Enlightenment philosopher, Emmanuel Kant taught us that knowledge is not a mere aggregate of sense impression; rather it depends on the conceptual apparatus of human understanding.
Mr. President to hit the nail on the head, I must confess that your government’s recent moves, from your State of the Nation Address, to amendments in the constitution tabled before and approved by the National Assembly, to some of the statements you have made in recent days are the least encouraging.
To start with, I must confess that your address at the assembly chambers was vague, not elaborative and without a clear direction as to what specific plans your government has in tackling some of the most urgent challenges we are faced with. Not only was your statement vague, but you have left out some important issues key among which is corruption. It must be clear to you that this unfortunate synthetic phenomenon (corruption) is enemy number one to Africa’s progress. The millions and billions of dalasis the Gambia received for the various development projects under Jammeh were all squandered and left our country indebted with D48.3 billion both domestic and foreign combined.
Our public institutions are evidently corrupt, thus retarding our development in many ways. But it seems your government is not very committed to combating this public crime. Apart from establishing a Commission of Inquiry which is in line with the constitution, to look into the financial activities of former president Jammeh, his family and associates, there is no serious step taken to ensure that corruption is eradicated in our government. No specific plans are in place to address the ever increasing child rights violations.
Again, what is the government’s plan for the disabled people who deserve equal treatment like any other citizens? Apart from mentioning the availability of motor bikes and bicycles to village health workers, what specific plans does your government have to fight life threatening diseases and ensure that we live in a healthy nation? In the area of trade, apart from mentioning the trade agreement with the World Trade Organization and the signing of duty-free trade agreement between the Gambia and China, what steps is your government taking to ensure that our small market is not open to China which could help them compete with the local people and in terms of comparative advantage, what do we have to offer?
All these and other economic moves should be geared towards avoiding Balance of Payment Difficulties and boost growth and productivity for a healthy economy. These are little but if space is available, we could go further to scrutinize your full address on the various sectors.
Mr. President, it is evident without an iota of doubt that young people constitute over 60% of the population of the Gambia with a key role to play in our drive to development. Your government through the National Assembly has evidently betrayed and discriminated Gambian youths. Instead of amending the most needed and urgent provisions such as section 91 (1)D which has made the electorates powerless and the executive powerful as elected parliamentarians could lose their seats once they seize to be members of a political party, they (NAMs) went on to amend the upper age-limit just to suite the designated Vice President and the old politicians to run for presidency. It must be clear to you and those National Assembly members who have started betraying the nation that, we voted for a system change where power ought to belong to the people.
If upper age-limit of 65 is discriminatory, tell me how lower age-limit of 35 years would not be discriminatory. This is clear, our National Youth Policy in line with the African Youth Charter categorize youth between the ages of 15 and 35 who today form the cream of our society, yet they are discriminated in a broad day light by your government.
To remind you, the elders should even apologize to Gambians for they went out on July 22nd 1994 to support and endorse the illegal action of the gang of military bandits who hijacked our politics and raped our democracy in a broad day light. Not only did they stop at the endorsement but voted for the current constitution with its many flaws which openly and legally endorsed the military takeover as captured in the preamble. These same elderly people have voted for Jammeh in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011.
Mr. President, remember that young people were the foot soldiers of the 2016 campaign; they created the social media platforms and exposed the nakedness and evilness of the dictator. Those born in the 1990s were behind Jammeh’s downfall as majority of them became qualified voters in the last presidential election. They went out massively to kick out Jammeh, but yet they are discriminated as they cannot run for the country’s highest office of the land.
To those who ignorantly argue that one cannot entrust a country with a young person, you are on the wrong side of history and do not understand issues. Today, Robert Mugabi is old and he is mismanaging Zimbabwe’s meager resources, recently giving out $1 million dollars to the African Union which could help solve one or two problems in Zimbabwe. Not only is this old man mismanaging Zimbabwe’s resources but entrenched a dictatorship and showing no signs of vacating office. Arguing that 35 years is the ideal age for one to become president, Kleptocrat Mobutu came to power the same age and squandered Congo’s resources like no one’s business. Dawda Jawara was more than 35 when he came to power, but our public sector became an epitome of corruption. Arguing that Jammeh came to power at the age of 29 and became a dictator as one parliamentarian disappointingly pointed out is baseless.
Who in fact endorsed Jammeh’s illegal overthrow of our elected government in 1994? Of course, it was the old people and not the young ones as majority of those below 35 today were below 15 years at the time in 1994. When young people are entrusted with our vote at the age of 18, can run for parliamentary polls at the age of 21, can be entrusted with our armory to defend our country from external enemies as soldiers, what then should stop them from running for presidency? Interesting moments in our politics. So one can be 100 years or more and run for presidency but below 35 is unqualified. A 30 year old will certainly think positive and run a country in the right way than a 100 year old as certain old age in fact makes one a child. In light of this, I hereby challenge the National Youth Council and other youth bodies to protest against this constitutional discrimination.
In addition Mr. President, you made mention in your press conference or briefing with journalists last week that, the decision for you to serve for 3 years or 5 years rests with the Gambian people. Please be reminded that Gambians were never consulted when you were signing the three year agreement. The constitution says 5 years while the Coalition Pact outlined 3 years. Obviously the decision lies in your hands, but a personal opinion is for you to honour the Coalition Pact by effecting a constitutional reform within the 3 year mandate which will usher in a third republic and step down to allow the flow of democracy. Of course, you all knew when signing the agreement that presidential mandate per term is five years, yet you agreed to three years. It must be understood that from the onset, this government supposed to be a transitional government that will see to it that the most needed change Gambians have been yearning for is realized.
Let us hack back to 1994 when Jammeh came. He promised not to introduce dictatorship in this country and agreed with his counterpart military bandits (co-plotters) to return the country to civilian rule as it happens in guardian coups, but he became one of if not Africa’s worst dictator in the 21st century. You also came with a promise as agreed in the coalition pact to serve for three years and not to run for the next presidential polls, but it seems you have begun to think otherwise by trying to leave those decisions in the hands of Gambians as Jammeh has been saying, he will rule this country as long as Gambians wanted him to. You are also saying the same that you will step down if Gambians want you to and will continue if they want you to. This is not what we voted for Mr. President.
On asset declaration Mr. President, you made mention that the declaration shall remain secret. It may not be compulsory by law for it to be declared publicly but where is the accountability and transparency you are talking about? I am of the opinion that your ministers should declare their assets publicly for the sake of trust and confidence because they are public officials and not private officials. They will be managing public funds, thus there should be no secrecy in what they possess. But the decision to keep this secret shows your government’s lack of strong commitment to combat corruption by public officials.
In conclusion, our fear is coming back. We did not vote to have another rubber-stamp parliament but I am afraid our politics is being hijacked once more and if measures are not taken, our teenage democracy will be raped for another time. Our National Assembly must stand firm to ensure that decisions are not taken to serve the selfish interests of politicians against broader national interest. You must equally be ready as the president to at all time advance the interest of the nation and stand to serve all and not few. Be always careful of the statements you utter. We whole-heartedly have confidence and trust in you your Excellency to serve our much-loved country. Kindly do this to the best of your ability. May God bless all Gambians.
Yours in the service of the nation