How Gambia’s democracy was hijacked


By Alagi Yoro Jallow

The December 2016 Presidential elections appeared to be completely devoted to the Gambia’s third resistance to inhumanity in all its forms.

It was the Gambia’s war of resistance and struggle against President Yahya Jammeh’s Kleptocratic tendencies. The worst kleptocracy in sub-Saharan Africa, the Gambia became firmly entrenched a benevolent dictator for two more decades with a free hand.


Yahya Jammeh molded the Gambia in his own image and made it yesterday under the spell of a peculiar brand as “hybrid regime of ‘lipstick on a crocodile’ electoral authoritarianism”.

Those who did not work for the return of democracy to the Gambia during the dark era under despotic rule, who now find themselves in position of power, may not care whether democracy is endangered by their acts of public misconduct and undemocratic behavior.

How sad!
People got shot. People died; people lost jobs; careers were ruined; businesses collapsed; media houses were shut; destinies were deferred.

The night was pretty long and pitch dark but there were hopes for victory. Now, from what we see, it looks like those who died just died in vain.

It looks like it was a lost struggle or – maybe- an unending struggle, still simmering, smoldering.

But I see something: The very forces that ranged against December 1 in its long-drawn struggle reaped, and are reaping, its fruits. They will celebrate their victory next December 2019 in mockery of the dead and the maimed.

The December 1 election victory “# The Gambia Has Decided” like the profit margin on a lassi, President Adama Barrow’s magic has evaporated a long time ago.

Everything that happened twenty-two years ago is happening now.

Those in government then are in government now.

They are in the Statehouse, at the Marina Parade offices, at the Quadrangle buildings in Banjul, in Government institutions, in the security forces and in all diplomatic missions.

They are seen in the agencies of government – and they do today, what they did yesterday.

It is so sad that President Barrow continues to disappoint and demystify himself each passing day.

What an anticlimax for a man who touted integrity and the anti-corruption struggle as the raison d’etre for his eligibility for the presidency.

Before it is assumed to be normal, it is not. Appointing cronies and distributing patronage may be legal but it is unethical.

Artistotle once said: “Equals should be treated equally and unequals unequally.

” Favoritism, cronyism, nepotism and the sharing of slots are all unfair because they give undue advantage to those who may not be most qualified nor have the merit to justify being in the positions given.

These unequal treatment and access undermine the common good.

When someone is given a position based on connections or patronage, the person is more likely to perform poorly on the job.

It is having been established that President Barrow values loyalty over competence. Well, when positions in government get filled by people whose only qualification for employment is their support for a party or candidate, it weakens morale in government service and public faith in the integrity of government.

What this seems to tell me about new Gambia is that the much-expected turnaround may come from unexpected quarters.

I am not saying I saw any vision, but the usual suspects may not lead the ethical and political revolution that will unleash the potential of this country.

The Gambia is too blessed to be crawling on its chest.

How can we have all these resources — human and material and be stuck in the cesspool of poverty, disease, unemployment and corruption? But the change leader may turn out to be the least expected person, one whom we despise or treat with suspicion.

Adama Barrow was an unlikely symbol of resistance. He did not look the part, but he played the part.

Gambian have short memory. Many of those parading themselves today as heroes of democracy were actually in bed with the miscreants who annulled December 1 elections.

They fought vigorously to make sure the annulment was not reversed. They said and did despicable things for political gain and filthy lucre.

But nobody remembers again. They now grandstand and lecture us on democracy and the resistance to despotic rule.

If you want to have a list of these villains-turned-heroes, please get a copy of “The Last 100 Days of Yahya Jammeh”. You will marvel at the conduct of the sycophants who have become latter-day saints of the democratic order.

Every rescue effort leaves the poor poorer and the weak weaker.

A National Assembly member told survivors and victims of torture of the past regime that he wouldn’t sponsor any bill for compensation and repatriation.

He was audacious enough to declare that his interest was not the poor electors but his lord and savior President Adama Barrow – who must remain president till 2026.

Did the poor, hungry, ill insulted that National Assembly? What did they do to him! That is how captured people behave in new Gambia.

Does this tell you something about the caliber of the National Assembly members? About the unusual things that have been following that usual action.

About cries of plots and counterplots? About old dogs calving old dogs for meat in power abattoirs. About hunters swapping fates with the hunted.

About the greedy evil of the past now dining with the saintly glutton of today.

About sufferers of the misfortune of bad governance taking sides in the ongoing friendly match between darkness and darkness? About salvage efforts wasted. About national misfortune that won’t just go away.

Apart from State Intelligence Service and the National Army, there are other small gods in our pantheon.

We have them and we religiously place our destinies as rituals at the feet of their effigies.

The fact that we eat this shit without throwing up mirrors what we are as a country. Have you seen how we have made President Adama Barrow in the omniscient image of the infallible on all matters of state even when the country has fallen under his watch? They have ringed all his fingers with all the powers the state has.

He has chosen the head of the judiciary.

The media is broke and broken, very unsure of its freedom. The National Assembly chose both the Speaker and deputy speaker as dictated by President Barrow.

The Speaker and Chief justice all became appointees of the president without due process confirmation.

The ingredients for one-man rule, for tyranny are complete.

It is not the fault of President Barrow.

He has been made to see himself as a king who must be obeyed by all in defiance of democratic mores.

President Barrow has been asked to choose the leadership of the National Assembly. He has made his picks.

He can nominate and fire a sitting member of a National Assembly.

The 1997 Constitution has been so fraudulently written with numerous innocent-looking clauses in several sections where one negates the other and provides numerous loopholes for the President \ to sneak through.

Coupled with absolute powers of the President over ALL aspects of the entity, the control of the Judiciary, Legislature, Security, Finance among others by the President.

The only impediment to the emancipation of the People, the development and the progress of the Gambia is the 1997 Constitution!
The removal of a member of the National Assembly by President Barrow is an action capable of undermining the nation’s legislature, subverting the Constitution, intimidating law makers, and creating uncertainty in the democratic and electoral process.

By unilaterally sacking a member of National Assembly without following due process of the constitution, President Barrow has sent a dangerous signal to the entire world that Gambia is no longer a democratic nation and that we have returned to the old, jaded era of military turned- civilian dictatorship.

Fatoumatta: The line between democracy and tyranny can be very thin. And when democracy jumps into the Red Sea of tyranny, the resultant Canaan won’t be the Israelites’ land of freedom and peace. Anarchy is the promised land.

Indeed, as argued by Socrates, democracy is an “agreeable form of anarchy,” and what is anarchy if it is not tyranny’s disdain for law and order?
The fruit we reap from the December 1 farm appears to be mis-governance – tyranny, corruption of the law in favor of special interests. And we are the cause.

Tyranny is a collective brew – no tyrant is self-made.

It is like untreated sores which will always go bad, very bad. Writing about the American experience and experimentation with tyranny in a democracy, Sean Illing said “democracies give way to tyrannies when mob passion overwhelms political wisdom and a populist autocrat seizes the masses.”

The Gambia is witnessing just that with the current frenzy to please a potentate salivating for absolute powers.

‘Political wisdom’ has left us – we have surrendered to the eccentricity of the mob – or to the ravens of power in its absoluteness.

We are walking (or have walked) wide-eyed into the dreadful sea of tyranny.

It is like we have indulged our Baobab tree with infused demons. It is now making demands of lives and living.

As noted further by Sean, “But the tyrant is not quite a tyrant at first. On the contrary, in a democracy the would-be tyrant offers himself as the people’s champion.

He is the ultimate simplifier, the one man who can make everything whole again.”