Monday, January 29, 2018

Barrow's first anniversary as Gambia's President - Part II

Adama Barrow in Dubai with SG and prospective investors
Part I can be found here.

If Adama Barrow's  decision to seek refuge in Dakar during the political impasse raised eyebrows, his unannounced and bizarre visit to Brazzaville soon after the assumed office in Banjul left the diplomatic community scratching their heads.

The choice of Congo-Brazzaville as Barrow's first official visit outside as Head of State was naive as it was incomprehensible because the newly-elected president planned and eventually traveled to a foreign land without the knowledge of his Foreign Minister or accompanied by any cabinet minister. 

Gambians had just defeated a dictator of 22 years in an open and fair election and sent him packing to Equatorial Guinea on involuntary exile only to have his successor decide to pay an official visit to another African dictator who has been in power for a total of 33 years with no historical ties.  As a result, the trip was open to wild and unconfirmed speculations.

The one year anniversary of the Barrow administration is not marked only by some diplomatic faux pas.  Perhaps the biggest failure of the new government is in the field of institutional reform.  A transition government's top priority, after 22-years of dictatorship, is to start the process of restructuring institutions that have been weakened or completely destroyed.

Civil Service restructuring was paid lip-service but nothing was done except a casual staff audit that purportedly identified ghost workers.  It is unclear whether action  taken to expunge the names from the employment rolls.

Of course, the oft-promised Think Tank which was officially launched last June amidst great fanfare never quite got off the ground.  The 16-member body was structured to provide expert advise in various fields to the new government.

A Blueprint to held guide the transition to democratic rule was also expected to be developed, either by this body or a different body which never materialized contributing to the lethargic and directionless approach to addressing the urgent issues facing a country that is obviously struggling to emerge from the shadows of Yaya Jammeh.

Not only are the administrative structures built by the dictatorship still intact, the transition government has managed to retain most of the key personnel responsible for directing the affairs of state and had manned the ex-dictator's torture chambers.  The pilferers of the state treasury and looters of the Central Bank still play a prominent role in the Barrow administration despite public outcry and open criticism.

The first year was marked by controversies about procurement issues which seems to be a major preoccupation of the Barrow administration.  In fact, at the risk of duplicating ministerial functions, a unit was created at the Office of the President in charge of foreign investment and headed by a Permanent Secretary that effectively threatens to render both the Investment and Export Promotion Agency at the Ministry of Trade as well as the Public Procurement Agency redundant.

That said, all is not lost as the Commission of Inquiry into the illicit wealth of the ex-dictator is providing a window into one of Africa's most prolific kleptocratic regime where known members of the international criminal syndicates effectively ran the economy at a steep cost of the economic welfare of the Gambian people.

Although, there are valuable revelations emanating from the sessions of the Commission of Inquiry, the eventual outcome, as to whether the culprits will face justice in the end, is doubtful because most of them are still operating their businesses  in the country and some are actively supporting the new government. 

The recently passed law establishing the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) holds great promise for the victims who suffered death, torture, false imprisonment, sexual violence, forced disappearance and forced exile.  It is hoped that the TRRC will be concluded successfully so that justice is done in the interest of Jammeh's victims and victims' families.