Activist says leaders who abuse office should not be rewarded
By Omar Bah
Political and human rights activist, Pa Samba Jow, has said the Former Presidents Bill, if passed in its current form, will encourage impunity in The Gambia.
The Gambia government introduced a new bill at the National Assembly seeking to establish lifetime pensions, gratuities, and other benefits for ex-presidents of The Gambia and their spouses.
The bill would establish an office of former president, which shall exist during the lifetime of the former president from the date of his or her ceasing to be president.
If passed, the government, within six months after a president leaves office, shall furnish and equip the office of a former president to the standard of cabinet-level and shall employ not less than four staff, including a personal assistant and personal secretary.
Reacting to the bill in a Standard exclusive, Pa Samba Jow said: “As much as I understand the motivation for such a bill, I still find it woefully troubling. The bill in its current form encourages impunity.”
He said no president who is found wanting should enjoy such a flamboyant pension scheme.
“Why must we reward former presidents who were corrupt and violated human rights with this enormous package? Take Jammeh for example; he has been found liable for over 200 deaths by a commission of inquiry, in addition to pillaging hundreds of millions, yet this bill wants to give him a clean slate to the detriment of the country and his victims,” he said.
The US-based Gambian said the best way to go about it is first to make it categorically clear to all presidents and aspiring ones that if “you respect the laws of the country while serving, we will take care of you after your presidency, but if you fail to do right by the people, you will not enjoy any such benefits”.
“Secondly, if the motivation of the bill is to entice presidents from self-perpetuating, a constitution with an ironclad term limit will easily take care of that. The financial package is unnecessarily exorbitant,” he said.