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Dislodging a sitting government, the 1994 coup d’état, translated to a cynical assault on Gambia’s democratic governance and culture. Overtime, the junta arrogantly disregarded the rule of law, which for a decade was a Gambian enviable norm. Constitutionalism and its fundamental principles of separation of powers reinforced by the independence of the judiciary were systematically and practically scrapped by a dictatorial regime which promised us accountability, transparency and probity. The fundamental principles of good governance enshrined in our constitution and way of life is replaced with a one man autocratic rule thus eroding the very republican values on which our once beacon of democracy was founded. An atmosphere of unabated harassment, unlawful arrests and detentions became a familiar face in every Gambian household. The cold denial of Gambians their innate rights as humans and citizens was executed in coerced despotism and chilling intolerance for dissent. In the process, state institutions also changed in nature and character, from constituting machinery devoted to public service and descended into a sectarian outfit.

The APRC regime gradually became the object of contempt in the country for its illegitimacy and its record of gross human rights violation. For its survival, it came to depend on ferocious repression, executive lawlessness and impunity to enforce the iron-fisted control imposed over the country. Despite the return of civil rule in 1996, the Gambia still remains a sham democracy with no credible elections. The Jammeh regime has created an electoral commission which fosters only his APRC’s objectives whilst denying Gambians meaning say over who rules them and how their affairs are governed. In effect, today, our country and people is hostage to an illegitimate one man rule. Suffice it to say the elections are characterised by deceit, thuggery and fraudulence. In order for Dictator Jammeh to cling onto power, he recklessly resorted to use of violence and intimidation to enforce his unpopular rule. The regime’s appalling record of misrule, ranges from human rights abuses and looting of national resources for his personal enrichment. Political opposition has been crushed and the independent media muzzled. The regime has effectively shut down all avenues for the expression of dissent. Constitutionally guarantee freedom of speech for Gambians has become a gold dust in the country.

This appalling situation of abusive rule, combine with political intolerance, killings, disappearance and intimidation has transformed the Gambia into a concentration camp. Governance and human rights crises which today are the subject of widespread expression of concern among Gambians both at home and in the diaspora as well as within  the international community. Democracy is the full protection of human right, good life, a life without threat, without fear and the provision of basic necessities such as affordable living cost, water and electric supplies. These are benefits inherent to democracy and are accorded to people who live under democratic rule. The freedom that comes with democracy for ordinary citizens brings a number of tangible benefits that are embodied in such values as participation, inclusiveness, transparency, accountability and representation. Citizens of democratic states are left alone to choose to be actively involved at both local and national levels of politics. They do no fear the arbitrary abuse of state powers and know that when they have an encounter with the state, laws are in place to protect them from unnecessary state intrusion into their basic rights. The due process of the law unfolds throughout that engagement to attain justice for the deserving. Their participation takes place formally and less institutionally through processes or informal and less institution through civil society organization and social movement activities. Moreover, they enjoy the freedom to speak out, criticise and make demands on government without fear of repressive reprisals. The basic framework of participation and accountability provided by democracy and a people’s regime is seen as ultimately beneficial for everyone.

Babucarr Darboe

Essex, Chelmsford

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