Alagi Yorro Jallow
Alaji Mamudu: Julius Caesar was/is an exciting character, in history and in fiction. The historical Julius Caesar was a man of power. He was very unequivocal about where he stood on matters of law and power. He willfully subdued law for power, prescribing to his subjects: “If you must break the law, do it to take power… in all other cases, observe it.” The law exists for power, nothing more, he seemed saying. I am not sure he saw any other relationship between law and power apart from the former serving the latter. He would do everything, including murdering the law, to keep power, and, even death wasn’t enough to scare him from pursuing his first love – power: “I have lived long enough to satisfy both nature and glory,” he told a conquered people who were scared they could lose their republic to the ambition of the leader who was not bothered about anything else outside taking power and retaining it for its sake. By satisfying nature, Caesar meant he had lived long enough to die; by satisfying glory, he meant he had reached the peak of political leadership of the only super power of his age. So, nothing else mattered to him beyond coming, seeing, and conquering his enemies. The law is an escalator to higher grounds in power, fame and wealth. He had reached the port of power, nothing else mattered. Caesar has disciples in the Gambia.
Mamudu: The Gambia government has a mounting debt of $ 1. 2 billion which is equivalent to 59 billion (Dalasi); 54 % of which is coming from external sources and 46 % from domestic lending. These debts according to Mr. Bai Madi Ceesay, the Director of Budget says it represents 122% of Gambia’s GDP owed to creditors and international lending institutions and countries. But consider this, in 2017, the Gambia’s government incurred a debt of $1 billion, which would amount to 120% of the country’s GDP during the last decade of ex-president Yahya Jammeh’s rule, according to the IMF and World Bank. The IMF currently list the Gambia’s government debt as 99% of GDP $881 million. The most recently available figures say that of Gambia’s government debt, around 54% is owed outside the country, and 46% within Gambia. This would mean that of $1 billion of debt, $540 million is owed externally and $460 million domestically. The most recent figures from the World Bank and IMF are that Gambia’s government external debt is $467 million. Of this: $349 million is owed to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, and African Development Bank, $112 million is owed to other governments, $6 million is owed to private creditors.
Mamudu: Total debt of the nation stands at about $1.2 billion, about and in5 years, the debt is in trillion and counting. This year, the government will borrow supplementary of billion just to keep the lights on. The question we should all be asking is what we have got for 1.2 trillion in 5 years. Fuel prices are rising, millions live hand to mouth with most not even having 100 dalasis in their name that they can rub together, the health and education systems are not fit for purpose, state coffers are being looted left right and center. If you think the Gambia will ever be capable of paying that debt while your great grand-children are still alive, then clearly, you’ve stepped out of your damn mind and lost your senses.
Gambia government took benefitted from the Euro bond of about 200 million. The ministry of Finance restructured hundreds of billions of unexplained (inexplicable) commercial loans, like magicians, turning them to bonds. Some laws govern the application of public funds in this country. Has anybody obeyed these laws in the sharing and application of these funds? The law can be broken if the objective is the taking and retention of power.
Mamudu: Do you break the law because the country is broke? Do you break the law because your government is broke? Do you break the law because you want to keep power? Even Caesar, who recommended law breaking as a legitimate pathway to power, in a moment, said his wife “must be above board” always. Are politicians’ no longer wives we contracted to manage our affairs according to established rules and mores? Why are they becoming husbands over their husbands deciding when to feed the home, what size of morsel to offer and when not to offer anything at all?
Noise over Asset Declaration is another. It has become another reason for power here. We appear confused over what we want with power in this democracy. It does not matter what happens to the power we invested our leaders with. They can use it to commit class murder (or is it class suicide), but very poor you would see it as your duty to follow your tormentor’s corpses to the grave. The hungry and disinherited is the ‘Jaliba’ of this democracy. He is made to make the loudest noise about who is thief, who is not. His mind and eyes are closed to all other possibilities, including why the left thief is condemned and the one on the right is the executioner.
President Adama Barrow is fighting the battle of his life. He is helmed in by all the instrumentalities of power in the Gambia. He has won surprise victories. We’ll watch how this turns out. It may become another paradox in the chain of paradoxes that define the Gambia nation. Even the history and proposed Anti-corruption Agency, itself is one interesting tale about the paradoxes girding Gambia’s flawed system. The government of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara attempted to set it up Anti- Corruption Commission in the early 1990’s before the military coup of Yahya Jammeh but the new military regime refused to invest it with the required legal teeth. It did not enjoy this framework until Yahya Jammeh set up Commission of Inquiries probe former officials of the People’s Progressive Party government. We all condemn and crucify the Sir Dawda Jawara and Yahya Jammeh regime for having scant regard for anti-corruption policies. But that government enacted the Anti-Corruption law which has become a one -stop shop for today’s men shopping for fame and revenge in the current wave of anti-corruption sentiments blowing across the country.
All is fair in politics as in war. You can break the law, it is allowed – provided it will serve the purpose of advancing your gaze at illusion of power. So, if you are on Adama Barrow’s side and feel unjustness in what is going on in this democracy, just take a deep peep into history of politics and war. It is a salad of surprises, ironies and paradoxes. Any of the sides may yet serve fresher plates of these in days to come.