Unintended consequence or Deceit?

The law of unintended consequence and the phrase for that matter is bandied around quite liberally in politics and for good reason. It’s always the unintended consequences that seem to take precedent when a big change occurs. This is the case with the events surrounding the registration and subsequent break of the original NADD project.

Most of the focus has been on the collective temper tantrum opposition supporters on either side of the debate have been throwing. Rants against each other aside, there seems to be one giant unintended consequence of this early break up: shifting the momentum and jiggering an easy landslide for the APRC.

So how did the law of unintended consequence come to pass in the case of NADD? The Gambia Journal has what I believe to be one of the best summation of the conundrum that led to the fallout and breakup of NADD. It all hinges on that single act: registering NADD as a party. Either by willful machination or by gullible mistake some in the executive decided to register the alliance as a political party, notwithstanding the advice of one of the Gambia’s most celebrated lawyer who happens to be a member of the executive. Of particular interest is this paragraph:

At the time, we thought the registration of NADD at the IEC was a mere mistake, but a type of mistake unbecoming of a leadership that is never done projecting its intellectualism, maturity and professionalism. Now, from hindsight and from facts that the Gambia Journal have gathered, what looked like an innocent mistake could have been a deliberate ploy by some members of the coalition leadership. We have gathered from reliable sources that UDP’s Mr. Darbo, who is a lawyer by profession, had strongly advised the NADD executive against registering the coalition at the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission) in the organizational form they had adopted. Being unable to convince his colleagues Mr. Darbo decided on washing his hands off the registration process. The then NADD Chairman, the venerable Assan Musa Camara, was assigned to meet Mr. Darbo and bring him back on board for the registration exercise. At Mr. Darbo’s office Mr. Camara had everything laid out for him in such a way that he was alarmed and worried at the erroneous decision to register NADD in the manner that they did. Mr. Sallah, the NADD coordinator, was out of the country but his colleague Mr. Sam Sarr was around. Mr. Camara hurriedly took to the phone and got Sarr, asking him to go to the IEC office and withdraw the registration papers immediately. Mr. Sarr promised the Chairman that he would do that. In reality Sarr never went back to withdraw those papers. Hidden behind this case is one of the problems that were to finally lead to the fall out that was to come almost a year later in February 2006.

If you believe what the Journal is reporting in the above paragraph, then Sam Sarr was deceitful and insubordinate to the chairman of the alliance when he promised to go and withdraw the registration papers because he was part of the group that has the following scheme in mind:

Other members of the NADD Executive were adamant on pursuing the registration process. Their tactical thinking was that by registering NADD, they would commit all parties in the alliance irrevocably to it. If this could be achieved, then UDP and NRP would have their rear blocked; there would be no turning back for them. The registration was completed; the parties that had seats in the assembly lost them after contesting it in court. Now it is believed that all of them have reached a point of no return and that all that parties have be leveled to equal status and that no party dare to withdraw from the NADD Alliance, as doing that would be committing political suicide. In this way a showdown became impossible between the major and the minor parties of the NADD alliance that has now been hijacked into a “party.”...Gambiajournal.com

And again that famous phrase “unintended consequence” rear its ugly head. The political calculation of the registration group(Sam and Co.) is akin to the act of gerrymandering so pervasive and hated in American politics.

Of course, the real test of the law of unintended consequences will be in about a month when we look back and realize that if only NADD had stay as an alliance and not get bog down in the legal albatross that came about due to its registration as a party, then we will shake our heads in a collective acknowledgement of what my elementary school teacher used to call “had I known shall never be known”. Only in this case the parties responsible for the registration of NADD had known what the consequences of their actions are. How? Because they were told by one of their own. They just happened to have something else in mind.

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Playing Devils Advocate

Andrew Young is in trouble and had to resign his role with Walmart for saying this:

In the [Los Angeles] Sentinel interview, Young was asked about whether he was concerned Wal-Mart causes smaller, mom-and-pop stores to close.
"Well, I think they should; they ran the 'mom and pop' stores out of my neighborhood," the paper quoted Young as saying. "But you see, those are the people who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs; very few black people own these stores."...source


I am going to be a devil's advocate here and defend everyone involved in this saga. For starters I think Mr. Young has a point. Throughout Urban centers in this country or mainly Poor black neighborhoods, there are plenty of small Liquor stores filling the role of grocery stores as well. Everyone of them I have been to in Detroit (the few times I did), the prices are outrageously high and the goods are of sub par quality. These establishments made the most of their money selling liquor, Tobacco products and lottery tickets. They gouge residents of predominantly poor black neighborhoods who don't have access to reliable transportation to shop at upscale suburban stores. The grocery products they offer...did I mention sub par? The milk is usually old, the meat, well I won't touch it and don't get me started on the fruits.


However, I will not necessarily heap all the blame on the owners of these establishments. The risk of operating in these neighborhoods is enormous. Insurance premiums in Detroit are off the chart and this is true of most large cities in the United States. The owners of these stores have to factor that in their business decisions. I am not saying they should provide sub par service because of these factors, I am just saying there is a need and they service that need at their own risk. Plus if black folk will start opening up business to cater to the folks living in these neighborhoods, the people Mr. Young is calling out will not be there. Instead of pushing Walmart's agenda, He could have organize some of his millionaire friends and have them open up grocery stores in under served urban areas.


In any case if Mr. Young and his friends do not want to take the risk involved in investing their own money in establishing grocery stores and if he can get Walmart to come into these neighborhoods and deliver groceries and other services as efficiently as they do in suburban neighborhoods, I say more power to Mr. Young.




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Stop it already...

Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Think about this quote for a second and ask yourself, does the series of letters exchanged between UDP/NRP alliance and NADD bring them any closer to forming a viable and united front against the APRC? Instead what it has generated into is a one upmanship between the two alliance leaders. One concludes his missive with the line: in the service of the truth and the other uses: in the service of the nation. No kidding. What is this in the service line all about. Sincerely will do just fine, but what do I know. This is a contest in letters between a sociologist and a barrister and little people like me will not understand. But if I read one more time another one of those lines, I swear I will puke.


Who are they kidding. In the service of the truth/nation? Come on people. What truth? What nation? These guys can't agree on nothing. Now they all got on their high horses and wanted to bamboozle us into thinking the other guy is the bad apple. If they have the interest of the nation above their personal ego, they will be pragmatic enough to come together. Blaming the other party for the disintegration is so yesterday. Obtusely demanding your opponent to join you on your terms is nothing short of authoritarian. And that is exactly what both parties to these letter writting series are doing.

It is time to stop the insanity and focus on the price. Gambia is a "multiparty democracy". If your parties can't convince the electorate to oust the APRC, so be it. At that point the electorate will have spoken. It is their nation and the consequences of their decision will be visited upon them. That is democracy. It is messy. Get over the recriminations and campaign your hearts out. The envisioned NADD project has failed. It is a three way race and may the best candidate win.

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So they write letters...

With barely a month before the September presidential polls, leaders of the two opposition political alliances in the Gambia exchange letters on the way forward, vis-a-vis a grand alliance to take on the APRC. After reading through the missives, I am pessimistic that the parties will ever reach common ground within the limited time frame they have. The letters are devoid of pragmatism. The parties to the talks are taking a defensive stance and trying to protect their turf. I hate to say this, but in my humble opinion the game is up and reconciliation between the UDP/NRP alliance and NADD ain't gonna happen. The winner of this untenable and obtuse behavior is Yahya Jammeh and his APRC.

I am not going to reproduce at length the letters they wrote to each other. However see below the proposals contained in a letter the UDP/NRP sent to NADD to start off the correspondence:

We in the UDP/NRP Alliance have since had a meeting of our joint National Executive Committee. The joint Executive Committee has mandated Mr. Darboe to pursue the discussions with NADD as quickly as possible. We have since been waiting to hear from Hon. Halifa Sallah so that discussions could resume. The membership of UDP/NRP Alliance and NADD are well conscious of the fact that the elections are just around the corner and there is not much time at our disposal. In view of the time constraint the UDP/NRP Alliance formally invites you to consider the following proposals for a united front of opposition parties and these are:

1) The UDP/NRP Alliance be expanded to include NADD

2) ‘That the new Alliance adopts a single flag bearer to contest the 2006 presidential elections.

3) That the whole activities of the elections be governed by the dictates of the present Constitutions.

4) That the issue of allocating portfolios and responsibilities be shelved and that the Alliance concentrates on the principles of regime change which will ultimately lead to a system change.

5) That after the elections and provided that the expanded Alliance wins the elections arrangements be made for organizing a National Constitutional Review Conference within a period of three months after the National Assembly Elections.

6) The recommendations of the Conference will be the subject of a referendum and thereafter be submitted to the National Assembly for adoption and ratification. It is our belief that only the Gambian people can determine how the affairs of this country should be administered and all other actors are to abide by the dictates and the will of the people.

In response, this is what NADD has to say:

Your first proposal is for the UDP/NRP Alliance to be expanded to include NADD. The position of the NADD Executive is unequivocal. The executive members are convinced that after the second round of voting was eliminated no opposition party or its leader could be promoted to win an election on the basis of its individual strength. NADD wants the UDP/NRP Alliance to take note of the current state of their parties. It wishes to go on record to affirm that NDAM, NRP, PDOIS, PPP and UDP are still registered parties in the country; that the registration of NADD was not designed to kill other political parties and it has not killed other political parties.

That is why the UDP/NRP Executive members who were in NADD could go back to their original parties as fast as they could write their signatures. The Executive Committee wishes to reiterate that all the other Executive Committee members of NADD decided to create this umbrella party and register it so as to galvanize the collective strength of the opposition parties to remove the present regime and then give life to each party to contest the next following election on equal footing on the basis of its own merit and that of its candidate. The creation of NADD cultivated a sense of common ownership that no alliance around a single party can create. The Executive Committee further observes that a UDP/NRP/NADD Alliance will not be recognized in law.

Any candidate would have to be under UDP NRP or NADD ticket. Hence your proposal is considered to take NADD back to square one when the opposition parties were considering whether to contest the election under an umbrella party or under the leadership of one of the existing parties. It is therefore maintained that the NADD arrangement provides the best opportunity for collective ownership of the candidate and the campaign process to guarantee victory. This is the first point.

Secondly, you propose that the new alliance adopts a single flagbearer to contest the 2006 presidential election. The Executive Committee of NADD considers the proposal to be incomplete. It would like to know how the selection is to be conducted. NADD had established a selection process based on consensus or voting by party chairmen, chairwomen and youth leaders. If no mechanism is proposed there is no way the NADD Executive can make a decision on this matter.

Thirdly, you propose that the activities of the election be governed by the present constitution. The Executive Committee does not understand what this means. The constitution has been amended so many times that it gives the president monarchical powers. A President now rules without term limit. The President can appoint and dismiss the Chiefs; dismiss the members of the IEC and can even dissolve the National Assembly. Are you implying that the flagbearer should not give commitment on a political platform not to seek a second mandate or support another candidate in the next following election? Should we not have a transitional arrangement to curtail the monarchical powers of the presidency which should be propagated on our political platforms? Should the flag bearer not be urged to give commitment in public to combat and uproot such powers that legitimize impunity? This is the corner stone of NADD’s attempt to put an end to self perpetuating rule. The NADD Executive strongly maintains that this platform of putting an end to self perpetuating rule and impunity is the best weapon the opposition has in winning popular support. This is one platform it has been propagating to the wide approval of the electorate. How to reverse this process without being accused of being power hungry is a dilemma we need to give careful consideration to.

Your fourth proposal is for the alliance to limit itself to regime change and that the issue of portfolios be shelved. The NADD Executive wishes to convey that the issue of creating a cabinet based on shared responsibility by member parties should not be mistaken to be an attempt to share the cake of power. NADD aims to keep the opposition parties alive and facilitate a healthy multiparty system after a five year transition by implementing the policy of collective leadership. Nothing is explained why such a general undertaking to operate a government based on the participation of all member parties and representatives of civil society should be shelved.

The NADD Executive maintains that the first five years after Jammeh, should be a transition period to genuine democratic and constitutional rule. All the basic rectification programmes that should be made should be known to the people, so that no leader will be able to betray their aspirations without being challenged and removed in the first five years. It stands to reason that if a future president, elected on the basis of merit is expected to accept a two term limit why should the first president of a post Jammeh government not accept one term to build the culture of establishing term limits for the presidency?

The fifth point is for a National Constitutional Review Conference to be the held within a period of three months after the National Assembly elections. In our view, the review of a constitution should be done through civic education programmes designed to enable the people to know what is in the constitution followed by a nationwide debate on the need for amendments through the auspices of a constitutional review commission. This is part of the NADD programme of action.

Your sixth point is that the recommendations of a national constitutional conference will be subjected to a referendum and then presented to the National Assembly. The Executive Committee of NADD considers such a proposal to be of a general nature. No issue has been raised. It is not clear whether the recommendations will be transformed into a bill that would require the approval of the National Assembly before a referendum. We don’t know what recommendations will touch on the entrenched clauses to warrant a referendum. Hence there is no point to make a decision on. To conclude, allow us to indicate that the best way forward for any party which thinks that it has the might to remove the APRC regime is to proceed to do so and ask other parties to support its programme. However if all opposition parties are convinced that an alliance is the best instrument to remove the present regime then the NADD arrangement appears to have earned popular appeal. The flagbearer of NADD has stated in no uncertain term that he will be ready to vacate the seat in favour of anyone who can be a unifying factor of all those who are dissatisfied with the existing regime. The NADD Executive therefore calls on the UDP/NRP Alliance to do a critique of the NADD MOU and make recommendations on what to delete to make it acceptable to them. The NADD Executive will review any recommendation with objectivity. While anticipating a swift and practical response, we remain yours in the service of the Nation.... read the rest of the letters here...

Basically they agreed to disagree. No new grounds were broken here, no compromises made. Both parties are set in their stance. Meanwhile the APRC under the guise of meet the peoples
tour have started their presidential campaign.

The efforts of concerned Gambians to get the two opposition camps to reconcile though laudable isn't going to make a lot of difference at this stage in the game. It will be a three way contest come September and if the electorate knowing what they are going through decided to stick with the status quo, God bless them. At this point, the electorate is the final arbiter and may the best candidate win.

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The tragedy continues

The Middle East fiasco continues. This time instead of Iraq filling up the headlines, it is the Army of God taking on the ‘Chosen People’. This is what happens in the world of faith-based initiatives. The biggest loss for Israel is the perception in the Arab world that the IDF is not invincible. That could have serious implications down the road.

The Israelis haven't learn much from the ill fated US invasion of Iraq. This is exactly what happened to the US Army in Iraq. With the help of allied nations in the 1991 gulf war, the US was useful as the big, hulking guy you wanted standing behind you if someone in the neighborhood tried to stir up shit. No one had seen him in a real fight recently, but you just knew looking at him that he would seriously fuck you up if he had too, and the fights in the past (world war two comes to mind), well, he cleaned the floor. The one-day he decides to be belligerent and starts a fight and suddenly big hulking guy shows he has a glass jaw. All of a sudden his usefulness at just looking intimidating is down the tubes. That is what happened to the United States in Bush’s macho Iraq invasion and Israel is finding out the hard way in Lebanon. In the meantime innocent civilians lose their lives and livelihoods because some one wants to look macho and menacing.

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