Where is New Gambia?

105

By Abdou Karim Jammeh

It is now over four years of President Barrow’s government which came to power by means of a coalition in 2016 following success in voting out former president Yahya Jammeh who ruled The Gambia with an iron fist.

After the collapse of the 22-year-old dictatorship, there was hope because of the wonderful promises made by the political leaders and it was agreed that the new government will rule for only three years as a transition government.

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Gambians, especially Yahya Jammeh’s victims of human rights violation and the youth who yearned for a real change of system to better their lives are now very disappointed. This begs the question: where is The New Gambia?

Instead of focusing on a system change in accordance with the aspiration of the people as agreed, President Barrow went ahead with forming his own political outfit, the National People’s Party (NPP).

The current Gambian president should understand that he is a victim because he ran away to Senegal when Yahya Jammeh refused to step down from power and wanted to kill him after the election which gave birth to a political impasse in the country.

However, Adama Barrow neither registered at the Victims Centre for Human Rights Violation nor visited the place since he assumed office. Instead, in a speech, he described we the victims as opportunists who only wanted to travel to Europe when nothing was wrong with us.

The same Barrow employed the former dictator’s colleagues who killed and looted our economy.

He is not helping our brothers and sisters abroad to integrate there so that they would be productive. Instead his ministers sign deals with Western countries to deport Gambian migrants which has resulted in increased mental breakdown among the hapless deportees. Some of them have turned to drug abuse and criminality becoming  liabilities to society.

No reforms

The Barrow government should be the catalyst of the new democratisation process in the country, yet we have not seen any tangible and meaningful reforms in the civil service, security forces, education or the health sector.

The security sector is suffering due to poor salaries which are very evident as security personnel frequently stand on the roadsides looking for lift to go and and return from work. I wish I have the means to provide them with vehicles for timely transportation to and from work.

Doctors and nurses are also working under similar frustrating conditions with inadequate medical facilities and equipment and medicines.

Our teachers are also suffering with low salaries compared to their counterparts in the neighbouring Senegal. It is because of teachers that many people are what they are today including the president himself. The education system needs urgent overhaul.

Farmers work hard round the year. Despite all the backbreaking work as food producers, they still struggle to feed their own families which is why they would sell their groundnuts to highest bidders even if it means going across the border.

There are no reliable job opportunities for the youth and no retirement homes for the elderly as many of them only have pittance as a pension when they even retire, often without even being able to have a home of their own. The poor road networks, one of the most expensive telephone communication tariffs in the world and still poor, while cost of living is increasing day by day.

Commissions of inquiry

The Janneh Commission was established to look into the financial dealings of former president Yahya Jammeh and his close associates but not much came out of it as some of those named in financial crimes are still working in the Barrow administration.

The Faraba Banta Commission on the killing of three young people by security officers at Faraba village was established and did their findings but nothing came out it too.

The Constitutional Review Commission also did their work by coming up with a new draft constitution but it was thrown into the dust bin with the support of some parliamentarians.

The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) is going on yet President Barrow has neither visited the Victims Centre, nor expressed sympathy for the victims either secretly or openly but instead did not hesitate to visit the offices of the State Intelligence Services who have been one of the major perpetrators of human rights abuses in the Jammeh years.

We the victims have great hope in the TRRC because there are very content and credible personalities. The TRRC and the Victims Centre is our only hope.

The draconian way

The push for electoral reform, the reason that resulted in the martyrdom of Solo Sandeng has not been keenly pursued. There are still bad laws as the 1997 Constitution is till in force with clauses that indemnify criminals who killed 14 student protesters in April 2000. The state is still maintaining the Public Order Act for fear of people’s enjoyment of freedom of assembly and they banned 3 Years Jotna who organised two protests to remind the president about his promise to step down after three years as a transitional leader.

President Barrow should be reminded that he was voted in office as president of the people, for the people and by the people and Gambians yearn to have the best government not only in Africa but to be unrivalled in the whole world.

One would wonder why a president who supposed to leader for a three years transition would surround himself with enablers of Yahya Jammeh like Seedy Njie, a nine-day minister of information under the dictator who stood by Jammeh and insisted that President Barrow would not be sworn in as president, helping the dictator in his refusal to step down.

Barrow is working alongside other enablers of dictator Jammeh like Chief Protocol Alhagie Ceesay; Foreign Affairs minister Mamadou Tangara; Finance and Economic Affairs minister Mambury Njie; Defence minister Sheikh Omar Faye; State Intelligence Services director general Ousman Sowe; Interior minister Yankuba Sonko; National Security adviser Momodou Badjie, among others who aided the dictator and did not deserve serving in a government that come for reforms.

Never again

Former President Jammeh’s political party, APRC should be banned because all the killings, torture, enforced disappearances, rape, unlawful arrests, forcing elders to drink poisonous concoctions in the name of witch hunting occurred under their administration.

With all the revelations at the TRRC about former president Yahya Jammeh and his APRC, Barrow chose to betray the trust of the people who sacrificed everything for him, put him in office and now he is creating space for these perpetrators again.

President Barrow should use his prudence and give consideration to the recommendations of the Janneh Commission, Faraba Commission and upcoming recommendations of the ongoing TRRC so that the slogan NEVER AGAIN can become a reality.

We deserve a country where clean, legal investors are attracted so that the youth can have opportunities to work in their own country to curb irregular migration.

No to tribalism

The politics of tribalism must be killed and buried as The Gambia is a society where members of different tribes intermarry and live in peaceful coexistence. Politicians should also engage in politics of programmes and policies to enable the electorate make inform choices.

Finally, Gambians, let’s change our attitude towards our country and work together, especially our gallant security. We have very professional and experienced security personnel in The Gambia. We just need proper reform for the security and safety of our children and their better future.

It is worth reminiscing that 2016 was a historic year that will be remembered as it catapaulted The Gambia on the good side of history after giving birth to what we affectionately call the New Gambia.

We should all therefore, avoid going back to the old dark days of our history – the era of dictatorship – that is why we must all endeavor to give realistic meaning to NEVER AGAIN.

The destiny of this country is in our hands. The whole world is moving and we are still where we are. It’s time to move on to shape the future of our children and generations yet unborn.

The author Abdou Karim Jammeh was shot in his knee during the April 2000 student demonstration where more than a dozen students were gunned down by security personnel. He has been a leading voice for his fellow victims.