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What next for The Gambia

In 2016, Donald Trump officially entered the American Political scene with his famous Trump Tower unveiling. You will remember that speech where he set the tone for his agenda which was anti-immigrant. The now famous “Mexican rapists” line he never backed down from was the first take. What happened at the polls was a vote against Hillary Clinton, the so-called “establishment” and Trump was handed a mandate. We will all agree, in hindsight, that America was more divided under Trump than at any other time in recent history. The assault on immigration that appealed to his base became a mainstay of his administration, up to and including the infamous Muslim Ban. Some of our brothers are victims of Trump’s harsh immigration policy and are today back home after having been deported. It was a winning formula for Trump, and he stuck to it in hopes of a second mandate, why change a winning formula? Politics 101. Now let’s apply that to our Gambian situation.

We know, from his actions that Barrow is determined to remain in power for as long as possible, hence the killing of the draft constitution. That was a major piece of the transition agenda, he did not get punished for that national disappointment, so now he can completely disregard it and rely on the 1997 constitution with all its powers to stay in power for the foreseeable future. And that, comes at a cost.

Here’s what will happen to ensure that. To stave off all challenges, be they legal, political, or procedural, the institutions of state will be the first casualty, starting with the National Assembly. With his newfound mandate, he will give his all to have a huge presence in the National Assembly, voter apathy has already set in which means his supporters, more than any of the other parties, will be more enthusiastic about voting. A greater chunk of the other parties’ supporters, especially UDP supporters will likely have a ‘what’s the point’ attitude. Who can blame them, especially considering recent events and the efforts they put in towards the presidential elections?

The voter apathy that will result from the dashed hopes in the presidential elections will mean his main challenger, the UDP is likely to lose some seats, to be replaced by those who would do Barrow’s bid. We will do our utmost to mobilize our supporters to get out and vote, but it will be a hard sell. So I hope the Gambia First crew will do their part to ensure a more functional National Assembly, but I doubt that. UDP losing so suit their egos is more important than having strong institutions. Added to the enthusiasm within his camp, he has power to nominate members and appoint a speaker, imagine Speaker Fabakary Tombong Jatta or maybe FJC since the woman speaker tradition is likely to continue, or some former APRC point person who’ll owe their political comeback to Barrow and will feel beholden to him. Or we will get to see a nominated member Rambo Jatta. Who knows?

Yes, by and large, the courts have proven to be a better version of themselves during the past 5 years than was the case between 1994 – 2017. Even so, courts only act when aggrieved parties bring their cases before them, in other words, they do not seek out grievances to resolve.

With a National Assembly at the ready to do his bid, policy and legislation will bend where he wants them to go, or more precisely where his benevolent sponsors and backers want them to go.

The civil service is already a foregone conclusion, he appoints and fires whom he wills, and you can rest assured that he will reward his loyalists. How about a “Head of The Civil Service designation for Seedy Njie, how does that sound? Maybe some other senior cabinet position will be forthcoming for him.

Would an on-the-record bigot like Lang Tombong Tamba be rewarded with leadership within the army? Wonder how the Mandinkas under him would feel and what their relationship is going to be like. Maybe he’ll head to the diplomatic service. Left to be seen.

Like Trump, Barrow rode on a divisive agenda and he was rewarded, you know it, I know it. He created a margin of society and labeled them as the segment that all others should be wary of, the ever-present Mandinka. The narrative was bought. Either he seeks to reverse that perception by seeming magnanimous to that group or he lets that sense of alienation fester among the Mandinka who already know and feel disenfranchised. Neither scenario augurs well for him nor the country. We all heard the rhetoric, and your condemnation is proof of nothing. He divided the country, now he must preside over that divided country. Here lies the danger in labeling UDP a Mandinka party, because whatever is directed at UDP is likely to be interpreted as directed against the Mandinka. UDP didn’t create that image, their opponents did.

With institutions shaped and functioning the way he wants them to, the law and established processes will be secondary to his whims. With that status quo, exposing such corruption will not sit well with him. So, guess what, the fourth estate will be his next target.

Inducements will bar fair reporting for the most part, we already know which journalists and media houses have lined themselves up to sell him as the best thing that the Gambian sun shines on. Backing alternative media platforms to mislead the people and counter objective reporting will be an option, but since people are free to choose who to listen to, the “unfriendly” media houses and personalities will become targets and he will go after those controversial ones that his supporters point to as unfriendly. You already know who will be on that chopping board. He will do that because the so called “silent majority” will say he was right in doing so because such media houses/journalists promote division. Licenses will be revoked, not renewed, or face some deliberate huddles that will hinder their operations.

He has already stated his intentions on what he planned to do regarding political activity or how gleeful he is about gassing innocent citizens simply because they are politically opposed to him. Now that, is where he will face his stiffest challenge and that will be his most delicate option to navigate. But knowing the Barrow that the past five years has revealed, the prospects are scary.

I am saying all these to say, what would you do to stand up for your country and fight against the impending return of tyranny? Are we going to see more of the same scapegoating? Always looking for who to blame beside the blameworthy ones? Is it going to be more fork tongues promoting their selfish ends while masking it in a see-through “national interest” garb?

UDP was your punching bag, let’s say you are right that UDP deserves not to be liked, whatever mistakes the party made, they were political. And the reward was denying them a mandate, or in your parlance “the people have spoken” and what they said is, let’s leave UDP out in the cold and forge ahead without them. The UDP will deal with that, but now The Gambia remains and needs to forge ahead. What will you do to ensure the mandate of the people is served? Oh wait, the responsible party for what’s to come is UDP. That claim has already started, look closely. And sadly, there is no shortage of ridiculous justifications for parroting that line.

We observe.

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