By:- DR. Henry D.R. Carrol (M.R.G.),
Senior Oxford-Trained Lawyer, Solicitor
General Emeritus Of The Gambia & Founder
Senior U.T.G. Law Lecturer (From 2007 to Date).
The Army Rice Project, which has been recently and wisely instituted, by the coalition Gambia Government, under the dynamic and visionary leadership of His Excellency President Adama Barrow, the Commander-In-Chief of The Gambia Armed Forces, has recently, wrongly and ignorantly been condemned in leading Gambian newspapers, firstly, by Madi Jobarteh, a so-called “rights activist”, and secondly by Momodou Sabally, a secretary general emeritus, of the immediate past APRC government
Mr Jobarteh’s wrong, ignorant condemnation
Let me start my detailed legal analysis on this important matter, with Mr Jobarteh’s wrong/ignorant condemnation because, he was the first one to make a wrong/ignorant condemnation of the aforesaid important Army Rice Project. Qui priore est tempore portio est jure, (Latin: He who is first in time, has priority in law).
On 17th April 2019, Mr Jobarteh published a bogus letter in The Standard newspaper titled,“The Gambia Armed Forces Agriculture Project Must Be Stopped.” It stated thus: “The announcement by State House on April 8th that The Gambia Armed Forces intends to embark on a large-scale agricultural production in partnership with an American Company, must be stopped immediately in the interest of democracy and national security.” Mr Jobarteh, does not have any authority, or a veto power, like the UN Security Council (he is an ordinary so-called “rights activist”), to instruct the aforesaid government, to immediately stop the important aforesaid project, which will indeed go a long way, in assisting the Coalition Government in attaining food self-sufficiency, not only for Gambians, but others who are peacefully living and working in The Gambia. Mr Jobarteh, like his fellow or co-culprit, Mr Sabally, was indeed acting ultra vires (Latin: outside his mandate). He went on to wrongly say: “The Gambia Armed Forces must not be given any means to engage and control any aspect of the Gambian economy. The military should rather remain confined to its traditional role, which is to protect the territorial integrity and defence of The Gambia, and provide humanitarian services where necessary.” This is very preposterous.
The bogus reason for Mr Jobarteh’s wrong/ignorant condemnation
In the second paragraph of his bogus letter, Mr Jobarteh said history has revealed that countries that allow their armies to be involved in large-scale agricultural production etc … end up having the entire country under the firm grip of the military… The army eventually becomes the kingmaker in deciding who becomes president, and what kind of government to prevail, thereby eventually controlling and putting all state institutions, at the mercy of the military. This is dictatorship.” Firstly, The Gambia is a democratic state, and as long as, periodic free and fair elections, are ably conducted by the IEC, the monumental political and agricultural misfortune, which Mr Jobarteh was wrongly predicting (using Egypt as a case in point), will certainly never ever happen in The Gambia, because by the grace of God Almighty, “The Great God of nations” (National Anthem), The Gambia and Egypt, are radically different like day and night. “To thy own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man” wrote William Shakespeare in his masterpiece Hamlet.
Is Egypt a democratic state?
Google authoritatively says: “On paper, the Arab Republic of Egypt’s government is semi-presidential, meaning that executive power, is divided between an elected president and a prime minister. The idea is that, the two, along with an elected parliament, will run the country, like a democracy.” There is a monumental difference between (1) “running the country like a democracy”, and (2) running the country, which is in fact or by nature or constitutionally, a democracy. The former is only a political ideal or an aspiration, but the latter, is a tangible political or constitutional reality. If wishes were horses, then beggars will ride, as the famous adage goes, (if a mere wish could make things happen, then even the most destitute people, would have all they want).
What is democracy?
The most popular and acceptable definition of democracy is the one authoritatively stated by Abraham Lincoln (1809 to 1865) the 16th president of the USA. “Democracy, is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.” The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary authoritatively defines “democracy” thus: “1. Country with principles of government, in which all adult citizens share through their elected representatives. 2. Country with government, which encourages and allows rights of citizenship such as freedom of speech, religion, opinion and association, the assertion of the rule of law, majority rule, accompanied by respect for the rights of minorities. 3. Society in which there is treatment of each other by citizens as equals, and with absence of class feelings.” I am vociferously putting it to Mr Jobarteh, the very fact that, the present Coalition Government rightly and wisely intends to go ahead with the said excellent Army Rice Project, this will not in any way, (1) be a threat to national security, and (2) it will also not infringe or violate, the aforesaid sacrosanct and inviolable Democratic principles, stated above.
What Mr Jobarteh was wrongly predicting as a prophet of doom or a pessimist, can only happen if we have an unelected dictatorial military junta in charge of the affairs of a nation, which we Gambians and friends of The Gambia, unfortunately experienced from 22nd July 1994 to 1st December 2016, when our free and fair presidential election was ably conducted. Those were the darkest days, in our nation’s constitutional history, and as patriotic Gambians, we must never allow, that terrible history, to repeat itself. In a democratic state, there exist a plethora of democratic institutions, which create checks and balances, so that what Mr Jobarteh was erroneously predicting, will never ever come to pass in our beloved motherland. This was why when President Barack Obama made his first state visit to Ghana on 11th July 2009, and addressing the Ghanaian Parliament, said inter alia: “What Africa needs, is strong institutions, not strong men.” By institutions he meant democratic institutions. I always emphasise this important legal point in my Law lectures. The acronym O.B.A.M.A. can mean “Originally Born in Africa to Manage Americans.” He was not born in Africa, but his father, Barack Hussein Obama Snr, a senior government economist was born in Kenya.
Has the Egyptian Army been in charge of Egypt since independence?
Mr Jobarteh wrongly wrote: “…The Egyptian Army has been effectively in charge of Egypt since independence, mainly because of the extent of their wealth and economic control and power…” This is monumental and unacceptable historical, constitutional fallacy. When Egypt got its independence from Britain on 28th February 1922, the military was certainly not in power. What existed then were: (1) The British Military which continued to be present in Egypt to protect Britain’s economic interests or valuable investment, in the famous Suez Canal, which Britain built in 1869, and (2) Indigenous Egyptian soldiers. None of these two categories of soldiers were engaged in any agricultural project, as Mr Jobarteh was wrongly, dishonestly and deceitfully insinuating.
In 1922, when Egypt got her independence, the then Sultan of Egypt (national political leader), Mr. Ahmed Faud, Officially declared himself as “His Majesty King Ahmed Faud The 1st of Egypt.”As the 1st King, he ruled Egypt, with an iron fist and the army was nowhere near the corridor of power. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power, corrupts absolutely,” Lord Acton, an erudite British historian stated. The army was then confined to its traditional and constitutional role of protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Egypt. Mr Jobarteh, must eat the humble pie and learn that for the first time in Egypt’s constitutional history, the Army ruled Egypt, during the era of the late Gamal Abdel Nassar (1918 to 1970), who was an Egyptian Army officer, who was the Prime Minister from 1954 to 1956, and finally President of Egypt from 1956 to 1970, when he unfortunately died of a massive heart attack on 28th September 1970. On 18th June 1953, the monarchy was abolished and the Republic Of Egypt was officially declared with Mr Muhammad Nujuib, as its first president. Vel primus, Vel cum primus (Latin: either the first or among the first). He was one of the leaders of the 1952 Egyptian Revolution and he took office on 18th June 1953, the day Egypt was officially declared as a republic. At that time, neither the British soldiers, nor the indigenous Egyptian soldiers, were involved in any agricultural project throughout the length and breath of the state.
Mr Momodou Sabally’s wrong/ignorant condemnation of the Army Rice Project: Firstly, this was by way of a so-called letter to the editor of The Standard newspaper, published on Monday 20th May 2019. I rightly called it so-called because its contents, were clearly directed simultaneously or contemporaneously to both The Editor and “The Chief of Defence Staff of The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF)…”, whom he wrongly and sarcastically addressed as “I salute you my dear brother”, only to proceed to make a serious and unwarranted attack on both his hard-earned personality, and the Army Rice Project. Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, as the famous adage goes.
Secondly, the second paragraph of his so-called letter read: “Is it really true that your institution is ready for a multi-dollar engagement with a company based in South African, with the illusion of ending rice importation in The Gambia?” This was an unpleasant and very provocative rhetorical question. Google defines “a rhetorical question” as “a question someone asks, without expecting an answer”. I am putting it to Mr Sabally that he fully knew what the answer to that provocative and irrelevant question was. By wrongly writing “…with the illusion of ending rice importation in The Gambia?”, he was intentionally provoking my good friend who has graciously invited me twice as a resource person to deliver Law lectures to Gambian soldiers, during their periodic televised training sessions. After the delivery of my lecture on the first occasion on 20th September 2011 on the topic “The Military And Human Rights”, he graciously presented me with a gold medal, in full appreciation of my aforesaid lecture.
Thirdly, Mr Sabally wrongly wrote: “Commander, this development is certainly startling for me, because we all know that our Army as at now, is not fit for the purpose it was morally and legally set up, due to myriad reasons, that are not the fault of the average officer …” It is legally wrong for Mr Sabally to address Mr Masanneh Kinteh as “Commander”, when he fully well knew that his full official title and name are: “Lieutenant General, Masanneh Kinteh, The Chief of Defence Staff – CDS of The Gambia Armed Forces”. He is not merely “a commander”, he is indeed the chief commander of all commanders in the GAF. He is certainly Primus inter pares (Latin: The first among equals) among all commanders in the GAF. Therefore, by simplistically and provocatively calling him “Commander”, Mr Kinteh now has the unquestionable locus standi (Latin: legal standing) to successfully sue him in a Gambian court of competent jurisdiction, for defamation, specifically libel. Defamation is authoritatively defined in The Law of Tort or Civil Law as: “The lowering of one’s dignity or integrity, in the opinion of the right-thinking members of society.” If a defamatory matter is spoken or broadcast it is called slander, and when it is written or published (as it is the case here) it is called libel.
Fourthly, Mr Sabally wrongly wrote: “In view of all the above concerns, and the fact that we have a foreign force in town to guarantee our security, while our fledging security sector reform process, remains everything but a success, what makes you think, that The Gambia Armed Forces, can embark on such a daunting adventure and make a success of the project?” Here again, Mr Sabally, like his fellow or co-culprit Mr Jobarteh is also acting as a prophet of doom, and he is wrongly asking our CDS, an unwarranted and provocative rhetorical question, as if the CDS is at his beck and call. What Mr Sabally is wrongly and dishonestly saying is that the Army Rice Project is bound to fail because inter alia: (1) Ecowas soldiers are in The Gambia not “in town” to guarantee our security. I have already rectified Mr Sabally in my previous article to desist from saying “town”, instead of “The Gambia”, but it seems that he stubbornly enjoys committing “malapropism” (using a word in a wrong linguistic context).
With the Ecowas soldiers in country, the project will have a higher chance of success, because Gambian soldiers, will have more time for it. Many hands make light work, as the adage goes. (2) The second reason, why Mr Sabally is wrongly saying that The Army Rice Project will fail, was because “our fledging security sector reform process, remains everything, but a success.” How can a successful security sector reform process cause the failure of the said project? This is both a paradox and an irony. Mr Sabally was speaking, with his tongue, in his cheek. As a sole former senior legal adviser of our National Security Council at the State House for about seven years, I am again firmly putting it to Mr Sabally, that national security matters cannot ever be a joke. “…Unless the Lord builds a house, the labourers who are building it, labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city gate, the watchman is watching in vain,”- Psalm 127, The Holy Bible. If Gambian soldiers engage in agricultural projects, for national development, their labours will never ever be in vain. We should expect a bumper harvest of rice, and other agricultural commodities, both for national consumption and exportation. This mammoth agricultural fortune can certainly bring into government’s coffers, the greatly needed foreign exchange for the success of our key national development projects.
President Adama Barrow was therefore quite right when he said on 8th April 2019 that The Gambia Armed Forces would soon embark on large-scale commercial agricultural production, after an agreement/contract with AGCO Company. The AGCO Corporation, is an American agricultural equipment manufacturer, whose headquarters is in Duluth, Georgia, United States, with many branches in the world including South Africa.
Section 187 (1), (a), (b) & (c) of the Constitution say: “(1) The principal functions of the Armed Forces are (A) To preserve and defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of The Gambia, (b) To aid the civil authorities, at their request, in emergencies and in cases of natural disasters, and (c) To engage at the request of the civil authorities in productive activities, such as agriculture, engineering, health and education for the development of The Gambia.”
The Army Rice Project is therefore constitutional/legal. When Yahya Jammeh was our president, Gambian soldiers were engaged in agricultural activities, Both Mr Jobarteh and Mr Momodou Sabally were in the country and they acted as a mumu (Wolof for a dumb person). They are only making noise now with glee, for cheap popularity because we are in “The New Gambia.” We should all profusely thank God Almighty, His Excellency President Barrow and The Gambia’s electorate, for this new and long overdue democratic status quo, which is at times abused by some ill-intentioned, semi-educated quacks or charlatans and unpatriotic Gambians, both in-country and the diaspora, in the name of human rights activism and freedom of speech and expression. Section 188 (2) of the Constitution says: “Without prejudice to his or her general power and authority as Commander-In-Chief, The President may give a Force Commander directions with respect to the operational use of the Commander’s Forces in The Gambia, for the purpose of maintaining and securing public safety and public order, and The First Commander shall comply with those directions.” I rest my case.
Dr Henry DR Carrol (MRG) is a Solicitor General Emeritus of The Gambia, senior Oxford-trained lawyer and founder Senior UTG Law lecturer, 2007 to date.