By Tabora Bojang
A university lecturer and political scientist has said the opposition UDP will find it hard to convince Gambians that they are different from the ruling NPP when it comes to stamping out corruption because the party did not do much to end corruption, wastage of public resources and putting in place progressive laws when its leadership and parliamentarians enjoyed huge influence over President Barrow in the early days of the transition.
Essa Njie made these observations when contacted by The Standard for comments on the recent statement by the UDP on the unretired imprests affair.
In a statement issued a few days ago, UDP said the presidency’s claims that millions of un-retired imprests given to civil servants were disbursed before Barrow took over indicated that the government is dodging from its responsibility of probity and accountability.
Commenting on this, Njie said although comments by the UDP leader regarding the imprests are appreciated, the party cannot convince Gambians that it will be different when it comes to fighting corruption in government because it effectively dominated both the executive and the legislature without doing much to address many challenges they are preaching now.
“The UDP was effectively the government of the day in the early days of the change when Barrow donated 53 vehicles to parliamentarians. People questioned the source of those vehicles including the PDOIS but it was mostly the UDP that verbally attacked people for asking those questions and that opened the floodgates of corruption in this government. Not only have they condoned corruption but also the wastage of public resources. President Barrow travelled with over 50 delegates to the UN General Assembly in 2017 which was an outright wastage of public resources and the UDP was effectively in government but they never questioned those wastages. Also, when it comes to appointments in diplomatic missions a lot of people were compensated because of their loyalty to the UDP as a political party. The NPP is doing the same now, turning our foreign services to a political compensation ground but it started way back in 2017. So, all these problems emanated from 2017 with the UDP effectively as the party in government and they did not do much to address them. So, I think it will be very difficult for them [UDP] to convince us that they are really ready to fight corruption even though the leadership’s statement regarding the imprests issue is welcoming,” the political scientist remarked.
He said the UDP is also complicit in interrupting the coalition agenda by emboldening President Barrow to renege on his promise to step down after 3 years.
“Thanks to the UDP as a political party, President Barrow was able to renege on that promise when the party leader [Ousainu Darboe] came out to say he would take legal action against anybody who wanted to force Barrow to resign. That statement emboldened Barrow and gave him the courage to withstand any pressure calling for him to resign and that was a major interruption in the transition to ensure that we are in a full-fledged democracy. Without that position of the UDP, President Barrow would not have been here today. He would have leveled the ground for all parties to participate in free and fair manner as envisaged in the coalition agreement. Part of the transition project was to ensure we deliver a new constitution, what we needed in 2017 was to reform a lot of laws and the UDP had that opportunity with 31 members in parliament but we did not see that happen,” the UTG lecturer claimed. He argued that the party could have better utilized these opportunities in the early days of the transition to bring in good and progressive laws when it comes to fighting corruption.
“They [UDP] have been tested and they did not utilize the golden opportunity to deliver to the Gambian people what we expect them. So for me, UDP is not much different from the NPP government when it comes to addressing corruption, wastage of public resources and putting in place progressive laws in the country.”