What President Barrow needs to know now

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By Capt Ebou Jallow

The concept of “loyal opposition” is lost to Mamma Kandeh, a politician that used to command some respect running up to the 2016 presidential election. Kandeh dropped the ball when he decided to criticise his commander-in-chief in a foreign country – Senegal to be specific, a country which is The Gambia’s most important strategic partner. Mamma Kandeh was offering himself as a viable alternative to President Barrow to the Senegalese because in his poor judgment Barrow shall be under tremendous amount of pressure come December 2019… and there is some margin of chance that he may not survive the impending political upheaval. However, Kandeh’s assessment is wrong and he has underestimated President Barrow’s resolve to completing his five years mandate.

It is about time for President Barrow to upgrade his politics, surround himself with competent loyalists who will support his political agenda to the end. The time of appeasing the “coalition” is over. President Barrow must now graduate into realpolitik, be strategic in governance and play hardball with his opponents who never want to see him succeed. Although Barrow’s administration has been cleansed of the key UDP detractors, the UDP system that was rigged at the inception of this government is still at play at the TRRC, the Janneh Commission, the AG’s Chambers, the security forces and some key strategic sectors of the civil service. The UDP juggernaut usurped the coalition agenda hoping to reaping the spoils of their subterfuge but end up now with a sucker-payoff after the humiliating dismissals of Darboe and his proxies.

Three eminent factors are going to determine the success or doom of the Barrow administration in the next few months: (1) allaying the devious stratagems of the UDP, (2) surviving December 2019 and (3) propitiating potential allies such as the APRC. The UDP in the person of Ousainu Darboe is plagued with delusion of grandeur and some faux sense of entitlement to rule The Gambia because their politics has never shifted away from demoralising the incumbency since 1996 – the resentment they had for Yahya Jammeh is proportionate to the condescension they feel for Adama Barrow. It has always been an either/or struggle for power for their party and this is why the UDP has degenerated into a personality cult with Darboe as its centre of gravity. The party is slowly being petrified into an ancient fossil like Pierre Njie’s UP of yesteryears. The UDP now lacks any innovative ideas beyond distraction, noise and posturing.

The spectre of unbridled mass protestations is slouching against the establishment with catastrophic effects to the peace and political stability of The Gambia. Allowing the current mantra of demanding Barrow to step down in December may metastasize into a festering cancer of the Gambian bodypolitic giving an opportunity for rogue operators within the security forces and civil society to usurp political power illegitimately at the expense of our young democracy. President Barrow and the Attorney General must put a conclusive end to this foolishness now and enforce the supremacy of the Gambian constitution. A country can never be ruled by resentment nor held hostage by attention-seeking bloodhounds.

Finally, President Barrow must learn to be prudent in judgement and pragmatic in politics by making a fine distinction between his political enemies and allies based on mutual common interests. Politics is a competitive existential struggle between enemies; and in The Gambia it is also a zero-sum game. You must make allies if you want to win; and the APRC is the holder of balance of power in the next presidential election – no political party shall survive their enmity in 2021. Great Britain was able to rule the entire globe from sunset to sunrise because she has always been the Perfidious Albion of international politics. Prudence and pragmatism triumphs over simplistic moral calculations in politics; and it takes courage to make alliance with the enemy of your enemies. Mr. President don’t fall into the trap of alienating the APRC nor underestimate their political power to derail the transition agenda for a constitutional reform when the time comes for a national referendum to change the Gambian constitution.