By: Professor Alhagi Manta Drammeh (PGCerTHE, Fellow Higher Education Academy, (FHEA), and Royal society of Arts (FRSA) UK
Indeed, the December 2021 election in the Gambia will be both memorable and defining not only in our political consciousness and reality, but will also have far-reaching implications socially, economically, and morally in terms of the trajectory of our country. This election will define the future of the Gambia at different levels whether to improve on the hard-fought gains of the 2016 election or retrogress into autocratic rule God forbid. It is always complex to transition from one system to another- in our case from dictatorship to good governance. Of course, there will be inevitably challenges to surmount and overcome. On the political level, one of the challenges will be how to sanitise the system to have professionals with the acumen to run the affairs of the country and to advise the Executive without fear or favour on managing the state affairs as enshrined in the principles and guidelines of our civil service. The civil service must be apolitical and professional in implementing policies of the government. The one-time envied Gambian civil service must measure up to the new challenges that the country is going through. This involves sound foreign policy formulation that will enable our country to be respected regionally and internationally. Our foreign policy will dictate the relations between the country and other sovereign states for sustainable socio-economic development and the maintenance of not only the sub-regional peace, but also global peace and security. This is in relation to obligations governments have under international law that necessarily complements and enhances domestic laws for the advancement of human rights nationally and globally. Efforts should be further made to ensure that the Gambia is respected in intergovernmental agencies and foreign missions by having the right people in the right places – right academically and in terms of experience. We cannot fool ourselves-countries are built on knowledge. The size of countries is not terribly important if countries are able to generate ideas that will be translated into workable models politically and economically. Japan came to its knees after the second world war but is today one of the most powerful economies in the world. There is now a shift to what is called knowledge-based economies that will determine our consumption of technological inventions from automobile to mobile phone. This is possible when conducive political space and environment are created for people to think innovatively and creatively. The other political challenge will be how to ensure that the arms of the State, the judiciary, the executive, and the Legislature have their respective independence so that they can function well and be held accountable before the Gambians. This is possible when institutions are professionalised and we transcend our personal egos, and emotions – this is professionalism. Economically, there are opportunities that the Gambia can explore. I am not an economist, but conventional wisdom makes us believe that the country has to shift from traditional approaches to economic development by exploring new ideas. For example, how the Gambia can become a hub for international travel across the Atlantic and within Africa? How can the Gambia boost its tourism sector to attract people from South-East Asia and the Middle East? How can the Gambia attract foreign investors across the word? How can our agriculture be mechanised? How can the Gambia be knowledge producer and giver? I am sure this will require good infrastructure in the long run-in terms of road connectivity and energy among other things like the right technologies for education delivery and platforms. I am sure the Covid-19 is a wake-up call for all!
I cannot finish without reflecting on the moral aspect of this complex equation. Morality or call it ethics is part and parcel of our human society. As a nation and as a people, we all have a moral responsibility to engage with the affairs of our nation in a positive light and manner with ideas, knowledge, and experience. It should be our moral engagement to ensure that peace and stability are maintained in our country. It should be our moral duty to ensure that lives and property are safe. Both religious and traditional leaders should continue to play a positive role in this endeavour by sending appropriate messages as they are on that high moral ground. On the social front, there is an urgent need to promote social cohesion in the Gambia. The Gambia needs healing and reconciliation which are key to peace and stability.