By Mustapha Darboe
President Adama Barrow’s recent comment on the Coalition’s 3 –year term agreement has sparked a heated debate among Gambians on social media. The President told journalists last week that the decision to live by the 3- year agreement with his coalition government is left to the people.
Adama Barrow was backed by seven opposition parties and an independent candidate against Yahya Jammeh all of which agreed he will only serve for three years as a transitional leader.
“People are bigger than parties,” he said, referring to their agreement, which was reached by parties ahead of the December election. “If people say I should go I will go. So it is the people who will decide now.”
This comment stirred debate among Gambians on social media sites and public forums.
Madi Jobarteh, a Gambia rights activist said the president’s statement was “disappointing.”
“He cannot say it that way. They agreed to it (3 years) even though they know the term is 5 years. Hence he cannot just ignore the MoU and insist on five years. No one forced them to state three years,” Jobarteh argued.
Jobarteh said while a neglect of their agreement by Barrow might not be illegal constitutionally, it will affect the public confidence in his government as “honest gentlemen and ladies”.
Early April, Barrow’s spokesperson during the transition and now a national assembly member, Halifa Sallah said: “It was our conviction that if President Barrow leads the example of limiting his own term then no other leader will ever emerge again that will go beyond two terms.”
He however recognized that the constitution only provided for a five-year term for the president.
Kebba Singhateh, an opposition activist who was secretary to the committee that sat over the opposition coalition and convention talks that voted Barrow, said they had a gentleman agreement but they were aware that it was against the constitution which states 5-year term for the presidency.
Singhateh said at the time they were discussing the agreement they were open to reviewing it.
“Personally, I would want the president to complete the term. We are faced with a transition that requires a lot in terms of institutional and constitutional reforms as well as severe economic challenges that concluding five years is the most logical option,” Singhateh said.
A Gambian political activist and blogger, Sidi Sanneh, said he is of the view that Barrow and his team of leaders will “put the country first” in their decisions.
Abdou Karim Sanneh, a Gambian based in the UK wrote:
“President Adama Barrow should stop using the name of Gambian people in this three years coalition agreement. Gambian people were not consulted when they were making that agreement. We know the constitution stated five years mandate and their MoU agreement was three years. It is three years mandate that they campaigned on during the Presidential election.
Giving that there are lot of pending issues to be dealt with, the truth and reconciliation commission, security and civil service reforms, Gambia need a constitution and that may require holding a referendum. Mr President you are an independent coalition. Reach out to your coalition partners for an extension of your mandate to complete what needs to be done. We know lot of work is needed to be done to widen the space of inclusive, functional and participatory democracy. Let no political party use your presidency as a partisan advantage and stop using the name of Gambian people. We were never consulted during the MOU agreement, so reach out to your partners and sort it out.”