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City of Banjul
Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Letters: Defend the Republic. Stand up for democracy

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Dear editor,

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The intention of the 1997 Constitution is to make the Gambia a Democratic Republic. The Constitution has guaranteed fundamental rights and freedoms to citizens and mandated the Government to respect, protect and fulfill those rights and needs.

The Constitution wants the Government to serve the people and act according to the will of the people and not to violate the people. To perform its functions the Constitution has given all the powers and tools to the Government to do what it needs to do. To better facilitate its functions the same Constitution asks citizens to abide by the law by not breaking the law and to pay taxes, and accept the lawful authority of the Government.

It is precisely because of the huge amount of power that the Government has that the Constitution also gives the citizens the rights and duties to check that Government. For that matter Democracy only prevails when citizens check the Government to ensure that it stays within the parameters of the rule of law.

But as we have experienced, we went through 22 years of dictatorship simply because we had a government that refused to abide by the Constitution. We were tormented and chased for defending our rights. We were prevented from checking the Government in anyway unless if we were ready to be arrested, detained, tortured and killed.
But on December 1 we decided to throw away that terrible regime into the dustbin. We voted in a new president with the objective and the expectation that we will now enjoy democracy! Unfortunately that is not the case. Our citizens must realise that this country is still under dictatorship.

The evidence is glaring.
For example, we can recall in February 2017 one Fatou Badjie of Kafenda who was arrested and charged for sedition for merely saying Pres. Barrow is not a good Muslim.
We recall the case of GDC leader Mama Kandeh when he was called by the police in July 2017 for merely saying corruption exists inside Barrow’s Cabinet.

Then we saw APRC leader Fabakary Tombong Jatta also questioned by the police in October 2017 for asking the Government to release detained security officers.
Then we saw in December 2017 how Dr. Ismaila Ceesay of UTG was also invited to police headquarters only to be kidnapped for 24 hours for advising Barrow in a newspaper interview that he should cultivate trust with the military and not rely on foreign forces for his security.

Again in March 2018 Amadou Scattred Janneh was called in for questioning for standing up against the destructive Chinese fishmeal factory in his community.
Then we saw in March 2019 how one political actor Kasim Fadera of Jarra Soma was also arrested and charged for advising Pres. Barrow in a WhatsApp forum to be careful of dishonest chiefs lest they mislead him as they did to Jammeh.

When you now add all of these to the instances of clampdown on the media including the abrupt and unlawful closure of Home Digital and King FM radio stations and the arrest of their journalists in January 2020 one will clearly see the same Yaya Jammeh tendency to damage our Republic by silencing citizens.

Now consider the many instances that citizen groups and political parties are denied permits to protest or to hold rallies beginning with #OccupyWestfield in 2017. Or if they are given a permit the police would do so at the very last minute so that people cannot have time to better organize. Or they grant you very limited time such as 1 hour or 3 hours maximum. Or they force you into the bush such as what they did to the Three Years Jotna people in December 2019. All of these are clear attempts to suppress freedom of assembly and political participation by citizens.

Furthermore the audacity to unlawfully ban the Three Years Jotna Group all point to the fact that this regime is neither interested nor committed to respecting our sovereign rights. It is absolutely clear that the Barrow Regime does not believe in democracy nor does it wish to abide by the rule of law as required by the 1997 Constitution and to salvage the Republic.

Until now there are multiple provisions in our laws that infringe on citizen sovereign rights and freedoms. Even when they seek to change the laws they still want to keep bad provisions as we saw in December 2019 when they inserted parental insult into the criminal offenses bill. It was only because there was a public outcry that the former Minister of Justice was forced to withdraw it from the National Assembly.

These are few of the many instances showing that this regime has taken more steps towards dictatorship and away from democracy. If one also considers the many instances of corruption through dubious contracts such as Semlex or Banjul Road Rehabilitation Project, etc and several violations of the Constitution such as the illegal sacking of NAM Ya Kumba Jaiteh in early 2019 or the illegal use of public finances and the declarations of state of emergency, it will be clear that this regime is not growing and strengthening the Republic but it is damaging it.

What our citizens must realise is that democracy is not delivered by the State. No. It is citizens that give birth to democracy and it is citizens who nurture democracy to grow into maturity and perfection. This is the fact of history in every democratic society you see today. The Gambia cannot be different.

Ultimately our citizens must stand up to defend this Republic as a democracy which is what our Constitution envisages and provides. The 1997 Constitution, with all of its shortcomings thanks to the Evil Dictator Yaya Jammeh, intends to make The Gambia a Democratic Republic and nothing else.

Madi Jobarteh
Kembujeh

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