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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Blood on their hands: We need paradigm shift in governing Gambia

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By Burama FL Jamm

The full force of our laws should come down hard. Some presidential proclamation is not enough. Nor are bogus investigation an answer to this degradation of our people. A holistic legal and governance overhaul is the ONLY lasting solution.

Those who ordered deployment of armed police forces on villagers dancing to show their dislike of one thing or another. Armed Police should NEVER be sent to ANY PEACEFUL GATHERING of our people – whatever the purpose of such event. One of the reasons (and probably the only good reason) for PERMIT ISSUANCE to grant public events is to officially notify police an expected number of people, time, place and purpose. Such adequate notification is supposed to inform police readiness in the event maintenance of law and order become necessary. Permit issuance and/or denial is NOT for what it has been used by all (including Barrow’s) our governments.

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Those who shoot at dancing villagers whether under the command of superior officer(s) and/or simply acting on their own should be investigated and be subject to our criminal justice system. No one (including President of The Gambia) has any lawful authority to kill another Gambian without lawful court order.
Gambia Government (and/or President of The Gambia) has NO UNLIMITED POWERS. Government and/or presidential powers are quarantined by our constitution. Any act beyond those limits is wrong and illegal. EVERYTHING (AND I MEAN ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING) that our government does has to be in accordance with The Constitution and/or Law(s) of The Gambia.
The Constitution of The Gambia has guaranteed FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND ASSOCIATION. By definition government cannot restrict such in ordinary circumstances. Dancing in the streets of Faraba Banta can only be as ordinary as ordinary itself.

The ROOT CAUSE of our societal, economic and political problems are BAD GOVERNMENTS AND GOVERNANCE. The solutions to these problems are not mere personnel reshuffling, writing another nice wish-list called National Development Plan, brainwashing our kids by using them as tools of intimidation/inducement and/or bunkering and enlarging the outdated inherited colonial dictation government without any due regard to democracy, civil liberties and prosperity.
Hereunder is Burama’s prescription/solution to this malice. This is neither thinking inside nor outside the box. This is thinking away from the box and taking into account our founding creeds of Independence, Republic and Democracy.

This is only possible if and when we have A WILLING PEOPLE IN GOVERNMENT ready to truly empower our people. That doesn’t seem likely at least by the action of this government. A clear demonstration of that is the abandonment of their own Coalition Agreements. The only or way is to ORGANIZE AND MOBILIZE THE USE OF OUR SOVEREIGN POWERS as the owners of The Gambia. This is not easy and may take long time – that’s simply a given in almost all social engineering efforts.
Here are what has to happen:
Rewrite The Constitution: Among others……
Recognize our status (not establish), Gambia is an Independent Democratic Republic. This is important in that THIS IS A GIVEN, hence no person including government can change that status as Yahya attempted in making us an Islamic state.
Reaffirm the supremacy of our RIGHTS. Re-establish rights that cannot be curtailed (or under what circumstances can they be curtailed)
Redefine presidential authority and it limits
Set Term Limits – presidency, National Assembly, Justices, etc.

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Remove ALL Military decrees
Separation of Powers (co-equal branches) – Legislature >>> Executive >>>> Judiciary
Abolish presidential appointment of Regional, District and village functionaries to election by those they serve
Make appointments/firing of certain into government functions a shared responsibility with a view to reduce politics and intimidation
Recognize a decentralized governing arrangement with defined roles and scopes
On and on
Decentralization, Restructure Government and Apportionment of Roles and Scopes
The chart is a radical departure from the old colonial dictation all 3 governments seem to worship as a prophecy. It reflects democracy in the context of Gambia’s socio-cultures and traditional boundaries. Governing broken down into 4 layers. Each layer will have specified roles and scopes (see below). Each layer has 3 co-equal branches to equally share governing. Those functions will be hired and fired through democratic elections except the Supreme Court jurors that will be appointed through shared responsibility of the other 2 branches. No layer is boss or subordinate of the other. All functions subject to some term limit. Each layer of government will be entitled to determine proportion of national resources to support her service delivery functions.

This will even out utilization of national resources across our land; that will ultimately result to appreciating property values hence more tax resource. It will curb the bad rural urban drift and increase productivity. Our people will be their own government hence safeguards their interests. Vertical accountability and horizontal competition will spur prosperity. This is win-win for all except the kleptocrats who want to perpetuate the status quo for their pockets.


Proposed roles & scopes of each government
Banjul/Central/National Government
· Territorial integrity
· Foreign relations
· Immigration/Naturalization
· Inter-Regional Infrastructure
· Monetary Policy and minting of National Currency
· Scientific Research
· National Guard/Field Forces – 1000 men/women for presidential security, provide additional support as maybe needed in acute public disorder, ceremonial duties, national intelligence
· Courts – Supreme Court, High Court and Appeals Courts
· Ministry Coordinating National Development, Commerce & Services
· Environment and natural water Divisional/Regional Governments
· Regional infrastructure & services
· Regional Lands, Agriculture, Forestry & Natural Resources
· Regional Health
· Regional Education
· Regional Public Safety/Law and Order – all regional policing and public safety
· Regional Social data compilation and safe keeping
· Regional taxation and appropriations
· Courts – Regional courts
· Regional Elections Administration
District Governments
· District infrastructure & services
· District Lands, Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources
· Environmental sanitation and primary health care services
· Social data collection and management
· District Tribunals, Cadi-Courts and arbitration
· District Elections Administration
Municipal Governments
·Annual property rates collection/accounting
· Documentation and Reporting entries/exits to/from the village
· Registration of birth/dead of the village
· Setting village ordinances
Dissolve the Army, PIU, Gendarmerie, SIS, etc. Gambia does not need a standing army and all these other repressive security units. Gambia cannot realistically put together a traditional fighting force that can win an arms conflict with any foreseeable possible enemy. On the other hand, we cannot have an army sorely to fight/kill our citizens. As stupid as that may sound that’s exactly what we have done since the enactment of Armed Forces Act in 1984.

Government has unlawfully deployed armed members of GNA at public gathering including football games, political rallies, etc. Sibanor, Kanilai and Faraba Banta are few recent examples. These deployments are unlawful by the letter and spirit of our constitution. Members of GNA and other forces has used their uniforms and guns to interfere in private matters for self-servicing purposes.
A good democratic government of The Gambia will be wise to outsource the true defence our national territorial integrity on international law and free nations of the world. A well-sized, trained and equipped police forces will be adequate for our law and order needs. Since 1994 the combined annual costs of these so-called security agencies ranged from 25-50% of National Revenue. This is a major source of impoverishing our nation while constricting our civil liberties and freedoms.

The argument for these agencies as a source employment is economically counterproductive to throw money into areas that fall short of cost benefit equilibrium. Our nation will be better serve by investing the same money into productive sectors – these will employ Gambians and as well expand our GDP (size of our economy). That means more employment, more consumption and more tax revenues. That cycle of reinvestment leads to prosperity. Begging and contracting loans to handout wages to employees of unproductive sectors are recipe for long term poverty and despair.
Every Gambian should understand the job of government is not to employ every Gambian. The job of our government is to protection us and provide (directly or indirectly) our needed common welfare services. Public employment is only a good by-product.


Divest all state-owned enterprises (parastatals).
These services provision efforts were placed at-arms-length from central government not because they weren’t public money but because government was badly inefficient and corrupt. However, over the years we have seen the slow but sure return of these organizations into central government authority. Yahya started it (in fact called some of SOEs his personal business) and Barrow is doubling down the same path. Barrow recently signed loan agreement for GPA and on record promised to build a state of the art port at Banjul. Modern port facilities are good except those are the central function of the Managing Director and his/her Board of Directors of GPA. The only function of central government over these businesses is to audit them based on performance contractual agreement obligations to ensure Dividends are paid and satisfactory services delivered to our people. After over 30 years of this trial we have seen dwindling service qualities, higher usage costs and massive corruptions.

Noticed that the non-tax revenues of our appropriation bills from 1994 – 2018 is less than d1 billion/year. This account supposed to account for the combined dividend payment to government. The total holding of that account is less than D1b. They are probably not meeting their contractual obligations otherwise one would assume the contributions of 8/9 organization should be more than D1b. It is even worse if you realized the fact that the same account holds administrative fees, royalties, etc. that government collects or charges for various services.
In addition Gamtel/Gamcel service quality are abysmal and not expanding coverage, Do I have to talk about NAWEC, we are bailing out GPA, GPTC is long gone, SSHFC is wasting the little pension funds at housing projects and supporting government wage bills and on and on…….. Terrible state of affairs!
The fix is not to make the president General manager of The General Managers of these SOEs. The answer is to sell them to private investors. Government’s role will be limited to providing conducive regulatory environment that allows ethical investment and protect consumer interest. Private money will compete for citizens business by been efficient, offer quality and be cost competitive. This is a winner for all. Finally, government will collect more taxes and enable her perform our work.
There were good justifications for our government to own and run radio Gambia/GRTS in 1965 – in the 21st century Gambia no such reasons stand any test of good governing.
They only want to hang on to these businesses so they can loot as much as possible. We should say no.
Civic education and awareness creation. People are the true custodians of democracy and not governments. We cannot be under any illusion that our citizens can perform such important duty without the requisite know-how and skill sets.

We ought to bring our educators, social-scientists and historians to develop national education curriculum on Gambia Government and Democracy. This should be made a graduation requirement from Primary 1 to undergraduate level at UTG. The same can be translated into Arabic and French for those schools in the Gambia.
The non-school going population can be targeted through radio/TV and as well different NGOs/CSOs programs.
This is the only assured way of creating able owners of an Independent Democratic Republic of The Gambia.

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