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Monday, October 18, 2021

Assessing 2017; looking forward to 2018

We started gloriously like a triumphant gladiator returning from a battle. We finally rid ourselves of a dictator. We banished him in January and swore you in as our new president, a democrat, we hoped. We anticipated rapid progress. W expected a swift transition from dictatorship to democracy. Some of the expectations were realistic while others were just unattainable.

Granted, there have been some advancements, some achievements which are worthy of mention; also, there have also been some epic failures on the part of government. We have been able to set up a complete cabinet (except a minister of Defence), we conducted national assembly elections, released all political prisoners or those wrongly imprisoned. We have seen a reduction in the tax on potatoes, onions and a reduction of transport fares. Our budget for 2018 has a reduction on taxation for the importation of rice which we hope will translate into cheaper rice for the ordinary man and woman in the street.

Furthermore, we have set up a Commission of Inquiry into the financial activities of former president Yahya Jammeh and his close associates. The Commission is doing a remarkable job so far. The setting up of the Truth, Reconciliation and Repatriation Commission (TRRC) was another achievement worthy of note. On the issue of the Rule of Law, we have registered remarkable progress as we are almost into the first year without any arbitrary arrests or detentions being reported. There is no police harassment or brutality. The ordinary citizens have now had the opportunity to voice out their opinions without fear of being arrested. All these achievements are worthy of note and Gambians and the international community are watching.

However, as hinted above, there have been some classic failures on the part of government which should – could have – been avoided. For Instances, several steps or false starts were taken which turned out to be unconstitutional. The amending of the age limit did not go down well with many citizens initially. Many would have thought that amending the law on term limits and the simple majority rule would have been the most urgent. That was not done and should have been.

But, perhaps, the most notable failure is that of the lack of a development blueprint which will show us (citizens) the way forward. It would have shown us in what direction the government is heading and enable us take part in the attainment of whatever goals were set. You promised us that the development blueprint will be out soon, it’s been months since you made that promise but we haven’t seen anything of the sort. Yet.

A lack of a clear and effective communications strategy remains your government’s most serious shortcoming, Mr President. Communication is very important in government. Even a government that has not achieved much could be made to appear to be the best in the world with a good communication strategy. You must work on that. Your government has provided the space for freedom of expression and that of the press but access to information remains a herculean task. This defeats the purpose of freedom of expression. This must change if you wish to touch base with the ordinary citizenry.
A lot remains to be done!
Have a good day Mr President.

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