July 19 marks six months since Adama Barrow became the Chief Servant of our State to whom we entrust our rights to protect and our national coffers to serve our needs. Therefore we must as citizens hold him to account to determine if indeed he has effectively protected our rights and efficiently served our needs so far. We recognize that indeed he inherited a damaged statecraft from one of the world’s most incompetent, corrupt and criminal presidents Yaya Jammeh, however it was precisely for that reason that we elected Adama Barrow. Therefore our expectation is for Barrow to repair and reverse the damage caused by Yaya Jammeh, and then go further to build a new Gambia that we deserve. After all the job of a president is two-fold: To protect the rights and satisfy the needs of citizens based on the resources and powers provided by the citizens.
Six months down the line I am satisfied that Barrow and his government has, to a large extent ensured that Gambians enjoy their fundamental civil and political rights. The incidence of arbitrary arrests and detention has significantly dropped and there have been no cases of torture or summary execution of citizens yet. I am also satisfied that a commission of enquiry has been set up to recover our resources stolen by Yaya Jammeh. Measures have also been taken to contain the high cost of living by reducing prices and taxes on some basic commodities. It is also comforting to note that citizens access public information through the periodic press conferences of the Director of Press. The innovative programs of GRTS are indeed in the right direction in fulfillment of their constitutional mandate.
From the above, one can conclude that a number of encouraging changes have been registered during the period under review. Efforts to ensure the daily functioning of the state have also been noted. Many other initiatives have been undertaken even though not as satisfactory as they could be. For example the revision of the 2017 budget was necessary but then the budget cuts did not go far enough. Some agencies such as the president’s office continue to be well fed more than necessary even if less than Yaya Jammeh’s State House. The appointment of the special prosecutor was a move in the right direction even though one would expect this would be within the wider framework of a special tribunal. The changes made in the public service and security sector are also not far reaching as to ensure effective system change. Too many enablers continue to maintain their old positions, which poses a threat to national progress and security.
The period under review also witnessed classic failures and concerns. For example Barrow’s Manifesto stated that within six months he would set up a truth and reconciliation commission. This is yet to be done. He also said all laws that damage fundamental human rights would be repealed yet none has been done yet. The most obnoxious laws are sedition provisions in the Criminal Code and the Public Order Act. While his government conceded to the repealing of sedition laws, yet the Government continues to enforce the Public Order Act, sadly. At his very moment the case of Baboucarr Nani Sey is in limbo as a result of these bad laws.
Some of the most unfortunate decisions and actions of the government have been the blatant disregard of the petition letter from the NIA legal Advisor Mr. Badgie. Instead of looking into the serious allegations of corruption and criminality inside the NIA, Barrow ignored this letter only to have this man suppressed. Meantime the NIA remains open with the same Yaya Jammeh-era operatives when it should have been closed down and investigated. Since the Kanilai incident, the Minister of Interior also promised investigations into the killing of Haruna Jatta. Until now there has not been any information publicly as to the circumstances of this unfortunate incident.
In terms of economic and social rights, the case of Kololi land, which was illegally sold by KMC to a private company, remains unaddressed. This is followed by the Gunjur/Kartong issue in regard to the Golden Lead factory. Even when the NEA certified that the company is in violation of our environmental regulations and took the company to court, the Government instead decided to settle matters differently. Our expectation is for the Ministry of Trade to remain behind the NEA to address this matter because the NEA is the designated agency with the right competences on this issue.
As if these are not enough, we see conflicting positions on the Bakoteh dumpsite. While the Environment minister ordered its closure, yet the Interior minister ordered its opening. Meantime no tangible effort is demonstrated to close down this dangerous place even though the Gambia has the capacity and resources to do so. At the same time we see the Government allow the destruction of Monkey Park in favour of private enterprises. That park, if left alone has both huge environmental and economic benefits for the Gambia yet our Government decides to raze it to the ground! Why?
Over the past months, utility supply has been tough yet there has been no clear strategy as to how to solve this matter. This is where the issue of a national blueprint is critical so that we know Barrow’s agenda. While we are yet to see the blueprint, Barrow has however created a think tank three weeks ago yet the public is yet to hear from that think tank.
Above all, Pres. Barrow remains silent on these issues except with the occasional release of public statements on his Facebook page. Until now Barrow has not gone to meet any Gambian communities to interact with citizens. He has also not had any public audience with victims of the 22-year dictatorship. Even when we have an official office and residence for the president, yet Barrow has not occupied this complex without giving any tangible reasons. His continued absence from the State House means additional cost to the country. Meantime the critical position of Vice President and Minster of Defence remain vacant in total contravention of the constitution.
Given these successes and failures, Barrow has yet to show a definitive leadership in terms of bringing about system change and justice for the atrocities of the past. The approaches of the Government remain half-hearted at best and confusing at worst. Therefore in this second half of the year, we need Barrow to show stronger and better leadership by being more engaging with Gambians and to take decisive and timely measures on prevailing issues.
God Bless The Gambia