24.2 C
City of Banjul
Friday, July 19, 2024


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His Excellency, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria,

The Commandant of the Nigeria Defense College,
Flag and General Officers,
Faculty Members and Principal Staff Officers,
The Alumni Association of the National Defense College,
Graduating Students of Course 26,
Venerable Religious Leaders,
Distinguished Guests,
The Media Fraternity,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

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All other Protocols duly observed,
1. Let me begin by expressing my deep appreciation to the National Defense College (NDC) of Nigeria for inviting me to deliver a Lecture on this auspicious occasion, marking the graduation ceremony of Course 26. I am convinced that the course work delivered has broadened the horizon of the graduating students in the areas of geo-political studies and strategic leadership, especially in the context of our contemporary world. Accordingly, I hope that they will graduate from this reputable institute with the firm understanding that this academic achievement comes with high expectations, such as the ability to handle competently increased responsibilities that are consistent with democratic principles.

2.The letter addressed to me suggested the areas around which this lecture should focus and
specifies the topic as;
“Democratic Principles and Post-Conflict Peace
Building – Imperatives for the West African
This topic is as significant and timely for the West African sub-region as it is globally, in view of the persistence of conflicts and acts of terror, abuse of human rights and disregard for the rule of law, dictatorship and greed, corruption and the desire to cling on to power for selfish reasons. African leaders have been noted for autocracy, tribalism, corruption and nepotism at the expense of national unity, progress, peace and development for all. The Gambian experience provides a clinical case to examine and draw lessons from for future reference.

3. As you may recall, The Gambia had to grapple with a political impasse after Gambians went to the polls on 1st December 2016 to elect a new President in what was largely a free and fair election. On 2nd December 2016, the Independent
Electoral Commission completed the announcement of the results of the election and declared me duly elected as President. Surprisingly, the incumbent, former-President Yahya Jammeh, initially conceded defeat, but reversed his decision later, alleging voting irregularities and fraud.
There followed a serious political crisis that could have divided the nation and plunged it into civil conflict.

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4. Never in our nation’s history had we been gripped with anxiety and fear that provoked a mass exodus of Gambians and non-Gambians alike into neighboring countries. The situation challenged and threatened The Gambia’s peaceful coexistence, as well as our political, social and economic fabric. Fortunately, our firm determination to settle the political impasse in a peaceful way, consistent with our deep-rooted culture of tolerance, strong religious beliefs and mutual understanding, gained international support.

Former-President Jammeh, who was faced with considerable international and regional pressure, eventually stepped down on 21st January 2017 and went into exile in Equatorial Guinea. In this way, the environment was created for me to take up office as President of the country, according to the will of the people.

My government’s main goal now is to attain a smooth transition into a truly democratic and prosperous nation.
What does this imply, and what price goes with it? Our experience has shown that democratic transition, that is transforming a nation based on democratic principles, inevitably comes with major challenges.

It is particularly difficult for a country like The Gambia, emerging from 22 years of dictatorship, with institutionalized corruption and a ruined economy.

Excellencies, The Commandant, Distinguished Invited Guests, Graduating Students of Course 26,
Ladies and gentlemen

5. In discussing democratic principles and postconflict peace building, we need a working definition; therefore, for the purpose of this lecture, it is sufficient to quote Abraham Lincoln who defined democracy as: “government of the people, by the people and for the people”. This is a simple definition, but it implies observing a number of principles. It is noteworthy also, that whilst the concept and practice of democracy vary globally, there are generally accepted core elements.
These elements include freedom, justice, the rule of law, respect for the individual rights of each citizen and political pluralism. In other words, all citizens must lawfully have a voice and have the freedom and right to form and belong to political parties and to participate in free, fair and open elections that are held periodically to elect their leaders and representatives in accordance with the law. Thus, democratic governance is acknowledged as the political basis for a stable and secure environment to ensure national progress, development, peace and security.

6. Evidence shows that no meaningful development can take place in the absence of true democracy, respect for human rights, peace, security and good governance.

It must be emphasized further, that instituting a stable democratic government requires constitutionally vibrant and independent institutions that are governed by the separation of powers in relation to the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary.
The absence of these principles breeds dictatorship and its consequences. Lessons learnt globally show that dictatorship always leads to a change of government; and if a peaceful change of government is made impossible, a violent change becomes inevitable. This was the state of affairs in The Gambia up to January 2017. Aside from exercising restraint, Gambians were able to avert bloodshed with the help of the international community. How we found ourselves in a crisis situation, and how we walked out of it informs my deliberation today.

Therefore, the purpose of this presentation is to examine the importance of democratic principles and its direct link to conflict and post-conflict peace building. In the process, I will focus on seven components, discussed from the perspective of your military background and training. I must confess, though, that I am a businessman and a politician by profession with no military background. This, you will agree, gives me the license to make reasonable mistakes.

7. The first component relates to Key Democratic Principles. Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.” Do we not say, “do unto others as you would want them do unto you?” Of course, we do! The reality is that this is one of the core principles of peaceable coexistence in a democratic society. In fact, democratic principles are nothing but about requirements for the achievement of sustainable peace, security and development for all.

8. The second component is,
Transparency and Accountability in Institutions and Organizations.
Transparency is a fundamental ingredient in good governance. Without access to information, it would be impossible to hold public servants accountable. A non-transparent government creates an environment conducive to a range of abuses and undermines the professionalism of the people running its institutions and organizations.

In consequence, democratic accountability in governance means that the organizations are answerable to civil authority within a democratic framework.

The reality is that organizations are obliged to explain their actions to the civil authority and the nation, and they should be subjected to sanctions for wrongdoing or inadequately explaining their actions.

9. The third component is the role of the Professional Security Forces in Democratic Governance.

Professionalism of the security apparatus of a country is a central element of democratic governance, and forms part of any transformation strategy. Absolute control by the civil authority over the security is impossible. As a result, there should be shared responsibilities within the framework of democratic prudence. Importantly, the professional security forces need to accept their subordination in policy and resource allocation to the civil authority and refrain from engaging in divisive activities.

10. It was unfortunate that, in The Gambia, the former President deliberately undermined the professionalism of the security forces by involving security personnel in partisan political and commercial activities. He also interfered in areas that the security organizations were to exercise administrative competence, technical judgment and decisive action.

Excellencies, The Commandant, Distinguished Invited Guests, Graduating Students of Course 26,
Ladies and gentlemen

11. I now turn to the fourth component, the Challenges of Democratic Governance.

Democratic governance requires a holistic approach in transforming the Institutions and Organizations to professional standard for them to live up to expectations.
The challenges faced in transforming any sector in a democratic country are similar to those confronted by the security sector due to the special roles security forces play in their country’s political and economic systems.

12. I will cite a few common challenges embedded in the transformation of the security sector in a democracy. These have to do with the challenges of transforming the security sector in a country that does not have a tradition or culture of democratic norms, values and principles. It also requires understanding the political and social context of transformation against the economic realities that exist. The other tasks include moving beyond the defense sector without undermining national security as well as dealing with low literacy rates that are compounded by huge competency or capacity gaps.

Striking a balance between democratic control, on the one hand, while allowing for empowerment, professionalism and self-discipline, on the other are equally challenging. Another important task is devising an overall Plan, such as our National Development Plan (2018-2021), to address all the major national challenges in order to attain improved growth, progress, development and relative advancement for all citizens.

13. For democratic principles to prevail in any country, these challenges must be overcome. In The Gambia, we are in the process of transforming our institutions, and we have to address the challenges I have just mentioned. At this point, one may wish to ask: What plunged The Gambia into chaos and near anarchy?

14. To put it simply, it was a result of the deliberate refusal to observe the relevant democratic principles necessary for peace, law and order to flourish.
Post-conflict peace building, therefore, entails observing and implementing all key democratic principles. These include, but are not limited to, ensuring that the citizens are educated and able to demonstrate this practically and positively. Secondly, the Security has to operate within defined parameters and terms of engagement, guaranteed by well-trained, disciplined and adequately equipped personnel.

Thirdly, adequate training and orientation need to be intensified and provided as required, for efficient public service delivery. This explains why my government is actively engaged in all these, among other interventions.

15. This leads us to the fifth component, Post-Conflict Peace Building.

As I said earlier, Post-conflict peace building requires a holistic approach. In The Gambia, we have not only made use of the conventional approach, such as reliance on the International Community, but we have also looked inwards to make use of our expertise, our resources and our traditional approaches.

16. In the thick of our suffering, we focused on the primary objective of achieving a change for all – a change that can result in equal opportunities for every Gambian. Consequently, instead of witchhunting, our policy is to bring everybody on board. The Government has taken a holistic approach, and the citizens have realized our sincerity.

Although there were initial pockets of resistance, impartiality and transparency have helped us to create an atmosphere of trust and hope.

17. The sixth component is establishing Confidence and Trust.

Confidence and Trust are essential in post-conflict peace building, and both are easily built if communities are approached by their own reputable people in a manner that is traditionally accepted by them. For instance in Gambia, our religious leaders have just completed a nation-wide tour to preach and broker peace. In most cases, conflict erupts because of the absence of dialogue or inadequate communication between the conflicting parties. I believe that The Gambia’s post-conflict peace-building process is succeeding due to dialogue, transparency, popular participation and our genuineness and sincerity. There is nothing more rewarding than being honest, sincere and genuine.

18. It is common knowledge that no problem can be solved if it is not understood. Thus, while sensitizing the general public and security institutions, there are ongoing investigations into how and why alleged crimes were committed during the twenty-two-year period of misrule by the previous government. These investigations are in accordance with democratic principles. Respect for the constitutional rights of suspects is upheld, and this has increased trust in the “New Gambia.”

The reforms undertaken in the Judiciary and legal system are all in the interest of the citizens, and not exclusively in favour of the Government. If governments represent the interest of the people, the people will stand by them. If they oppress the people, they will abandon them. This is what has happened in The Gambia, and it serves as a lesson for all leaders.

19. Turning to the military, it is imperative that they voluntarily and professionally subject themselves to the control of the civil governments and recognize the established checks and balances. The mutual inter-dependence between the two institutions is exemplified in the principle that military force is not an end in itself, but a means that civil authorities can use to bring about peace and security. My view is that the Principles of Democracy and Post-Conflict Peace Building should reinforce the teachings that you have received here in the college, as you return to take up appointments in your various armed forces.

20. Finally, while we seek to show the commitment of governments to improve the lives of citizens, effective service delivery must be demonstrated. In other words, commitment must not only be expressed verbally, but should also be translated into concrete action. The level of awareness, in this social media era, is unprecedented.
Therefore, no government can fool itself into believing that it can be business as usual for ever. Politicians are often accused of making empty promises, yet they expect to be given the mandate to lead indefinitely.

Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal and The Gambia have shown clearly that politicians cannot continue to fool the electorate.

Excellencies, The Commandant, Distinguished Invited Guests, Graduating Students of Course 26,
Ladies and gentlemen

21. On the seventh component of my Paper, which is the Way Forward, I wish to mention two important imperatives for a durable and sustainable Post-Conflict Peace Building mechanism for the West African sub-region.

22. There is need to ensure that the local population is involved in the design, implementation and administration of Peace Building projects to ensure continuity and success even after the conflict. The involvement of local communities has an impact on their perception of any benefits and feeling of ownership, especially in cases where peace agreements are signed between parties in conflict or at war.

23. The importance of support and expertise of international and sub-regional partners, such as the United Nations, the European and African Unions as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) must not be underestimated or ignored.

Please allow me at this juncture, to acknowledge, with profound thanks, the immense contribution of these partners, particularly ECOWAS, in diffusing the tension and political impasse in The Gambia, that led to its peaceful resolution. The exceptional role played by Nigeria in this endeavour is deeply appreciated, and we remain exceedingly grateful. Nigeria could not have participated in bringing peace to The Gambia without the commitment, leadership and foresight of my brother and friend, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari. I salute him for the courage he took to stand up to tyranny.

During those difficult days, Gambians did not feel abandoned, as we had the support of the UN family, the AU family and the ECOWAS family. This is the true spirit of African solidarity, and it highlights the strong bonds of brotherhood that bind us.

The lesson to draw from this is that acting together resolutely and genuinely, no dictatorship, no oppression and no injustice will thrive. As Kwame
Nkrumah put it, “In unity lies our salvation.”

Let me add that, with sincerity and commitment, every goal is attainable; hence, my formula for lasting freedom and emancipation from oppression, degradation and poverty is the combination of courage, unity, commitment, sincerity and hard work. Note that without hard work, everything else is meaningless.


24. To conclude, the application of the principle of democratic governance is the system in which popular rules, values, procedures and actions are structured, sustained, regulated and accounted for.
Democratic governance calls for strong institutions, guided decision-making processes (as regards oversight responsibilities) and transparent procedures in all affairs of the State. These include determining the mandates and operations of intelligence and security agencies.

Very importantly, accountability, transparency and application of the rule of law, to attain effectiveness and efficiency in governance, cannot be overemphasized. There are enough lessons for humankind to learn from, yet we ignore them.

The Gambian experience is a historical reality for us, but it is instructively a basis for sustainable peace, security and development in the ECOWAS sub-region and on the continent of Africa as a whole.

25. I congratulate all the graduating officers and wish you and your families success and brighter days ahead.

I also thank and commend the organizers of this event for the invitation and for the very warm and fraternal hospitality extended to me and my delegation.

Thank you all for your attention. God bless us all.

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