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Bakary Bunja Dabo


It’s exactly a week to the day since GFA issued a press release demanding the head of state step up and assume his leadership responsibilities in view of the rapid surge of COVID-19 cases in the country, and the apparent inability, at the executive level of government, to address the matter with the coherence it demands.
An Infectious Disease Act has been invoked lasting 90 days, and giving the Minister of Health powers to apply measures that deal with limiting the spread of COVID-19, though the Minister has himself checked into quarantine for possible COVID-19 positivity. In contradiction or in duplication or both, a state of public emergency has been declared, lasting 21 days, which seeks to address the urgency of the COVID-19 crisis.
Any Gambian watching the unfolding national drama, and the looming catastrophe resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, cannot fail to be amazed by the confusion and the leadership deficit that has accompanied the COVID-19 drama. In this time of national crisis of tragic proportion, we are witnessing total absence of the leadership. We have said it before and are saying it again, Mr. President: Get up and assume your leadership role in the fight against COVID-19. Taking the back seat and expecting a miracle to happen or as a way of shifting blame when things do not go right is neither an answer nor a solution that the Gambian people will accept.
Everywhere we see anxiety on the faces of Gambians when a relative or a neighbour falls sick; and when he/she dies this anxiety if not fear is almost palpable. The President is no-where to be seen, the Vice President, the Chair of COVID-19 Task Force is in quarantine, who is in charge? GFA is concerned that while many members of the executive, including the President, Vice President and several ministers appear to be unable to discharge their duties, no constitutionally approved temporary arrangements have been made. Yet important statements affecting the running of the country are being released by a Spokesperson. It is the President and not the Spokesman that Gambian people hold accountable, more so in these challenging times.

Given our weak health care system [infrastructure, technical equipment, manpower et al], we were quick to see the existential threat that the COVID-19 phenomenon posed to our fragile situation. Following the first declaration of the state of public emergency, GFA drew the attention of the authorities to a series of proactive measures which we believed could prove critical in handling the crisis. Key among these was the call for a consensual approach in tackling the challenge; we urged Government to rise above petty politics and partisan spirit. We strongly advised that political parties, community leaders, youth leaders etc should be actively engaged as opinion leaders capable of influencing their followers in the direction of strict compliance with WHO and national guidelines on preventing the spread of COVID-19. Such a move would have helped the sensitization effort to ensure greater cooperation from our communities, cooperation so vital if efforts for containing the menace were ever to prove fruitful. In that regard, we saw the need to call on political parties too, especially those with representatives in the National Assembly, to recognize the need to demonstrate a sense of responsibility to the country during these trying moments in our country’s history.
Alas, our carefully thought out advice, like many other well-intentioned suggestions from other quarters appeared to have fallen on deaf ears. The subject matter is too grave for us to draw any “we-told-you-so” comfort; rather we feel angry the mediocre handling of the crisis has contributed to bringing about the present dramatic deterioration in our situation. Clearly, the President and his team have got it all wrong. We call on the authorities to go back to the drawing board for a dispassionate evaluation which we hope will lead to a realistic plan and more appropriate strategies for the battles ahead.
As we conclude, we can only request that the President comes out of his bunker and address the nation, which is going through trauma on a daily basis. Your continued non-appearance to comfort and reassure your citizens in distress is of concern to us. Take the opportunity to tell us what your Government’s plans are beyond declaring state of public emergency.
GFA wishes all sufferers and victims of COVID-19 speedy recovery and a swift return of the country to normalcy. To the families of the deceased we express our heartfelt condolences.

Gambia For All (GFA)

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