Usurping a Narrative?


By Natta Mass

History indeed could depend on who wrote it and what their goals are, but  should it? There exists a class of citizens who view Hon. Darboe and the party he leads, the United Democratic Party (UDP) as a violent party; a cultist movement; and a sectarian party driven by nothing other than an entitlement to leadership with no agenda for a better Gambia. Based solely on that false premise, arguments are advanced in attempt to affirm that view. I will not label or confine Dr. Sulayman Njie in any box, but his arguments advanced here would certainly be celebrated within those circles, as his arguments are crafted in a way that lends credence to that premise. But history MUST NOT and should not be based on who writes it, it should be based on facts first followed by the narrator (writer’s) interpretation of those facts. The reader can then choose whether to believe the arguments advanced in support of or in refutation of those facts, but the facts must never be compromised. History serves as a guiding light for future generations, and we will be doing them a great disservice if we deny them the facts as we know them just to serve our own egos in the interim, it is unjust!

So, what are the facts?

There is no attempt at, or an active case of usurpation as far as what the UDP is doing is concerned. As presented in my book; Usurped – Stealing A Country that the good doctor referenced, the whole premise of the notion of usurpation of power is based on the argument that few people benefit from state resources while condemning the masses to squalor through various machinations and manipulation of state resources and laws. Jammeh usurped the institution of state through the force of arms and went on to preside over numerous sham elections that returned him to power repeatedly. What if such is the case in this election, don’t we deserve to know? But as usual UDP is to blame here for wanting answers that they are within their rights to pursue, the current state, as far as the good doctor is concerned, cannot be guilty of any attempt at usurpation of our mandate.

Yes, we (ardent Darboe supporters) condemned Jammeh in 2016 because after a public concession, he came back to not only reject the results but to make a declaration that the election results will be nullified, and new elections held under a more “Allah fearing” electoral commission. He has no such powers. And as we argued then, he has a right to contest the results especially after the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) came out to say some results in some administrative areas were transposed for all candidates, but to do so through the judicial process which the law caters to and not make a proclamation like a king. That was the argument. But in all honesty, we hated Jammeh’s rule and wanted him gone, any potential legal battle that could see him stay was not welcome. Is that the same mindset that the good doctor is arguing from? That he does not want to see a UDP government and any avenue that presents an opportunity that could potentially reveal credible evidence of wrongdoing needs to be cut off?

As it stands, the UDP simply expressed doubt in the declared results at the time of the press briefing due to issues of concern raised by party agents and want to investigate to find out if in fact there is reason enough to make a case against the declared results, and if there is, what evidence to present in court to challenge the results. That investigation is what is ongoing, and the law has made provisions to contest election results. Which, by default, means that the results must be declared FIRST before they can be contested or doubted. The UDP has not contested any results, they have doubts and are seeking evidence as to whether there is grounds to contest. In the mean time, they cannot endorse the results announced.

Touting that as a threat to peace is only a scare tactic aimed at delegitimizing a sincere concern. So, the notion that Darboe’s “devotees stormed Kairba Avenue” at his urging is blatantly false and a further attempt at trying to conjure up a mob out of thin air, thereby justifying the police provocation and abuse of citizens. But then again, there are Gambian citizens and then there are UDP supporters who are somehow not Gambian enough.

Even a cursory look at the scene at Kairaba Avenue will reveal to the casual observer that the venue was being prepared to host an event, and that event was the anticipated UDP win at the polls. Public opinion was highly tilted towards that outcome as late as election day itself. Such anticipation was what drew scores of UDP supporters to their party leader’s home. They were already gathered there when the results were being announced. Anyone who was not totally cut off from Gambian political affairs knows that from its inception in 1996 to date, the party leader’s home on Kairaba Avenue (Pipeline as they like to call it) is like a political bureau for Darboe’s supporters, why should 2021 be any different?

The “devotees” did not gather to protest or cause trouble as the history revisionists would have you believe. If the police had concerns that the crowd poses a potential threat to public safety, the right course of action, bearing in mind the mood of the crowd, would be to approach the party leadership, even by phone and ask that they help disperse the crowd in an orderly fashion in the interest of public safety. But I presume that is too decent an approach to take towards UDP, so they showed up in riot gear and shot tear gas into the private residence of Mr. Darboe and gleefully celebrated brutalizing citizens, an act of provocation that the good doctor and his ilk will not condemn because, hey; it’s UDP supporters so whatever they get, they deserve. Not farfetched considering the the narrative exists Solo Sandeng died for UDP, not The Gambia.

On two separate occasions when he addressed the crowd, Hon. Darboe was both consoling and jovial urging the crowd to maintain their continued trust in the leadership and remain orderly. Even singing for them, and this was BEFORE any police showed up on the scene.That’s not what “self-serving” and “irresponsible” leaders do. But the order of events was also deliberately flipped by the good doctor. Parading the line that Hon. Darboe summoned and “unleashed the mob” is dishonest, misrepresents the facts and serves to further push the narrative of a violent outlaw cult rather than see in UDP a political entity committed to a better Gambia. In as much as one may dislike or even hate the person of Hon. Darboe and some or all his supporters, it is basic human decency to accord fellow citizens the space to exercise their rights as long as they do so within the confines of the law, and in its quarter century of existence, nobody who ever cared about Gambian politics will accuse UDP of violating laws or attempting to deprive us of our peace.

Whether the prospects of any potential redress will favor the UDP or overturn the election is realistic or not is not entirely the issue. Gambians (yes UDP supporters are also Gambians) casted their votes and if there are suspicions and a general feeling that their true will may not be what was reflected in the declared outcome, it is their right to have conclusive evidence in support or rejection of that notion.  

Case law is about eliminating “reasonable doubt” in any legal matter. Before the UDP raised any official suspicions as to what was going on, we all witnessed the “what’s going on IEC” barrage of posts on social media when it took the commission what seemed an eternity before the first results were declared. As testified to by the “unholy alliance” he referenced, we know that UDP was initially not alone in suspecting that something could be amiss. Is that enough evidence? Maybe not, but can we investigate to verify if in fact there was any wrongdoing as catered to by law?

The good doctor also tried to affirm the notion that UDP is a cult and that UDP, in its entirety is composed of irrational beings who look up to their party leader with some God-like submission, tagging them in their collective as “devotees”. Suggesting that those “devotees of Ousainou Darboe should accord and extend humanity to their hero and leader.” A notion that suggests that up to this point, Darboe has been sat on some superhuman or god-like pedestal by his minions. How insulting! But again, that goes to affirm that this narrator who wants a voice in history, wants to woo future students of history to his already held beliefs that UDP exists solely as a cultist, sectarian entity of entitled bigots. His writing suggests so.

To that end, he continues; “Also, it is obvious that being a victim of the state is not enough to convince the masses that you are capable of running a country. It is also obvious that running on the hero and victim message did not resonate with the masses…”

Two things stand out here; in labeling Hon. Darboe as “…their hero…” the good doctor made an attempt at diminishing Hon. Darboe’s contributions on the national stage as it obtained in the two-decade long struggle to unseat a sit-tight tyrant, to one of a self-serving and incapable leader. Not only is this manifest ingratitude to a man who gave so much to ensure tyranny does not win the day over democracy for the sake of the republic, but it is insulting.

Secondly, his blatant attempt at overshadowing the fact that for weeks, both online and in door-to-door campaign, UDP and Hon. Ousainou Darboe toured the country and inundated the virtual space with messages about the party’s 5 Point Agenda as a promise to Gambians for what a UDP government will offer. Boiling the whole campaign efforts of the party to one of ‘hero worship’ dismisses this fact entirely and seeks to further push the narrative that UDP never had or ran on any policy issues. Highlighting Darboe’s victimhood and reminding people of the sacrifices is he made is to say, he was there for you, you can trust him to be there for you again. That is a norm in any civilized political culture.

So, I guess the good doctor and his ilk will have to endure the ‘suspense’ while the UDP pursues what is within its legal rights to pursue. The attempt at carving a false narrative around what is happening will not go unchallenged and that is not being averse to “criticism” but setting the record straight.

As towering a political figure as ANM Ousainou Darboe is, his rightful place in history will be determined and presented through sincere academic effort that assesses all aspects of his contributions to our political life and the fight to preserve our republic. Any errors in judgement or mistakes made would also be presented in the context of events that led to the decisions made while giving due accord to his humanity and the attendant flaws that come with that condition. Whatever political miscalculations or mistakes were made would serve as lessons for future politicians to learn from, but using that to try a paint an overall character deficiency is unacceptable and will not stand.

When that is done, we will see a selfless, responsible, and committed patriot of high standing who gave to country more than most who are attempting to drag his name through the mud. The good doctor unfortunately will not be the one to determine Hon. Darboe’s place in history and how he’ll be remembered. All he can do is convey his dislike for the man and in the process expose his lack of objectivity in assessing Darboe’s contributions to history. Darboe’s “devotees”, like myself, will also convey our versions of history in the opposite direction. So I guess that will just accord the very Honorable Lawyer Darboe more pages in the history books than his opponents would like.

But in the end, Darboe’s place in history was written by none other than Lawyer Darboe himself and he did so through sincere good action, dedication, and steadfastness in defense of values he holds dear. Values he fought and gave his life for. And those values are of a Gambia steeped in a culture of democracy and governed by the rule of law, not of men. That is how he shall be remembered. And that record will not be stained by some political disagreements or personal dislikes. A’teh kela! (it won’t stand!).

Previous articleECOWAS Leaders Praise Gambia for Peaceful Election and Maturing Democracy
Next articleGALGA Congratulates President – Elect Barrow 
Sainey M.K. Marenah
Mr. Sainey M.K. Marenah is a Prominent Gambian journalist, founding editor The Alkamba Times and formerly head of communications at the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and Communications and PR Consultant for The Gambia Pilot Program, under Gamworks. Mr. Marenah served as the Social media Strategist and Editor at Gambia Radio and Television Services. He is also the Banjul Correspondent for Voice of America Radio. Sainey is a human rights and developmental journalist who has carved a strong niche particularly in new media environments in the Gambian media industry. Mr. Marenah began his career as a junior reporter with the Point Newspaper in the Gambia in 2008 and rose through the ranks to become Chief correspondent before moving to The Standard Newspaper also in Banjul as Editorial Assistant and head of News. He is a household name in the Gambia’s media industry having covered some of the most important stories in the former and current government. These include the high profile treason cases including the Trial of Former military chiefs in Banjul in 2009 to 2012. Following his arrest and imprisonment by the former regime of President, Yahya Jammeh in 2014, Marenah moved to Dakar Senegal where he continues to practice Journalism freelancing for various local and international Media organization’s including the BBC, Al-Jazeera, VOA, and ZDF TV in Germany among others. He is the co-Founder of the Banjul Based Media Center for Research and Development; an institution specialized in research and development undertakings. As a journalist and Communication Expert, focused on supporting the Gambia's transitional process, Mr Marenah continues to play a pivotal role in shaping a viable media and communications platform that engages necessary tools and action to increase civic participation and awareness of the needs of transitional governance to strengthen the current move towards democratization. Mr. Marenah has traveled extensively as a professional journalist in both Europe, Africa and United States and attended several local and international media trainings.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here