An inter-party opposition committee currently meeting to bring the Gambian parties together has agreed on the selection of an independent candidate as the best strategy for uniting all political camps ahead of December 1 presidential elections, the group said in its final draft document released today.
However, the National Reconciliation Party and the Gambia Democratic Congress have both pulled out of the talks with GDC claiming last week that it has to lead because it is “the biggest party”, group’s chair Kebba Singhateh told The Torch.
The draft document which was sent to all opposition parties for approval and signed and consented to by the reps of five parties stated as criteria that the selected person must come from civil society with no affiliation to any political party.
“After intensive debate on the mode of alliance, the majority agreed on Independent Led Alliance/ Coalition. On the selection of the presidential candidate, the majority also agreed on (a) above, that is, An Independent candidate from the civil society organization, with no affiliation to any party is selected through consensus/election from the list of applicants by the IPCOU central committee,” a part of the draft document seen by The Torch states.
The opposition inter-party committee has been meeting for couple of months to unite opposition and it is chaired by Kebba Singhateh, a former member of the opposition United Democratic Party.
It has representation from all opposition parties in the country except the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism party, before GDC and NRP pulled out.
The assistant party leader of the NRP, Musa Sonko, told The Torch that they have pulled out yesterday evening because they have realized that the Committee has overstepped its mandate by selecting a leader, though the document was a draft to be approved by various party leaders.
“We have not associated ourselves with that move…We have suspended our participation in that Committee,” Sonko said, while insinuating that the independence of the Committee has been compromised.
“We know what is going,” Sonko added.
Sonko also said they have received a letter from the socialist PDOIS on a different proposal and they have already responded to that.
However, Sonko’s claims that the Committee has overstepped its mandate were rubbished by Kebba Singhateh as “baseless”.
“That (Sonko’s assertions) were very wrong because we have only made a framework for the party leaders to select their desired person…,” Singhateh said.
“We are not even saying that our decision is final and that is an argument they can make before they walk out on us…His information is incorrect.”
He added that the NRP pulled out of the talks yesterday evening after the information was leaked to them even before the inter-party committee reach conclusion on it.
Criteria for selection
The 6-page draft document sent to The Torch also stated as conditions that the 2-year transitional leader must be “presentable and saleable both nationally and internationally…, has good moral and educational standing…, come from a civil society group operating in Gambia and not affiliated to any political party…, and meet the requirements/ eligible to contest as a candidate in presidential elections…”
It also stated as a condition that the transitional leader shall not support any party during the transition period.
On the mode of selections, it said that the application will be opened to all interested Gambians and application letters will be addressed to the Chairman of IPCOU.
The release further added that an inter-party coordinating committee will short list the applicants to be subjected to interview by a special task force comprising two representatives per member party which will forward its recommendations to the IPCOU Central Committee.
It said the central committee will do the selection from among the recommended applicants through consensus or secret ballot voting system where each party will be represented with five delegates.
The draft framework is to be approved or rejected by the opposition parties within a period of not more than two weeks upon receipt.
The various party reps that signed and consented to the draft document were Alhagie S. Darbo, UDP; Yaya Marong, NCP; Musukebba Keita, GMC; Sheikh Omar Saho, PPP; and Sarja Jarju, GPDP.
Gambian opposition have had repeated attempts form a coalition but all of them have failed.
However, this is the first time the selection of an independent candidate has come into play with recommendations from country’s main opposition grouping supporting it.
It is not clear if the proposal of an independent candidate will appeal to all opposition parties but the United Democratic Party and the National Convention Party have both said they are ready for a neutral person.