Gambians are preparing for what is bound to be a historic Presidential election. Historic in the fact that from 1995 to 2016, Gambians knew nothing but tense and volatile elections.Khadijah Aja Tambajang writes.
November 19th 2021
Most Gambians under the age of 30 would tell you that green is the color they associate most with Gambian politics. It’s the party color of the then autocratic APRC and has dominated our public media space under the leadership of Yayah Jammeh from 1994 to 2016. Not that there weren’t other political parties, it’s just that Jammeh’s grip on the local traditional media meant that up until 15 years ago with the advent of social networks, most Gambians consumed heavily moderated state controlled media content.
The upcoming December 2021 Presidential elections has given us a rainbow – a true blessing as rainbows are. In 2016, the tides changed with the creation of Coalition 2016, choosing the color gray as their organization color. The coalition comprised of seven political parties: United Democratic Party (UDP); People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS); National Reconciliation Party (NRP); Peoples Progressive Party (PPP); the National Congress Party (NCP); the Gambia Moral Congress (GMC); the Inter-Party Coordination and Unification Committee (IPCOU). Two Independent National Assembly Members, Committee for Democratization, Sustainable Peace and Development (CDSPD), and other civil society organizations.
After many failed attempts to beat Jammeh at the polls, the parties realized their strength was in a collective strive, not individualist aspirations. This was truly a national and diaspora effort to free The Gambia from one of its most brutal sons and has become a bookcase example on how to peacefully uproot a dictatorship. The diaspora component in particular was crucial in the struggle by exposing and amplifying the voices of dissent due to the repressive nature of the then toxic political environment. Activist and media organizations such as, DUGA, GDF, GYU, Coalition for Change, Freedom Radio, Gainako, Diasporium, The Gambian Echo, The Fatou Network and many others contributed immensely towards our freedom.
In December 2016, a new inconspicuous and achromatic shade of gray beamed through, riding on the coattails of a very inexperienced but lucky leader, Adama Barrow, a former UDP member, who won 45% of the votes under the Coalition 2109 ticket. It was the Italian polymath and painter, Leonardo Da Vinci who stated, “A gray day provides the best light” and Coalition 2016 did just that for all Gambians. Collectively as a nation, we happily applauded for anyone but Jammeh. Anyone but a king wannabe, we said. There was a national high and international benevolence. Gambia became the world’s darling overnight. The seemingly dull gray folks pushed out the vibrant and boisterous green party out of office.
In retrospect, the gray of Coalition 2016, synonymous with our second liberation (first was from colonialism) mirrored our grim national mood. According to psychology, we think of gray as solemn and serious; It’s not a color of extremes, but rather of middle ground, of reasonable agreement. The dull nature of the Coalition 2016 color itself and its unassuming methods kept the nation guessing its possibility to succeed and had us all on the edge of our seats. Coalition 2016 became a mockery magnet for Jammeh. He underestimated the gray folks – to his detriment.
Three years into office, the mysterious and shady nature of the color gray rubbed off Coalition 2016’s flagbearer, President Adama Barrow. The man whose now party color, gray is nowhere on the rainbow spectrum, slid his way through the rainbow positioning himself as a player — a stranger imposing himself on historic dominant party colors, red (PDOIS), yellow (UDP), blue (NRP), former blue now pink (PPP), and purple (GDC). President Barrow subliminally hijacked Coalition 2016 by taking most of its members from other parties and then took their colors as his now party, National People’s Party’s (NPP) official party color. Gray too became a big boy overnight in Gambian politics, showcasing that President Barrow must not be underestimated.
Just as power emboldened President Barrow, freedom too emboldened Gambians. It took only a few months of President Barrow being in office for new political parties to pop up. The political party color struggle began with the mushrooming of dozens of new parties due to our new-found freedom. During the Presidential nomination process in October 2021, 26 presidential aspirates submitted their applications but only six parties NPP, NUP, PDOIS, UDP, GDC, and one Independent candidate qualified on November 4th 2021.