By Tabora Bojang
Essa Njie a political science lecturer at the University of The Gambia has described President Adama Barrow decision to run in the just concluded election as a “set back” for the consolidation of democracy in the country.
Delivering his perspective on the election on The Brunch, a current affairs programme at Kerr Fatou Saturday, Mr Njie who holds a double masters degree in human rights and democratisation in Africa, as well as security and leadership studies argued that The Gambia’s best interest was for Barrow to have organised “this election” two years ago as proposed and promised in 2016, principally to consolidate democracy.
“His mission was to ensure a level playing field for all parties to contest without his influence or support. However, he participated in the election negating the lofty principles that laid the golden eggs which gave birth to the important political change he benefited from in 2016,” Njie said.
The UTG lecturer further observed that Barrow’s incumbency has not only given him advantage over the other parties but was also unfortunately used to play ethic cards during the elections, which according to him comes at the expense of Gambia’s democratic consolidation.
“Ethnic mobilisation is a serious threat to our democracy because victory for one [tribe] could be seen as a defeat for the other just like Dembo By Force [Presidential Adviser on religion] clearly insinuated at Barrow’s rally in Bakau days before election,” he said.
He disclosed that another threat to our democratic consolidation is that the president is going to be sworn in without a term limit in the constitution after his sympathizers in parliament dumped the draft constitution.
“We saw in Guinea [Conakry] where there was no term limit and Alpha Conde came, introduced it and removed again. So President Barrow could, as he promised, introduce a term limit and insist that his coming mandate [2021-2026] is not going to be counted, which effectively could mean he can run until 2036,” Njie said. The political science lecturer warned that such a system of entrenchment could also result in weakening the opposition parties with politicians abandoning their parties to join that of the president. “Barrow is likely to control the parliament in the next parliamentary elections and if he succeeds in doing so, the opposition will be weakened. We have seen the dismal performance of GDC and PDOIS in this election even though most of us thought that PDOIS was going to perform better compared to previous elections. So there could exist what we call political cooptation. We have seen before the election most of the rejected independent candidates and parties have joined Barrow and this is going to lead to a tendency of opposition parties abandoning their parties. Parties like NRP and PPP are almost dead now. APRC and GDC may suffer similar fates. Even UDP despite being the strongest opposition party might lose some of its influence and people to the NPP and once that happens there will not be any credible opposition which will lead to a tendency for self-perpetuating rule and lack of accountability”, Njie warned.
“For us to be able to consolidate our democratic gains the opposition now has bigger work to do. They should tighten their belts to stop Barrow from controlling the parliament because if he does then we are doomed,” he said.