By Omar Bah
President Adama Barrow has defended his government’s respect for rule of law, saying he will never deviate from the dictates of the country’s constitution.
The president has been heavily criticised by opponents and human rights activists who fear he is gradually sliding the country back to autocratic rule using the playbook of Yahya Jammeh by using state machinery to silence critics.
The recent and ongoing detention of opposition UDP’s campaign manager, Momodou Sabally for example, has drawn sharp criticism from politicians and activists who alleged that Mr Sabally is being targeted for political reasons.
But addressing delegates and cabinet ministers at his National Peoples Party’s first national congress yesterday at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Conference Center, the Gambian leader reaffirmed his government’s commitment to the respect for rule of law and good governance.
The president added that like everyone else, he is aware that the country is bigger than any single person, political entity, or any other group of persons.
“I promise never to turn away from the Constitution, with which you entrusted me the task of defending the nation. I reassure you that the progress and development of The Gambia is my priority,” he added.
He argued that the NPP under which he was re-elected into office holds strongly onto promoting and consolidating the values of democracy, respect for human and peoples’ rights, and the rule of law, nationally and globally.
“As we forge ahead, therefore, we are determined to preserve, promote, and strengthen good democratic governance. These universal core values constitute some of the cardinal principles of our Party manifesto and philosophy, hence we will never abandon them,” he told his supporters.
He added that from Kartong to Koina and across the Diaspora, Gambians express themselves freely, without fear.
“This is evidenced by the various thriving social media platforms, newspaper editorials, radio and TV shows, and commentaries. After decades of struggles for freedom, we now have a new democracy with a wide latitude of freedom. In fact, ours is a maturing democracy that has already earned global recognition and commendation,” he added.
In the past, he added, “making such bold statements was unthinkable, but this is the reality of the day. It is a remarkable achievement for the entire Gambian nation”.
“But we must appreciate that it takes a united people to move a nation; that is, a nation bound together, without any barriers of ethnicity, religion, or social status. Thus, one Gambia, one nation, one people’ should be our mantra. Upon assuming office in 2017, the first concern for me and my government was to act quickly to accomplish this mission.
Successfully, we have transitioned from an isolated nation to a respected partner on the global stage,” he added.
The Gambian leader said it is long overdue for “us to work collectively, and do away with hate, extremism, religious divides, tribalism and insults that pose threats to our unity and stability”.
“Within this framework, I implore the media fraternity to be mindful of the principles that guide the important role of the media on our development and democratic governance agenda. Journalism and media commentaries should be impartial, balanced, objective, truthful, accurate, non-partisan, and should serve as inspiration to all fair-minded persons,” he added.
Turning to congress matters, President Barrow said the formation of NPP began with the Barrow Youth for National Development, followed by the Barrow Fan Club, which developed into a political council.
He commended the various personalities, groups, and associations whose political commitment, vision, selfless sacrifice, and love for country led to the formation of the NPP.
“The NPP Government remains determined to work with all committed Gambians to transform our loved nation into a haven of democracy, with a longer-term and more robust development programme,” he said.
He said the NPP will continue to prioritise peace, security and stability in the Smiling Coast of Africa.
“We will strive harder to fight corruption and crime, protect lives, property and livelihoods, and improve living conditions. I advise the delegates and party members to rally and support the new Executive, once elected. Let us depart this venue as a united force. It was through unity that the young NPP surmounted all challenges and made history in 2021,” he added.
Barrow reassured: “The person I was before becoming president is the same person I will continue to be even after I am no longer president. I have even advised my family to remain who they are and never change.”