Every dysfunctional relationship requires two parties. One party believes that, in order to be true, it must beat the other over the head with what ever would inflict the most pain. The other party believes, in order to be true, it must take the beating.
I think it is fair to characterize Gambian politics as dysfunctional. It will change when (a) APRC stops beating the opposition or (b) NADD quit taking it and say enough.
Events of the past week suggest that NADD is waiting around for Yahya and his gang to have mercy on them and stop beating them. Yahya is relying on a tactic that has proven effective over and over again – the belief that when the political knives come out, most opposition leaders will act like p***ies and back down. Yahya has come to learn that the most that Ousainou and others will ever do when confronted is called on their supporters to calm down while they run to his slavish minions on the courts for relief. This could have been the best opportunity for NADD to show strength and confront Yahya’s fake macho swagger. Unfortunately, it is clear to most observers of Gambian politics that NADD’s leadership doesn’t know how to go in for the kill when the opponent is on the ropes.
The President stood up before religious leaders, put on his customary clenched-jaw scowl, and with a show of palpable, smoldering anger told the whole country that he was going to teach the opposition a lesson and that some of them will not witness the 2006 elections. True to his dare he arrested three of them and imprison them without any cause. What has been the response of the remaining NADD executive members? It went something like: Whoa there buddy. Let’s simmer down.
Then they ran to the courts and behold their old nemesis Paul was waiting to put the final nail on the coffin. If you know the rules are stacked against you but you play the game, you can’t cry foul at the results. By running to a judiciary that is corrupt and stacked with mercenary judges, NADD gave them credibility.
Couldn’t at least one prominent NADD leader just say: We demand the release of our compatriots in X days or I will lead our supporters on a non-violent demonstration. Yes, the aggressive tone will put the government on notice that the opposition is serious and here to stay. It will turn more people on. Frustrated Gambians everywhere, who are fed up with Yahya’s brutality and all the accompanying B.S, and who are looking for a leader, will think: it’s about time somebody had the guts to say the obvious and stood up to Yahya’s bullying.
However the response of NADD’s executive to this crisis has little to desire for. It seemed that they have confront the situation with a personal and political style based more on personal preservation – or attempting at least not to offend Yahya even more. But in the process they are losing the respect of some of their most loyal friends.