By Momdou Justice Darboe
The UDP has spurned suggestions that its leader has contravened Gambian laws by launching a national food bank.
The party has also rebuffed allegations that Ousainu Darboe is attempting to use the Covid-19 crisis to drum up support for his 2021 presidential ambition.
Last week, Darboe set rolling an ambitious relief initiative to help people whose livelihoods have been jeopardised by the coronavirus pandemic.
A member of the near-moribund National Thank -Tank and a development and governance expert, Kemo Conteh, suggested that Darboe’s initiative may be at odds with the laws of The Gambia.
Shortly after Darboe announced the launching of his initiative which would be operated in concert with municipal and regional authorities, Mr Conteh took to social media to argue that no political party leader can establish a fund within a local authority and that wherever it is done, the funds automatically become the resources of the municipal authority and that no political party can preside over the funds’ use.
But UDP spokesperson Almami Taal told The Standard over the weekend that suggestions that Mr Darboe violated the laws of the country by launching a national food bank “are not only mischievous but misguided and bogus” legal argument.
He countered: “This kind of nonsense must stop in this country. People don’t have time for this pseudo-intellectual masturbation that is going on. We have so many things to discuss, so many things to analyse, many investments to do as a country, as communities across the country. I don’t understand how any responsible Gambian can sit down and have a take on another Gambian’s voluntary effort privately to help other Gambians. I cannot just understand that. Of course, it is a free country. You can talk about anything you wish but please don’t try to pass it off as it has any basis in law or in reality.”
Mr Taal, himself a lawyer and former high court judge, said neither the Local Government Act nor the Local Government Financial and Audit Act talks about private individuals wishing to do on the grounds of any municipal authority.
”After all, it is the citizens who pay rates and taxes to the municipal government to exist. To go and quote irrelevant law on a situation that is not comparable and compatible is to conflict things that are not even related. It is like saying that going into a church makes you a Christian,” he said.
Mr Taal also clarified that Mr Darboe is not using municipal authorities to set up funds for his national food bank. “They are not using the municipal authorities to set up anything. Mr Darboe said there is a supervisory committee that he has set up. Donations are coming from private individuals. There is no role financially, technically or any shape or form that municipal time, municipal resources are going to be invested in this endeavour.
The clarity should be very obvious here. This is a private individual and he has taken an initiative, he has found a suitable venue not only in KMC but in Banjul, in Brikama, in Basse, in all the municipal authorities and governments just so that it can be central point so that people who are living at grassroots who pay their taxes or their rates at the same municipality. So, what is wrong with that? What has that got to do with the laws that govern the administration of the municipality? This is a private individual trying to help.”