New Year Message: Take Some Positive Action on January 19 and Onwards

Madi Jobarteh

19th January 2021 marks the beginning and the end of the fifth year since President Adama Barrow was installed as the third President of the Republic under the ticket of the coalition of seven major parties and an independent candidate in the 2016 presidential polls. That Coalition and their candidate Adama Barrow had promised a total overhaul of the constitutional, legal and institutional setup of the Gambia in order to usher in a truly democratic dispensation founded on good governance and human rights principles. Since 2017 the Coalition controlled both the Executive and the Legislature. This year 2021 will mark their five years in power. What have they achieved?

To my mind, the Coalition Government – as the Executive and the Legislature achieved far less than expected despite the abundance of opportunities available to them, locally and internationally. Not only have they unashamedly misused those opportunities but they went further to also renege on their fundamental promises in broad daylight! In the first place, we saw how all the Coalition parties abandoned their agenda conveniently – either by actively encouraging Barrow to betray that agenda or passively throwing their hands off thus allowing Barrow to betray.

Then, apart from wasting millions of dalasi in writing a new constitution only to flush it in the toilet afterwards, both the President and the Coalition Parties in the National Assembly also failed to effect any meaningful constitutional and legal reforms. Security institutions as well as the civil service remain dominated by the same Jammeh-era senior officers, while the same old culture of inefficiency, poor performance and corruption are higher today than ever before. Thus, the greatest betrayal of this President is not only that he has reneged on the three-year promise and not to contest the next election, but he has even gone further to maintain the same dictatorship system by leaving public institutions as they were while looking towards serving as President for more than 10 years!

Consequently, not only has the President distinguished himself as the leading violator of our Constitution, but the Legislature has amply demonstrated that they will either turn a blind eye or even aid and abet him in abusing power with impunity. Despite holding so much powers in their hands, NAMs have remained reluctant to discipline the Executive. This is why the President, Vice President and Ministers would have the audacity to stand on the floor of the National Assembly to address NAMs with gross disrespect and nothing comes out of it. Yet there have been many instances when NAMs should have sought impeachment or move a motion of no confidence in the President or a motion of censure against a Minister in order to get him or her sacked! But the greatest failure of the NAMs has been their failure to work collaboratively and collectively to pursue the necessary constitutional and legal reforms and check the Executive.

Therefore, on this third day of the New Year, I hereby humbly and solemnly call on all Gambians to undertake some action on 19 January 2021 and until Election Day in December. It appears the onus to correct the Gambia should now be performed by citizens directly. The time has come for Gambians to realise that we are no different from any country in the world. In serious countries, citizens take action to confront the political class to ensure that they act according to the best interest of the people. Since 2017, we, The People have been making it easy for our politicians, be they President, NAMs, and party leaders.

We pamper these political leaders as saints and faultless supper men and women despite the fact that our country is in such deplorable state of affairs thanks to their poor leadership. Secondly even though they control parliament, we see how they refuse to work together to create system change. Thirdly, we have allowed this President to act like an inept Dictator while seeking to divide the people. This trend shall continue so long as Gambian citizens do not make politicians face consequences for their bad decisions, betrayals, falsehoods, and dishonesties!

For that matter, I think the time has come for citizens to drop and bury that dormancy, vain optimism and culture of maslaha with which we have approached our fundamental issues. Therefore, I strongly urge citizens, individually and collectively to begin to take control of the space and the narrative. Let us confront our political leaders to tell them enough is enough. Yes. We shall no longer take nonsense.  Therefore, there is a wide range of actions you can take. Just make sure whatever action you take is constitutional, peaceful, nonviolent, democratic and legal. For example, you may wish to write a personal or joint letter addressed to the President or Speaker or NAMs and political party leaders, collectively or individually to tell them your piece of mind about their leadership – good or bad. You may wish to make it an open letter or a private, confidential letter. Some may wish to stage a massive concert just to sing our issues and concerns to the leaders.

You may also wish to demonstrate anywhere in the Gambia. But, if you wish to demonstrate, then apply to IGP as early as possible so that he will not say your application came in late. For those in the regions (i.e. outside Banjul and Kanifing), you should apply to the Governor. This is what the obnoxious Public Order Act says! You may also wish to carry out a one-person demonstration – even within the confines of your home and livestream on social media.

You may also wish to go to court. We need to challenge so many things in this country. For example, the obnoxious multimillion dalasi loan to NAMs must be challenged in the Supreme Court. We need to ask for court injunctions to make the Government disclose so many pieces of information such as how, why and where the money lodged in Mrs. Fatou Bah Barrow’s foundation came from or who those anonymous donors were. We need to go to court to challenge the several dubious contracts awarded by this Government. There have been so many violations of the Constitution such as the partisan politicisation of the current ‘meet the people’ tour, which need to be challenged.

This Gambia is our country just as it is Adama Barrow’s country or Ousainou Darboe or Halifa Sallah or Isatou Touray or Ismaila Ceesay or Marie Sock or any other political leader’s country. Hence, we must not let anyone toy with this country only to plunge our lives into misery. Already we have enough lessons to learn from the despot Yaya Jammeh’s terrible misrule. So, let us not repeat the same mistakes.

Individually, I will take action on 19 January 2021, and going forward. Each and every one of us must get resolved that we get the Gambia we want. If we want a better Gambia, then we have to create that Gambia. As an election year, I strongly believe that we must change the leadership of this country once again – both the Presidency and the National Assembly. I will not vote for the same candidate again!

For The Gambia Our Homeland.

Madi Jobarteh

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