After 22 years of dictatorship, the great people of The Gambia are (almost) free. I say almost free knowing there still remains work to be done to sanitize the governing and security system that entrenched the dictatorship for over two decades. It took a lot of sacrifice from countless number of brave, relentless and courageous Gambians to bring about this liberating sense of political and social freedom. Heroes and patriots, the likes of the late Hon. Koro Ceesay, the late Calisco Prera (a former classmate), the late Solo Sandeng, the late Deida Hydara, the missing (presumed late) Chief Ebrima Manneh… and of course our living legends; Halifa Sallah, Ousainou Darboe, Pa Nderry Mbai and the likes who had to involuntarily leave the country they so love without knowing if they could ever return, the servicemen who paid the ultimate price attempting to rid the Gambia of the Jammeh menace and many more I can’t name here. I and many Gambians at home and abroad owe all of you, our gratitude.
This is not to say others not mentioned here have not made sacrifices to bring about the new Gambia. It is simply that I believe some were more equal than others. The sacrifices some these compatriots made, with no guarantees of success or expectations of been rewarded, is quite remarkable and ought to be highlighted prominently in any meaningful discourse.
To show this gratitude in word as well as in deed, I promise to offer myself to the service of the nation now more than ever before. I personally went through a whole array of emotions since December 1st. But the underpinning emotion that I continue to feel is a great sense of patriotism, pride in country and strong willingness to serve. I remind myself often of what John F Kennedy said to his countrymen in his 1961 inaugural address… ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country’. In this spirit, I wish to begin by making certain observations of the present political, social, media, economic and security situation in The Gambia today.
I strongly believe that every measure including coercion should be taken to maintain the coalition as one wholesome body with all the players given their due stake on the way forward. Especially when it comes to choosing and deciding on the mechanisms and approach with regards to filing in candidates and contesting the VERY crucial national assembly elections slated for April 6, 2017. At least until the end of the 3 year Transition Period in the best interest of the country .This task will be made easy if the stakeholders feel adequately represented in the new Cabinet. That is why I am encouraged with the 5 new Cabinet Ministers to be chosen yesterday and look forward to see the trend continue when it comes to qualification and experience given the highest consideration in the last 3 posts, namely; Vice President, Minister of Petroleum and Minister responsible for the very critical Energy sector. No wonder why His Excellency, Adama Barrow is commendably and painstakingly doing his due diligence in the selection process. I urge him to be sensitive to the concerns of the less visibly represented partner in the coalition so far (i.e. PDOIS) into strong consideration, but do so without sacrificing the obvious need to fill these positions with Gambians who undoubtedly possess the highest competence, honesty and expertise to be able to effectively deliver to our people and nation. In the same light, I believe banning, censoring without due cause or harassing the disgraced APRC party or their militants and supporters should be avoided lest it will be a mistake and can even backfire. In that regard, I want to thank the Minister of Interior Hon. Mai Ahmed Fatty and the police for showing restrain in dealing with the incident in Kanfenda, West Coast Region and for booking and immediately granting bail to the juveniles caught up in the fracas. Let’s follow the Rule of Law and show a good example in how new Gambia deals with its citizens.
On the social front, I am encouraged by the initiatives that are been taken to bring about social reconciliation especially after what we all collectively went through in the past two, three months. Our communities, villages, towns, cities and Regions urgently need healing and re-orientation. Some of these communities were totally destroyed from within due to the misappropriation of local political powers some of which were horned and earned for generations for cheap political expediency by the former government. In some cases, long serving traditional rulers, such as ‘Alkalos’, ‘Seyfos’ were fired. They were replaced with political appointees who neither understand the history of the people, nor earned their trust. These misguided actions caused a lot of quite conflicts within the population…some not so quiet, such as the Alkaloship drama in Kuntaur Fula-Kunda and Salikenni in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Some of these issues need to be handled with care to avoid exacerbating the political divisions that still remain and could widen further if not adequately and tactfully resolved by the new Minister of Local Government and Lands. Community and in some cases private properties forcefully and illegally confiscated by members and agents of the former government for selfish personal gains and those sold for profit must be recovered, returned to their rightful owners or in some cases adequately compensated. In this regard, I applaud the new government for setting up a commission to make sure these matters are investigated.
President Adama Barrow’s pronouncements of a free media and promise of a media friendly government is highly commendable. The media as is often said is the Fourth Estates of any democratic Government. The role of the media is establishing and maintaining good governance is as important as that of the Judiciary. The state of any media in a country truly reflects the political, economic and other condition of the citizens. A free and vibrant media in this new Gambia therefore, will truly reflect the New Gambia. In this spirit, I call for the urgent review of all draconian media laws and the introduction of those that reflect the true state of our new dispensation. I call on the Media (Gambia Press Union) to self-regulate by coming up with codes of conduct that guard against unprofessional acts and usurpation of the reclaimed freedoms. Much is expected of you, the vanguard of freedom of expression.
It has now been confirmed that the Jammeh government had betrayed the public trust in the management of our Treasury. D48.3 Billion in Debt, less than 2 months of import cover, parastatals in financial ruins and a slowing economic base due to mismanagement, endemic corruption and totally dereliction of duty. I agree that this is perhaps the tip of the iceberg as the Finance Minister indicated. A total and complete audit of the books is therefore needed in ascertaining the extent of the damage. The government should employ the services of an external audit firm (preferably one based in the Gambia) to augment that which the Auditor General of The Gambia should already be required to do in order to balance the books. All findings must then be forwarded to a Commission of Enquiry. The recommendations of such a commission will then form the bases for possible legal actions against those found to be wanting and the eventual recovery of these monies. In addition, the government can seek the help of the United Nations, EU, US and other international partners and agencies for facilitate the tracking and recovery of those funds that are expatriated outside of our jurisdiction.
Finally, I happen to believe the new Government have a daunting security challenge. Since the unceremonious departure of Yaya Jammeh, we have been hearing some unsettling ‘news’ coming out of Gambia of personnel of our Armed Forces seizing Mosque keys, making requests on behave of the Armed Forces to the former exiled dictator for food rations etc. These actions, which clearly constitute a violation of Code of Conduct, resemble insubordination and if found to be true has to be addressed forth whit, to maintain order. The Chief of Defense Staff, Army Command, National Security Adviser, all have a responsibility in maintaining discipline and order within the security forces. A clear chain of Command needs to be established from the President and Commander in Chief to the private soldier given the truly civilian nature of the new government. This will help assure a truly Civilian Control of the Military as envisage. This cannot be truly accomplished without re-orienting the entire Armed and Security Forces to this important doctrine especially after what we had for 22years. This is in fact a quasi-military government.
In conclusion, the Gambian people can never allow nor afford what happened in 2004 be repeated. That was the gradual and systematic erosion of the rule of law induced by our ‘maslaha’ and ‘nang-deloo-njugal’ mentality. There cannot be ‘sacred cows’ when it comes to the rule of law. There cannot be a reward system based on political expediency or who did what during the struggle. We must all ask ourselves what John F Kennedy reminded his countrymen in his 1961 Inaugural address: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’. With this concept in mind, let’s put aside all personal political interest and work towards building a durable foundation for a resilient democracy that our kids and grandkids deserve and can be proud of.
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Written By Anonymous the Patriot