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City of Banjul
Friday, September 25, 2020

Power at work, but democracy threatened

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By Essa Njie

I cannot and will not rejoice the redeployment of the first victim of your cabinet. This is because I strongly believe that this man has served our nation with impetus in less than 1 year of his appointment as Minister of the Interior. Even though we have a fragile security situation, but his main preoccupation from all indications was to promote and maintain the security of this country just like any other Gambian.

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The redeployment of Mr Fatty to Foreign Service is an exercise of power accorded to you by the very constitution we, the sovereign citizens of this country voted for, the constitution both you and him swore to defend. Indeed, we will not question why you exercise such a power but it will be of great importance if you can avoid the Jammeh style of frequent hiring and firing. This does not mean that you should not sack ministers or politicians who seek to undermine the government for future political goals.

Remember you are surrounded by a bunch of them and be cognizant of their moves. The question that came to my mind when I heard of the redeployment was whether it was a good political move on your side. This may serve as the political divorce. Will Mai go to Foreign Service when he already has political ambitions? Of course, he will prefer to stay in the Gambia and put all his energy in his political party. Leaving for Foreign Service may lead to the destruction of his political career which he might not want for now.

Furthermore, reason(s) that led to his redeployment remain unknown, but anecdotal evidence would suggest that the permit saga could be a contributing factor. I do not know whether the permit was issued first leading to his redeployment or failure to issue permit was what led to the decision. One thing that makes it difficult for us to know if the permit was responsible or not is the fact that, it was issued the very day Mai was redeployed (Friday 10th November), but revoked on Saturday 11th November. This brings us to the issue of the planned protest.

During the Jammeh era, the Gambia was the wrong place to protest as we all saw the consequences of the two protests held against his government in 22 years (April 10&11 2000, and April 16 2016). Even organizing political rallies by opposition became difficult at some point, citing ‘security reasons’.

However, I cannot understand why the police will first deny the youth permit to hold a protest, later give them and revoked it just in the 11th hour. This shows that the police have not done their job properly. If the decision for the police to issue or reject permits to protest is determine by their overall assessment of the security situation, then here is a failure on their side. You have made an assessment and decided that you will not issue permit based on ‘security reasons’. Later you issued it by which we would say the security assessment has been made and everything is fine for us to move on. But in the 11th hour, this same permit was revoked still on ‘security reasons’. Certainly, there is a weakness or failure in the security assessment.

In addition, it is important to understand that the right to protest is a constitutional right which of course has to be done within the confines of the law. Permit cannot be issued for ‘rioting’ but it should be issued for ‘peaceful protest’. It is therefore left with the police to decide whether it was necessary to give them or not. However, our democracy has been threatened when some hold the view that no one should protest against NAWEC’s failure to fix our energy problem. Whether the youths have an extra motive in organizing the protest or not; whether you hold a different view with them; and whether the protest itself will have an impact by changing the way NAWEC functions are something else, but every sovereign Gambian has the right to freely express his/her views within the confines of the law. It is a right and must not be seen as a privilege. No one should be condemned for that as it constitutes a threat to our hatchling democracy.

Yours in the service of the nation.

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