29.2 C
City of Banjul
Saturday, July 13, 2024

Gambian-Swede MP says gov’t excesses worrying

- Advertisement -
image 88

By Omar Bah

A Swedish MP of Gambian descent, Momodou Malcom Jallow, yesterday told The Standard that the current political climate in The Gambia under President Adama Barrow has caused significant and warranted concern due to increasing instances of repression against dissenting voices and political opposition.

“The case of Ebrima Dibba, a prominent opposition figure and Madi Jobarteh, a human rights activist epitomizes the broader trend of the administration’s aggressive stance toward its critics,” Jallow argued.

- Advertisement -

He said the recent actions of President Barrow, who ascended to power in 2017 and initially heralded a new era of democratic governance following the repressive regime of Yahya Jammeh, suggest a disturbing repressive trend that is far too familiar to the Gambian people and reminds “us of Jammeh government’s modus operandi that the Gambian people fought against.”

“The detention of opposition members, threats against journalists and activists have become a troubling pattern and deliberate strategy to silence opposition and intimidate potential critics and thus undermining the democratic gains the country aspired to achieve. This strategy not only stifles political discourse but also erodes public trust in the government’s commitment to uphold democratic principles,” he said.

Jallow added that the Gambia government’s justification, just like many governments that employ similar repressive practices for such measures, often revolves around maintaining stability and security.

- Advertisement -

“However, this rationale is increasingly viewed as a pretext for consolidating power and marginalizing dissent. True stability in any democratic society stems from robust political dialogue and the protection of individual rights, not from silencing opposition,” he stated.

Another current initiative that has sparked substantial criticism and controversy, Jallow added, is the Gambia government’s directive to the Gambia Police Force to conduct a “special security operation on illegal encroachment” along main roads.

“This initiative, intended to clear public roads of illegal vendors, has had severe repercussions on street vendors and local councils, with significant implications for the ruling party, particularly as elections loom in 2026. The informal sector, particularly street vendors, constitutes a significant portion of the Gambian economy. These individuals, many of whom are women, are disproportionately affected by the crack down. They rely on street vending as their primary source of income,” he added.

Jallow argued that many women, especially single mothers, depend entirely on their small businesses to sustain their families.

“The loss of their stalls not only threatens their economic stability but also increases their vulnerability. As women voters constitute a crucial segment of the electorate, their alienation could significantly impact the ruling party’s chances in upcoming elections. Ensuring economic stability and support for women is crucial, and the current operation jeopardizes this support base. This operation, if it continues on its current trajectory, will undoubtedly contribute to undermining the democratic image that President Barrow’s administration initially projected,” he stated.

He added that actions perceived as arbitrary and authoritarian could tarnish the ruling party’s reputation, making it appear disconnected from the populace’s needs and more concerned with maintaining urban aesthetics at the expense of the livelihoods of some of the most vulnerable populations in the Gambia.

“This shift in perception could drive voters away and may shift their support away from the ruling party, seeking leaders who manifest greater empathy, show engagement with public concerns, and leaders who better understand and protect their interests. As criticism and public dissatisfaction grows, these groups may find common cause in their opposition to the government’s policies, leading to more organized and effective campaigns against the ruling party. This unified front could galvanize broader support across various segments of society, posing a significant threat to the incumbents’ electoral prospects,” he noted.

Jallow stressed that the operation has led to the destruction of market stalls without providing viable alternatives, pushing these vendors into deeper economic hardship.

“This demographic is likely to feel betrayed by the administration’s actions. As trust erodes, so does the political legitimacy of the ruling party. The current approach to road clearing, marked by insufficient consultation and heavy-handed tactics, not only undermines economic stability for poor vendors and women but also risks eroding public trust in government actions that seem arbitrary and harsh,” he stated.

To mitigate these consequences, Jallow suggests, “the administration must adopt a more inclusive and humane strategy that addresses the economic realities of those affected.” “The situation calls for a more balanced and humane approach that considers the socioeconomic realities of those affected and involves them in the decision-making process to ensure equitable solutions. Failure to do so could result in a substantial shift in political support potentially altering the political landscape in the upcoming elections. Addressing the grievances of street vendors and ensuring fair, equitable treatment is not only a matter of justice but also a critical factor in maintaining political stability and support”.

Join The Conversation
- Advertisment -spot_img
- Advertisment -spot_img