It was a union sealed in blood never imagined to ever strain.
So smooth was their rapport that Barrow regarded Darboe his godfather.
The pair have been united from the day Barrow joined The Yellows bonded by one ambition -getting rid of former president Yaya Jammeh whose dictatorial tendencies were becoming increasingly unbearable.
Before then Barrow was a reported National Reconciliation Party (NRP) member prior to switching allegiance to the UDP and this perhaps offers some revealing insight into the sudden sweet ties jelling between Barrow and his current tourism minister Hamat Bah.
The Making of Barrow
Barrow might have come to be known to most as recent as thirty six months ago when he leapfrogged Yaya Jammeh in 2016 ending a more than two decades of tyranny.
As intriguing as it might sound now, Barrow from Gambia News’ findings, bit the dust to Mama Kandeh in the race for Jimara’s parliamentary hot-cake seat that ushered the now GDC top dog into Gambia’s legislative chamber. It was a reported heated two-horse competition but Kandeh would come out of it unscathed as Barrow -then a UDP novice -counted his losses.
Fast forward to events of recent times, that loss obviously may have played on the 55-year-old’s mind in run up to his dramatic rise to UDP executive board and then to the party’s flagbearer in 2016.
How Darboe’s Incarceration Became Barrow’s Gain
Seasoned watchers of political turns in the Gambia have, mostly, labelled Barrow as an “accidental president” while the most generous among them substitute the noun accidental with the tagging the “lucky leader”. The latter description is in glaring reference to how Barrow glided almost without qualms to succeed where his godfather Darboe had failed -by accepting dancing to the tune of 2016 Coalition-makers’ agreements; accepting to resign as a UDP leader then contest an independent to sweep the polls as coalition’s flag-bearer.
It all started when activist solo Sandeng -a UDP stalwart -along with other party followers took to the streets waging a peaceful protest demanding reform in Gambia’s polls. Typical of the regime then modus operandi, state security personnel were unleashed and in no time curtailed the demo in its tracks, arresting the leaders in the process. Solo would get killed by state spies sparking an all-out follow-up anti-government protest by Darboe requesting release of Solo “dead or alive”. This undertaking, much like the first one ended, was thwarted and arrests effected with the sole difference being the trialing of Darboe and other partakers in the protest. Predictably, they were all jailed in a move massively weakening UDP who, faced with its toughest times since inception, needed staying solid months from the 2016 presidential polls. The jail term slapped across Ousainou meant his hopes of contesting the coming polls were as good as over consequently rendering the UDP chairmanship role vacant. By this time, Darboe’s health is believed to have been grossly deteriorating which majority claimed is reason for UDP consenting to the Coalition agreement for Barrow to resign and run as an independent in a primary election proposal Darboe eagerly shunned during the previously five -party alliance dubbed NADD (National Alliance for Democracy and Development) in 2005.
As fate would have it, Barrow was declared winner and the man to face Jammeh in primary polls that saw the Mangkamang Kunda-born knock politicians of many seasons Halifa Sallah, Hamat Bah off their perch. This mile stone was achieved 8th November but further completed following Jammeh’s eventual ouster December 2016, consequently ushering in a new dawn.
Darboe’s Release, Appointments and Rise through Barrow Government‘s Ranks
Barrow’s ascension to State House paved the way for Darboe’s release from custody.
It was still early days of a new dispensation but sources close to corridors of power by this time, hinted of a looming split in ranks of the Coalition government allegedly precipitated by a tense battle over who occupies the vice-presidency role. Attention then centered around the triumvirate of Halifa Sallah – then government mouthpiece-Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang and Darboe who was a convict.
The predicted calamity occurred: Halifa opted out and Tambajang taking the VP role for which it was rumoured then foreign affairs minister Darboe was being groomed for as the eventual successor when the waters calmed.
This fear was confirmed when Tambajang was inexplicably evicted out of government with Darboe his replacement as directions turned to the latter as being the engineer for the sack despite a trigger-happy Barrow wielding the axe.
Step-by step, the OJs, Mai Fattys and Tambajangs, considered bottlenecks, were pruned out of what was quickly transitioning from Coalition to a UDP-led government.
These developments gave rise to, if not lent credence to initial rife reports Darboe was the actor behind the scene.
The Sack that morphed Father and Son to sworn Enemies
As the waters calmed in the wake of the aforesaid clear-out, rumours from the grapevine had it that the influential Darboe had proposed Barrow disregard the 3-year coalition agreement and complete one-year term of four years then step aside for him to take over as the nation’s president.
How accurate was this account remains uncertain but it was alleged a-by-now emboldened Barrow had refused the offer amid a long running stand-off. Trouble hovered as UDP followers grew restless then consequently divided between their two sons who respectively are head of state and deputy.
March last year, property-seller-turned leader Adama took the bull by the horn to rid his leadership of Darboe in an almighty unprecedented dismissal that drew the ire of UDPians but, in equal measure, thrilled non-party followers amid delirious car honks in celebration on the streets.
Prior to this, the nation’s upper court had backed the president’s controversial venture to sack nominated law-maker Ya Kumba Jaiteh in a double swipe at his erstwhile party, The Yellows.
Matters turned not only tempestuous at best but ugly and dirty amid firing of profanity between UDP and Barrow’s Fans Club now christened NPP. On the heels of this, UDP switched gears, asking Barrow to now honour the 3-year coalition terms –principles they overlooked when they were in power -and step his feet off the presidential pedal December last term. Darboe came out throwing his weight behind these agitators who’re in fact self-confessed UDP rank-and-files, a thing most perceived as deliberate attempt by the Yellows at sabotaging the status quo as uncertainty lurked causing losses in revenue to government via tourism.
Bids for a truce between Barrow’s camp now styling themselves as 5 Years Flat up against the Operation 3 Years Jotna hit the brick walls as the latter insisted on going ahead with their planned demo and requested police approval which took some publicized back and forth to grant. The stage was set in midst of great deal apprehension. The first round of demonstration by the 3 Years Jotna turned peaceful before violence broke out in the second as clashes ensued versus the armed police leading to the arrest and subsequent trial of Jotna leaders. Prosecution in the case is being stalled by the ongoing global pandemic. What becomes of this saga will intrigue all observers when lock down eases but one thing is certain –the Darboe-Barrow melee triggered this unwelcomed raucous.