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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Celebrating the people of Senegal! Only the people can liberate themselves!

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By Madi Jobarteh

When men and women without conscience are entrusted with public office, they turn it into a tool for self-aggrandisement. They personalise public institutions and resources and then weaponise laws against the very people who put them in power. They demonstrate total disregard of the constitution and public interest as they violate every democratic rule and rights of citizens just to entrench themselves in power. This was what President Macky Sall demonstrated, and happily aided and abetted by a bunch of unconscionable public servants in the civil service and the security sector.

This validates the conclusion that the scum of the scum of the African society can be found primarily within the politicians and the public servants. Macky Sall was able to flout the constitution of Senegal and trample upon the sovereign rights of the Senegalese people thanks to officials in the legal, security and justice delivery institutions. These were individuals who were willing to arbitrarily arrest and torture, and then impose trumped up charges just to illegally jail innocent citizens and make mockery of the constitution. The story of Macky Sall and those dishonest public servants can be seen in each and every African country to varying degrees.

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That withstanding and for that reason too, we must celebrate Senegalese people and their organisations, political parties, and institutions for their resolute stand to defend their sovereignty and constitution against tyranny. The stance that the judges of the Constitutional Council took in ensuring that the constitution prevails deserve commendation. It shows that strong institutions are fundamental and indispensable if democracy and good governance are to work. But strong institutions cannot exist without strong-willed and ethical public servants who are determined to uphold the law by any means.

The position taken by the Constitutional Council reminds me of the former head of the FBI in the United States James Comey who was sacked by another dictator, President Donald Trump because Trump wanted personal loyalty from public servants. By then the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign to determine if there was collusion with the Russians. Comey is a man who believes in ethical leadership which he said is “about building workplaces where standards are high, and fear is low”. He believed that “there is a higher loyalty in all our lives — not to a person, not to a party, not to a group. The higher loyalty is to lasting values, most important the truth”. For that matter he believes ethical leaders never ask for loyalty. I encourage every African, more so the public servants, to read his book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership to gain some guidance and inspiration.

As we commend the Constitutional Council, it is also in place to commend scores of other elected and appointed public servants in the Senegalese National Assembly and across the public service who stood their ground to refuse aiding and abetting Macky Sall’s misconduct. Not only the parliamentarians of the Pastef coalition, but other parliamentarians in other parties have all demonstrated that at the end of the day the effectiveness of public institutions and strength of  democracy in Africa shall be determined by conscientious public servants who have loyalty only to the truth and the public, and not to fellow men and women.

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The bulk of the commendation should go to the individual men and women of Senegal who stood their ground over the past years to refuse any attempt by Macky Sall and his stooges to subvert the constitution and dishonour the republic. In their various citizen groups and communities, these ordinary Senegalese people demonstrated that a people who are conscious of their rights and determined to defend them are indeed invincible. By their strong position, Macky was first forced to withdraw from illegally seeking a third term. When he wanted to postpone the election by manipulating laws and unscrupulous officials within the institutions, the citizens of Senegal stood their ground that the election will have to be held, and he must step down by April 2.

In solidarity with their political parties, the media and the wider civil society, Senegalese people came together to create a vanguard movement, “Arr Sunu Election” to demonstrate that sovereignty of the nation resides in the people from whom all agents and organs of the state derive their power and legitimacy. The people of Senegal indeed have shown that democracy, ultimately, is not created and delivered by the president or the parliament. Rather democracy is created and defended by the people themselves first and foremost as their right and duty.

If there is a lesson that Gambians and indeed all Africans must learn from the Senegalese people, it is to recognise that no one can liberate the people other than the people themselves. It is to realise that leaders are nothing but servants who must be checked. It is to realise that until citizens stand up without compromise to make sure leaders face consequences for their decisions and actions the dream of liberty and prosperity shall remain unattainable. The lesson that must be drawn from the Senegalese people and their conscientious public servants is that our loyalty and allegiance should not be to any president or political party but only to the nation and the constitution. No more. No less.

Today the Senegalese people are the victors and victims at the same time. After having been betrayed by both the AU and Ecowas, the people of Senegal have salvaged themselves and guaranteed the sanctity of their republic. This journey must continue by ensuring that President Bassirou Diomaye Faye is also put under close monitoring to abide by the constitution and always uphold public interest. Africans must tire of fighting for leaders who are ushered into power with much fanfare only for them to turn against the people in a flash! There must be no complacency. For that matter, the Senegalese people must ensure that all perpetrators of human rights violations and disrespect of the constitution are identified and punished starting with Macky Sall. This is necessary to prevent a recurrence and impunity. There must be justice and accountability.

“No one man or one woman can liberate a people. Only the people can liberate themselves based on their conscious actions,” said civil rights leader and pan-Africanist Kwame Ture. Long live Senegal. Bravo to the people of Senegal.

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