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‘People made you president, not God’—activist tells Barrow

Madi Jobarteh is a Gambian rights activist
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Madi Jobareth said the claims of divine right to rule over Gambians by President Adama Barrow and his vice president Dr Isatou Touray is reminiscent of country’s troubled past

Madi Jobarteh is a Gambian rights activist

Leading Gambian activist Madi Jobarteh has described as “false” and “dishonest” claims that presidents are chosen by God to lead their people.

On Monday, Gambia’s vice president Dr Isatou Touray has made headlines when she equated opposition to President Adama Barrow as being against the will of God.

Touray, a former anti-female genital mutilation activist who has become Gambia’s first female presidential aspirant, made the statement at a political rally in State House as the president met people from Lower River Region.

Meanwhile, the Gambian leader Barrow was also quoted on papers on Tuesday reiterating the position of his vice president Touray that it is only God who can remove him from office.

“The constitution states that the sovereignty of the Gambia resides in the people of the Gambia and from whom all organs of the government derive their legitimacy and authority. This clear shows that each and every organ and official of the state is being so based on the will of Gambians and not on the will of Allah. The legitimacy and authority of the president and all public officials is derived from the people and not from God in anyway. The Constitution went further to state that there will be elections every five years for president and it is citizens who vote in those elections to elect a president. Therefore it is only the electorates of the Gambia who make or remove the president and not God. Therefore it is utterly false, dishonest and totally undemocratic for any person to claim that God creates presidents and opposing a president is ungodly. The Gambia is a sovereign secular republic in which case the government or public policy and lawmaking or the delivery of development is not based on any religion or dictated by God. Hence to claim that God creates or removes the president is once again false and against the grain of our constitution and the norms of democracy and good governance,” Jobarteh told Kerr Fatou.

For a lot of people, claiming to be chosen by God to rule over your people by a Gambian president is an all too familiar story.

Country’s former dictator Yahya Jammeh who was fond of saying he will rule Gambia for a billion years said several times that he was chosen by God and whether people vote for him or not, he will still be president. Madi said such outdated concept of leadership is what makes the statement of the president and his vice president concerning.

“We should be seriously worried because by claiming the divinity of the president means we are therefore raising the president beyond and above the scrutiny of citizens. When that happens it means we are creating a government that is not checked. An unchecked government is what is called dictatorship. Hence these statements are intended to bring back dictatorship in the country for which we must be very concerned,” said Jobarteh.

Gambia has been experiencing a tense political environment since problems emerged between President Barrow and his coalition partners.

Several of the party leaders within the coalition who have had dispute with the president were sacked. There was an increased tension between the President and his former United Democratic Party after he sacked their 3 executive members from cabinet.

The executive members of the UDP were jailed for protesting for the release of the body of Solo Sandeng “dead or alive” in 2016. The President is being criticized for making fond of their incarceration at Mile 2 while crediting himself for their freedom.

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