NEW GAMBIA: COUNTING THE COST OF FREEDOM

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President Adama Barrow 

It was refreshing to hear President Barrow divulge, “Every morning when we wake up, the first thing we do is ask one another what did the diaspora Gambians say today?” Succinctly, one can deduce without an embellishment that President Barrow listens to Gambians and aligns his decisions with Gambian wishes that will usher in sustainable progress, peace, stability and equal opportunity for all. Understandably, the perfectionists want to crucify him for his perfect imperfections. Perhaps like most of us who refused to use rose-tinted glass in holding President Barrow to task, they also wish the Gambia well. However, we must be realistic in our demands. Alieu Darboe, a colleague at University, aptly reinforced my point when he argued, As a critical person, I know constructive criticism when I see it, but a lot going around are actually aspersions inspired by misinformation and lack of knowledge. Now, if you want to offer useful criticism, try to learn more about how government works and seek credible information. Barrow will not agree with all Gambians, and so I hope you will respect his right to disagree with you and your suggestions. Certainly, he must and will listen to dissenting voices, but in a democracy, he is free to exercise his powers within the law, and not to be compelled to follow any particular views”.

It is equally fitting to assert constructive criticisms must be predicated on credible information, knowledge and experience. As humans, we differ in many aspects ranging from beliefs, aspirations, commitment, love and political views. Consequently, even whereby we share most of these in common, now and again we part ways in certain views and opinions. Thus, to expect President Barrow and/or his government to meet the demand of every Gambian is a preposterous wishful thinking. For instance, many Gambians want and called for the disbandment of the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA) due to its disgraceful orchestration of damning tortures, unlawful incarcerations and killings. President Barrow has not only listened to this legitimate call but took the initiative of renaming it. Albeit, the Agency wears a chilling historical badge of terror, it is not just any ordinary institution that can be discarded and forgotten for good. Its role and function are of paramount importance to national security. What transpired during the Jammeh era was its role and function overlapped with that of the police such that it was operating as another arm of the police. They had power to arrest and detain but not prosecute. Its leadership became insensitive to justice, law and order. In the process, they epitomised evil and executed unforetold carnage.  What is legitimate to demand, therefore, is a systematic overhaul of its leadership, redefining its role and function and adequate retraining of its agents. Added to that would be commissioning a parliamentary committee that would be tasked which the responsibility of policing it. That way, abuse of office and misappropriation of justice will be curbed.

On the ministerial position, the constitution is very clear on it. Here again the discourse is diverged. Mathew Jallow abdicated being the proverbial ostrich when he deliberated “It is hard to qualify the degree of shock I experienced upon reading about the exclusion of Gambians of dual citizenship from cabinet positions”. Mr Jallow went on to argue, “The nature of this politically motivated exclusion of bone-fide professional Gambian citizens from holding cabinet level jobs and participating in national development is antediluvian old school thinking. It is a mind-set lagging far behind the curve in regards to changing sociological paradigms in an increasingly borderless world. One would think that a constitution drenched in the blood of its citizens and used to exclude citizens from public life in their countries would be rejected as unfit representation of the Gambian people”.  He then admonished, “Modernising the new Gambia must first and foremost be predicated on embracing progressive thought and adapting to the new parameters of global citizenship where barriers limiting access to opportunity are forever discarded to the dustbin of history”. Uncle Mathew’s position is appropriate, however, flipping the coin on the other side, one can correspondingly uphold that it is not only on ministerial position that citizens can participate in national building and contributing their progressive thoughts. Others had also viewed it from the security point. Their case, if for example Uncle Mathew is appoint Minister of Finance and helped himself with some few dalasi and runs to America whose citizenship he also holds, how will the prosecute him when American laws protects him from extradition to the Gambian to face justice?

APRC. Yes, what about them? Some want to see it banned. President Barrow has no legitimate power to ban it just because it was the party in power. Political parties and a constitution can only be ban and/or suspended under a military takeover. Now it has become an opposition. It is now left to the Gambian electorate to either vote it back to office or relegate it to a very insignificant opposition party. Its winning an election in the Gambia is not happening in the foreseeable future due to the legacy of it former leader. Jammeh’s ripple effect has and will continue to hunt it for a very long time in the Gambian political ring. As such, banning it will only give it undue credit. In fact what is currently unfolding is most of its supporters are now aligning their allegiance with GDC, UDP and the other parties. Eventually, it would either rename itself, change its leadership or ebbs significantly to a bare minimal relevance.

The National Assembly Members will not bow to the heat of pressure oozed by the protesting youths calling for their resignation. They are elected and I am not aware of any constitutional clause which empowers a constituency to recall its NAM found wanton. What the youth should be engaged in now to mount rigorous political sensitisation across the length and breadth of the country to elect qualified and responsible NAMS. Few months down the line, we will go again to the poll electing our representatives. This time around, we don’t want to clutter the National assembly with unseasoned members. It was awesome you went out and registered your dissatisfaction and disappointment in executing their duties but you can stop history repeating itself by enlightening your communities on electing members on qualification and programmes but not on partisan or personal reasons.

Bringing Jammeh and his cronies to book is not only President Barrow and his government’s responsibility. The onus equivalently lies on us as ordinary citizens. President Barrow is on record repeatedly affirming he will not prosecute Jammeh which was part of the pack for him to step down peacefully. President Barrow must honour his words. It is not justice. The UN regional representative urged President Barrow “if the Gambian people want to crucify Jammeh, let them”. We have seen some of them already arrested in some distant lands. Consequently, it is now up to us to petition the Barrow government to start the process of bringing Jammeh and his cronies to book.

Time. It is liken to the flow of a river. The flow that passes you will never come back. Time is wealth, hence, must be managed properly. If the president is not conscious of time, he will be sending the wrong signal to his staff and people. 15:00 hours is 15:00 hours period. I hope President Barrow will take note of this when he gives an appointment next time. Gorr kadom.

Sulayman Jeng

Birmingham, UK


One Comment to “NEW GAMBIA: COUNTING THE COST OF FREEDOM”

  1. Abdou Janha says:

    Time as you wrote is precious and President Barrow and his government have to be conscious of the limited time they have, that is three years. In this context, if the government can focus on key priorities and lay a strong foundation for the next government to take off from, they would have achieved a lot. The reform of key sectors is paramount, security sector reform for all security services to ensure the rule of law prevails, financial sector reform, financial discipline restored at the public sector level and the Central Bank allowed to be largely responsible for monetary policy, the civil service depoliticised and appointments and promotions strictly based on merit, a professional civil service. The restoration of the rule of law and a well managed financial sector would create an enabling environment for investors. The productive sectors, like agriculture, may require considerable investment. A review of these sectors should be undertaken and devevelopment programmes drawn up and followed up to ensure sustained growth in the economy youth training and development is already a high priority area for the Barrow government and the training must be practical and relevant.
    I am sure that the new administration would be doing all the above and more but as Gambians we must be realistic and appreciate the fact the task before the administrat is enormous after 22 years of one man rule.