National Assembly should not only make laws
In a democracy, the ideals of good governance are ensured and assured because of the concept of separation of powers. This concept, if truly put into practice, will serve as checks and balances to make sure that no single individual (or arm of government) commits excesses by monopolising power.
The three arms of government are: the Executive (the president, ministers etc.), the Judiciary (the courts) and the National Assembly (often referred to as lawmakers, a term which doesn’t full describe the national assembly). Edmund Burke adds that the media is the fourth arm of government (they are to hold government (all three arms) accountable for/and on behalf of the citizenry.
The national assembly is the focus of this short piece. Have our national assemblies in Africa – especially in the Gambia – been fully conscious of the duties, responsibilities and powers since independence? The answer, in my humble opinion, is an emphatic No. Most people (including some national assembly members) see themselves only as lawmakers and nothing else.
The function of the national assembly goes far beyond making laws, passing bills and the like. The national assembly is arguably the most powerful institution in a democracy. It is the national assembly that approves of every penny to be spent by the executive. The executive cannot – should not – even declare a war without the approval of the national assembly.
Whatever the executive is doing should be approved by the national assembly. That is why periodically, the ministers will be invited to the national assembly to explain certain matters. In fact, even the president is ultimately answerable to the national assembly. That is why we observe that in advanced democracies like the United States, if organizations or other countries need help in something, it is the national assembly members (congressmen and senators in the US) that they lobby.
Thus, if the national assembly is fully conscious of its duties and powers, no individual, institution or executive can commit excesses. They will work to ensure that everyone is inline and does the right thing. The Constitution has given adequate powers to this august assembly to represent the people sufficiently and check the government.
Unfortunately, for Africa, Gambia in particular, the culture of political cronyism, patronage and sycophancy has stripped almost everyone of the courage and honesty needed to do this work. The Maslaha and Yallah Baahna syndrome have eroded our National Assembly’s teeth such that they can only bark (which oftentimes they don’t even do) but not bite. Were this not the case, the loot and plunder we are now learning about from the Janneh Commission would not have taken place, talk less of lasting as long as it did. They would have nipped it in the bud long ago.
But that is in most part, water under the bridge. The pertinent questions here are: is our new national assembly ready to do what is right? Are they willing to take on the executive and hold them accountable? Will they shy away from their duties like their predecessors? These are the questions Gambians should ask and seek answers to. Let us work towards building our democracy for the development of our dear Motherland, the Gambia.
Barrow and his administration must take responsibility of the catastrophic power supply, address it and stop blaming the previous governments
Please allow me space in your noble and respectable newspaper to first register my dissatisfaction to the government for the catastrophic and unacceptable power supply the sovereign Gambians are currently experiencing.
This is a threat to our modern way of life and will severely affect education, health, commence and other sectors of development if quick response to solve it is not given.
I was surprising when President Barrow attributed the current horrific electricity problem to history noting that the problem “remains unsolved for 50 years” instead of delivering his promise of providing stable electricity supply in few months; in his early days at the helm of governmental affairs. The anti politics of the “blame game” will take us nowhere.
Barrow’s predecessor, Yahya Jammeh also compared his brutal regime to the British “400 years” rule as well as his predecessor DK Jawara whenever his human rights record is questioned or failed to represent the aspiration of the people.
I keep asking myself why it takes the coalition government which is composed of about eight political parties and an independent, almost a decade to come up with a comprehensive developmental blue print to solve societal problem. I cannot understand either, why people say that the government is ‘young’ and needs time. What time does it need to deliver?
One of the key functions of political parties is goal formation and according to Heywood A. (2010), parties play this role because in the process of seeking power they formulate programmes of government (Through conferences, conventions, election manifestos and so on) with a view of attracting popular support. These programmes must be realistic and achievable. The bottom line here is the coalition government was very ready to get rid of Jammeh, but is never ready for managing governmental affairs.
However, I see the current problem to the lack of a bottom-top approach or systematic approach, if there was any plan available. The Janneh Commission of Inquiry, building of multi-million dollar conference hall, frequent and highly expensive travels are important for accountability and pursue of foreign policy/ relations respectively, but should have been given a second thought for the address of basic needs first such as health, education, food and protection.
Barrow’s administration as expected are in the most convenient part of State House and other institutions where toilets and showers are fully operational, research is easily carried out, safe and clean drinking water is available uninterrupted, food can be easily cooked with electrical appliances, computers, phones are operational, making communication easy while the sovereign citizen at whose expense the government officials are paid, struggle to benefit such modern way of life and needs at this present time.
I draw your attention to the struggle and hardship Gambians are experiencing especially students like me in this present time of horrific and catastrophic powers supply. It becomes a struggle to access lecture materials, photocopy and process documents, use the school toilets, do assignment and study in the night and so on.
This problem must be solved immediately.
I conclude with a quotation by DK Jawara (1985) that “Outside assistance cannot replace our efforts in development, but rather be a supplementary to them.
Political Science Student, UTG