Barrow Youth Movement and UDP politics: Entrenching incumbency
Like most African countries, The Gambia has faced enormous obstacles in building political parties that transcend individualistic and ethnically based politics. Nearly all the political parties in The Gambia are riddled with factionalism, internal division, witch-hunting, badmouthing and downright intolerance to criticism.
With the resumption of competitive politics after the demise of Jammeh’s dictatorship, the growth of political parties has remained stunted, hostage to the pervasiveness of divisions and internal power struggles.
The Barrow Youth Movement by all intents and purposes is a political party in the making. Its formation is the clearest indication of Barrow’s intention to entrench himself in power. The BYM parade itself as a political party, but it lacks the inner organisational coherence and ideologies that would qualify it as genuine party. Moreover, in the absence of fundamental constitutional changes that will establish stable competition and undo the legacy of strong executive power, political movements will persist as a fundamental feature of political patronage.
The BYM cuts across a cross-section of the political divide. The membership is recruited mainly from APRC and some UDP militants. Does it pose any threat to UDP? The answer is NO! UDP had structures in place and no single individual controls it. The BYM members who are bent on undermining the cohesiveness of UDP should be given hefty punishments by UDP disciplinary committee. It is apparent that collision is inevitable between the BYM and the UDP unless BYM gives way.
In pursuit of the agenda of selfishness, arrogance and exclusivity, some BYM members benefit from patronage and family connections, which create the feeling among ordinary citizens that “this is their government”.
In the previous government, dictator Jammeh was given praise names by his mesmerised followers, including the ridiculous title of “Doctor”. In doing so, an impression was created that he had a divine right to rule and could not be questioned. But, as posterity shows, such glorification was unwarranted because he was an ordinary human being, who made monumental and unpardonable mistakes that ruined the country.
The culture of benevolent dictatorship, unfortunately, has cascaded down to the current crop of leaders in our country, some of whom cannot tolerate constructive criticism. They only want to hear vainglorious praises about their achievements, even when it is abundantly clear that they have lost the soul of the people they claim to lead.
The internal division undermines the smooth running of the party and, in turn, fails to offer an effective government which is able to fulfil its election promises.
One of the key issues affecting inter-party democracy is the nomination process for people who want to stand for positions. In other words, who should decide which members are entitled to run for the position of the president of the party, parliament, regional and constituency committees? Are there any academic or special skills required before one can stand, or can anyone stand for election? Should the length of time a person has been a party member be a major criterion for standing as a leader? And is age a limiting factor?
Also, it is important to spell out clearly and unambiguously the nomination processes. That is, how much power should be given to regional, constituency or local bodies in the process of selecting candidates? Is it democratic to allow the leaders of the party to vet or veto the candidates?
Perhaps the most important election is that of the party leader.
The key question is, who should choose the leader? Should it be the delegates at a congress, the central committee or the rank and file? What about the process of nomination? Is it transparent enough? What are the qualities of the leader the party is looking for? Should the choice be determined by the popularity and charisma of the leader, or is the party looking for a visionary, a craftsman, an inspirational or a transformational leader? Whatever the criteria are used for selecting the leader, what is paramount is the scale of participation. United we are rock, divided we are sand.
To save Gambia, Barrow administration has to be aware of China’s ‘debt trap diplomacy’
“Nothing is required, and nothing will avail, but a little clear thinking” says the economist John Maynard Keynes. It’s crucial to note that there’s no permanent friend in international relations, but permanent interest.
China has a dream; the elusive quest for the greatest untapped market on earth – this dream has maintained extraordinary potency in the expense of “developing countries”.
The China dream is too resilient, and the “developing world” determination to see it come true too great. President Barrow has to use his position as a moral fulcrum to understand that the Chinese can milk even an ant to get a liquid, and that they’re eyeing our fish resources and other deliverables to turn their dream into a reality and giving us loans that we can not service so as to strangle our economy.
Our fish resources are getting depleted every waking minute by the Chinese investors. The Gambia has high rate of unemployment. The unemployment rate in The Gambia increased to 9.5 per cent in 2017 from 9.4 per cent in 2016. It’s high time for The Gambia Government to stop China’s scramble for our resources and invest in this fishing sector to create employment for the youth and boast our economy.
The idea of Chain’s ‘debt trap diplomacy’ is giving alluring loans to developing countries and when these countries ossify to pay, then they demand concession.
Zambia has provided a shining example recently. They defaulted on a couple of loans, and apparently lost the Zambia’s Power Utility (Zesco) and Zambia’s Broadcasting Corporation to China. By all indications, Zambia is becoming the Chinese property and colony. Heaven forbid! This is a prime lesson for the Barrow administration.
The news of The Gambia’s strengthened bilateral relation with the People’s Republic of China has raised fundamental issues. What is The Gambia’s bargaining power in term of comparative advantage? It’s important to note that, like farmers’ quest for agricultural productivity, Chinese investors press unendingly forward to be the largest economy in the world, as any means necessary.
To raise the economic positions of Gambians, President Barrow must be inclined to believe that, as a sovereign state, we must depend on what we can do. So we can distance our great nation from China’s ‘debt trap diplomacy’. This is not to say that we don’t need help, but help coming from outside is secondary. We must primarily depend on ourselves for our survival.
The socialist proponent, Honourable Sidia Jatta, said: “We have fresh water in the country which can be used 12 months of the year, so we should think about what we should do to change our agriculture, not only rain-fed, but the means to make it all-year-around agriculture”.
The Gambia needs a strategic plan to get the agriculture and fishing sector booming. The survival of our great nation is dependent on the agriculture and fishing sectors and not loans from China or any outside power.
Kwame Nkrumah sums it up: “The less developed world will not become developed through the goodwill or generosity of the developed powers. It can only become developed through a struggle against the external forces which have a vested interest in keeping it underdeveloped”.
Buba S Njie
Political science student