The constitution of the Republic of The Gambia states that;
Section 77. (1) The President shall at least once in each year attend a sitting of the National assembly and address a session on the condition of The Gambia, the policies of the Government and the administration of the State.
This essentially is a report card on the state of affairs of our country for assessment. For any effective assessment, we need to know what goals we seek and how much progress has been made towards attaining those goals.
As the National Assembly has issued a request for your presence on September 19, 2019 to update us on the state of our nation, it is worth mentioning as a reference point, few of the expectations of the citizens and the clear goals that were set for your transitional term agreed to by you and your coalition partners.
Without doubt, the highest priority following the ouster of tyranny was the restoration of democracy which hinges on upholding the rule of law with all of its attendant freedoms; practicing good governance, institutional and fiscal discipline to restore public confidence in the institutions of state, especially the battered judiciary.
Mr. President, so much hope rode on your presidency. You ascended on the back of a united nation. United in hope for a free and reformed country; united in determination to end tyranny and self-perpetuating rule against the will of the masses.
The state of our nation was horrendous when you ascended. With a united citizenry behind you and no political challenge against your leadership, we dreamt big. We had faith and confidence each time you showed up surrounded by great sons and daughters of our land. Men and women who sacrificed so much to see to it that we shook off the yokes of tyranny, they gave it their all.
We looked on with pride as we saw our nation’s best in the sphere of politics standing on one platform ready to navigate us away from the uncertainty and fears of a tyrannical state towards a more free and stable nation with very clear goals set and communicated to us. As little as we knew about you, we knew your team well; we are familiar with them and their sacrifice on our behalf. Our confidence was solidified that with them by your side, we will navigate the unstable waters of the transition well.
Your unassuming demeanor fooled many into believing that the days of tyranny are over; that humility has assumed the mantle for a fresh start, albeit a 50+ years late start. But how mistaken we were!
The democratic gains we fought for is the only thing your government seems to have as a bragging point; “we have freedoms, that’s a major achievement.” That may be true, but in this fragile transition, will Gambians really let their freedoms be taken for granted? But we will still give you and your government that credit for peacefully enabling the environment.
The economic reform agenda that was initiated and spearheaded by your first finance minister has been derailed. The economy has barely grown from where it was when he was fired for reasons not officially stated but by all indications was politically motivated; a tyrannical move.
Fiscal indiscipline is manifest; the reversal of the vehicle policy deprived our nation’s coffers of millions in annual savings. Brushing off citizens’ complaints of wasting millions of dalasis as “small change” for hiring a private jet when flying commercial could have saved us millions; the setting up of a foundation in your wife’s name which got her embroiled in missing millions claims; setting up movements with unknown source of seemingly limitless income; giving your home village a facelift; doling out donations in cash or kind across the nation, all point to one thing; a retention of the old corrupt system and hence low donor confidence.
These instances have contributed towards the slowing down, if not complete withdrawal of some of the pledges made by donors to help put our transition on course. The shortage of funds lamented by the head of the National Development Plan (NDP) is a reflection of the setbacks in the much touted (NDP) which held so much promise for our country further dousing our hopes.
Although much of what was pledged in the NDP was geared towards institutional reform rather than infrastructural development, there too our confidence has waned. The security service has barely changed as far as their dealings with the public are concerned not to speak of the administration of the various outfits. The most recent appointments of your Defense and Interior Ministers were met with very loud objections, but still you insist on keeping them.
With our fragile transition in mind, we needed very objective and thorough review of past misdeed and how to address them without unfairly treating some citizens or making them feel unjustly targeted. Such objective investigation was done through the Janneh Commission, one of three commissions initially set up for the review of past failures and making of recommendations for reforms and course correction. That commission finished its investigations and made recommendations which were shunned to our collective anger and disappointment. This raised the question, what will become of the recommendations of the other two commissions yet to submit their findings.
We know that the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) met with members of cabinet, but unlike ordinary citizens’ input, nothing was communicated to the public about what the executive’s concerns or inputs are regarding the new constitution.
The Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) is yet to conclude its sittings but some key witnesses appeared before it and confessed to horrendous crimes only to be set free in our midst raising more questions as to what your administration’s stance is in correcting past wrongs and charting a new course for us as a country.
Putting an end to self-perpetuating rule was also a major component of the reform agenda. Even though you never had any aspirations (or hope) of assuming the presidency, circumstances presented you with that honor. Your greatest legacy would have hinged on setting precedence for ending self-perpetuating rule by serving one term, but you are busy maneuvering to position yourself for self-succession even though current records show your abysmal performance in governance.
So administratively speaking, your government has fallen far short of expectations. Uncertainty has gripped the nation; confidence in your administration has eroded to the lowest that any government can enjoy, and we are witnessing a resurgence of the maladministration and corruption that was common place during the Jammeh days. Old Jammeh cronies are back in the same positions of trust they once held where they betrayed public trust without remorse or regret
On policy, the clear goal of your presidency was set forth in NDP blueprint; you were to preside over a reform period of transition with clear reform items. Unfortunately you turned this into a political tool and the NDP has given way to your personal ambition which sadly accrues no benefit to the nation
In sum Mr. President, the state of our nation is concerning. But we wait to see what you have on the contrary to share.