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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Gov’t urged to convene national dialogue to calm political tension

By Omar Bah

Lamin Keita, a Gambian PhD fellow at the Northwestern University in the US, has urged the government to convene a national dialogue of political parties to address the prevailing tensed political situation in the country ahead of the 4 December election.

“The initial reaction to the voter registration is a referendum that depicts that Gambians went to the registration centres with widespread anger. This is why I want to urge the government to make it a responsibility to call a national dialogue with political opponents,” Keita told The Standard.

He said The Gambia is only one of several West African nations where the political future looks “remarkably muddled”.

“Two weeks into pivotal voter registration, reactions from the public show widespread anger is scrambling politics in The Gambia. It is no secret that the Barrow-led government has theoretically devastated the country.”

Mr Keita argued that “a confirmation of just how catastrophic the Barrow government has been for The Gambia helps explain the similarly disastrous political scenario voters face just days into a dispiriting voter registration for December presidential election”.

He accused the Barrow administration of throwing Gambian politics into disarray.

“Creating a dangerously unpredictable future for a country that had until recently stood on the edge of genuine democratic progress but now faces the very real possibility that such government is bringing less democratic, less economic growth, more social and political turmoil. The inglorious or dishonorable departure of Jammeh has locked the popular discontent of Gambians in a pressure cooker, where anger only increased because the new government lacks the tenacity to make any formidable changes.

As a result, all of the concerns over incompetent government, stark inequality, social fragmentation, and persistent poverty worsened. Barrow’s foot-dragging on the numerous commissions of inquiry’s findings; such as the Janneh and Faraba commissions, and his silence over the criminal activities of drug and armed cartels in the country, ring loud into ears of voters,” Keita asserted.

“The country”, he went on, “became a hotspot for massive gun importations coupled with increasing mysterious murders and gas stations embedded in public spaces a disaster in the making. Now, even as the seeming democracy continues, political life resumes vengeance, and all that anger is ready to burst out because the reason for this widespread anger is profoundly found in President Barrow’s failure to honour his promises”.

He said the president’s failure to support a new constitution and effect reforms and refusal to step down after three years have created avoidable uncertainties.

“This augurs change and profound uncertainty and a sign of intense anti-establishment and frustration of the majority. Under President Barrow’s rule, The Gambia suffered a similarly hellish reality, driven by a combination of poverty, incompetence, corruption, and poor governance. The economy contracted sharply, with our GDP decreasing more than almost 40 percent between 2016 and 2021. One thing that is certain now is that people have very strong views across The Gambia and are determined to be heard. Political leaders have been put on notice,” he said.

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