Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Editorial: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Last December 2nd, I celebrated my 69th year on this beautiful earth with the help of a loving family that has been, for a very long time, the secret of my strength, as I watched Yaya Jammeh unwrapped my best birthday present ever by conceding defeat to presidential candidate now President Adama Barrow. Although he tried to re-wrap my present, the Gambian voters, with the support of the rest of the world, weren't having none of it.  He was finally shown the door on the 21st January, hopefully never to come back.

Jammeh's defeat at the polls and his eventual banishment to Equatorial Guinea was Gambia's greatest moment since the country's independence from Great Britain on the 18th February 1965.  It is, therefore, an understatement to say ridding The Gambia of Jammeh was a good thing.   It was a start of many good things to follow, including but not limited to the freedom to associate and the expression of political views that we denied Gambians for the 22 years that he ruled this tiny nation with an iron fist.

Jammeh's departure from the political scene unleashed over two decades of pent-up anger and frustration resulting from systematic employment of repressive measures, including the denial of basic human and political rights of ordinary Gambians and politicians alike, the slightest infringement of which usually results in torture, imprisonment or even death.

Managing our new found freedoms in the brief post-Jammeh era is proving to a challenge in these early stages.  We have become uniquely impulsive in our criticism of the new government of Adama Barrow without, in many cases, solid basis or justification.  Ousainou Darboe. leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) until he was imprisoned last year by Jammeh regime, has long been accused of being a tribalist is now considered by many, including a long-term supporter and financial backer of the UDP, as the de-facto president of the Gambia who is calling the shots from the safe distance of Marina Parade, where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is located.  He is being heavily criticized for stocking President Barrow's cabinet with his tribesmen, tribeswomen and political hacks who have little or no relevant experience to run a government as badly battered as the one Barrow has inherited.

These criticisms are not totally devoid of facts.  However, we believe they are rather premature at this stage to warrant the avalanche of accusations.  We continue to maintain that the new administration be given the chance to put a cabinet together and allow members the breathing space necessary to start to govern in a way demanded of supporters of the Coalition of 7 political parties plus one Independent presidential candidate.  Adama Barrow's name was on the ballot as the Coalition's candidate for President and was subsequently elected.  He is therefore duty-bound to act as such and not to outsource the presidency to someone else.  If he does, neither history nor the Gambian voter will be kind to him or his party.

We have not lost sight of the fact that  coalition governments are always difficult to manage. Invariably, partisan politics and individual self-interest begin to take hold which can result in a breakup of the alliance.  The current coalition is no exception.   The difference is cracks have started to show even before a full compliment of the cabinet has been appointed and in place.  Daggers and machetes were drawn well before the first batch of minister were named.

It is a truism that coalition governments are always difficult to manage and a notoriously short-lived. In the case of the Coalition of the 7 political parties and one independent presidential candidate, discernible cracks have started to show well before the first tranche of ministers were introduced to the press.  No sooner than the first batch of ministers were sworn in than politicians from different camps started engaging maundering surrogates in social media to taunt and level vicious and accusations designed to bring down those they perceive to pose future threats to their personal self interest and political ambitions.   We implore all involved to cease these political dirty tricks for the good of the Coalition so that members can start addressing the numerous economic, political and social problems created as a result of 22 years of dictatorship.