(JollofNews) – The goal of our struggle is ‘to make Gambia a functioning institutional democracy’. That powers/authorities of governing resides only with the sovereign. That our government is a representation of the will of the sovereign people. That government has defined roles and responsibilities. That people hired to run government are to ensure those roles and responsibilities are fulfilled in accordance with law. That all public employees (from president to janitor) are servants and not masters of the sovereign people. The quest for that Gambia continued unabated.
Yahya was defeated at the polls last December. He refused to hand over power as per laws. ECOWAS negotiated his exist with credible threat to otherwise use military force. The fact that an individual can defy the verdict of the sovereign electorates explains all that are wrong with our government and governance. Sadly all tools that affords Yahya such powers are all still in place for Barrow to use. Using them or not depending on his person. This is a problem. This was the problem we fought against for over 2 decades.
President Barrow sworn in January 19, 2017. Today is 100 days in office. He is definitively not Yahya but unless all that made Yahya so bad are completely cleanup we run risk of another Yahya-like in the very near future. That could be Barrow or his successor or successor of his successor……… That’s saying removing Yahya is an opportunity ‘To Make Gambia A Functioning Institutional Democracy’ but is not itself functioning institutional democracy.
The Barrow Scorecard:
No reforms or preparations for comprehensive reforms: We need an independent democratic republic of Gambia. We know presidents will come and go but Gambia will stay. Removing Yahya is a mean to our goal and not the goal. Barrow is not democracy; hence Barrow is not the goal. Barrow can be our means if/when he’s willing to facilitate the necessary change processes. Barrow shouldn’t even manage the changes necessary for democratization.
People and their civil society organizations should do it outside of government. Governments righteous role here should be facilitation, provide resources and give guidance when/where needed. So far government /Barrow hasn’t done so! So far Barrow hasn’t even talked about it much – read/listen to his Independent Celebration/Swearing in speech! And if hastily attempts to amend 1 or 2 constitutional provision are telltale signs – such material overhaul is not insight anytime soon. We need Commission(s)/Task Force(s) to do as follows:
* Re-write The Constitution – establish 3-co-equal branches, Strip down executive powers/controls, Numerate Rights, knock out indemnification provisions, knock out none constitutional laws, etc.
* Restructure/reorganize Banjul (National) Government – generally speaking considerable reduce the size. Natural attrition, retrenchments and relocation of some functions/services to Regions.
* Decentralize governance, powers/authorities and resource allocation/management
* Establish and maintained unadulterated basic social database registers such as birth, dead, ID, passports, voter cards, vehicle registration, etc.
* Decentralize elections administration with term limit elected election commissioners. Regional/district appointed/elected election officers. Use the new social data such as birth and dead registers to clean up but also ensure registration of eligible citizens of the republic
* Introduction of Gambia Government as a subject and certification requirement from Primary 1 to undergraduate degree at UTG. Use NGOs, Radios and TVs to educate the masses (non-school going population) on the basic concepts, processes /procedures and Rights in an Independent Democratic Republic of The Gambia
* No commission or systematic efforts to investigate and prosecute all alleged cases of human right crimes: This is an important component of building a democratic Gambia. People who break laws and abuse others should be brought to justice. Ignoring this fact is not a solution. Looking the other way is no justice. “Justice delayed is justice denied”. Affording every citizen justice is more important than some politically trumped-up reconciliation. Picking few out of the lot is essentially selective justice and that’s no justice. We demanded and expected a systematic comprehensive investigation of all cases to a lawful conclusion. That can’t be adequately run in parallel with the daily demands of governance. We have since suggested creation of Commission(s) to independently investigate and prosecute all cases based on evidences at appropriate courts of law.
* Failed to audit and report public accounts: The Barrow administration assumed office January 19, 2017. The out-going government presented 2017 Appropriation Bill 2017 to the National Assembly December 22 2016. This budget has projected total expenditure and net lending of about D19 billion. It has projected revenues and grants of about D8 and D6 billion respectively. The projected direct government costs (personnel emoluments and other recurring costs) are about D6 billion. Notice that Gambia is projected to generate only D8 billion but government will consume about D6 billion. That’s 75% of what our taxes and non-tax revenues constitute. The budget deficit was projected at about D5 billion. That’s 62.5% of our revenue.
* The only realistic explanation how this deficit will be paid for is through debt. Continuous borrowing with no viable sources of repayment except the already stretched-up taxation is only impoverishing our people. Why then Barrow administration thought wise to sit on these estimates without an independent review to establish a true base line is troubling. They either don’t know what they’re voted for, they don’t care and/or they want to be as dirty/corrupt as our past. None of those are good for the citizens. Instead they were on TV parading EU checks (cheques) as if they are the first government to receive such foreign goodwill. Remember how much goodwill money poured into Gambia immediately after the 1981-attempted coup. Grants and debts haven’t made our lives better and it will not this time around. In 52 years the sons and daughters of our land made us poorer and deprived our rights, freedoms and civil liberties than the day Queen-Foreign Monarch left (February 18, 1965). Amazing!
* Expanding the government: Why is this bad? Because it is a costs coming from our taxes and not Barrow’s money. Barrow maintained all of Yahya’s Ministries and add 1 or 2 of his own namely Ministry of Planning and Good Governance. Don’t forget his Agency for Sustainable Socio-Economic Development (ASSED). These additions will not add any material value that can’t be gain from the already large government structure. Instead of dissolving NIA he renamed them SIS. We still remembered Yahya remaining Jawara’s NSA to NIA. What remained unchanged is the abuses of our rights by that organization either directly sanctioned by government and/or give it a closed-eye. What are the true values to be gain from such a spy organization versus its costs? All we know they spy on our politics – wrong per our constitution. They are deployed as law enforcements – wrong since they are not trained on basics of due processes of law. They go out on Retail Licenses Inspection – wrong there are not trained and not under their functions. They settle domestic disputes – wrong per our laws. Etc.
* No Vice President: Very disappointing saga! The apparent ignorance of laws regarding the qualifications and/or requirements for VP is troubling. Worst yet, if it was done to disregard our laws and/or Gambians won’t notice/care. We expect Barrow’s government to respect all laws in the books until such times they are appropriately changed/removed. The subsequent erroneous attempts to amend provisions of the constitution relating to the same matter added salt to injury. As it stands we are in no man’s land. After 100 days in office Gambia has no Vice President. Hoarding the Vice Presidency for an individual; attempting to amend a national constitution for an individual is an injustice of the highest proportion to the sovereign people of The Gambia. Appoint a vice president in accordance with law; this is Gambia and not Barrow Kunda. In The New Gambia we ought to reconsider how we fill the Vice Presidency – s/he assumes office in the event of vacant presidency. Should filling that position be left to one person for estimated 2 billion people? Simply think through!
* Three oversees trips (Senegal, France and Congo in under three months are unwise use of the presidency and costly to taxpayers. The president is the manager of other managers in government. That means s/he doesn’t have to do everything but ensure things are done through others. Our Foreign Ministries should lead our foreign relation efforts. The president usually will bless or disapprove end products. President has so far travelled to Senegal, France and Congo.
The Congo trip is the most baffling and we asked why. What’s Gambia’s interest in Congo that require President Barrow’s time at this infancy period of his presidency? Going to Senegal was a deserved trip but 4 days was unnecessary billing of taxpayers. I don’t know what to make up of a trip to France within the first 90 days. Certainly France was a good advocate during the impasse with Yahya yet our thank you can be extended in many cheaper ways. As I pen this op-ed I learnt he left for other ECOWAS nation capitals (or preparing). I would have thought this should have been done on that Senegal trip by a 2-hour working stop at each capital instead of 4 days in Dakar.
What are the purposes of all those Ambassador-At-Large appointment if Barrow will be jumping up and down at Yundum Airport? Someone told me they are not on public payroll yet we are still concern with potential unethical or corrupt uses of such national privileges. Let revisit the 4-day stay at Senegal. The long-term bilateral cooperation between Senegal and Gambia ought to be strengthened for mutual benefits. This would require meeting of experts from both sides to study where we come from, where we are and where we want to go. It shouldn’t be up to Barrow to agree/disagree as he wishes on our behave especially after only few days in the job. I hope during those 4 days he (Barrow) didn’t gave anything that we won’t agree if/when publicly know. Senegal and other regional nations help was to Gambians and not Barrow as an individual. Do not confuse them! We hope those nation’s expect our contributions to the regions stability, civility, democracy, freedom and prosperity and not any form of compromises of our sovereignty. The core considerations of every presidential venture should weigh the supposed value versus total costs. Of such ventures Notice the use of total costs – that goes beyond the direct dalasis outlay.
* The Foni/Kanilai problem: For me this is perceived and not a real one. However unless properly address we could all get dirty in it. Well before the Sibanor and Kanilai incidents I suggested in one of my postings how the new government should educate Gambians and particularly Foni about political dispensation in a democracy and rule of law. I suggested Barrow asked the Governor at Brikama under which Foni falls to summon all the chiefs, Alikalis and some prominent people of the area to his office. To avoid stigmatization other areas can do it too. To explain the concepts of independence, republic, democratic dispensation, freedom of expression and association and rule of law. That the old order of unlawfully targeting/favoring members of one political group over others was wrong, unlawful and the new government will treat everyone equally under our laws. Period! Mai Fatty’s summons at Sibanor covered some of the above but it also vied into party politics. That were inappropriate when his on (public) our times and costs. Mai Fatty was I Sibanor as Minister of Interior and Chief Law Enforcement Officer and not a politician canvassing votes for one group or another. As a general matter we have to learn to separate public from party/private, etc. interests.
We are at a very opportune moment in our socio-political and socio-economic history. We stand to gain or lose! There will be no in-between.
Cosmetic tinkering the edges while controlling government/governance is as good as Yahya’s dictatorship. That’s simply sitting on what made Yahya possible. That’s to say even if Barrow is not Yahya – there is no guarantee his successor or someone in the future won’t be. In house amendments to laws, reducing/expanding size of government, etc. at this point may produce the same result as an Independent national participatory processes; however any future government will be at liberty to change what one government did before them. Our sufferings weren’t stranger to anyone one of us – let’s do it right this time. This is our moment!
Real reforms are what we need. That would require those in charge recognizing power resides with the sovereign people. Such recognition will allow them to let go an independent national participatory engagement (commissions, task forces and/or civil society organizations) that they will only facilitate, fund through our taxes and guide within law. The eventual outcomes (products) of such national dialogue are what we expect them (government) implement, test-run, entrench-the goods and sort to adjust/change the not so goods. Above all create an enabling environment that build the capacities of the sovereign to begin to take ownership of every such outcome. This will be the beginning of a brighter future for generation of Gambians yet born.
On the other hand if we choose to be greedy, hang on to the sweeties of power, as did those before us – how can we expect anything different from what we fought against the last 22 years.
God Bless The Gambia
To The Gambia Ever True