By Zakaria Kemo Konteh
Dear President Barrow,
On Friday, November 10, 2017, in a tersely worded press release, you informed Gambians and the world of your decision to relieve Hon Mai Ahmad Fatty of his appointment as the Minister of Interior with immediate effect. You also announced his redeployment to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Given this unexpected move and the weight of such decision involving a high profile cabinet member and a prominent Coalition partner, Gambians greeted the news with mixed feelings.
While political opponents of Hon Fatty were celebratory, majority of us were stunned amidst confusion and wild speculations. Some even used the opportunity to re-launch bruising smear campaign against the reputation of Hon Fatty, accusing him of bribery among other unsubstantiated corrupt practices. These ferocious personal attacks were certainly exacerbated by the deafening silence from your office as to the reason for the drastic use of executive authority.
Your Excellency, in one of the interviews you had with journalists at the beginning of this year, you cited a Constitutional provision that gives you the free hand or carte blanche to fire ministers without offering explanation and you further implied that your decision to let Mai go was in the best interest of the country. This answer, Mr. President, opened up even more questions and left many of us that were looking for closure on the matter scratching our heads. Had Hon Ahmad done anything wrong in his capacity as the Minister of Interior which was inimical to the interest of our dear country or in contravention of his oath of office? Fatty himself had offered some clarity on the situation by categorically denying any wrongdoing and challenging anyone to prove otherwise. Like rest of us, Fatty said he did not know why he was removed from office.
Some time ago, I received information that Hon Fatty’s dismissal had nothing to do with allegations of corruption or official misconduct. Instead, it stemmed from recommendation contained in a report submitted to the Office of the President few months earlier by a group of prominent natives of Foni who made a fact-finding tour in that region in the aftermath of the Kanilai demonstration and shooting incident. This report, I was told, made Mai’s sacking from Cabinet and government a sine qua non, an indispensable condition for any successful reconciliation with Jammeh supporters in the then restive region of Foni. The group, which also compromised former senior security chiefs, further supported its recommendation by convincing the Office of the President that a controversial Minister like Hon Fatty should not be in charge of security forces that had many Jammeh loyalists at the time and so he had to go in order to both appease and hopefully flip them.
Mr. President, although this information could not be independently corroborated, if true, it would amount to serious lapse of judgment, painful political betrayal and an unconscionably futile concession on your part to have disgraced a strong ally in cabinet just to satisfy unwavering APRC and Jammeh supporters all in the guise of national interest.
Hon Fatty had spent years in the bitter struggle to end tyranny in The Gambia and was a key player in the coalition that led our country to victory against former president Jammeh. As the Minister of Interior, Fatty was proactive, competent and firm with rising national and international profile, earning him respect and admiration of many Gambians both home and abroad.
Mr. President, we do know there are people currently working for you at State House who assisted Jammeh empty our country’s coffers in the amount of millions of dollars while Hon Fatty, who courageously fought to end the industrial scale pillaging, had to lose his job. This bizarre turn of events including allegations discussed above, your Excellency, makes it morally imperative for you to tell Gambians why Hon Fatty was relieved of his cabinet position even if you are not constitutionally required to do so.
Hon Fatty should not be a victim of misguided political betrayal and backstabbing given his stellar reputation during the struggle and as State Minister.
Therefore, President Barrow, you owe this explanation to a man who stood by you during difficult times and served your cabinet and the country with honor and pride. You also owe it to Gambians who expected nothing less than transparency in government business and a complete departure from arbitrary flexing of executive authority.