By Yaya Dampha
It is barely three months since President Adama Barrow took full charge of the Gambia. His government took power from the present day worst dictator whose 22-year rule had been marred by extrajudicial killings, abductions, tortures, economic indiscipline, imprisonment of innocent people, disappearances, exiling and total dismantling of our social and national fabrics. It is clear as the daylight that any government that takes over from a brutal dictator will undoubtedly face monumental challenges in its first two years. The Coalition leadership is cognizant of this fact, which is why they have tasked themselves with achieving specific goals during its first three years. It will take several years before we completely clean Yahya Jammeh’s mess. In fact, we can only clean what is known to us and leave the unknown to God. But with open heart and concerted efforts, we can get our country back on its feet, and fast. It is our right to make the Barrow government accountable but we have to allow it to die first before we bury it. I mean we exercise patience before we send the Coalition administration to the cleaners.
However, I find it extremely interesting to see the so-called activists or political virgins swinging on the new government well before it starts implementing its programmes and policies. Some of these indotrinated, angry talibes design a well calculated new narrative aimed intimidating the Coalition leadership. They use every cyber platform to effect their smear campaign, driving home narrative that “what we have is a regime change and not a systemic change. We are disappointed with the Barrow government.” This is one of most hypocritical statements I have come across. This is unfair to a Coalition that comprises of sincere members of seven political parties and the independent who threw away their selfish interests, fearlessly fought and defeated a system that fed on human blood. Without this landmark defeat Gambians would have been still been in chains; there would be voice for only those a selected people in the diaspora. The democracy that gives birth to unprecedented freedom of expression will neither be heard nor seen.
One thing we must all bear in mind is that the Gambian people did not vote in president Barrow as Adama Barrow. Rather they voted for an opposition Coalition candidate they trust can protect their life, property and replace Jammeh’s filthy system with with Real Democracy. That is what Gambians have been yearning for over two decades. So if any party or group of Gambians task themselves with undermining the Coalition government’s failure must bear in mind that the success of this government is the success of all of us. Its failure is equally the failure of all of us. However, the good news is that these enemies of the government are in the minority who cannot make anything relevant in the face of the majority support President Barrow has got. Let the barking dogs continue barking because that is the only power they possess. The underminers’ deliberate selling of fake news is not helping them win.
Every system change must begin with a regime change after which all others: relevant reforms, reconstruction, democratisation, justice and reconciliation follow. We must be thankful to the Barrow government for the following achievements during this short time.
1. Removing the rule of fear from the minds of our people.
2. Emptying the prisons making it possible for them to reunite their families and friends.
3. Proving to the families of those kidnapped that their loved ones were executed and secretly buried.
4. Allowing or opening the way for all the exiles to return home and reunite with their love ones.
5. Reinstating many of those wrongfully dismissed from their work.
6. Job security, no one fears that you will be dismiss or victimize because of your conscience.
7. Arresting half of the killer squad and charging them to court.
8. Enable communities to reconcile and resolve their political differences.
9. Gambians today can go out and demonstrate on the streets without police permit which was tantamount signing one’s own death warrant in Yahya Jammeh’s Gambia. Even advanced democracies such as the United States, Britain, Sweden and others, no demonstrations take place without without police approval.
10. Conduct free and fare legislative election by allowing even the dictator’s party to freely canvass for votes.
Are these not achievements that needs our honest commendations? Are these not system change which cause most of us to go into exile? Are these not system change that even the false asylum seekers referred to as reasons for seeking asylum? If the system hasn’t changed, why so many exiled activists have been visiting the country. Do we hear of any state sponsored torture, disappearances, or murder since Barrow took over?
So let us be honest critics, give credit where it is due and stop sending wrong signals. The Coalition’s record speaks for itself – we either accept the truth or bend it to satisfy our selfish interest. By saying the new government has not done anything is simply disingenuous.
As a human rights activist, I will not rest until all the victims of the Jammeh dictatorship – dead or alive – have gotten the justice they deserve. It is for this reason that I applaud the exhuming of dead bodies secretly buried in the bushes. This is a good start as we journey to justice. Bereaved victims and families deserve closure, which does not take place in the absence of justice and reconciliation. In the end, families should be accorded the opportunity to perform fitting burials on their lost souls.