(JollofNews)– Failure by President Adama Barrow’s administration to respect the sanctity of contract and follow due process will send out a wrong message to foreign investors that The Gambia remains a highly risky investment destination.
A government that is seen or perceived as not able to honour its contractual obligations will find it extremely challenging to attract long-term capital intensive investments. The new administration needs to demonstrate that The Gambia is open for business and ready to attract investments for job creation. But, it seems as if the president’s focus is more to attract foreign aid than foreign direct investment.
During President Barrow’s visit to France last week, he gave the strongest hint in an interview with RFI that he might not respect the three-year transitional term in office in accordance with the Coalition’s agreement. According to Barrow “the agreement is three years, the mandate constitutionally is five years, we have a job to do – we look at what is going to happen [in] three years, whether we will finish what we want to do or not”.
In other words, the three-year transitional period is no longer certain but contingent on his administration’s own assessment as to whether they have finished what they “want to do or not”. This is a self-serving requirement as the Barrow administration will have an incentive to claim that the work is not yet finished.
In fact, the work of a government is not to finish everything it wants to do. Besides, no government in the world can finish what it sets out to do. For instance, former president Obama set out to close Guantanamo Prison but left power without achieving it. He didn’t dare think of asking for an extension to finish his agenda.
The thinking that a president must finish their work before leaving office is largely responsible for abuse of power to prolong their stay. Development is infinite! Thus, the development of a country is an endless work from one government to another and from one generation to another.
Probably Barrow knows that he is a one-term president, so he needs his full five-year term. This will be a mockery of the ‘transitional period’, which will mean anything but in name.
A five-year term will only be to the advantage of Barrow’s political party, the United Democratic Party (UDP). One does not need a degree in political science to know that Barrow is only ‘warming’ the presidential seat for the minister of Foreign Affairs, Ousainou Darboe, who is also the UDP leader. Barrow has made no efforts to hide where his loyalty lies as he confessed in his first interview with Aljazeera after his inauguration in Dakar on 19 January. He stated without equivocation that he was faithful to the leader of his UDP party – not the Coalition. Barrow probably forgot that he had resigned from UDP to head the Coalition.
Regarding Barrow’s change of mind, he is probably borrowing a leaf from the book of his Senegalese counterpart, President Macky Sall, who is now his ‘godfather’. President Sall won the presidential runoffs against Abdoulaye Wade in March 2012 through the “Benno Bokk Yakkar” Coalition, with the promise that he would reduce his term from the constitutionally-mandated seven years to five years. Sall failed to keep his promise.
Moreover, Barrow’s announcement in Paris (not in Banjul) of his request for an additional deployment of Senegalese troops was likely another piece of advice from Macky Sall. It is obvious that neither The Gambia nor Senegal can afford to foot the bills of maintaining Senegalese troops for Barrow’s security. However, it is worrying that an issue of national interest was never mentioned or discussed in parliament. Gambians have to learn about it from foreign media. This is not transparency at work!
After 22 years of Yahya Jammeh’s misrule characterised by policy unpredictability and blatant disregard for the sanctity of contracts including the Constitution, the Barrow administration should be working to inspire confidence in government by demonstrating integrity, accountability, transparency, respect for the rule of law, property rights, due process and so on. This is what will attract foreign direct investments and strengthen Gambians’ faith in government.
As a mark of transparency and accountability, Barrow and every member of his Cabinet should declare their assets so that Gambians will know by how much they get richer after leaving office.
All said and done, if Barrow fails to step down in January 2020, he will have little or no moral high ground over Jammeh.
The two of them will have more than one thing in common. Besides the fact that they were born in the same year, they will both be remembered as the presidents who can’t keep their word and can’t rise above self-interest.
By Murtala Touray
The author is a Gambian based in the UK advising government and corporate entities on commercially-relevant political and security risks.