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The appointment of Alagie Barrow in the TRRC is legal and legitimate

Madi Jobarteh is a Gambian civil society activist

The fact that ECOMIG forces entered the Gambia on 19 January 2017 and still maintain bases in our country is an indication that Gambian votes on 1 December 2016 did not remove Yaya Jammeh. What removed Yaya Jammeh was ECOWAS and its intervention forces because Yaya Jammeh had already rejected that vote. Without international diplomatic and military intervention Yaya Jammeh would still be the President of the Gambia even if the country would have been in a civil war. Yes, ECOMIG entered our territory with our verdict as the reason but that verdict was rejected by Yaya Jammeh.

What this point seeks to highlight is that Yaya Jammeh had long since rejected the sovereignty, dignity and the Constitution of the Gambia and Gambians as the source of his power and authority as president. For that matter Yaya Jammeh had long lost the legitimacy to govern the Gambia, if he ever had one in the first place. He had constantly and consistently violated every rule of the Constitution and every right of Gambians. When governors suspend or abrogate their contract with their people they lose the legitimacy and legality to govern those people.

According to Section 6, subsection 2 of our Constitution every citizen has a right and a duty to defend that Constitution by resisting, to the extent reasonably justifiable in the circumstances, any person or group that, by violent or unlawful means seeks to suspend, overthrow or abrogate the Constitution. It says further under subsection 3 that any person who resists the suspension, overthrow or abrogation of the Constitution as spelt out in subsection 2 commits no offence.

Since 1994 Yaya Jammeh ensured that all rules and mechanisms to hold him to account are closed. He had directly interfered with the independence of the Judiciary and curtailed the powers and authority of the National Assembly in total contravention of the principle of separation of powers. For that matter, under his watch, any Gambian who sought to hold him to account by peaceful and lawful means have been subjected to violent crackdown leading to arbitrary arrest, torture and death in most cases.

In those circumstances the actions of the Heroes of December 30 are therefore utterly constitutional because they were resisting the abrogation of the Constitution by none other than the elected head of state of the Gambia. Their means of resistance was ‘reasonably justifiable in the circumstances’. This is because citizens who sought to resist the abrogation of the Constitution were met with violence from the State on the orders of Yaya Jammeh. Hence it is reasonable that anyone who sought to resist Yaya Jammeh must employ weapons and violence otherwise you will also be met with such violence that would take your life.

It is therefore utterly frightening and dishonest for any Gambian today to condemn the December 30 Resistance. If Yaya Jammeh had not been using weapons and violence to attack citizens who sought to resist his abrogation of the Constitution, then December 30 would not be justified. But Yaya Jammeh had used weapons and violence against unarmed, nonviolent and peaceful citizens who were only seeking to defend the Constitution. Only a fool and a dishonest person would therefore claim that December 30 was not reasonably justifiable in the circumstances.

Alagie Barrow and his Comrades deserve the highest honour by the Gambian people. They have taught Gambian citizens that they must be prepared to pay the ultimately price to defend their Constitution. But at the same time, they teach the powers that be to realise that when they use weapons and violence against unarmed and nonviolent citizens seeking to defend the Constitution then they are automatically asking citizens to also use weapons and violence to defend our Constitution. No one has the monopoly of violence!

Alagie Barrow has the qualification, knowledge and skills relevant to the position of Director of Investigations and Research in the TRRC and his appointment is legal and legitimate. He has the moral upstanding and patriotism beyond measure that indeed he will be faithful to the ethics and standards of his function. The claim that he was a victim hence conflict of interest is misplaced for we know Desmond Tutu was arrested and jailed and his passport confiscated by the Apartheid regime several times, yet he became the Chair of the South African TRC!

Indeed, one has the right to disagree or criticise the appointment of Alagie Barrow based on his qualification or the process of recruitment or whatever. But it is utterly dishonest and self-insulting that anyone would seek to ridicule his appointment on the false narrative that December 30 was a criminal activity. It will be ungrateful for anyone to condemn Alagie Barrow and Comrades as criminals. On that fateful day of December 30, I know that patriotic Gambians spent that entire morning praying for their success. To now arrive at this stage only to impugn that historic day of patriotism and heroism is the height of dishonesty and ignorance.

Let us be clear: Yaya Jammeh was not a democrat. He was not a leader who respected and protected the rights of citizens. He was not a leader who honoured and defended the Gambian Constitution and the sovereignty of the people. He was a despot who employed every means to suspend, overthrow and abrogate the Constitution and the sovereignty and dignity of Gambians.

Just because Yaya Jammeh was elected does not give him legitimacy when he consistently abrogated the very Constitution under which he was elected in the first place. We know that dictators are scattered all over the world who continuously win up to 99% of the vote. Kim Jong Un of North Korean, Al-Sisi of Egypt, Saddam Hussain of Iraq and Isaias Aferwoki of Eretria are few past and present examples. Yet there is no doubt that these are despots without legitimacy in the eyes of democracy and good governance. Hence it is utterly insulting that anyone would consider Yaya Jammeh a legitimate leader of the Gambia just on the basis of an election.

Congratulations Alagie Barrow!

For the Gambia Our Homeland

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