HALIFA ON NADD…courtesy of Foroyaa
By Bubacarr K. Sowe
The Coordinator of the newly formed National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD) and National Assembly member for Serrekunda Central, Hon. Halifa Sallah recently spoke to FOROYAA. In an interview with this reporter, Mr. Sallah spoke on the Code of Conduct of NADD, the Manifesto and the role the people should play to take ownership of the Alliance.
FOROYAA: Why did you form the National Alliance for Democracy and Development?
Halifa: A multi-party system gives opportunity to the citizen of a republic to have a choice. Democracy is about choice and you cannot have a choice without having an alternative. So when you have a party running a country you equally need another party checking what it is doing, criticizing what is wrong, preparing a programme In short, when you are dissatisfied you can give an alternative policy and put that policy before the people so as to get their mandate in order to replace what you are dissatisfied with, and carry out the programmes that you believe would address the basis of a multi-party system. Now, that works where the existing government accepts all the rules of ensuring the undiluted choice of the people. What we have now is that the existing government has not given the Gambian people the opportunity to hear divergent views. It does not allow divergent views to be expressed on the TV or the radio.
Secondly, they have gone to a level of changing the constitution.
FOROYAA: Which part of the constitution?
Halifa: In the past, you have the second round of voting, which means if you have many parties they would contest and the people will select the two that they have given support to. If none of the two does not have 50 % of the total number of votes, then you can have a second round of voting. In that sense, the other parties which do not have the high marks can actually leave the scene and the two parties will contest the election. But what they have done is to remove the second round of voting. It means if the opposition parties are divided it makes it very easy for the ruling party to win even by one vote because the majority carries the vote means that the more you can divide the opposition the greater the chance. So you can have an unpopular government to win an election not by virtue of the fact that it is supported by the absolute majority but by virtue of the division of the opposition. So in that sense, we see that the essential thing here is, when we look at the ! Gambian situation we do not want a government to win because of the weakness of the opposition but rather on the basis of the its own strength. To prevent it from winning because of the weakness of the opposition, the opposition has come together to form the National Alliance for Democracy and Development. But we realized that in coming together, we either have to sacrifice principles or we develop an alliance which would allow all the parties to respect their individual principles. And that is the alliance we have built. We saw that instead of allowing one personality or party to lead an alliance what we have done is to draw some principles; principles that can be safeguarded to make Gambia more democratic. For example, we have agreed that whosoever is going to be the presidential candidate of the alliance would not stand on behalf of a political party. That personality will be in office for only one term; nor will that person support any other candidate in the ensuing election. S! o you see that would create equality after the term of the presidential candidate of the alliance expires. It means that you will have a level base for all political parties to start their campaign and put up their respective candidates and none will complain of unfair treatment or advantages being given to one party or another, or one personality or the other. So that is why we have done that. It means then that all parties will stand again because the radio will be open to divergent views, the same thing will apply to the television throughout the five years of NADD’s presidency. And at the same time, the constitutional changes will be made to restore all the progressive things that were in the constitution before and add new things. For example, we agreed that we limit the term of the president to two terms. So in that sense, after the term of the NADD presidency we will also change so that no person can stay in office for more than two terms. These are all progressive laws that N! ADD has in mind.
FOROYAA: Why is it necessary for you to form the alliance when you have only four seats at the parliament?
Halifa: Well, four seats has nothing to do with 2006 elections because those who are sitting now have performed what they could and the people are to judge them to see whether they are satisfied with their performance or not. So if politics is conducted in a proper manner people are to be voted on the basis of programmes and not personality. And in 2006 the person elected president will be judged by his performance and then in 2007 the National Assembly members will be judged by their performance.
FOROYAA: Do you think it is possible to remove the APRC from power through elections in 2006?
Halifa: The people control power. They are the ones who decide who should be president or who should be National Assembly members. I stood here (Serrekunda Central) for National Assembly elections irrespective of the APRC candidate. All the finance and all the support, even last minute declarations by the President, did not bar me from winning an election. So it is left to the Gambian people. When they want change, change will come.
FOROYAA: African elections are usually rigged. How can you measure the credibility of these elections, especially here in The Gambia?
Halifa: Well, rigging elections depends on the level of support of the people and the level of their consciousness. Wherever you have a conscious people, it is not possible for elections to be rigged. Even if there are attempts to do so you end up failing. So our conviction is that we should continue and enlighten the Gambian people and when they want change, nobody can prevent that change.
FOROYAA: What type of a candidate are you going to nominate for the coming elections?
Halifa: The person would have to be the one who accepts the principles of NADD. The person is going to be a caretaker president, and will serve NADD and not the political parties or a given group of people in the society. And the agenda is to make Gambia more democratic. Secondly, the candidate must be somebody who can win an election. He must be somebody accepted by the vast majority of the Gambian people, as a person who can win an election.
FOROYAA: How would you convince Gambians to vote for NADD?
Halifa: Every Gambian wants a more democratic society, a society where you don’t have to fear, a society where the President would not have so much power that his words are taken as the law. The Gambian people want a society where leaders have their responsibilities but they also have their limits in the exercise of authority, where public servants will be free to carry out their duties without fear or favour. The constitution has been changed. We used to have Chieftaincy elections, but all these have been removed from the constitution. Now the President decides who is Chief, the Secretary of State for Local Government also decides who is Alkalo. So there is less empowerment of the people and more centralization of power in the hands of the President and the Executive. So we believe that the Gambian people will want a system under their control so that ultimately after the five years of NADD, they will be free to select any personality to be their President and any indivi! dual as their National Assembly members, without any fear or favour.
FOROYAA: In your capacity as the Alliance’s Coordinator, how will you gear NADD into victory in 2006?
Halifa: That is not me alone. We don’t have to personalize this responsibility. In fact, the responsibility is created so that focus will be given on NADD rather than personality. NADD is driven by principles and programmes. The principles are clearly going to be disseminated for people to understand and the programmes similarly. We now have the principles. What we need are the programmes. So we have a Technical Committee that is working on the Manifesto. Eventually, the Manifesto will reflect the programmes of NADD. But the principles already show fundamental differences with the APRC. While the APRC is trying to put one personality for 2006 and 2011 by the time he finishes his term in 2011, he would have been in office for 22 years. So clearly, that is not the type of agenda the Gambians should have. Taking into consideration that most governments and countries are establishing the two term limit NADD is saying the presidential candidate would just be there as a caretak! er president for one term. And secondly, we will establish a two-term limit. So it is fundamental that NADD is going to rely on its principles of creating an open society, a just society where no one will fear and where justice will be delivered to all. We will be using that plan to win the support of the Gambian people.
FOROYAA: What are NADD’s forthcoming activities?
Halifa: One, we are working on a Code of Conduct that will be launched so that people will see it as a serious alliance and that is an alliance based on principles. We intend to create national unity. Therefore on NADD’s platform you will not hear people advocating for tribal difference, racial difference, attacking people on the basis of their religion. All efforts will be made to try and unify the Gambian people. We are also creating a Code of Conduct to ensure that slander, insults, politics of character assassination will all be eliminated in Gambian politics. So we intend to provide a credible alternative and therefore we intend to promote political decency and political maturity. That is one. The Code of Conduct will be launched and then we are to distribute the Memorandum of Understanding in all the local languages as well as the Arabic script. We will put it in cassettes so that Gambian people will know what NADD stands for. This is when they will know whether to ! follow up to know its programmes or whether to support it or not. So it is also a major activity. The Technical Committee is working on the Manifesto. This will also be launched. We intend to mobilize tens of thousands of people to come to the grand launching and from there we will be building the Secretariat throughout the administrative areas. The Secretariat will coordinate all the political activities in all the divisions and we will continue to upbeat the political programmes from then onwards.
FOROYAA: How will the AU be helpful to The Gambia with the aid of its Peer Review Mechanism?
Halifa: The government has not signed the memorandum. You know there is a memorandum of understanding and countries that want to subscribe to the Africa Peer Review Mechanism must sign the memorandum of understanding. So you know The Gambia is not a party to that. And this is the fundamental difference between NADD and the government. In our Code of Conduct we actually publish commitment to sign the memorandum of understanding of the African Peer Review Mechanism and participate fully so that the government will be judged by safeguards established by the Africa continent.
FOROYAA: Any last message for the Gambian people?
Halifa: It is desirable for the Gambian people to own their minds. The era has come for people to take control of power. Being a sovereign republic means that people control power. There should be no monarch. That is why we have elections. That is why we have the vote. The vote is the citizen’s power. It characterizes your authority to decide who should manage the affairs of the country. And all citizens have equal power to decided how one’s nation is governed. But that authority must not be sold. It must not be given as a gift to somebody because one is a relative. It is an authority that should be asserted and you assert it in a mature way and that is why it is said that at eighteen years, it is believed that the person is mature. So what is required is for that individual to be able to sit down and decide on the basis of choice. That is the basis of voting. If you vote without considering which is better then one has shown immaturity and one should not really complain ! when one sees one’s nation going astray.
FOROYAA: Thank you very much.