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Thursday, January 21, 2021

End the siege and stabilise The Gambia

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By Samsudeen Sarr

The slogan “Gambia has decided” coined at the climax of the 2016 political impasse in the Gambia, by the opposition Coalition Party, fallaciously propagated the notion that it was the overwhelming majority of the Gambian electorate that voted the new government into power.

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Such an unsubstantiated supposition is still being touted around primarily by those who cannot see any relevance to their lives in the absence of being associated with the never ending “struggle” for change. I think it is an unnecessary distraction preventing Gambians from focusing on what is most important today for the unification rather than polarization of the nation along political lines.

Our obsession to maximize the demonization of the APRC and its leadership over the past three years has virtually crippled the nation’s ability to tackle its immediate problems and is, indeed, increasingly posing a threat to the stability of a very fragile country. Meanwhile contrary to expectations the APRC seems to be getting stronger and not weaker by the day.
I can understand the sentiment behind the presumption three years ago but if it has to drag on for this long without a silver lining in the dark clouds then something must be fundamentally wrong in the campaign.

Most critical among my concerns is the demoralizing effect of our endless political tug of wars on our national security forces whose responsibilities are indefinitely relegated to secondary functions, awaiting the implementation of an impractical security sector reform under study for three-squandered years. I will as a result keep on reiterating my dissension that Senegalese troops entrusted with the protection of our president while our Gambian security forces can do it better illustrates a sloppy agreement bound to fail sooner or later. President Sir Dawda Jawara tried it from 1981 to 1989 and ended up costing him his government in 1994.

If we choose to continue this senseless political bickering for power over the importance of casting our differences aside and tackling this existential burden of Senegal masquerading behind ECOMIG while wrecking havoc to our political stability, security foundation and economic viability then I guess we might as well formally surrender our sovereignty to them and concentrate better in the brawl to death. We must as a nation unify our efforts and speak with one voice to address the terms and conditions under which this haphazard deal with ECOWAS was hatched; and why the token forces from Nigeria, Ghana and Togo?
To halt the madness, I think it is well overdue to stop this misleading narrative that the majority of the Gambians necessarily voted the Coalition Party into power in the 2016 election. It was never so, and with the current fragmentation of the Coalition party, that impression must be totally inaccurate. Perhaps a quick flashback on those results will reorientate our minds for better understanding.

Disregarding the controversial second set of results from the IEC on December 5, 2016, the root cause of the impasse in the first place, let us once again take a look at the final results.
According to the IEC 886,578 voters were registered but only 59%, 525,963, turned out to vote.

why? That’s still beyond my pay grade.
The Coalition Party, the winners, got 227,708 votes, 43.3%; the APRC ruling Party second, 208,487, 39.6%; and the GDC third, a breakaway party from the APRC, got 89,768 of the votes, 17.1%. The combined votes of the APRC and the GDC totaled to 298,255; juxtaposing that number with that of the coalition’s 227,708, clearly proved the losers outnumbering the winners. Factoring the unmitigated disintegration of the coalition party lately, one can also assume those numbers to dwindle unfavorably. It will hence be purely counterproductive to keep on misleading the Gambians that the coalition or opposition still controls the majority and therefore has the mandate to persecute and lambaste all “guilty political enemies”.

In fact, the data above further put into question the moral and legal prerogative of the coalition stakeholders to formulate the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on which the action plan for transitioning the Gambia to a genuine democracy was derived.
I am still flabbergasted and in need of good answers to appreciate the juncture at which these stakeholders lost faith in the MOU that prevented them from endorsing it with their signatures?
But be as it may, I think the stakeholders’ failure to boldly stand by the MOU they “meticulously” constructed and publicly campaigned on, with every one of them recently sounding rather confused or guilty about its interpretation, underscores nothing but their denial to admit the failure of its principal objectives. Cardinal among them was to transform the Gambia for the first time since independence in “1965” to a modern democratic state finally free of self-perpetuating rule.

So unless I am convinced that such a patriotic propensity is no longer tenable, I will be left with no option but to continue exposing the treachery in their failure to challenge the Senegalese for zealously interfering in our internal affairs which only benefits them together with a few Gambian puppets rewarded for selfishly mortgaging the nation to their government. Whether the country knows it or not the Senegalese have actually taken control of the Gambia’s transition program since December 9, 2016 which I will continue to denounce until something is earnestly done about it.

It is however the disloyalty to the MOU that has also been causing a whole confusion among the stakeholders and by extension among the citizenry.
The MOU’s three years timetable, for instance, could have been four, five or even six years and would have still made no difference as long as the rudimentary objective of nipping the suffocating self-perpetuating rule in the bud was not compromised.

The battle anthem against the Jammeh leadership echoed around the permanent termination of self-perpetuating rule in the Gambia. Besides, the brilliant modus operandi of ensuring that the flag bearer upon victory was not going to contest the next election but would merely oversee the process for the other contesting political parties made the theory ever more important than the controversial timetable, central to the current commotion. Of course, avoiding the exploitation of incumbency advantage was the overarching principle.
Nonetheless, President Barrow has apparently violated that forbidden principle of never seizing or exploiting the advantageous incumbency ingredient; but when he did, all that I hear from the whining stakeholders is whether he should have done it after three or five years, driving the clueless masses into fighting over misplaced priority. The opposition to Mr Barrow for exhibiting the tendencies of a quintessential “self-perpetuating ruler” the Gambia had endured since independence, should have commenced the very day he announced his decision to contest the next election in contravention of the soul of the MOU; it is a clear message that he could be another President Sir Dawda Jawara (1959 to 1994) or President Yahya Jammeh (1994 to 2016).

So you can see why I am not thrilled with the fight over whether President Barrow should step down in three or five years when we all now know that the speculative target for his departure extends to as far a decade and a half. If he doesn’t step down and give the soul of the MOU the lifeline for its survival, I believe he can stay for fifteen years. Incumbency will take him there.

What will the stakeholders grumble about tomorrow if the president starts handpicking his own IEC loyalists, altering the draft constitution to suit his personal agenda instead of that of the people’s, using public funds and assets illegally, receiving unlimited and unaccounted for campaign funds from individuals, interest groups and the private sector, accepting donations from lobbyists at home and abroad and still gets well paid while campaigning to be reelected? Well, will they again split into dagger-drawing antagonists ready to slit each other’s throats over whether he should have acted in the summer or rainy season?
My next article follows soon.

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