Successful transfer of power in the Gambia must lead to transformation of the country, this is the new challenge before the new President Barrow.
The peaceful transfer of power in the Gambia has finally been resolved to a reasonable extent. Though this has not just happened, it has consumed lots of diplomatic efforts, military expediency, political negotiations, and commitment of the Gambian people.
The Gambian people have shown lots of doggedness by remaining calm, showing understanding, and maintaining faith in the new President and the coalition leaders for direction. The same goes for the coalition leaders for standing up to the former President Yahya Jammeh. They have done so by not being confrontational, but very strategic, articulate and with firm understanding of the process of the law and using the Gambian constitution as the framework for response to each of the dictatorial moves of the former President Jammeh.
The post-Jammeh Gambia may be more challenging than the entire 22 years of the former President Jammeh’s rule. The reason for this, is that for 22 years the civil service has been militarised in act and language, the military has lost respect for civilian control, the national assembly has been a forum to play the game of the person in the seat of power rather than developing and respecting the constitution, public service has been tailored to a service of one man, accountability has been a big problem, the judiciary’s independence has been elusive, civil society and the media have been cowed; and the people’s orientation has been programmed to the rule of fear.
We therefore urge President Adama Barrow, as he continues to display commitment to the transition, to pay particular attention to transforming the country by working on the following priority areas:
Reformation of military and the police
Civil service reform
Structural reform of the public sector
Capacity building for media, civil society, and political parties
Mainstreaming human rights to all sectors
Justice sector reform
Establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission
Reformation of the economy
Part of the challenges for the new government is to build strong institutions and systems that will ensure that the Gambia do not regress back to the situation from which it has just emerged.
The Gambia needs a strong and firm willingness to rebuild the state. The responsibility of educating and re-orientating the public will also be a big challenge that the new government must confront.
It is also important to note that rebuilding the state may need the following contributions from the following stakeholders:
The New Government must:
Send a clear message ensuring that promoting unity, peace, rule of law, respect for human rights and democracy are central to its transformation agenda.
Reach out to the international community and to regional bodies for development assistance for the country’s developmental programs.
Give clear directives to civil and public servants that accountability to the Gambian people is key to the new government deliverables.
Source both national and international experts to help in developing reformative systems, due process, and development plans for the country.
Commit in clear terms to international and regional human rights treaties.
The ECOWAS regional body must:
Prioritise support to the Gambia to achieve a more sustainable and enduring democratic process
Organise a donor conference for the Gambia with strong involvement of both civil society and the private sector.
Facilitate the re-training of the Gambian security forces.
Play key role in the review of the justice sector.
International Community must:
Mobilise donor to support for the Gambian plan for development.
Support civil society and the media in holding the new government accountable.
Support national and regional experts in helping the government with necessary reforms.
HURIDAC will work with the new government, the Gambian civil society and other stakeholders in ensuring the full and effective implementation on these recommendations.
What about tax reform? Who do you suppose should pay for all those reforms you have listed?
And, do we have any idea how much all that reform will cost, or how long it will take to implement, or how sustainable are the benefits to be delivered by the reforms? For now, all we have is a list, and we need think through the details of the reform, to flesh on the bone so to speak.
First, any reform can be very expensive and time consuming and normally can be disruptive too. For this reason, I feel it is wiser if we first think about how much reform, as opposed to mere restructuring (re-engineering) is needed to make your listed (and its a brilliant list) institutions deliver efficient, effective and accessible services to citizens at affordable prices. And my current thinking is that few of our institutions need serious reform for the reasons that follow, even if all will need restructuring to fit in with the current government’s ambitions to improve real opportunity for self-realisation in a well governed society, including employment opportunities.
If we take the following institutions as examples – the military, the police, the Civil service, and public sectors institutions, and civil societies and cooperative movements, we can immediately see that in terms of achieving, for instance, human right and justice for all (an important tenants of the present government) that in actual fact the Gambia used to be the envy of the rest of Africa in in terms these attributes, all because we had inherited and kept world class executive, legislative and judicial institutions and arrangement from Britain, buttressed of course by Gambian values including fair play, empathy and tolerance. These institutions and their arrangements, and the attitudes and values that support them have, not only persisted since 1965 (after the British left) through to 1994, when they were rudely disrupted by the self serving, and dictatorial Jammeh regime, they actually still exist today. They are there somewhere, in the libraries, in the minds and attitudes and demands and protests of the peoples, and have survived the brutal onslaught of the Jammeh years. So all that is needed to be done is to retrieve, revive, renew, restructure and re-engineers our heritage military, the police, the Civil service, and public sectors institutions, and civil societies and cooperative, and bingo, before we know it, these will be up and running again like clock – like how they used to when The Gambia, our homeland, was the envy of the region when it comes to respect for human right, justice, and well functioning civil service, public sector and cooperative movements – witness the recent campaign dissuading farmers not to sell their produce across the border. Such actions were unthinkable in the era of farmers cooperative movements. There was a sense of ownership in the sense that each individual farmer knew that (s)he had a stake via his membership of a cooperative movement/civil society in the in the success or otherwise of the whole business of groundnut production, from its farming, to its marketing. He sold to the cooperative because he knew that in lean times he could obtain microfinance for fertilizer, seeds, mosquito nets, school fees from his cooperative society. Thus the preceding demonstrate that no major and wholesale reforms are needed. What is needed however is to keep a cool head, trace back each institution and its operations to particular period of time when it was rudely interrupted and after comprehensive discussion, public consultation together with appropriate consultation with all interested parties, attempt a restructure in terms to ensure accessibility, responsiveness, efficiency, effectiveness, economy and, resilience is achieved in the short and medium term. Such an action would be preferable, given current constraints, to embarking on a costly, and potentially disruptive reform program with all the risks of failure that would entail. Sometimes simplicity is the best virtue.
Similarly the civil services may only need restructuring, and not a wholesale reform. It too had functioned, smoothly, and seamlessly l between 1965 and 1994 when it was apparently centralised under the office of the President during Jammeh’s long rule. It would probably be smart if it too were simple retrieved, revived, renewed and restructured to achieve the universal aims of accessibility, responsiveness, efficiency, effectiveness, economy and, resilience without any need to carry out a costly, potentially disruptive reform agenda as happened under Jammeh’s regime. This can be done by adopting a new the model that was in existence prior to 1994 and appointing a well meaning, shall we say “God fearing”, independent and fearless Commissioner as full time chair person to be supported by and a carefully chosen band of part-timers or deputy Commissioners with the right mix of experience and knowledge to ensure, fair, effective, competent, and dedicated and professional public service, with authority to obtain appropriate expertise for specialist work, like performance evaluations, recruitment, pay scale determination etc.
As for the police and Army, these institutions also worked well enough in the Gambian situation up until they were tampered with and turned into instruments of repression under the Jammeh regime. I can remember, for example when Gambian policing practice pre-Jammeh was based on community policing principles, not on an adversarial method. Then they were not restructured as part of a security apparatus, and if anything their method of policing and attitude to the community was closer to how the fire brigade did its work – the Police were protection oriented not harassment oriented.
And the military for its part were more more regarded as state guides and training ground were young adults who wanted to acquire a trade or discipline. I suspect our present army chief is of that genre as evidenced his decision not to go war to, but instead to both keep the peace and protect the community. He could not be made to pick a ;stupid fight” and is therefore of the right attitude. Evidently therefore, this institution is functioning well in the sense that no radical and costly wholesale reforms are needed as our men and women in uniform including the leadership have their hearts in the right place, and therefore does not need costly, potentially disruptive and risky reform, if a far reaching restructuring can be taken.
Having said all of the above, it seem major reform will be needed in certain sectors of the economy because mere restructuring will most likely not result in the right level of accessibility, responsiveness, efficiency, effectiveness, economy and, resilience. of those institutions, given current institutional arrangements they have in place. Most notable reforms will be needed to, for example, both give the private sector a greater role in the running of the economy, and to, at the same time, reduce government involvement in the economy. Promotion of greater competition in service provision should ensure citizens reap the inevitable efficiency benefits that ensue. Courageous leadership will be needed to ensure the unbundling and rebundling of services produced by the major government owned businesses to reduce complexity, and and waste and increase transparency and efficiency, and overall debt level in the economy (thus increasing government’s ability to borrow in leaner times – natural disasters for example). Of course government regulatory services will need major reform to ensure that the public interest as a whole is preserved at all times and in all dealings, and no interest group(s), or individuals can dominate sectors of the economy Cooperative movements in the Gambia pre- Jammeh ensured that big land holding farmers and smaller one all have the same shares and stake in the performance of the cooperatives and bigger farmers could not dominate the financial and operating policies of the movement. This same principle can be applied to suit other sectors of the economy to good effect for competition , efficiency and lower cost for the consumer. Moreover , trade unions, technical colleges, professional and trade association can be mobilized to good effect in setting standards, ensuring work place safety, minimum training requirements, wages negotiations etc.
Yet certain institutions cannot be reformed and there is little to be gained by restructuring them. They have outlived their usefulness with the the demise of the Jammeh regime. They have no further use and can be abolished. Personnel can be retrained and/ or deployed elsewhere in the civil service.