock to the NPP and her sympathizers.

The election for councilors to serve in local government authorities came a year later without much fanfare as many view these elections as mere formalities, so Barrow did not feature in those election campaigns at all. But the UDP, as a grassroots party, held a different view and they outperformed the NPP across the country. The election for councilors is followed shortly by the last contest in the electoral cycle, the election of mayors for the city, municipal and local councils which just concluded on May, 20 2023. With the realization that the UDP is not as incapacitated by the shock of the 2021 presidential elections as many predicted they would be, the president made it a point to make a showing, so he mobilized the entire government machinery to make sure he claimed all of those seats for himself and his party.

Because of the importance he attached to not just winning these seats but kicking all UDP affiliates out of office, we saw the beast of unconventional politics unleashed onto our political scene spearheaded by the president whose entire campaign rhetoric was centered on nothing other than personal attacks, baseless accusation and fueling tribal and ethnic tensions in an already polarized country. A campaign that is completely devoid of substance and lacks any development agenda besides empty rhetoric and even emptier promises.

As if the combination of those ills is not bad enough, in a moment of revelation many were left agape by an utterance that is both worrying and equally, if not more dangerous.

Speaking in Mandinka, he made a statement that could translated as follows; “we want to assure Bakary [the NPP candidate for mayor of the Kanifing Municipality] that we have arranged our boys, they will be dispersed across the towns to make sure everywhere is secure, and they will be at every polling station. What used to obtain in the past, would no longer be allowed…”

Who are these mysterious “boys” that the president referred to? What are they tasked to do? Who do they answer to? Why was the police chief and his boss, the minister of interior an afterthought when he was talking about the need for security? And THAT is why every Gambian should be concerned in the lead up to the next presidential elections.

To be continued…


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