Saturday, September 24, 2016

Gambian politicians grilled at ECOWAS Parliament

Majority Leader, Fabakary Tombong Jatta
Netty Baldeh 
Hons. Fabakary Tombong Jatta and Netty Baldeh, both APRC National Assembly Members wished they didn't attend this year's second session of ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja where their colleagues, especially parliamentarians from Senegal and Togo, peppered them with stinging questions, ranging from the deplorable human rights environment, the precarious state of readiness for the presidential elections to the lack of presidential term limit.

The Senegalese parliamentarian, Soulaymane Ndoye, questioned his Gambian colleagues on the wisdom of the arbitrary and exorbitant tariffs increases without due notice in contravention of existing ECOWAS protocol. which led to the 3-month closure of the border between the two countries early this year.

However, it was the Togolese opposition parliamentarian's citing of media accounts of the suppression of the rights of the opposition and the lack of freedom of expression prevailing in Yaya Jammeh's country that irked the two Gambian politicians.  The Togolese parliamentarian wanted to know whether the rights of the opposition and freedom of expression will be guaranteed as the December presidential election approaches.

In response, the two Gambian parliamentarians went into their characteristic incomprehensible and defensive tirade in defense of the man they erroneously refer to as a pan-Africanist who does not bend to the wishes of "external forces" or 21st century imperialists.  Their boss has a special dislike for the British, so it was not surprising that employed - as a matter of routine - anti-British and/or anti-America tirade  in their responses.

It was equally unsurprising when Mr. Jatta said that neither in the UK nor in the US was political space or opportunity accorded to the opposition..  In short, and from their vantage point, the opposition's political space must be restricted to the point of rendering them ineffectual or extinct.  We hope the Gambian opposition is taking note of what is in store for them.

On the question of term limits, Netty Baldeh's responded as a matter-of-factly that " [W]e decided not to limit the mandates and not to have a second round in the presidential. After all, democracy is the will of the people."  The irony to his response is that Netty Baldeh will automatically cease to be a member of parliament by being expelled from the ruling party that the Gambian dictator heads even though he (Baldeh) was elected by the voters of his constituency which says a great deal about the will of the people.