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New President. New National Assembly. What Gambia?

By Madi Jobarteh

The sad and annoying fact is that while the country now has a new President and new National Assembly Members, the Gambia is in bad shape! With the failed promise for system change in 2017, five years down the line the Gambia instead turned into a cesspool of public sector corruption, wastage, and inefficiency. Evidently, citizens have come under the mercy of a bunch of notorious public servants and poor performing public institutions that are consuming more public wealth than producing and providing public services.

Consequently, the past five years was a combination of failures and missed opportunities coupled with blatant abuse of office and negligence of duties perpetrated by none other than both the Legislature and the Executive. The Executive led by President Adama Barrow woefully failed to seize the incredible opportunities presented to his administration to lead the country into effective and comprehensive system change. At the same time, the Legislature also failed woefully to not only to hold the Executive accountable, but also refused to take leadership in bringing about the necessary reforms. At the end of their first term, both have left the country in terrible dire straits. Sadly, and annoyingly.

Therefore, as we welcome the new NAMs, it is important to remind them of their solemn duty to uphold the Constitution and defend the Republic by serving the citizenry with utmost honesty and commitment. Section 112(b) of the Constitution provides that NAMs should regard themselves only as servants of the people, to desist from corruption or alienating themselves from the people, but to be guided by their conscience and the national interest in performing their duties. Thus, I asked the new NAMs to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors in order to enable them to salvage and not betray the Gambia.

The failure of the previous NAMs lies in the fact that none of the parties and independent candidates came with a clear national agenda to the parliament. They merely went to occupy their seats and react to the bills and issues as brought to them from the Executive. But they failed to take the leadership and responsibility at the right time to initiate their own agenda of system change. They talked the good talk but failed to walk the talk together.

Furthermore, the Fifth Legislature failed to bring about good governance because of their failure to play their oversight function effectively. While they were faced with uncountable incidences of abuse of office and corruption by the President and members of his Executive, the outgoing parliament failed to hold them accountable with the tools and powers vested in them by the Constitution and the Standing Orders. Even when it was obvious that public institutions were failing to deliver quality, efficient public services, the previous NAMs could not take the necessary steps to address such poor performance and waste of public resources.

Part of this failure is caused by the fact that the outgoing NAMs failed to work as a collective with a common vision and agenda for the Gambia. Rather they were hugely preoccupied with and divided by partisan and personality fights and interests at the detriment of the country. As they left office, they have therefore failed to lay the foundation of good governance and sustainable development for the country, today and tomorrow.

Thus, it is pertinent that the incoming NAMs are reminded of the weaknesses and failures of their outgoing colleagues so that they do not also register yet another fantastic failure. To the incoming NAMs, it is therefore necessary to remind them that the National Assembly is indeed the primary policy, governance, and development institution within this Republic upon which all other institutions take cue. Hence the strength and health of the good governance and development of this Republic rests squarely at the extent to which NAMs perform their duties.

Above all, it is utterly important to put it to the new NAMs that it is damn immoral, dishonest, and criminal to occupy a seat in the National Assembly to use it only to promote the agenda of a president or party or self against the national interest. We have seen so much of such dishonesty and immortality in many of the outgoing NAMs and I, for one, will never forgive them for such gross disservice to the Republic.

NAMs must realize that the life and future of each and every Gambian lies squarely in their hands. Hence the decisions they make are what determines which Gambian lives or dies from preventable diseases or which Gambian child will enjoy quality education or not, or which Gambian youth or woman will enjoy opportunities or not or which Gambia living with a disability will have dignity or not.

I wish to put it to the incoming NAMs that a lot of damage was committed over the past five years by the Executive to which the outgoing NAMs turned a blind eye and deaf ear, sadly. This is why not only is corruption rife while poor social services and high cost of living are harming Gambians but also their indifference has caused huge economic mismanagement and indebtedness of the country. The recent cost control measures announced by the Government is a manifestation of the economic malaise confronting the country thanks to poor management. It has nothing to do with Ukraine or COVID! Furthermore, the lack of leadership by the outgoing NAMs is at the centre of the failed transitional justice process which is now seeking to threaten national security and peace.

I have written to Pres. Barrow on the day he assumed his second term to provide unsolicited advice to him to take urgent steps to reverse and repair the damages he caused in his first term. He has failed to even acknowledge my letter much more respond to the issues and concerns raised. I wish to now provide this unsolicited advice to the new NAMs as well that they have a duty to hold the President and Government accountable. After 22 years of tyranny that saw the blatant abuse of human rights and dignity of Gambians, the new NAMs must dedicate huge amount of their time and energy to ensure that the transitional justice process is rescued and put on the right path.

This requires that the new NAMs ensure that the Draft Constitution 2020 is brough back so that the country would have a new constitution before the end of 2022. Also, it is to ensure that the reports of the Janneh Commission, the Faraba Commission, the Audit of Seven SOEs as well as the TRRC are fully implemented. This also means to ensure that legal and institutional reforms in the public service and security agencies are conducted with utmost seriousness.

At the end of the day, history shall record as always. Today and posterity shall pass judgement on each and every NAM for the role one played in either the salvation or destruction of the Gambia. Where one stands in that history and judgment will be one’s own making. One thing is for sure, and that is, Gambians of today and tomorrow will come to celebrate only those NAMs who genuinely served the country and spit on those who turned out to be villains and traitors. History is recording.

For The Gambia, Our Homeland

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