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Coalition leaders must take responsibility for the deplorable state of affairs in the country

Madi Jobarteh is a Gambian rights activist

By Madi Jobarteh

The unenviable current state of the Gambia under the presidency of Adama Barrow is equally the responsibility of Coalition leaders like the president himself. Citizens must hold all of these leaders and their parties as equally responsible for the wrong decisions and bad actions of this Government in drifting away from the very spirit and objective that gave birth to the new Gambia. These parties and their leaders cannot now stand aside, and caste all blame on Adama Barrow just because he is now bulldozing them out one after the other and vehemently seeking his own personal political objectives without mercy!

When these political leaders began the process of creating the Coalition in 2016, they met as senior citizens and responsible leaders who saw the affliction in which the country was that required urgent salvation. The discussions and agreements they made and reached embodied their wishes and commitments to lead their people to a better Gambia of democracy, good governance and sustainable development. It was on the basis of these ideals that the people of the Gambia equally supported them by voting for them without reservation.

It is now two years since the Coalition parties took over power by controlling both the Executive and the Legislature, yet the people are yet to see the necessary system change with effective and good government in place. Rather the incidence of corruption, abuse of power and violations of the Constitution is rife like wildfire. This is only possible because Coalition parties and leaders allowed and created the environment in which such maladministration could take place.

For example, Coalition leaders failed the Gambia first and foremost when they refused to sign the Coalition Agreement or MoU which has stipulated the objectives, structures, processes and tools that their Coalition and government would utilise to govern this country. Rather we see them hit each other with claims and counter claims that the MoU was signed even though until today no party or leader has released publicly a signed copy of the Agreement or MoU! If it was indeed signed why are they hiding it from the people? If it was not signed why did they fail to sign it?

Consequently, we therefore see Barrow openly flouting the Coalition Agreement or MoU as he likes while no Coalition leader could stop him. For example, when he decided to choose ministers contrary to the terms of that MoU none of the parties raised a direct objection and even go to the extent of officially pulling their party out of the Coalition in protest. Rather they allowed Barrow to do as he wished, and he has continued on that path until today.

Next was the case of the parliamentary elections. Regardless of which form of tactical alliance they chose, these parties however know that they formed the Coalition that was mandated to salvage this country. Hence when they got to the parliament the expectation is that these parties will put aside their differences and focus on only the Gambia. They should have realised that as parties in charge of the National Assembly they have a singular role to hold the Executive to account. But until today these parties rather work in isolation and sometimes even antagonistically when they should have been cooperating among themselves in the best interest of the Gambia.

For two years none of the parties has taken a definite position against the excesses of power and the disregard of the Constitution by the Barrow leadership. First, Barrow received many gifts which he fails to disclose yet these parties in the National Assembly fail to stand up against that by calling him out or going to court or asking their members to pour on the streets against such misconduct. It is not enough for NAMs to make high moral sounding speeches on the floor of the parliament when they cannot back those speeches with direct positive action.

There have been multiple times when Pres. Barrow and his Government violated the laws of the Gambia or misinformed Gambians. In 2018 the Government brought in an unconstitutional supplementary bill only to see it passed by the National Assembly. Even when Pres. Barrow unconstitutionally sacked a siting National Assembly Member, yet Coalition parties could not come together to defend the Constitution. What we rather see is antagonism among themselves thereby giving way for unconstitutionality to prevail!

For two years none of the party NAMs ever placed a private member’s bill in order to remove bad provisions in our Constitution or change other laws as a means to ensure system change.  Rather all that the NAMs do is to approve the bills brought to them by the Executive when they very well know that those bills only suit the political objectives of the incumbent. For example, they approved the changes to the age requirement of president because Adama Barrow had a specific person in mind to make vice president by any means. They also changed Section 91 to protect NAMs from losing their seats if they get sacked by their parties. These are all self-serving changes we saw them do and nothing more.

When Barrow sacked Coalition ministers such as Henry Gomez, OJ, Mai Fatty or his first VP Tambajang, none of the parties came to challenge that on the basis of the ideals and objectives of the MoU or the Coalition. No Coalition minister resigned or removed their party out of the Coalition in protest. Rather what we saw is silence and collaboration until today when he also sacked his second VP Darboe and all UDP ministers.

In fact, some of the ministers he sacked came back to join the President as so-called ‘Advisors’ as if they never knew that they were part of the Coalition whose agenda has been betrayed by the very president they continue serve thereby endorsing bad governance. Even when former minister D.A. Jawo exposed some inexplicable actions and eventually got sacked no party or minister solidarized with him to defend the national interest. This clearly means Coalition leaders have decided to allow Barrow to abuse them and the Gambian nation as he likes while they fail to stand up against him.

In many instances we saw this Government enter contracts with foreign and local companies to practically sell off the land and waters of the Gambia and all the resources therein in direct contravention of national interests. Many of these businesses are engaged in activities that directly damage or threaten national security, the economy and our natural environment yet the Coalition parties fail to take decisive and positive action to protect vital national interests. In essence the Coalition parties have decided to keep hands off when they were the very ones that were voted into power to salvage the Gambia. They would rather take a self-righteous posture and then caste all blame on Barrow and on each other just to divert public attention away from their own irresponsibility.

It is high time therefore that citizens stand up to these parties and leaders for their lack of leadership and betrayal of the nation. We have seen how the leaders of the UDP and NRP among others particularly defend Barrow that he must serve five years even when they know very well that the Coalition and Candidate Barrow promised to serve for only three years!

Now that Barrow is sacking them left, right and centre we must not allow any leader to therefore make us believe that Adama Barrow is the sole problem of the nation. These leaders all share in the mess that this country is in right now and we must hold them accountable. Citizens must not allow political leaders to control the narrative when they have failed to stand for the people. This is our narrative and let is express and control it.

For the Gambia Our Homeland

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