By Madi Jobarteh
Today marks two years since the Coalition Government took office. Yet it has so far failed to definitively address the question about how long they will serve given what they stated in their MoU. Obviously, the Constitution gives 5 years as the term of office of the president. But Coalition 2016 and its Candidate consciously told citizens in the 2016 presidential elections that they needed only 3 years out of the five-year constitutional mandate and they got the vote! Therefore, after getting into office they cannot now simply abandon 3 years and insist on 5 years just like that! This is a matter of accountability.
That decision to change belongs to We the Almighty People hence the Coalition Government has a life of only 3 years! We expect that Pres. Barrow and each and every leader of Coalition 2016 will respect their own word as well as the decision of the people in voting them into office on the basis of their promise to serve only 3 years. This is not just a political question, but it is also a moral and a national security question.
In the first place it is a political question simply because the leaders of the Coalition are very aware what the Constitution stipulates as tenure of office of the president. Secondly, they claimed that they will institute a three-year transitional administration even though they also know that they were inheriting a government that is in tatters thanks to 22 years of authoritarian rule. Yet these leaders decided among themselves to create a 3-year transitional government to address the issues and concerns of the society and then usher in a democratic dispensation at the end of the day.
They were not forced or coerced in anyway to make this decision. Rather they did so on their own volition. Therefore, should we allow politicians to face the people to deliver promises on the basis of our laws and institutions only to renege on their stated agreements when they finally got the consent of the people? Should this practice be allowed to perpetuate then how do we hold to account any individual who seeks or occupies the mandate of the people? What kind of political culture and practice will we nurture in this country if politicians can claim A and then fail to deliver A but then turn around to claim B? It is in light of these political questions that we must insist that Pres. Barrow and his Coalition Government leave office by 19 January 2020 as agreed by themselves!
These political questions also raise a fundamental moral question because political leaders are also moral leaders. They influence the attitudes and behaviour of citizens, negatively or positively. Making promises and keeping them is a moral issue. A society where citizens can make promises, agreements and commitments only to abandon them midway is a society that is heading for chaos. It is an act of cheating, dishonesty and inconsistency. Even between friends, the practice of cheating, dishonesty and inconsistency must not be entertained much more by those who seek the people’s mandate to run Government.
A Government is too powerful a tool to be left in the hands of men and women who are prepared to cheat, lie and be dishonest in broad daylight. For that matter, Pres. Barrow and his Coalition Government must demonstrate high morals by accepting their own agreement and campaign promises as contained in their Manifesto and step down by 19 January 2020. Failure to do so means this Coalition Government would be no different from the authoritarian regime of Yaya Jammeh which was also notorious for inconsistency, dishonesty and cheating citizens.
Failure to submit to their own MoU and Manifesto it means the Coalition Government will pose a challenge to national security simply because they would have caused a large section of the population to lose trust and confidence in our political leaders and public institutions. Where citizens doubt their leaders and mistrust their government then such a society is at risk because it has the tendency to make citizens disrespect decision-makers and take the law into their own hands. This is a threat to national security.
Secondly, there are a multitude of citizens who voted for the Coalition simply because they expected that they will spend only three years in power. By seeking to extend that without the consent of the people means those citizens would be compelled to use any means legal, nonviolent, peaceful and constitutional to see to the end of this Coalition Government. By these means therefore the country could be subjected to ungovernability hence retard the national development process and further aggravate the dire living conditions of the people. This is a threat to national development.
In light of the above, I wish to call on the parties and the leaders that constitute Coalition 2016 to reconvene immediately in order to address the terms and objectives that brought them together in the first place. It is not enough for individual Coalition members to claim that there is no Coalition because of the apparent abandonment of the Coalition MoU by the President. It is also problematic for other individual members of the Coalition to insist that Barrow will serve five years because that is what is in the constitution as if they never knew that in October 2016 when they constituted their Coalition and its MoU.
This period calls for mature, honest and responsible leadership which is what we expect from the six political parties together with the independent candidate as well as Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang all of who constituted Coalition 2016. These leaders must come together to find a way as to how to ensure that the Coalition Government steps down at three years or if it has to continue for five years, how they will justify and defend that democratically and constitutionally to the people. These are the fundamental political and moral questions before the Coalition leaders and parties and the nation awaits their urgent action.
Otherwise what we expect from those Coalition leaders who do not wish to be part of the betrayal if this Government is to go for five years regardless is for them to declare their disagreement publicly and resign their parties and their ministers and officials out of the Coalition of Government. Failure to do so means those parties and their leaders are still part and parcel of the decisions and actions of this Coalition Government.
For the Gambia Our Homeland