The United Democratic Party (UDP) is a registered political party in The Gambia, founded in 1996. The leader of the UDP is His Excellency A.N.M Ousainu Darboe, a prominent lawyer, who is also the Vice President of the Republic of The Gambia.
The Gambia lies on the west coast of Africa, occupying a land area of 11,295 sq. km. It has a population of about 2 million people, making it the smallest country on mainland Africa. The capital city of The Gambia is Banjul.
Following the military coup of 1994, the national parliament of The Gambia was dissolved and replaced with a military council called the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC). The constitution was also suspended and a ban on political parties and political activities imposed.
In October 1994, the AFPRC announced a programme for a transition to democratic constitutional rule which provided for the restitution of the elective organs of the state in four years. Both the local civic organisations and the international community condemned the length of the proposed transition. The AFPRC responded by establishing the National Consultative Committee (NCC), which was tasked to review the issue. The transition was later reduced to two years, but the ban on political parties and political activities remained in force.
In the period leading to the 1996 presidential polls, the military council lifted the ban on political activities but the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) of former president Jawara, the National Convention Party (NCP) and the Gambia People’s Party – the three main political parties in the country at the time – remained banned from participating in the forthcoming elections as were all holders of executive office in the 30 years preceding the military takeover.
Meanwhile, the AFPRC had been fully utilising its own July 22 Movement to help the Junta Chairman, Capt. Yahya AJJ Jammeh, contest the presidential election from an advantaged position of incumbency. The Movement manifested all the features of a party from the very onset and continued to exhibit the same throughout the transition despite the ban on political parties and political activities been in place.
The stifling of political freedoms and restrictions imposed by AFPRC’s Decree No. 89 created a vacuum in The Gambia’s political space. This provoked strong criticisms locally and from the international community particularly the Commonwealth and the European Union. The untenable situation instilled an urge in some concerned Gambians who came together to find a common solution. The discussions that followed led to the birth of the United Democratic Party (UDP) on the 23rd August 1996, barely two weeks before the presidential election of 1996. The party came second with 36% of the total votes casted and had since been the second largest political party in the country. Upon the defeat of the APRC government in 2016, the UDP became the largest political party in the country.
In April 2016, several supporters and members of the UDP including the party leader were jailed for staging a peaceful protest demanding the release of the body of Ebrima Solo Sandeng, the party’s National Organising Secretary, who was earlier detained and killed while in the custody of the state. The party then selected Mr. Adama Barrow, the deputy treasurer, as its presidential candidate. The UDP formed an alliance with six other political parties and an independent to challenge the incumbent in the December 2016 presidential polls, and Barrow had to resign from the party to stand as an independent as per the coalition agreement. The coalition won the election, and the UDP leader became the Minister of Foreign Affairs soon after. The party then went on to contest the subsequent elections on its own and won a majority in the National Assembly. It also controls all but one of The Gambia’s eight local government councils.
The UDP is a diverse political party representing all segments of The Gambian society. It operates an open door policy on membership and has chapters across the globe including the United Kingdom, mainland Europe and the United States of America.