By Omar Bah
Political analyst and human rights activist, Sait Matty Jaw, has advised President Adama Barrow to initiate a national dialogue with the opposition and civil society to end the hostilities in the country’s political and social conversations.
The bitter exchanges between President Barrow and the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) and the arrest of its executive members Momodou Sabally, Sheriffo Sonko, human rights activist Madi Jobarteh, and others have dominated the country’s political and social discourse for the past weeks.
Reacting to the tension in a Standard exclusive, Sait Matty Jaw said President Barrow should consider a national dialogue as a matter of urgency to help the country heal, which, if not addressed, could destabilise it.
“The amount of time he spends on engaging people, if he brings them together, I think people will respond. So, for me, the president should invite all the political leaders, civil society, and other stakeholders to discuss our challenges and, as well, use the opportunity to update them on the country’s transition, especially at a time when many people feel the country is not progressing in that regard,” he said.
Jaw said that in circumstances like that, a conversation is needed to address those misconceptions.
“Today, we expect that our political leaders should take us away from that kind of conversation to one that is more hopeful, where we as Gambians believe that with their guidance, we would be able to do better moving forward,” he added.
He said what makes the arrests of individuals even more difficult is that they remind people of the past. “Even though it may not be your intention to do that, Gambians are coming from a very difficult process, and they need to be sure that they can be allowed to participate in a democratic setting. This is what good political leadership should be able to do,” he noted.
He said when people are transitioning, it is important that they engage in conversation through national dialogue processes.
“I think I even saw the administrative secretary of the NPP, Seedy Ceesay, talking about plans to call for a national dialogue, and I saw how the UDP responded to that. So, I think the leadership of the parties should use that approach. This country needs that. We need to have all the political players, religious leaders, civil society, ordinary citizens, and all other stakeholders engage in a conversation that will help address our current challenges. But today, without a constitution and without a new legal framework, it has become difficult for all of us, and we start complaining and blaming each other, but we haven’t done what we are supposed to do”.
He said during the dialogue, stakeholders would come up with recommendations on how to bring a constitution or legal framework that would move “us from these distractions into a process where all Gambians will feel proud of being part of a process that could help to address the current challenges.”
The activist said civil society and the country’s international partners should support the process but insisted that President Barrow should lead it.
However, he expressed disappointment over the fact that civil society has not had the opportunity to sit with the government to discuss their activities and how they could contribute to the country’s democratisation process.
He said political leaders should not just be thinking about the elections but also the future of the country and its prosperity.