Dear President Barrow,
It is often not how it begins but how it ends that matters.
When Yahya Jammeh first came to power in 1994, he rode high among Gambians with his resonating anti-corruption message. Before this extraordinarily bloodless take over, Gambia was largely peaceful with citizens’ rights to freedom and security protected but they could not count much progress in their lives almost 30 years after the declaration of Independence. President Jawara had enjoyed broad popular support within and outside of the country. There was no shortage of goodwill among international partners with commitment to help this poor country thrive. With all the pros of the First Republic, the Jawara administration was beset by corruption. Although the respected former president was not known or proven to have personally indulged in corrupt practices, he presided over a country that was endemically corrupt and there was no clear leadership, vision or policy to check the menace.
The Algali Commission proceedings gave Gambians their first glimpse into maddening corruption syndicate that hijacked our country, putting asphyxiating stranglehold around our economy, causing significant revenue loss and slowing prosperity. Few benefited from the loot while the rest of the country wallow in abject poverty. The commission’s findings handed Jammeh and his coup supporters a somewhat validation or justification for the unconstitutional overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Jawara.
Instead of acting on the recommendation of the Algali Commission in good faith, Jammeh went on greed overdrive, confiscating properties and belongings of the previous administration officials and personally took possession of many others. Guidelines crafted to prevent future official corruption were wilfully ignored because Jammeh’s ascension to power was motivated primarily not by dismantling gross corruption chain but by sheer greed as his actions and omission would later reveal.
Within a short period, Jammeh made his name among the richest presidents of the continental Africa. As he climbed high on the thick wave of corruption, Jammeh never lacked willing participants and accomplices who have glaringly demonstrated time and again their unalloyed loyalty to support his every effort to squander our country’s resources. It includes mostly Gambians but also non-Gambians both inside and outside the country and from blood diamond trade in war-torn Sierra Leon to oil/gas business in The Gambia to secretive mining ventures across the country. Gambians are senselessly let down by their own People in two successive governments except that the Second Republic was brutal, bloody and protectively corrupt thousand folds than the First Republic. This is being made clearer by the revelations at the Commission of Inquiry set up to look into the financial activities of the former president Jammeh.
Mr. President, Gambians are resiliently faithful. Despite their horror stories and traumatic experiences mostly under dictator Jammeh, they have embraced your leadership with hope and optimism that you would guide them to the Promised Land. Yes, average Gambian remains poor and has no clear opportunity but is under no illusion that this hard fought change should mean something positive for them, their families, for the country and the future.
President Barrow, the economic vultures whose deliberate financial irresponsibility and disposition to corruption have callously pushed our country on the brink of fiscal disaster are very much alive today and might still have influence or even pulling strings in your administration. They work in many ways to get close to the executive power base. Among their known trademark is the delivery of envelopes or suitcases containing thousands in hard currencies to the influential persons in government. They also donate ‘generously’ to political activities or make various contributions in the guise of supporting/complimenting government initiatives or projects. It would be a mistake of scurrilous proportion to allow scurrilous proportion to give them space around you or those close to you. The quicker you notice them, the better. There has already been mistakes as would be expected of any new, inexperienced government but it is also clear lessons are being learned.
As the head of state, the success or failure of any government institution during your term in office is tied to your legacy and we The Gambians will hold you accountable for their performances. I am glad the era of executive micromanagement has lost ground but those directly answerable to you must meet your expectation. A periodic performance review/appraisal at executive level should be conducted to get full scope of issues in line Ministries and what strategies are being mobilized to mitigate them. You have the faith of the entire nation to make decisions that represent the interest of the country including relieving people of their responsibilities if they do not measure up to your vision. Being a coalition stakeholder, cabinet member or top official does not provide immunity to anyone from receiving pink slip for want of doing their job. Job security should come with manifested productivity.
Mr. President, Gambians have vested interest in the achievement of this transition government. It should be the one to determine governance, economic and democratic direction of our country by establishing strong foundation that would serve as fulcrum for future governments. It is not lost on us that the tasks ahead is daunting and there are no possible quick fix but Gambians will not allow to be let down again by their government. We assure you and your administration our sincere support but will guard ourselves against anything (democratically of course) that threatens our aspiration for prosperity and the end results of all of these will carry the day.
Zakaria Kemo Konteh