Re-thinking governance in Africa: The Gambia as case study

By Abdoukabirr Daffeh

Moyo in Helco and Carolyn Adams (2009) argued that if governance is to bear any meaningful achievement that will result in eradication of poverty and sustainable development, it must be premised on a comparative public policy analysis on what work before and what failed before. They pointed out that the setting up of priorities for the gains of governance needs to address the how, why and to what effect different governments pursue particular courses of actions or inactions (Moyo 2009)
According to comparative public administrativists like Heady Ferrel and Jamiln Jreisat, comparative study of institutions, process and behaviors helps a government to set clarity on what path a government should follow to achieve the needed development. They noted that government needs to be performance oriented and most be detach from all form of clienteles.

Valentine Ameli, observed ethnic activism and political entrepreneurship are at the heart of bad governance in Africa. He noted that if governments most succeed they need to address the desired aspirations of the people who voted them in power, they need to only work within the armpit of the law and national institutions .According to him the challenge of African governance is the personalization of development projects in the name of a leader.

Lord Action warned that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely». If history is to have any significance, it is to draw lessons for national development.
In the 22 year rule of President Jammeh, the Gambia is not sort of history that we could draw lessons from. The personalization of state projects into private names was the mantra for the past 22 years lest we forget the findings from the Janneh Commission.

Africa according to Prof Moyo in Harry Bourgoin in L’Afrique Malade du Management noted that Africa is sick because of bad governance and leaders who failed to set priorities .She argued that many leaders in the continent pursue projects that would only strengthen their grip in power instead of the national good .
According to Kofi Annan, Africa’s crisis and underdevelopment is as a result of the manifestation of bad governance and structural sin that continues to grip the continent in a vicious cycle of poverty and underdevelopment (Annan 2000).

Mahmood Mamdani argued that the beginning of the 1980s witnessed a gradual but concerted attempt to reverse the governance despair and disenchantment which undoubtedly characterised the development trajectory of the continent (Mamdani 1996). He argued that the long years of political maladministration and bad government in the continent left most African states economically paralyse .As such Mamdani contended that Africa’s prolonged poverty and underdevelopment is the result of bad governance and institutional failures (Mamdani 1996).

Godwin Moyo and Adejumobi also argued that democratic governance which guarantees freedom and rights of all human beings is the only alternative to ensure development in the continent and eradicate poverty (Moyo 2009, Adejumobi 2000).

According to the World Bank’s 1989 report, it affirms that the litany of Africa’s development problem and poverty, is the crisis of governance. The report advanced that exercise of political powers to manage the nation’s affairs and ensure sustainable development remains unfulfilled in the continent. According to the World Bank, state officials in many African countries have served their own interest without fear of being called to account (World Bank 1989).It argues that development in most African states becomes personalised and patronage is seen as the way to get development favours in the continent (World Bank 1989).This undoubtedly is believed to be the manifestation of the entrenched poverty and underdevelopment in the continent.

In the later report of the World Bank 1994, it observed that learning from the lessons of SAPs (structural adjustment programs), adjustment alone cannot put Africa on a sustained poverty reducing path. It affirms that good governance and institutional building is the alternative for the underdevelopment and poverty in Africa (World Bank 1994).

It is agreed by many thinkers that the Gambia has changed fundamentally in widening the political space and has the potentials to restore democracy and governance if it sets priorities right.
However, it is relevant to ask the question how far have we come as a nation? What is the thesis of the new Gambia? What kind of future do we intend to build?
While president Barrow seems to be performing well in strengthening democracy in the Gambia, it is only prudent to remind him that he is a transitional president whose mandate lies between 3 /5 year term. Bearing that in mind why the need for the Barrow Youth Movement? What is the composition, strategic objective and TOR of the Barrow youth movement?

In the president’s interview with the Fatunetwork, he confirmed that these are Gambian youths who are prepared to help him, he noted that they have their own constitution and he (Barrow) will empower them.
Thus the question to be asked is how different are these youths from the rest of 60% of our youths? Does the Barrow youth movement serve a different function the National Youth Council cannot do? It is only far-sighted to conclude that the Barrow Youth Movement is an “old wine in a new bottle”. It is a re-incarnate of the Green Youth movement of Jammeh who are only bent to do the bid for Jammeh.

The president needs not to be reminded that as a transitional president, his mandate must be pigeonholed with setting the Gambia on a good democratic transition, contribute to consolidate the democratic gain of the Gambia, use his good office to bridge the national divide and set a good economic recovery scheme for the Gambia. The President should be retold that he should not bite more than he can chew. The Barrow Youth Movement is a “necessary evil” that will only stain the effort of the presidency to ensure a transitional democracy. Lest we forget so soon the activities of the green youths.

The president at this material time does not need any movement trademarked in his name.
It is often said that most leaders in Africa have clear intention on how their country should strive but soonest they settled in power, they got consumed in power simply by the activities of people around them who arguably are only self-serving. Many political commentators believe Jammeh would not end as brutal dictator if he was not misled by the people around them.

As a transitional President, Barrow should only work with the entire Gambian youths through the National Youth Council to set priorities right for our country.
His immediate task should centre on reforms, amend the constitution and set in a two term limit, strengthen democratic institutions in the Gambia that will ensure accountability, probity and transparency as well as setting up economic recovery scheme for the Gambia.

The transition period 3/5 year is short. Therefore, the new government needs to prioritise reforms and institutional building, this will lay a formidable ground for successive governments to strive.
It is said that history will always have a say, thus it is the choice of man to build the kind of history that will be told of him.

References
G Moyo (2009).African Public Administrations: The effective Management of Personnel, Edwin Mellen Press: New York
C Anan K, (2003). Global action against corruption, the Merida paper: United Nation office on drugs and crime p1-11
C Christopher (2017) .Ethnic conflict in Africa: The case of Rwanda: University of Yaoundé
M Mamdani (1996).Citizenship and Subject, Fountain Publishers: Kampala, Uganda
V Ameli (2003). Cameroon: The Tribulations of Democratic Transition, CODESTRIA: Dakar

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