By Madi Jobarteh
The President’s Koriteh address and his statement with Banjul Muslim elders falls far short of what is expected of a leader. It is high time that his advisors and speech writers drive the President towards unity, reconciliation and accountability. That is what will serve him as a successful leader whom history will judge kindly.
Engaging in vindictive, divisive and half truth statements can only undermine his own credibility hence weaken his ability to govern this country in such a way that will earn him the trust and confidence of citizens. Good leaders do not divide and speculate about their citizens! They bring their people together.
For example, in his Koriteh speech he talked about the Sanyang riots but only to caste aspersions on the youth and condemn the violence! Yes, violence must be condemned but good leaders go beyond condemning violence, they also seek to understand how and why riots happen and take measures to prevent a recurrence!
But the President did not mention the very cause of that riot. Yet he knows why there was a riot because it was he who set up the Faraba Commission in 2018 when a riot erupted in that community. That Commission brought out all the issues in the coastal areas which are potential causes of conflicts. These are related to mining and the fishmeal factories. Hence the eruption of another riot directed at fishmeal factories should not surprise anyone, more so the President because this issue was raised two years ago in the Faraba Commission Report which was presented to him!
Furthermore the President raised the issue of freedom of expression, but with a threat. To claim that citizens are abusing democracy by expressing themselves is indeed a huge threat to democracy. The President must understand that democracy and good governance are sustained by the free expression of opinions.
Some of these opinions can be pleasant or unpleasant. But regardless of how unpleasant expressions are, so long as they are not hate speech or incitement to violence, we should not perceive them as abuse of democracy. Otherwise who should determine what is pleasant or unpleasant speech; who should determine what is acceptable or unacceptable speech! If we get to claim that there’s abuse of democracy because of speech then the next step is to limit free speech hence close down democracy!
Hence the President should only encourage citizens to express their opinions in decorum and dignity. But he must not speak as if he will close down democracy because he thinks citizens are making unpleasant remarks. Such statements by him are what could also embolden some other citizens, who may be his supporters or opponents to take advantage by attacking other citizens with whom they disagree with.
Thus it would appear that the President is indeed the one undermining national security. We have seen the impact of such remarks in America when President Trump used to ridicule and threaten citizens and media simply because he did not like the opinions and media reportage about his leadership.
Another conspicuous absence in his speech is accountability, especially for the police. While it was good that he recognized the good work of the police and called citizens to support our law enforcement officers, the President failed to also call on the police to respect and protect human rights.
Over the past four years, there have been several instances of police brutality. This needs to be addressed because bad cops are a threat to law enforcement and combating crime. We know that since 2018 a number investigations were opened on issues involving the police yet until today there has been no report and no action.
Furthermore, the President totally ignored the issue of corruption, inefficiency and abuse of office inside his Government. Rather the President spoke as if his Government is perfect with no shortcomings.
But indeed there is lot of corruption and abuse in his Government. There are a number of investigations for these things but no reports or actions are taken to ensure accountability. For example the Faraba Commission Report points to instances of corruption in issuing licenses to mining companies and police misconduct in riots yet his Government never took measures to correct things.
We know that there was an audit report on 7 state owned enterprises in 2018 that exposed massive corruption yet nothing was done to address that. The recent petition by GTBoard staffs against his Minister Hamat Bah and the GTBoard management is another case in point. There are uncountable cases of similar incidents of corruption across his Government!
Therefore it is not enough to emphasize that citizens to be law abiding, yet as the President he failed to also admonish public officers to be also honest and hardworking and shun corruption and abuse.
The height of the President’s show of poor and dangerous leadership is to engage in innuendos and underhand tactics just to dance to the gallery. For example, when the President told Muslim elders that he knew of political leaders who were selling ministerial positions, what was the objective?
Clearly that occasion and the audience are not the appropriate place to report such an incident. If true, that act by those political leaders was criminal and unethical! Therefore, how come the President would notice a criminal act by his colleagues only for him to keep quiet about it for so long and then go to a totally unrelated event and audience to disclose such misconduct?
Gambians should demand that Pres. Barrow discloses the names of those political leaders. He should open an investigation on the matter so that we know who sold the positions and to who and how much did they sell and buy the positions?
Furthermore, citizens need to know which individuals actually ended up obtaining a ministerial position in that manner! I hope the political parties will spare no effort to pressure the President to disclose his claims as he has attempted to soil the reputation of political leaders!
Indeed for the President to make such remarks further reinforce his divisiveness and poor leadership which is, by all intents and purposes a clear and direct threat to national security and unity! I hereby urge the President to withdraw those remarks and apologize to Gambians otherwise let him disclose the truth!
For The Gambia Our Homeland