Brighton Essay 2

Part I: Intro – The Role & Scope of Government of The Gambia In The 21st Century

Besides the natural shrinking/expansion the geographic size of The Republic of The Gambia remained unchanged – roughly 11,000 Km2. Everything else has pretty much changed since February 18, 1965.

  • We have increased in population
  • We’re more educated both quality and quantity
  • We’re more enterprising both in skills and resources
  • Our societal needs/wants are more complex
  • Our cultures and traditions has changed and/or shifted
  • Our economy/GDP has changed

Suffice to say what government was or viewed in the past cannot continue the same as many aspects of our people since changed. Government by definition is a SERVICE ORGANIZATION to meet our needs/wants.

Many have since viewed government as source of personal gains and/or ability to exercise power/authority over the rest of us. Many illegally used it to peddle influence and loot public resources for sectional interests. Others simply take it (or accept) what they are given. The totalities of what government has since become in our land indicates our lack of knowledge of ‘What Government Ought To Be’ and ‘What They Can/Should Do’.

During the thick/thin of our struggle against Yahya’s dictatorship; I have on several occasions challenged my colleagues whether they merely want YAHYA OUT and/or THEY WANT A FUNCTIONING INSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC. Superficial looks will likely shows the 2 are the same but in realty they are not. That’s were we are today. Just like Yahya, the New Government has already trampled The Constitution that brought them to power on several instants in just barely 2 months.

Since the ousting of Yahya our team has at best confused us on THE reform AGENDA going forward or at worst DEMOCRATIZATION IS NOT EVEN IN THE CARDS. Certainly Gambia has many chronic political problems and will be unrealistic to expect them solve in 2 months. However actions/inactions, postures, proclamations, etc. are good indications of INTENT.

Here are few troubling examples:

  • Appointment or attempted appointment of Ms. Jallow-Tambanjang as Vice President is a violation of The Constitution if the said person is above 65 years of age. That age verification should be thorough and complete. Aftermath attempts to amend the constitution maybe LEGAL but a complete mockery to the burgeoning democratization of Gambia – changing The Constitution of our Nation for 1 person. That already made me sick!
  • They are no longer committed to honoring The Coalition 2016 Agreement of a 3-Year Transition Period. Listen to President Barrow’s doggy answer on that question and as well Ousainou Darboe’s constitutionality rebuttal. Are you surprised? During the NADD finger pointing I asked this very question; ‘What if the candidate said THE LAW of the land doesn’t require me step aside or sanction myself to contest elections as candidate’.
  • Hastily attempt to amend AGE CEILING for President and Vice president thereby sidestepping the required constitutional procedures. One only wonders what is so important about these particular provisions that changing them can’t wait for the roughly 3-month gazette period. 
  • Instead Establishing an INDEPENDENT COMMISSION and/or some system that work outside the daily routine of government to look at ALL injustices of the past 22 years. The selective prosecution of these cases can only muddy an already complex situation. Maybe evidences are available to prosecute alleged killers of Solo Sandeng but many victims’ cases preceded his from Koro to Students to Deyda to Daba and many others I don’t even know. The same concern can be express on reports that one of Mr. Abou Dneton’s confiscated Kanifing property is now possessed from A9F)PRC. There is nothing wrong to seek justice for all victims but if all coming to forefront are with personal connection to those in the corridors of powers will obviously create a perception that can be nothing but REALITY in the world of politics.
  • Instead of Establishing a Task Force/Commission for the REFORM AGENDA, they’ve succeeded in angering each other over how to contest National Assembly seats. Either side of the arguing is simply about consolidating power party or group power than it helps the reform agenda.
  • Tribalism! Personally I don’t believe Gambia has tribalism problem. I’m a MANDINKA (both my parents are BADIBUNKAS) and many can hardly tell because I have a LAST NAME that could be found in at least 3 ethnic groups (Mandinka, Jola & Serereh). I’ve neither benefited/harmed in Gambia because am a Mandinka nor have I seen anyone benefited/harmed because s/he is a Mandinka. Our problem is usually NEPOTISM – people in high places help those they know to get in. Nonetheless President Barrow and his team failed/ignored the multi-ethnicity of our country by going the extra step/mile to be inclusive. Hence lots of charter especially from corners that feel left out. Whether tribalism is true of not in The Gambia the perception out there and can be effective handle with open transparent transactions.
  • No separation of PUBLIC, PERSONAL and PARTY! Today Ministers and many public officials are running around town in our vehicles burning our gas. They are making private calls on publicly provided cell phones. They use our vehicles for party functions. These were among things we cried foul against Yahya. Why’re we repeating the same abuses and so soon? Do we care these are resources of people who are still waiting for 24/7 supply of clean domestic water
  • Mile 2 Prison and probably other detention centers are still populated with inmates under very bad inhumane conditions. Until such are change they should be relocated and/or freed. We can’t compromise human dignity if we believe in democratic principles and human rights. Yahya is no longer in charge and you are.

Each of these is serious missteps or missed-opportunities.  The dangers for any corrective actions are the apathy that befell our struggle after the surprising victory.

That is true because:

  1. This is our team and no body want to be counted out
  2. Many are now lobbying for jobs/positions of benefit
  • Others fear that will be chastised for any critical view

THE WAY FORWARD

Upon conclusion of National Assembly Election the government should make efforts to help our people organize/mobilize for THE REFORM AGENDA. The ultimate GOAL was and remained: ‘MAKING GAMBIA A FUNCTIONING INSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY’. 

For 52 years we are A PERSONALITY DICTATORSHIP/DEMOCRACY – meaning the person at the top dictate all else with or without our inputs (or blessing). President Barrow recently announced a NEW MINISTRY of PLANNING and GOOD GOVERNANCE at our expense without our consent.

In the proposed national debate we should be very deliberative and exhaustive on all subjects – small/big. It’s my honest view that debate should start with:

  1. What’s an independent democratic republic
  2. WHAT & WHO IS GOVERNMENT
  3. The role and scope of government
  4. How do we spread governmental power across our land

The role deals with what government should and/or should not be doing. For instance on February 18, 1965 is probably reasonable for Gambia Government to task itself having a radio station (Radio Gambia) to inform our people.  Can we justify that same role today?

The scope deals with size. The size is more relevant considering government is an OVERHEAD (cost) to the people. Thus the smaller the better! what’s not spend to maintain government in theory goes to service the needs/wants of the owners.! Small here is closely associate with relevancy.  For instances what would be justification opening up Ministry of Planning and Good Governance when that’s exactly what all the others should be good within their scope.

TO BE CONTINUED.

Written By Burama Jammeh

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