By Lamin Cham
In a rare comment on political issues since the change of government, Lamin Waa Juwara has warned the governing coalition government against neglecting the Kombos, the populous and politically important vast area stretching from Brikama to Kartong.
Speaking to The Standard at his residence in Brikama Saturday, Mr Juwara, leader of NDAM who served as a propaganda secretary of the United Democratic Partly, said Kombo has always played a central role in Gambian politics from pre-independence and any party that marginalises the region will do so at its peril.
“Even former president Sir Dawda Jawara’s rise to power was only successful through the backing of the people of Kombo. And it beggars belief that an important place like Kombo which has played an important role to ensure that Jammeh is dislodged is left out in the cabinet positioning. I want to bring this to the attention of [the government] that people are saying this loud and clear everywhere you go that most of the positions in the cabinet went to Bansang area and this is no fair. Let us do things the right way so that we will have unity all the time. The government should reflect the feelings of all Gambian people. I think this is really important,” Juwara said.
However, Mr Juwara, himself a native of Niamina in Central River Region but a long time resident of Brikama, said one of the issues which beleaguers the new cabinet is the fact that none of them, except for one member, has ever served in an apex position in government and therefore they have to grapple with certain “teething” challenges. “But I am glad to recognise that no matter what the early challenges are, they don’t affect the love for the country by the Coalition government members,” he said.
Asked if he is not rueing having missed out on the booty now following his split with the UDP and subsequent serving in the Jammeh cabinet, Juwara responded: “Serving under Jammeh was a tactical way of ensuring survival within the whole context of sacrifice. If I don’t do that I would probably not have been alive today. Jammeh had sinister plans for me as he considered me as a big threat. However, it was clear even to Jammeh once we came close at cabinet meetings that our styles are different; mine was service to the nation despite political differences, while Jammeh wanted to be the dictator who will always have his way and I knew our working relations will not last. And we all knew what followed when he used trumped-up charges to imprison me.”
He said his short stint in the Jammeh government did not change his long-held belief that Jammeh was a brutal dictator. “So I am personally satisfied that the Coalition has achieved what I proudly contributed to. They have achieved our shared objectives, which is to dislodge Jammeh. So I am not missing out on anything. And of course you know I am not in the best of health too that’s why I am not so active,” he said.
Commenting on the much-talked about agreed memorandum among the Coalition members, Mr Juwara said: “When I first heard of the three-year timetable, I wondered where the parties got that from because nowhere in this world can you find a presidential term of three years no matter how transitional you want that arrangement to be. I told you about the lack of experience on the part of the Coalition partners and it has surfaced here too. I think the Coalition partners should just start consulting each other and just strike off that three-year thing whether it was signed or not and move ahead to work on a five-year transitional government. Come to believe it, five years is a very short time in politics especially considering the task ahead of this government. So, I think Barrow should serve a full five-year term. That’s more logical, provides more avenues for stability and makes more economic sense in our current predicament as a nation recovering from chaos,” Juwara posited.
More on the Waa Juwara interview in the Tuesday edition of The Standard.