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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Baa Tambadou’s checquered legacy

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By Burama Jammeh

The resignation of Abubacarr Baa Tambadou as Attorney General and Minister of Justice was announced last week. During his term in office, the following things happened under his watch:
1) Mr Tambadou served the Barrow administration for over three years that not only maintained every law in the book that Yahya used to abuse Gambians with the exception of few but also maintained government as was. They’ve since repealed and amended the age ceiling for the president and the vice president and as well lowered election registration fees. They have also maintained two ministries for education and others – got the point? Those constitutional amendments benefitted Ousainu Darboe and few others and not necessarily democracy. On the contrary, residency outside The Gambia remained a disqualifier for certain political participations. Remittances from this group accounts for 11% of our GDP. The Diasporans have also contributed immensely towards the victory that sent Yahya packing. Notwithstanding, these are citizens with constitutionally guaranteed rights to freely move and locate as they wish.

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2) Mile 2 and other incarceration centres remain in squalid, degraded and inhumane conditions unfit for human dwelling. We have seen those conditions from pictures and videos after the familiarisation visit of Mai Fatty as Interior minister and Baa as AG and Minister of Justice in the early days of this administration. Sadly, our fellow citizens and others including detainees of conscience are still being incarcerated in these facilities. Treatment of those whose freedoms are legally restricted (or taken away) is another measure of a nation’s adherence to democratic ideals. This problem can be fixed by dissolving Gambia National Army (Gambia truly does not need a standing army) and reassign some of the vacant installations as detention centre and free many of the non-consequential inmates.

3) Justice requires perpetrators of crimes account according to the laws for the crimes they have committed. Instead Barrow with the aid of Tambadou chose a politically palatable so-called reconciliation over justice in the form of a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission.
They are even paying victims with taxpayer dalasis. Gambians are billed for crimes they did not commit while the perpetrators are given warm handshakes for the courage to come forward. This is a complete injustice not only to the victims but our nation at large.

4) Security agents of Mr Tambadou’s administration allegedly shot and killed unarmed Gambians at Kanilai and Faraba Banta villages. This matter was quickly swept under the rugas no proper or independent investigation has been carried out. Except for the number of victims, these incidences are no different from those of April 10th and 11th, 2000. This administration has repeatedly deployed armed agents against all kinds of citizen events.

5) Our desires for a new constitution were grounded on democratisation and not for a welcome gift to Barrow. That process ought to be up and up. It should be democratic (the sovereign people of The Gambia should write their constitution – at a minimum our consent should be obtained) and wasn’t. It should be lawful and wasn’t. Both the National Assembly and president lack constitutional authority to repeal the existing constitution. The Act of National Assembly that authorised Barrow to set up CRC is unconstitutional. Good try but it’s upending constitutionality. The process is also setting a bad precedence in that future administrations could rely on this to write a new constitution to their favour. Lastly, the quality of the draft proposal is at best the same as the one it supposed to replace or worse. It certainly did not advance institutional democratic dispensation. It reaffirmed centralised Banjul control.

6) Citizens are stopped, questioned and searched on average every three kilometres on public roads. For instance, Brikama to Banjul (about 36km/22 miles) has 11 to 12 mounted police checkpoints on a given day. They ask where we are going, what we carry in our bags and pockets, what is in the trunk of our vehicles or under the seats, and so forth. This is so prevalent nowadays some police officers living in roadside villages made their own stop signs and use them during off-days to line their pockets. We all know these and seemingly accept them. They have no probable cause in over 90% of these stops, searches and seizures. This is an unwarranted invasion of our constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy and dignity. They claimed these are necessary for so-called national security. In an independent democratic republic, people’s rights are not perpetually suspended for some so-called national security. Good governments should (and can) provide relative security without infringing on our rights. History has that many state-sponsored abuses are perpetrated under the disguise of national security.

7)Investigations to determine truth whether named ‘commission’ or by public service auditors are always good. The problem with these named Investigative commissions doesn’t seem to be for truth but political endearment. It would be a hard sell if you remember the infamous Alghali Commission was about what the recent Janneh Commission was looking at. The goals of such investigations into improprieties should always be:
I)to determine wrong doings (or otherwise)
ii) recommend punishment of wrong doers (to deter repeat)
iii) recommend corrective measures (to prevent repeat)

Obviously, the Alghali Commission failed otherwise there would be no need for a Janneh Commission within a spread of about two decades. More importantly, though the queries of Janneh Commission are the everyday activities of their own administration. For instance, the Accountant General’s Office is still issuing memos to officials to open public bank accounts at all kinds of local bank branches all over the country. In addition, every citizen should be concerned over the cost of the commission as against what they are able to recover. It has to make economic sense otherwise it should not or do it in alternatives ways. We should also ask couldn’t these investigations be comprehensively done by public service audit officials. Don’t tell us they can’t. They should be fired immediately (take them off public payroll) if they can’t do their job.
8) The Ecomig occupation ought to end immediately. We are a sovereign nation. If an administration can’t rely on citizens – probably they don’t deserve to be the administrators

The effects of these failures are wasted three years that was anticipated to be democratic transition period – setting stage for a new horizon. Instead, many conflated Barrow’s mild-manners to democracy. Democracy is not about an individual (good, bad, ugly) –that’s called autocracy. Democracy is instead the people, laws and institution s.The Constitutional Review Commission’s proposed draft does not advance democracy, instead it reaffirms centralisation of governance at Banjul and in the executive.

Burama FL Jammeh is a Gambian who works and lives in the United States of America.

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