Today marks 23 years when the score of Gambian soldiers overthrew Jawara regime, on 22 July 1994. Unlike previous years, this year’s anniversary is unprecedentedly being remembered by mourning the death of people who were brutally killed by Yahya Jammeh in his 22 years of dictatorship. While we are recollecting Jammeh’s brutality since the coup of 1994, it should be equally remembered that when Jammeh took over power he banned the pre-coup political parties with the exception of the People`s Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS).
Therefore, 22 July not only evoked memories of brutality and killings, but it called our memories to the fact that it has reshaped and reconfigured Gambian political playing ground, as PDOIS was given a preferential treatment relative to other existing political parties prior to the coup. This begs the legitimate question of the party’s position vis-a-vis the coup that uprooted the democratically elected government of Jawara,
which was being opposed by PDOIS in its crumbling stage.
Apparently, the party’s Wikipedia page indicated that PDOIS didn’t publicly denounce the coup; similarly a documentary filmed by Swedish at immediate aftermath of the coup confirmed that both Sedia and and Halifa were optimistic about the transition as they also reassured the Gambians that AFPRC would honor their promise to hand over the power to the people after the elapse of the transition period. In the view of this, it will be of reflective to remember the possible active or passive role PDOIS might have played, as the sole strong political party at time, to make sure that the coup leaders return back to their military barracks, and to firmly stand that they relinquish power to the people. Gauging this equally raises following questions:
Was PDOIS instrumental in or complacent with AFPRC’s entrenchment of its power from 1994 to 1996?
Was it the convergence of political interest that dictated PDOIS leadership’s failure to publicly condemn an undemocratic act of removing an elected government?
Was Sidia and Halifa’s turning down of cabinet positions from Jammeh sufficient to confirm their denouncement of the coup?
Does their recent rejection of cabinet positions from Barrow’s coalition led government invalidates this suggestion?
Considering the present hyperactivity of PDOIS’s in the Gambian political scene since the December elections, could we have witnessed different scenarios should PDOIS was equally obsessed and concerned with people’s sovereignty, as this principle currently clearly stands out in their political discourses?
Does this suggest that the party was intellectually and politically immature to inject this principle into their political discourse in a bid to mobilize the electorates to stand up for the possible usurp of political power by the Junta?
Was there any tangible or real threat that could have muted and silenced the leadership of the party to champion that cause as the party is currently embarking on?
Answering these questions will sufficiently address horizontal and vertical consistency or inconsistency between PDOIS principles and their actions in different epoch of Gambian politics . More importantly, it will permit the Gambians to understand the extent to which PDOIS has been complacent with entrenchment of AFPRC’s power in The Gambia in the infant stage of the coup.
By Alieu SK Manjang