Saturday, June 22, 2019

Communique: Gambia Conference on Reforms and Democracy - GAMCORD 2019

We, participants of the GAMCORD forum from the Gambian Diaspora, CSOs, and the private sector, met in The Gambia to deliberate on the theme: ‘The Diaspora’s potential for impactful reforms in times of transition’. 

Recalling the Gambia Civil Society Forum II Resolution adopted at the WACSOF convening, prior to the 49th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government in Dakar, Senegal, on 2 June, 2015 theme: Gambia- governance, democracy and respect for the rule of law.
Recognizing that The Gambia has undergone a democratic transition through the ballot box.

Congratulating the entire Gambian citizenry for mustering the courage in exercising their right to freedom of expression and their right to vote in a candidate of their choice.
Further Congratulating the Independent Electoral Commission for discharging its mandate without fear or favour and delivering on the will of the people on December 2, 2016.

Acknowledging the supportive role played by ECOWAS, under the leadership of Her Excellency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the governments of Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana, for their unflinching commitment to promoting the culture of democracy in West African region.

Cognizant of the fact that The Gambia has been an example to other AU member states, that an aspiration of a nation to be freed from tyranny and be governed well is possible.

Aware that transitions, in whatever form, especially given the Gambian context, is challenging.

Fully Aware that after 22 years of tyranny, and dysfunctionality across the entire system of government, revamping such anomalies is daunting.

Recognize that the 2017 National Development Plan makes a strong pronouncement of elevating the needs of the Diaspora and prioritizing their involvement in the national debates and decision making processes.

Appreciate the efforts of the current administration in establishing the transitional justice road map by deploying a Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparation Commission (TRRC), and the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC).

Expressing our full support to the TRRC and the CRC.

Further Expressing our gratitude to the CRC for according us the opportunity to interface and deliberate on core proposals that will further the quest for good democratic practice, strengthened institutions, and rule of law in the constitution and the constitutional making process.

Disappointed by the disintegration of the Coalition 2016, and the deviation from the coalition manifesto and MoU, which has precipitated a worrying trend of political polarization, and politics of ethnicity in the country.

Concerned at the dearth of leadership across the political spectrum to stem the rising tide of ethnic and regional politics.

Further Concerned that the anticipated reforms as envisaged in the Coalition 2016 Manifesto, public pronouncements of President Barrow and members of his administration are being deprioritized.

Shocked at the actions of deliberately engaging in a set of selective amendments, which do not inspire confidence and undermines public trust and goodwill in the current Administration- these include: The Elections Amendment Act 2017; and the Gambia Public Procurement Act 2017;

Condemn the continued policies of opacity of state contracts and contracting, procurement and investments in the country.

Further condemn the continued disregard for environmental laws and policies, specifically the Banjul Declaration 1977, which aimed to protect our flora and fauna, as well as the National Environmental Act 1994; Environment Management Act 1994; Forestry Act 1998; environmental regional, continental and international normative frameworks and treaties of which The Gambia is a party.

We, participants of The Gambia Conference on Reforms and Democracy GAMCORD:

Urge the Office of the President to desist from interfering in contracting and procurement processes, which only entrenches the culture of secrecy and corruption in our national contracting processes; we therefore, urge the Presidency to re-delegate such responsibilities to the appropriate institution- the Gambia Public Procurement Agency- so as to ensure that transparency in contracting and procurement are in line with the laws and procedures that discourage tender rigging, price fixing, cartelism and rent seeking behaviour, which are the hall marks of secrecy, corruption and arbitrariness.

Implore the Gambia Government to urgently act on the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) report, which documents and provides irrefutable evidence on how the country was robbed of 1 billion US dollars by ex-president Jammeh.

Further implore the Gambia Government to urgently undertake action in bringing those implicated in facilitating the looting of 1 billion US dollars, from the state, to book; and expedite the country's asset recovery efforts.

Call upon the Gambia Government to urgently review the Public Order Act to bring it in conformity with regional and international standards on freedom of assembly;

Further call upon political parties to become more proactive and engaging in the governance processes of the country, in particular to effectively and actively participate and influence, as well as monitor public policy, legislation and hold public institutions accountable.

Urge the National Assembly to play a more proactive leadership role in the performance of its oversight functions and to holding the Government accountable.

Further urge The Gambia Government to urgently convene a national conference to deliberate on the state of education in the country, which has reached a crisis point.

Call upon The Gambia Government, under the leadership of President Barrow, to elevate and prioritize a progressive and strategic legislative agenda which shall include: - An amendment to the Elections Act 2017 to align with the 1997 Constitution section 26- Political Rights, (a); (b); (c); and section 39 (1). - Embark on a robust exercise to roll out a rapid set of media legislative reforms that reflects our collective aspirations to build a democratic state - Transforming GRTS into an independent public broadcaster - Enact legislation to establish/strengthen a media/public regulatory authority in line with regional and continental standards. - Repeal/claw back the GPPA Amendment Act 2018. - Enact an Access to Information law in accordance to Article 9 of the AUCPCC, which Gambia is a signatory, and deposited its instruments ratification on 9 July 2009.

We urge the Gambia Government to prioritize security sector reforms with urgency, and consult and engage with relevant Gambian experts in the sector to deliver an effective and efficient set of changes to the sector.

We further urge the government to develop a strategic planning capacity across the civil service by creating a Planning Ministry with the primary mission of developing a rolling strategic plan for the entire economy. 

We call upon The Gambia Government to accede to the African Peer Review Mechanism-APRM by signing the MoU of the primary governance instrument in Africa, and take the necessary steps to roll out the Country Review as a matter of urgency.
We further call upon the Gambia Government to organize a national dialogue, as a matter of urgency, to address the pressing issues the country faces, which includes challenges to social cohesion.

We implore the National Assembly to show leadership and exercise its oversight role and ensure that the constitutional review process is protected from political interference and pave the way for a referendum on the finalization of the review draft, by passing a law that expressly provides for a vote on the proposed constitution before the 2021 general elections.

We support the call for the establishment of a Constitution Implementing Committee/Commission to lead and monitor the implementation of the revised constitution under the forthcoming Third Republic.

We express a willingness to work with the Gambia Government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to design a strategy/methodology to enable us to be accounted for through an external census.

We commit to tracking the progress and implementation of this Communique, by establishing a steering committee to follow through on agreements reached during GAMCORD 2019.

We express our resolve to continue to engage with Gambian CSOs, particularly The Association of Non-Government Organizations (TANGO), to continue to play its role in promoting good governance, strong democratic practice, and fundamental rights to protect popular participation and elevate the general principles and demand for public accountability.