By Lamin Cham
The pressure group that emerged from the disintegration of the Coalition 2016, 3 Years Jotna yesterday gave up to 10th January for President Adama Barrow to drop his ambition to complete the five years or he will be forced out.
The group came out to ask the President to honour his promise to serve only three years as agreed by his coalition partners.
Mr Barrow has since made his intention to serve the full five-year term as mandated by the constitution.
Their message, which outlined their stand on the matter, was itself chaotically delivered after an initial attempt to pass it to Presidential Spokesman Ebrima Sankareh failed, with the official retreating under tight escort from a rowdy crowd who shouted he was either too junior for the role or must find his way to the edge of the gigantic crowd across the bridge.
Sankareh told The Standard in a casual encounter that the crowd would not let their own leaders to deliver the letter to him and he had to leave as they got hostile.
He did come back after the leaders of the protest restored order.
The petition partly reads: “Unless you act as petitioned in this letter, which is for you to announce before the 19 January 2020, the date you will be holding presidential elections, as envisaged in the Coalition Agreement of 2016, in which you will not be a participant and will handover power to your successor, we demand that this presidential election be staged before or on the 9 September 2020 but not later than that date. We further demand that before the 18 of February 2020, an amendment bill for Section 46 of the Constitution be tabled before the National Assembly, where we believe there will be sufficient support for that amendment.
We believe such an amendment to our current constitution, which is long overdue, will enable you to fully implement the noble ambitions of our Coalition 2016 Agreement. Any negation to the above, your Excellency, will have dire consequences for our country and our future. We thus hope, for the sake of our much cherished national treasure of peace and stability of the Gambia, you will see sense and do the honourable thing and make plans for a peaceful and impartial presidential elections to take place before the 9 of September 2020; which you will not participate and will be an impartial arbiter for the sake of our country’s future and the a successful conclusion to our Gambian story of defeating tyranny through the ballot boxes and replacing it with a successful democratic transition, that enjoyed freedom, rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms, capped by impartial democratic presidential elections akin to none”.
The demo, clearly the biggest in Gambian history passed peacefully with tens of thousands lining up the in-bound lane to Banjul from Sting Corner. They chanted slogans like ‘Adama Barrow, don’t steal our new found democracy’, Ecowas come and get your Adama Barrow’, ‘an agreement is an agreement’.
What started as a trickle early in the morning ballooned into a torrent of people gathering at Sting Corner.
A large contingent of police both in riot and normal gears was on hand liaising with protesters in observance of the conditions of the permit.
Sheriff Ceesay, a key member of the movement said the Gambian people have responded en masse to their call to remind President Barrow that he is not dealing with ignorant bystanders but people who are ready and willing to take part in the future of their country and the kind of leadership they want.
“This is a warning,” he said, “and I hope he takes heed in the run up to January 21 when the three years will have ended officially.”
Yankuba Darboe, another diaspora sympathizer of the group addressed the gathering with a call for vigilance by the people to protect their rights.
“We voted against self-perpetuation in power, among others and I urge you to keep pushing to make your leaders accountable,” Darboe said.
Earlier, he told journalists that the Group will henceforth pile pressure on Barrow both domestically and internationally so that his refusal to keep his promise will leave him discredited and unreliable. ”We believe that continuous pressure will bear fruit because Mr Barrow has placed himself at a morally unacceptable corner and soon he would realize that leaders are what they say they are,” Darboe said.
Binta Camara, a protester from Kairaba Avenue said Adama Barrow is testing people’s patience as part of his grand scheme to entrench himself to power. ”It is now between us and him and we are not relenting. This is a warning. He has not seen the worst,” she warned.
Basiru Jarju, who claimed he came from Senegal only to attend the protest, accused President Barrow of being a mere tool in the hands of people with sinister ambition.
“Just imagine people who should have been in prison now surrounding and hijacking our president using him to protect them in the name of helping him to stay in power to further send us back to dark days,” he complained.
The number of protesters swelled as the procession departed to Denton Bridge with spontaneous singing and dancing by youth groups who denounced President Barrow as a traitor.