Tuesday, August 13, 2019

President Barrow must step down in 2019 unless...

The Coalition of 7+1 
We are republishing our February 24th, 2018 blog post on the MOU as it becomes more topical with each passing day.  The national conversation must commence.


The adage that a person is as good as his or her word will be tested in the coming months as President Barrow presidency approaches the halfway mark of the three-year MOU-specified tenure in office, which, in our view, must be respected.

For Barrow to serve beyond December 2019, the Coalition Partners comprising of the seven opposition parties and the independent presidential candidate must reconvene, in a convention-style forum, to agree to extend the mandate prescribed in the MOU beyond the 3-year limit.

During normal times, the issue would find an easy solution by simply referencing the MOU which created the Coalition under certain terms and conditions.  Unfortunately, these are not normal times.  The country is beginning to emerge from twenty-two years of one of Africa's most repressive regimes, the trauma of which is debilitating to both the democratic institutions as well as the human spirit.

The dictatorship also weakened the political parties to the point of rendering them impotent.   The former regime succeeded, as well, in blurring the lines that distinguished one political party from the other.  The resultant effect is a symbiotic relationships between them, driven partially by expediency and political opportunism rather than by shared values and principles.

The blurring of the boundaries occurred among opposition political parties, as well as among political parties' interests and, the personal interests of individual party members that were beginning to converge after the electoral victory of Adama Barrow.  It immediately resulted in the trading of party membership for positions in the civil service.

Recently, we cited the various sentiments expressed across the political divide regarding whether President Barrow should stick with the provisions or principles set out in the Coalition's MOU that requires the Coalition President to vacate the seat after three years or to follow the stipulated constitutional presidential term of 5 years.

The matter may have been a topic of discussion during the negotiations that led to the selection of Adama Barrow as the Coalition's flag bearer.  Whereas there are some who feel that the Coalition partners should stay true to the MOU, there are other voices that favor the stipulated presidential term of 5 years.

Because the National Assembly Members were elected to serve the full 5-year term, it becomes necessary to realigned the president's term with that of the NAMs.  The shortening the term of the NAMs to 3 years would be an unlikely option because it is already consistent and in line with the constitutional provisions.

That leaves open the options of formally extending the term of the Coalition president for an additional two years or not extending the president's MOU-mandated 3-year term which automatically allows the Vice President to assume the presidency for two years.

A convention of the Coalition partners must reconvened sooner than later so as to determine the length of term of the transitional president created by an MOU that is still operational, independent of the standard constitutional provisions and, only if to confirm maintaining the current status quo.  The MOU created the current political dispensation.

The MOU should form the basis for untangling the untidy mess created as a matter of necessity.  It is therefore an absolute and necessary imperative to untangle the mess to allow The Gambia to start the recalibration of the term of office of the President of The Republic with that of Members of the National Assembly.


Saturday, July 27, 2019

EDITORIAL: President Barrow must put his stamp on the transition government - Republication

President Adama Barrow 
This editorial blog post was first published on November 11, 2017 

When Gambians went to the polls last December 1st, their choice to lead the Coalition of 7 +1 was Adama Barrow.  He campaigned and won an election that the entire world, except Yaya Jammeh, acclaimed as free, fair and credible.

In fact,  Barrow's election was historic as being the first time that a sitting dictatorship, with all the instruments of power still firmly under his control, was defeated at the ballot and democratically without a shot being fired.

African dictators have lost power in the past but it has almost always been through the use force or the threat of the use of force.  Because of the uniqueness of our last December experience, we have been pleading with the new administration to avoid stepping on a very powerful and unique story that should serve as a platform to start the consolidation of out new found democratic freedoms.

The Coalition government stumbled right out of the gates as some of us expected.  If you ask a dozen Gambians the cause for it, you are likely to get a dozen but one different answers.  The one reason they all share in common is that the majority of the cabinet lack experience in governance.  Whereas this common factor may not be sufficient reason for failure, it is a necessary condition for a slow start as cabinet members feel their way around the treacherous terrain.  Most, if not all, have been out in the political wilderness for over two decades.

After almost a year at the helm, President Barrow and his team have made some progress, not of the earth-shattering kind, but progress nonetheless especially in the judiciary where discernible progress is being registered in appointing qualified and experienced Gambians on the bench.  Members of the Commission of Inquiry into the illicit wealth of the former dictator have been seated over three months ago and its live extended for an additional six month.

The law establishing the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission is on its final stage of being tabled before the National Assembly.   The security sector has also been scheduled for restructuring.  This is by no means an exhaustive list because there are ministries where public information is thin.

All of the gains enumerated here will come to naught if hard choices are not made in the country's economic management team.  A significant draw down of the ballooning domestic debt over the last decade must be made to start the reversal of the crowding out of the private sector that has been starved of cash from the commercial banking sector for investment purposes.

The rebuilding effort  of the Central Bank must commence from the ground up after what has come to light at the Commission of Inquiry.   Without the restructuring of the civil service, it'd not be possible to successfully implement the reforms that must take place to set us on the road to economic recovery.       

The fracture that threatens the peace and stability - A republication

Barrow and Darboe 
A blog post first published October 8th, 2018.

The coalition of opposition parties that contested the December 2016 presidential elections against the regime of Jammeh, although it ended up victorious, was wittingly or unwittingly made to fracture.  Halfway into the three-year transition government of Adama Barrow, discernible cracks, deep enough to prove irreparable, emerged, confirming the temporary nature of what can now be characterized as a political alliance of convenience - an admission that would have invited the wrath of the partisan supporters of the coalition.

Presidential candidate Adama Barrow was the by-product of the political realities of the time when the leader of the single largest opposition party, Ousainou Darboe, leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) was imprisoned for leading a demonstration to demand the release of the body of Solo Sandeng, a member of his party's executive and youth leader killed by paramilitary police.  In addition to facing a leadership deficit, the unification of a plethora of opposition parties into a coercive and unified force to contest the December 2016 presidential elections, will again, prove to be a special challenge after failures in three successive times in 2001, 2006 and 2011.

The coalition of opposition parties was finally realized but not before it became a precondition of the electorate who demanded it.  Days into the campaign, it became clear that the electorate will not tolerate another fragmented opposition to fail at the hands of a well-financed and state-subsidized incumbent candidate with all the state machinery behind him.  Only a coalition of all of the opposition parties can defeat Jammeh.  In response to this demand, a convention of opposition parties was convened, literally days before the December 1st 2016 elections, that produced an obscure UDP party treasurer of unknown quantity to many named Adama Barrow, the UDP party treasurer, as the coalition's candidate for the presidency.

Recognizing his lack of experience in governance with low public profile, presidential candidate Barrow pleaded for patience for his lack of experience and solicited support and assistance from coalition members in his quest for the presidency.  After his surprise win, followed by a political impasse that lasted several tense weeks of negotiations, Jammeh finally decided to vacate State House under threat of the ECOMIG forces. He went into involuntary exile to Equatorial Guinea and President-elect Barrow assumed office in January 2017,

Few days after he won the presidential elections,  Ousainou Darboe, the leader of the UDP was released on bail from Mile II prisons and subsequently pardoned together with other senior members of his political party.  The man the incoming president refers to as his political 'father' swiftly assumed a central figure in the kitchen cabinet of the incoming administration and helped shaped the cabinet.  He assumed the post of Foreign Minister, a strategic error in the eyes of some astute observers of the political scene.  By insisting on being a member of the cabinet, the UDP  leader voluntarily subordinated himself to his political 'son', The President.

Mr. Darboe's subsequent promotion to his current position of Vice President notwithstanding, the prevailing view is that he should have opted to stay away from assuming a cabinet post in a transition government that would have allowed time to take care of his after his health after his imprisoned at the notorious Mile II before embarking on the task of preparing his party for the next presidential elections.  This option would have also made it possible for him to act as adviser to the Barrow government while concurrently strengthening the UDP into a formidable political machine in time for the 2021 presidential elections.

It can be argued that by joining the transition government, Darboe inadvertently introduced an element of competition between the boss (Barrow) and his subordinate (Darboe), a role reversal that is manifesting itself in a very complex relationship between the two gentlemen.

Conversely, Adama Barrow's performance as president only adds to the imbriglio the transition is turning out to be.  The results of the first eighteen months of the Barrow has been anything but encouraging.  On the economic management front, the economic is still anemic with high youth unemployment.  Little or nothing has happened on the restructuring front which was a top priority of  the coalition because the institutions were seriously seriously weakened under Jammeh.  Lack of fiscal discipline is still pervasive despite promises to control the recurrent budget.

The scourge of corruption has come to be associated with the Barrow government with a series of recent scandals involving over US$750,000 deposited into and transferred from the First Lady's Foundation, SEMLEX, the 57 vehicles gifted to parliamentarians and the latest being the alleged D10,000 per month stipend offered to some parliamentarians by President Barrow which was reported by a sitting member of the National Assembly.

Barrow's record has caused him to lose political support by increasing doubts about his ability and competence to manage The Gambia as president, further making his political position untenable.  Thus his recent move to organize a Youth Movement to rival a similar movement in the party he calls home - the United Democratic Party led by Ousainou Darboe.

Tensions are already high as a result of competing camps within the same political party, with allegations of huge sums of money being handed out to UDP leaders in the length and breadth of the country by the Barrow camp as a means of encouraging them to switch allegiance from Darboe too Barrow.  In fact, social media is awash with rumors including a claim that Barrow dispatched a delegation to Darboe encouraging him to step down from the leadership of the UDP that will permit him to be nominated the presidential candidate of the UDP in the 2021 presidential elections.

The political maneuverings have taken its toll with Barrow spending more time politicking at the expense of his main task of governing a country whose economy and security are both in a fragile state as a result of 22 years of bad governance.  Popular dissatisfaction with Barrow style of governance is growing with every new scandal that has cost him dear, further dimming his chances of securing an extended term of five instead of the current three stipulated in the Memorandum of Understanding - the document outlining both his Manifesto and his term of office as a non-party affiliated candidate of the coalition of the unified opposition parties.

The peace and security implications of an uncertain alliance between President Barrow and Vice President Barrow are great and may have played a part in the Gambian president, inappropriately and publicly requesting through the AU Chairperson the extension of the ECOMIG Mission in The Gambia to 2021, instead of through ECOWAS as dictated by and in accordance with AU's principle of subsidiarity.  This is a move that signals to donors, investors, tourists and Gambians that the peace and security of the country cannot be guaranteed by the transition government, even after eighteen months at the helm, thus sending a message that is anything but reassuring.


Friday, July 26, 2019

Is Jammeh behind the human trafficking that feeds the "Backway" syndrome? - A re-publication

The white shiny bus
A blog post first published June 15th, 2015.

The white shiny bus shown here has been identified in a Washington Post article authored by Kevin Sieff that serves as the beginning of the "Backway" journey from The Gambian capital of Banjul with the final destination of Agadez, Niger.

We wrote a piece last April, identifying Banjul as one of the centers of human trafficking.  Greater Banjul is a city at war with itself with military road block every 500 meters along the highway which made us to conclude that it is inconceivable for the authorities to be unaware of the human trafficking activities going on right in front of their noses.

Light is finally beginning to be shone on this aspect of the 'Backway syndrome', thanks to the focus that highly reputable news outlets' increasing focus on this sliver of a land that is contributing more than any country in Africa, proportionally speaking.

The "Backway" traffic increased markedly since last December, resulting in a significant increase in drownings in the Mediterranean. 14% of those who drowned in the first quarter of this year were Gambian, a country of 1.8 million which triggered international curiosity as to what's going on in The Gambia.

The bus pictured here is of particular interest because it cannot be allowed to circulate freely without someone higher up the chain of authority assuring its free movement across the Gambia with human cargo on board whose finally destination is known.

If Jammeh is opposed to human trafficking and has accused parents of those allowing their children of being un-Islamic because they are contributing towards their fares, why buses, like the one depicted here, operating freely.

Jammeh appears to be augmenting his campaign of deception by asking the ICC Chief prosecutor to investigate why Gambians and African emigrants are allowed to die in the Mediterranean, and accusing Italy and EU of deliberately causing the deaths.  It is also a preemptive move since the Italian government has announced their investigation of the human trafficking aspect of the tragedy.

Just as Jammeh has refused to accept that his bad economic policies and the human rights conditions of Gambians, he has deliberately turned a blind eye to the human trafficking going on at his front door.

Help us identify this shiny white bus.  Thank you.

Gambian youth as economic migrant - A republication

African economic migrants walking along a Libyan desert road

This is blog post first published July 7th, 2014 

One of the most painful legacies that the Jammeh regime will be the emptying of The Gambia of its youthful population.  It pains me to say that a disproportionate number are of these economic and human rights migrants are non-Jolas.  We cannot discuss the Jammeh regime without talking about tribalism as an instrument of suppression by playing one tribe against another.  

At this point of this narration, it is tempting to say it is to be expected because Mandinka and Fulas, in particular, form the largest chunk of the country's population, thus should form a majority in many categories which is generally true, but only to a point.  The social status categories like high-paying jobs in the public service, scholarship awards and membership to statutory Boards paint a different picture.  The trend is scary, and more so when the qualifications and experience do not seem to be correlated with the numbers of the one of the smallest and least educated of one section of our population. 

It is important to note at this point that our faith in the Gambian people is unshakable.  Many politicians of past years who tried using tribe as a divisive tool have failed, and Jammeh will fail also.

The Daily Observer warned us this morning of the scourge of economic migration and the risk involved in venturing in small boats and canoes on their journey to Europe via Italy - a journey that usually end up in tragedy.  The regime's official mouth piece, blames the youth's lack of "strong commitment" to the Motherland, implying that these young men and women are more committed to their respective families. 

After all, these economic migrants are making the trip because "they are pursuing work in foreign countries in order to support themselves and their families" according to the Daily Observer. 

Boat full of African migrants
Nothing from our friends at the Daily Observer about the causes of this frantic pace of adventurism into the unknown at extraordinary risks.  Could it be that the regime’s inability to make it attractive for these young people to stay at home?  Unemployment is high and getting higher, while the lucky few to be employed have seen that wages stagnate, eroding their purchasing power to a level that cannot sustain life.  Yet they see their Great Leader ride around town in a Rolls Royce.  The insensitivity and the tone deafness of this regime is bordering on insanity.

The Daily Observer continues to blame the young men and women for not investing locally the money they pay for the dangerous trip, which assumes that there is free entry and exit in an economy that is directed by one man - Yaya Jammeh.  How many houses built by Gambian retirees and those living in Europe have been bulldozed by Yaya Jammeh, and their land seized without due process?  Why are businessmen/women fleeing Gambia for friendlier and safer destinations for their investments; these include Jammeh closest business partners. 

The Gambian economy is contracting because of its mismanagement, and the contraction will continue.  In fact, the economy is headed for a complete collapse.  The young men and women venturing out at seas see the bleak future, and they are voting with their feet, and they see it worth the risk.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Peoples Progressive Party: Resolution of the Second Conference of Delegates held, Saturday 13th July 2019, at The Friendship Hostel, Bakau

The Peoples Progressive Party convened in its second special Delegates Conference at the Friendship Hostel in Bakau, on Saturday 13 July 2019. It was occasion for a thorough review of the life and program of the party as well as deep reflection and exchanges on future prospects.
In this regard,
Conscious, as ever, of the historic bond binding the PPP to the people of the Gambia;
Aware of the overwhelming desire among the party’s following, as well as the widespread yearning among the Gambia populace at large, for a resumed active presence of the PPP on the national political scene;
Deploring the recent actions of certain unscrupulous individuals which resulted in the rigged December Congress, a fraud-ridden election and a bare-faced attempt to hijack the party, out of inordinate ambition and in pursuance of an unavowed agenda;
Conscious of the deleterious effect of the resultant protracted intra-party dispute, including court litigation, on the life and development of the party;  
Hereby Resolve as follows:
- Reaffirm its complete rejection of the flawed Congress process and its truncated leadership election result;
- Reaffirm its strong commitment to the principles and decisions of the Bakau Declaration;
- Further reaffirm its strong support for the on-going action initiated through the courts to ensure that truth and justice prevail in all aspects of the life of the party;
- Decide to grant approval for the option canvassed for circumventing the present impasse by setting up a new and distinct party to pursue the P.P.P.’s historic mission with appropriate adjustments to reflect changing times and circumstance;
- Set up a high-level Steering Committee to immediately start work on putting this decision into effect.
Done at Bakau
13TH July 2019

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

GAMCORD Press Release: Diaspora calls on government to accelerate promised reforms, extend the franchise

Gambia: Diaspora calls on The Gambia Government to prioritize and accelerate promised reforms

Lament the disenfranchisement of at least 100,000 Gambians living abroad

Banjul, 27 June 2019- Participants of the Gambia Conference on Reforms and Democracy- GAMCORD, met on 10-12 June, 2019, under the theme: ‘The Diaspora’s potential for impactful reforms in times of transition’, and raised concerns over the slow progress being made in prioritizing and accelerating democratic reforms in the country. 

The conference produced a three-page Resolution, which observed that transitions are challenging, especially after 22 years of tyranny and dysfunctionality across the entire system of government.  They stated that revamping such anomalies is daunting. However, participants agreed that, there was no excuse for the slow progress being made to consolidate, promote and protect the democratic gains made, when the citizens elected to remove dictatorship from their midst. They pointed to the disintegration of the Coalition 2016, and lack of political will, as responsible factors for the deviation from promises made, which has precipitated a worrying trend of political polarization, and politics of ethnicity in the country. 

Participants also expressed shock and frustration over the actions of the government, whom they blamed for deliberately ‘engaging in a set of selective amendments, which do not inspire confidence and undermines public trust and goodwill in the current Administration.’  These, they said included the Elections Amendment Act 2017; and the Gambia Public Procurement Act 2017. Concerns were also raised about the continued disregard for environmental laws and policies. 

The conference expressed deep disappointment at the disenfranchisement of more than 100,000 Gambians, which they say violates fundamental rights of expression and universal adult suffrage.  ‘The 1997 Constitution guarantees every Gambia the right to vote and be voted for, and this has been selectively applied in every election. This illegal practice needs to cease, as a matter of urgency, to allow for Gambians abroad to vote in the upcoming referendum, and beyond’.  Failing which, delegates said they will propose legislation to align the electoral law with the 1997 Constitution, otherwise they will take legal action against the government. 

The gathering zeroed in on the corruption, a legacy of the Jammeh regime, which has crept into the Barrow Administration. Delegates requested the Office of the President to desist from interfering in contracting and procurement processes, which only entrenches the culture of secrecy and corruption.  They urged the Presidency to re-delegate such responsibilities to The Gambia Public Procurement Agency, a move they believe will ensure that transparency in contracting and procurement are in line with the laws and procedures. This will also discourage tender rigging, price fixing, cartelism and rent seeking behaviour, which are the hall marks of secrecy, corruption and arbitrariness, which is being entrenched in the Barrow administration’, the Resolution states.

The National Assembly was not spared either.  Delegates implored National Assembly members: ‘to show leadership and exercise their oversight role by ensuring that the constitutional review process is protected from political interference’.  They called on the MPs to pave the way for a referendum on the finalization of the review draft (Constitution), by passing a law that expressly provides for a vote on the proposed constitution before the 2021 general elections.
The GAMCORD Resolution focused on key sectoral areas, which were identified for urgent reforms: the security, civil, and foreign service sectors; media legislation, and accession to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM); and the educational sector. 
The two-day meeting saw about 50 participants from the Diaspora, CSOs, and private sector, also interact with the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), as formal submissions for inclusion in the review of the constitution were made through the Right to Know (R2K) Gambia chapter.  
The GAMCORD document was first drafted in January 2017.  It was shelved mainly due to the dashed expectations experienced over the period. The 2019 meeting was jointly organized by the Right 2 Know-Gambia (R2K) and others partners.  
I. To interface with the Constitutional Review Commission and exchange views on the CRC process in general and on issues specific to the relevant provisions of the Constitution that impacts directly and tangentially on the lives of Gambians living and/or working abroad.
II. To initiate / strengthen citizen driven processes, in collaboration with NAMs (particularly the Foreign Affairs Standing Committee) who derive their authority directly from the citizenry, and elevate the most pressing issues/challenges that the country must tackle if the principles of a citizenry centred developmental agenda is to be attained.  
III. To assess and identify the thematic areas of intervention (for the government, the private sector, development partners, and friends of The Gambia) through an open, systematic process commencing with an agreed to methodology, set of evidence based exercises including discussion papers, technical documents and broad national debate. 
IV. Agree to a strategic developmental and legislative agenda.
V. Ensure that the GAMCORD Conference is participatory, representative and vibrant- working with CSOs, the CRC, development partners and NAMS ensures that representation at a constituency level is guaranteed, in a strategic and systematic manner.
Right 2 Know- (R2K) Gambia, started its work in October 2016, focusing on elections integrity around the then, now famed, 2016 Presidential elections, when Jammeh was ousted from power.   Our membership/following has since grown to 10,000 people. The founders are a grouping of individuals with professional backgrounds ranging from geology, demographics, economics, international relations and law, communications, and academia.  All members are human rights activists. We are located in The Gambia, US, UK, West and Southern Africa. We are a non-partisan entity that focuses on rule of law and democracy, good governance, anti-corruption, human rights and the principles of access to information and freedom of expression.  

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