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An Open Letter to The Executive of Barrow Administration
Where’s Our Democracy?
We fought alongside you for 22 years not only to remove Yahya Jammeh but also to institute participatory politics and governing with a view to improve quality/quantity of living of ALL Gambians.
December 01, 2016, we defeated Yahya at the ballot and you assumed office January 19, 2017. It has been 10 months since.
The primary task of your government is to lead our nation to all-inclusive participatory democracy hence An Agreed 3-year Transition Government. This is neither a small task nor a short-term undertaking. It may probably take many generations to come full circle but 3 years is reasonable to establish all the fundamentals from where we are. Almost one-third of the agreed transition period is behind us and nothing material started on this primary priority.
Thus, our concerns/questions are:
WHY DIDN’T THE REFORM AGENDA WE ALL AGREED ON DID NOT START 10 MONTHS INTO YOUR ADMINISTRATION
HOW/WHY YOUR CURRENT PREOCCUPATIONS ARE PRIORITIES OVER WHAT WE FOUGHT AND SOME DIED FOR?
WHY ARE YOU ASKING THE NATION TO GIVE YOU MORE TIME? MORE TIME TO BEGIN?
IF YOU CAN’T START AFTER 1/3 OF THE AGREED TRANSITION PERIOD IS BEHIND US, HOW AND WHEN SHALL WE COMPLETE?
DO YOU EVEN INTEND TO HONOR YOUR SIGNATURE ON THAT AGREEMENT?
WHAT HAPPENED TO DEMANDS AND DECLARATION OF JUNE 2015 SIGNED BY ALL OPPSITION PARTIES ASKING THE THEN YAHYA GOVERNMENT FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AND ELECTORAL REFORMS?
Few months ago, Vice President Fatoumata Tambajang visited USA and had a meeting with some Gambians. Halifa Sallah in UK also met with Gambians and took questions. Foreign Minisiter Ousainou Darboe is currently in USA and met with some Gambians.
Ms. Tambanjang asked us to support the government and that all-hands should be on deck for national development. On its face, this is a good advice but contributing to national development is not necessarily supporting government. In fact, one of the goals of our struggle is to have a wide open democratic space where opposing ideas can fiercely compete and win on merit rather than conformity. Ms Tambajang had nothing on transition governing and building democracy.
Ousainou Darboe on his part asked us not to use our emotions but passion. I need an explanation about what that means. He asked us to stop vilifying others. That sounds like Yahya Jammeh’s tone. How are the above 6 questions vilifying anyone? Mr. Darboe has shown frustration/anger over some questions both at this gathering and previous press conferences. Mr. Darboe shouldn’t be concerned whether we are emotional or passionate. We’re after all the same people you worked with for 22 years and we are asking the same things we asked of Yahya Jammeh. Mr. Darboe also failed to offer any progress on the agreed transition governing and building democracy. Instead he warned us to accept realities that they are the leaders and that wasn’t by accident. That let us follow them to the next step – ECONOMIC EMANICIPATION. Not building democracy!
Mr. Sallah offered his views on the task ahead and the importance of the agreed transition governing agenda. Unfortunately, he seems to be outside of decision making at this point in time. That in itself is concerning because he was central to why we are where we are.
The now former Minister of Interior, Mr. Mai Ahmed Fatty, also made some public comments that are concerning for a government that’s primary tasked to transition the nation to ‘Functioning Institutional Democracy’. One such comment was – In Mandinka, YOU CAN ONLY DRY YOURSELF WITH TODAY’S and NOT YESTERDAY’S SUNSHINE. Very undemocratic and borderline threat by a Minister at a public (not political function) paid for by all Gambians!
Others asked us to return home or shut up and put up! Simply look at yourself in the mirror – that was exactly the attitude of Yahya towards citizens in the exercise of their civic rights. Twelve months ago we were the mainstay and strength of our collective effects. According International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) June 2017 Reports, Gambian migrants’ remittances account for 22% of the 2016 GDP. Of the estimated D45b (about US$1b) GDP those migrants account for D9.9b (about D10b). Collectively we contributed significantly towards the ousting of Yahya – our hard-earned monies, persistent noise online and counselling our families. Why would this government expect our participation in politics be limited to fall-in-line with them or shut up or comeback home? How’re you different from Yahya? Our geographic location (Freedom of Movement) should have no bearing on our civic rights, roles, duties and responsibilities. We hope any redo of The Constitution will strike out any such restrictive provisions currently in the books.
We are aware that a Political Party (Mama Kandeh’s Gambia Democractic Congress) was denied a permit to hold a meeting. We received information that an APRC convoy was stoned at Busumbala and as far as we know there are no investigations to subject those responsible to our criminal justice system. Our attention was also drawn to denial or revocation of permit to lads who want to protest about recent acute water/electricity shortages. These were bad governing practices we fought against under Yahya Jammeh’s government. It’s inconceivable in just 10 short months that we are subjecting those with opposing views to practices we were victims of just about a year ago. The Culture of Political Intolerance is ALWAYS a product of an ENVIRONMENT CREATED or CONDONED or GIVEN A BLIND-EYE by those in power. To be precise the government of that day.
Without ADEQUATE CONSTITUTIONAL/LEGAL ENVIRONMENT, FUNCTIONING DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS and REQUISITE HUMAN CAPACITIES, these expressed hyper-sensitivities of higher ups with unlimited governmental powers at their disposal could easily translate into criminalization of conscience. One good example was allegations that Ousainou Darboe called GRTS news team complaining about certain storyline. As far as we know he has no (never had) any editorial authority over GRTS. He could have called up a press conference and refute the story but calling GRTS is coercion with his new-found power. It will be travesty if once victims of such governmental abuses turned into abusers. We hope your ultra-sensitivities to opposing views is never used to attempt to silence us.
Regardless, our goal was/remained:
‘MAKING GAMBIA A FUNCTIONING INSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY’
We shall continue to advocate for that CAUSE till our last breath.
IN PRACTICE THAT MEANS:
Facilitate creation of a National Participatory Constitutional and Governance/Government Reform/Overhaul Task Force that will work with Gambians to do the following:
Re-do military constitution to a National Republican Constitution – our rights, separation of powers, decentralized governance, delineation of powers, term limits, cut out/clean-up noises, election reforms, etc.
Restructure (Decentralized) Government – Banjul -> Regions -> Districts -> Villages with defined structures, roles and scopes, resource allocation, etc.
Develop accountability systems, processes and procedures taking technology into account that will maximize safety and proper utilization of all public resources, failures detect early and institute steep prices for abuses
Review National Security NEEDS with a view to reform and right-size the current unnecessary security apparatus that is too expensive on our meager tax resources and abusive to our rights
Review the NEEDS for government to hold on or otherwise our failing SOEs and how best to provide those needs effectively, efficiently and at the lowest cost possible. Such analysis (should it be based on facts) might lead us divesting State businesses to private investors. So, long government support with enabling regulatory environment there are more than enough private capital ready to provide those services cheaply and efficiently. Today they are milk-cows for the corruption of public officials. No amount personnel shuffling/recycling will make a difference. The Gambian people in the are the big losers
Facilitate by bringing together educators and other social science fields to Develop a curriculum of CIVIC EDUCATION on Gambian Democracy/Government as a discipline with a view to incorporate such material into our formal education system as a certification requirement from Primary 1 to Undergraduate School at University of The Gambia (UTG). Device other awareness creations tools to reach the none school going population. This is a recognition that at the end of the day the people are the guarantors of democracy and only when they have the right requisite capacities can they assume that civic role.
Enlist Statisticians and other appropriate fields to develop a complete unadulterated basic social Registers such as birth, dead, passports, National ID, Voters, Vehicles, etc. for informed management, justice administration, research, etc. Democracy cannot work in the dark and/or trial and errors. We’ve to have accurate information.
Based on the Constitution and Laws of The Gambia administer justice impartially, follow due processes to the letter no matter what, punish abuses in accordance with law, respect each citizen rights, etc.
Investigate crimes against human rights of the past 22 years – do not bury them under the rug with the so-called TRUTH & RECONCILIATION. Is not good enough! People were denied fundamental rights including their life.
The lack of any attention to the above are the basis of all our concerns and questions. We’re not sure what is holding off these very basic demands of our struggle.
The supposed Economic Agenda you are (or seem) to be pursuing is of course vital to our people. It cannot be completely ignored for the above to be completed. However, it is a fact that Gambia cannot realize socio-economic prosperity under the current political and economic setup. Political/democratic reforms is a prerequisite to our socio-economic prosperity. The facts below bear that assertion.
2017 ECONOMIC FACTS
Costs of Government
Debt Interest Servicing
CASH BALANCE (negative)
Noticed that the above numbers haven’t shown
And we are in RED INK by D560 million. Those are in fact the reasons why we pay taxes. Costs of government is an incidental overhead head. Should it be about 75% of our national tax revenue?
No amount of begging (grants) and/or loans (debt) would lift us out of this ditch. Your government did not create this mess. We thought you would be bold to embrace truth by commissioning an audit of ALL public books and report that to the people. Those facts become handy in engaging the nation on solutions. Instead you are so far on the same path both Jawara and Yahya pursued. It hasn’t work for them nor will it work for you. The big losers are people of The Gambia.
There are only 2 ways to turn this numbers around.
To increase revenue – this doesn’t mean automatic increase of taxes on an already over taxed nation. We can begin to look at current collection regimes to plug out the numerous porous that leak significant proportion what’s collected. We can also take an issue of government out-sourcing tax collection (their basic function) to a private/quasi-government organization called Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA). They even pat themselves annual party on our butut when we have no 24/7 water. This basic function should return to the Treasury of The Gambia. How about stop the daily carrying of school bags to collect D5/10 from every passing taxi driver or market vendor to some periodic payment scheme into an account at Treasury of The Gambia? How about beginning to minimize cash transaction?
To cut costs – costs of government is overhead. Every butut directed to overhead is a butut away from programs/services. The high costs of our government are functions of size, inefficient functions and out right corruption. We can do better on all those variables with the reforms we fought for.
Both of those are inbuilt into the reform agenda listed above that we all (including you) fought for.
We hope you put The Reform Agenda above all else and begin this difficult but important tasks immediately.
Burama FL Jammeh