Kindly allow me to answer the question asked at the National Assembly by Halifa Sallah,
Secretary General for PDOIS party and the National Assembly Member (NAM) for
Serrekunda Constituency carried in your paper on 24th December 2019.
Sallah while responding to a colleague in a heated debate about “three years Jotna” said in quote, “the people behind the protest should be honest to the president if they have plans to overthrow him if he refuses to step down. Be honest if you are going to overthrow him but do not fool the young people of this country and give the impression that there is a provision where you can remove him and all other means to overthrow him”. Also, Sidia Jatta, the Chairman of PDOIS party and NAM for Wuli West, reiterated Hon. Sallah’s question, and since it has become a public discourse, I am compelled to share my opinion about it.
I perfectly understand Hon. Sallah´s frustration, but to relate a peaceful protest to that of overthrowing a government could be somehow harsh or seeing as intent to put fear in to the planned 20th January 2020 protesters.
When we look into the history of coups/overthrows, power is forcefully seized and in most cases through a barrel of gun. But, in this case of a peaceful protest, their interest is not power but to correct injustice and/or to demand a change of government on a basis of high moral ground or law. We have seen several scenarios of that, but nowhere have they been called coup plotters or people with intent of overthrowing a government.
Now, to the question that president Barrow has made it clear that he will not honour the coalition agreement of three years transitional period, instead he will stay for 5 years conditional mandate whether people like it or not. What can citizens do hence constitution is supreme to any law or agreement in our country?
The answer to this question is civil resistance or civil disobedience. What we need to understand is that one of the basic tenets of a democracy is that power should rest with the people. One Mandinka proverb says, “If you mask a masquerade and he act as if he is an angel, what you do is to unmask him to return to his human nature”. To relate it here it means if you drive your authority from people, you cannot have more authority than those people accord you.
By considering the level of mendacity, deceit and political sycophancy, in order to restore honesty and decency in our politic, the cause of Three Years Jotna is both morally and legally justifiable. And those who called them rebels, it simply manifests their political ignorance and naivety. You said the constitution mandates five years term to the president but ignore that the same constitution guarantees their right to protest. If they wish to spend the rest of the president´s mandate on street, they can do so, and denying them that is a breach of the constitution. Political parties are granted more than a week permit for a political rally that covered night as well. Therefore, if these people wish to apply a permit for a similar period, they should also be granted it. Alternatively, several people can apply at a different time and different day and this will make it possible to have a complete two-year permit to protest without breaking any law.
While some quarters can do sit-down protest, but by doing so, hence they want to use that legality to cripple you, the legal option to that is to obtain (E.D) excuse from duties from your doctor.
These are options, if that is how sovereign citizens want to surrender their power to their elected representatives. All those who voted for President Barrow voted him for three years. That is what members of the coalition agreed on and that is the message they sold to the electorate, and Barrow is on record of saying it over and over.
Therefore, there is nothing further from the truth than saying he was voted in for five years. Now the question to The Gambian is: Since President Barrow has disregarded the whole coalition agreement, thus perpetuating himself to power and since he as president has absolute power in our constitution, a power to dissolve the parliament, a power to appoint or dismiss everyone, would you wait until he got rooted before beginning to fight? This has always been a problem of Gambians: Even with a disaster people will wait until it falls, before they start to react. That is what undemocratic politicians want: Passive citizens.