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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Letters : Our parliamentarians are playing with fire – this draft must pass!

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Dear editor,

After watching parts of the debate proceedings of the draft constitution in the National Assembly, I started to wonder whether some of the elected officials in our legislative body fully grasp the enormity and magnitude of their role.  I wondered too whether these same lawmakers fully comprehend the full nature and scope of the historic occasion they are presiding over.  The actions of Honourable Marong, Honourable Jallow, and others we are yet to hear from – all of whom seem to be abrogating their solemn duty in a bid to quench President Barrow’s insatiable thirst for power, are as dangerous as it gets.  These men are playing with fire.

As we all followed the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission hearings, one fact that’s been lost on some Gambians I guess is that we are literally governed at this very moment by those same obnoxious laws – passed by the then succeeding parliamentarians and most importantly; constitution, that attempted to give legal cover for those horrific abuses meted out on innocent Gambians during that difficult period.

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Therefore, making a break from the past requires taking the significant first step – if we are serious about change that is: thrashing Dictator Jammeh’s authoritarian 1997 Constitution.  You see, we have all watched with horror as our leaders who should have known better dilly-dally their way around these laws in a quest to enjoy the same controlling powers they were designed to offer the incumbent.  But what Barrow and those in cahoots with him fail to realise is that while these laws enhance the front-runner’s position, they also compromise their ultimate agenda – tightening grip on power.

So while we are at it, let’s remember the old adage: you lose it all if you want it all.  The Jammeh 1997 Constitution brought that country on the brink of war because it is toxic, flammable, and explosive. Jammeh is sick and he lives his life dangerously, we must disassociate ourselves from him completely because not doing so will unwittingly put us on the dangerous track which ends in one way – a massive wreck.  We are therefore pleading with these renegades to reconsider their role and position in this, and vote YES to this draft. Yes, it is not perfect, everyone has one or several issues with one section or another, but it is our making – emanating from one of the most credible consultative processes our country has ever executed.  We must do whatever we can – even holding our noses if we have to, but this draft MUST pass!

Banka Manneh





How Africa can fight the Covid-19 pandemic


Dear editor,

African countries face significant challenges in tackling the virus.

Policymakers should learn lessons from other countries’ responses to the crisis.

The Covid-19 death toll is still mounting in the developed West, but the pandemic’s impact on Africa could be much worse. African and international leaders must act boldly, decisively, and immediately to prevent a catastrophe.

Many African countries were ill-prepared to tackle the Ebola epidemic that erupted in 2014. And Covid-19 presents a much graver danger because it can spread exponentially, including via asymptomatic carriers, while African governments remain constrained by weak health-care systems, limited resources, and economic and spatial constraints on social-distancing measures.

Since Egypt reported Africa’s first confirmed case of Covid-19 on February 14, the number of cases has risen to more than 10,000, with Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa each recording over 2,000. The continent’s death toll already exceeds 500, implying a mortality rate well above the global average. This high death rate, together with the low number of confirmed cases, may reflect Africa’s very low rate of Covid-19 testing.

Many African governments have signaled a readiness to respond to the pandemic. But designing measures that reflect reality, and ensuring that they are effective, will be difficult. Under South Africa’s national lockdown, for example, the country’s most vulnerable social groups are struggling to feed their families, cannot wash their hands regularly because they have no access to clean water, and cannot self-isolate if they live in crowded slums.

In the coming weeks and months, millions of Africans may become infected with Covid-19. Researchers at Imperial College London recently estimated that, even under the most optimistic scenario, the virus would kill 300,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa – not to mention the immense economic costs it would impose, owing to lost export revenues, severed supply chains, and plummeting demand.

African governments therefore must make Covid-19 their top priority, and urgently design and implement ambitious, well-informed policies to combat it. After all, international support – although much-needed – is no substitute for resolute national action.

Above all, the response to Africa’s Covid-19 plight must be rapid and at scale. In a world where progressive global leadership is in short supply, and where rules-based global governance is under threat, this is a chance for African and international policymakers to take decisive action.

Lamin Njie


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