By Madi Jobarteh
By all standards, these current nominations betray the reasons and rationale for presidential nominations. The norm that has guided the President in proposing nominations to the National Assembly is to cater for sectors of society that are under-represented to promote inclusion and national unity. For that reason, women, youth, persons with disabilities as well as minority groups such as Christians and the Lebanese-Gambian community have all benefited from this constitutional gesture. Unfortunately, the current nominations by the President do not fit this requirement. The press release from the State House only gave five names without providing any reasons or rationale behind their selection.
What is apparent is that the five names are all political surrogates and allies of the President. Hence these nominations are an act of quid pro quo, which is only to reciprocate favours. Favoritism is an aspect of bribery and corruption in which the President should not indulge. These nominations therefore undermine the integrity and independence of the National Assembly as well as threaten national interest since the nominated individuals will be duty bound to serve only the interest of the President who nominated them.
The position of Speaker and Deputy Speaker is significant in the governance of the Gambia. The Speaker is in fact the third highest public official in the country, after the President and Vice President. The National Assembly is the highest organ of the State whose primary obligation is to oversee the Executive to ensure that the President and his appointed officials abide by the rule of law and are transparent, responsive, and accountable in the performance of their functions. The Legislature and the Executive share only an accountability relationship purposely for the good governance of the country. Hence, nominating an individual as Speaker based on favoritism directly interferes with the principle of separation of powers while undermining the Speaker from ensuring that the National Assembly is effectively playing its oversight functions.
The President must therefore be advised to withdraw these nominations forthwith and revert to the very norms and standards that underpin this unique prerogative that he has. For that matter, the President should be advised to nominate a Christian of high integrity and reputation, a person with disability of similar character as well as a youth, a woman, and a Lebanese Gambian. These are the kind of nominations that will cement the unity and peace of the Gambia as a viable nation capable of governing itself along the highest standards of human rights, inclusion, and diversity.
The nomination of Fabakary brings out a lot of issues. In the first place, Fabakary is a key architect of the APRC Dictatorship under which scores of Gambian children, women and men were subjected to the worst human right violations, while public wealth was bastardised without remorse. The Janneh Commission and the TRRC have amply displayed how Yayas Jammeh was left totally unchecked by the National Assembly such that for an entire generation he toyed with Gambian lives and wealth as his personal property, thanks to public officials like Fabakary Tombong Jatta and Seedy Njie.
Since he entered the National Assembly in January 1997, Fabakary never took a position that aimed to check the Executive and the Tinpot Dictator Yaya Jammeh. Under his watch, Fabakary allowed the violations of citizens to perpetuate without any form of accountability. He was a key member of the house in 2001 when the Indemnity Act was passed that provided cover for those security forces and their civilian superiors from accountability for their massacre of Gambian children.
From 2007 to January 2017, Fabakary was the Majority Leader during which he spared no effort in entrenching tyranny of Yaya Jammeh on Gambians. In January 2017, Fabakary was the very one who placed a motion on the floor of the National Assembly to impose a state of emergency just to destroy the sovereign will of Gambians as expressed in the December 2016 presidential elections. As if that was not enough, this Fabakary went further to place another motion to extend the life of both the Assembly and the President, thereby effectively annulling the results of the presidential elections which was the undiluted will of the Gambian people.
Furthermore, it was Seedy Njie, as a National Assembly Member and a Minister of Information at the same time, who vowed that president-elect Adama Barrow will never be sworn in. Seedy went further to state that Yaya Jammeh will rather remain in office thus seeking to damage the collective will of citizens. Since then, Seedy became a vociferous mouthpiece for a dictator who was hellbent on trampling on the will of the people.
Since 2017, Fabakary continued to lead the APRC and Jammeh supporters to direct their energy in attacking any person, institution or initiative aimed at justice and accountability for the crimes of the APRC Regime and its leader. Fabakary has been the leading voice in aggressively discrediting the entire transitional justice process and the TRRC continuously, consistently, and constantly. By doing so, Fabakary and his APRC continuously insulted and mocked victims of human rights violations of the 22-year evil regime. Until today, Fabakary Tombong Jatta and Seedy Njie remain unapologetic, remorseless, and uncompromising for their unpatriotic, illegal, and immoral roles in support of APRC Regime and Yaya Jammeh Tyranny. Rather they are still committed to seeing that the transitional justice process and the TRRC Report are flushed down the toilet.
Hence the nomination of these two individuals poses clear and present danger to justice, peace, and reconciliation in the Gambia. Their presence in the National Assembly means that the pain and misery of Gambian victims shall continue to fester while further threatening the lives of any Gambian who seeks to bring about justice and accountability for the atrocities of the APRC Regime and Yaya Jammeh.
Therefore, it is basic common sense for anyone to realize that persons like Fabakary and Seedy should rather face accountability rather than to be rewarded for their violations against the State and Nation of the Gambia. These two individuals do not have any legal, political, or moral standing to be in public office ever again, much more assume the highest positions in the highest institution of the country.
By these nominations Pres. Barrow has betrayed both himself as a victim of APRC Tyranny which was aided and abetted by Fabakary and Seedy while harming the soul, dignity, and integrity of the Gambian nation and all her sons and daughters. Pres. Barrow must therefore be asked to not only withdraw these nominations but must also sincerely apologize for this grossly poor judgement and demonstration of irresponsible leadership. By nominating these individuals therefore, it is clear like the sunlight at noon that Pres. Barrow has put the Office of the President into disrepute which is an impeachable offence as per Section 67 of the Constitution.
To add salt to injury, the nominations Fatoumatta Jawara, Kebba Lang Fofana and Maimuna Ceesay all point to a clear case of the President using his office to deliver favours to persons who do not deserve it. Surely Fatoumatta contested the elections and lost hence it is immoral to bring her through other means into the parliament. That tantamount to imposing her as a lawmaker. What is so special about Fatoumatta that the President is hellbent on seeing her inside the National Assembly? Similarly, Kebba and Maimuna do not represent any sector of society. They are mere surrogates of the President. It will therefore be immoral for the President to compensate such people with public office.
I wish to therefore call on President Adama Barrow to rescind his decision without delay. I would advise the President to liaise with youth groups, women groups, the Christian Council, the Lebanese community as well as the Gambia Federation of the Disabled in order to identify proper representatives.
Barrow has a duty to cleanse and purify our democracy and governance system. This can only be done through upholding honesty, patriotism, and adherence to high values. Barrow must realize that he has been elected as President of the Gambia hence he is not in competition with anyone. Rather he has a duty to bring all Gambians together in unity, peace, and respect. It is obvious that a Fabakary and Seedy Njie leadership in the National Assembly will only bring about confrontation with their opponents there such as UDP and No to Alliance Movement and other Independents. Hence a Fabakary leadership will be divisive and unproductive because there is so much enmity between him and his political opponents. In that case it is the Gambia which will lose.
Failure to rescind this decision, I urge the newly elected NAMs to put up a motion to reject the entire nominations and demand the President to propose new and proper nominations through consultations with various sectors of society. If the National Assembly also fails to stop these nominations, I urge all political parties and civil society to mobilize their supporters and citizens to go on the streets to demonstrate and use all legal, peaceful, and nonviolent means to demand these nominations be cancelled immediately.
For The Gambia Our Homeland