The government of The Gambia is increasingly shedding the thin facade of democratic practice that they established back in 2016-2017 post-dictatorship. The time when international incentives and pressure for reform were stronger.
The little democratic gains made, however, continues to regress after another attack on civilians, peacefully demonstrating in Brikama on Thursday 10th of March 2022.
The attack was meted on the supporters of would be aspirant for one of United Democratic Party “UDP's” candidates - Mr Momodou Sabally. The demonstration happened after his candidacy was rejected by the Independent Electoral Commission “IEC”.
The violent brutal crackdown on the demonstrators by the paramilitary officers that ensued is unacceptable and should be condemned by all Gambians regardless of party political loyalty.
In terms of the rejection of Mr Sabally’s application, it is our contention, through our understanding of section 90(1) of the Constitution, that Mr Momodou Sabally, it seems, is not qualified to stand as a member of parliament.
This does not mean that Mr Sabally is corrupt, it does not also mean that he wilfully abused his office, absolutely not. But he erred in judgement, overwhelmed by high profile political positions for a young man who got carried away by the love-bombing of dictator Yahya Jammeh.
Alas, there are consequences for doing the biddings of a dictator against the people. Every dictator needs the fig-leaf of well-intentioned academics to legitimises their activities. Regrettably, Mr Sabally was used and abused by dictator Yahya Jammeh as a tool to milk Gambia’s resources to fill Jammeh’s unquenchable appetite for luxury.
We will love to see towering figures of the Gambian literary World like Momodou Sabally who understand the intricacies of issues to be in the parliament. His energy, style, enthusiasm, his confidence and his rhetorical splendour are a joy to watch. These skills, it is hoped, will allow substance and fill the capacity deficit that besets our parliament and impact on delivering.
However, even though we fundamentally disagree with the Independence Electoral Commission “IEC” on myriad of issues, ww believe, it is within their remit to act as a gate keeper to sieve candidates vying for electoral positions.
Herewith, it is our opinion that hey are right to reject Mr Sabally’s candidacy within the powers conferred on them by the laws of the Gambia per the dictates of the findings and recommendations of the Janneh Commision where Mr Sabally was adversely mentioned.
Nevertheless, the double standard and the selective use of the law of the Gambia in favour of the likes of honourable Mamburry Njie but against Mr Sabally is the nadir of our country’s executive bias.
The executive deliberately turned blind eyes and refuses to execute the Janneh Commission’s recommendations against their supporters but punished their perceived adversaries like Mr Sabally and this is an egregious dispensation of fairness and justice.
The Gambia government should be taken to court for their partiality to enforce the Janneh Commission’s recommendations to all those affected by the enquiry.
However, freedom of expression in the Gambia has come under sustained attacks through both assaults on the press and encroachments on the free and peaceful demonstrations. Hence, it is painful to see our paramilitary officers beating a subdued and out numbered peaceful demonstrator.
The Gambia's little democratic gains is shrinking in the face of rampant corruption and breakdown in the rule of law. This act of agrarian barbarism by our paramilitary officers against innocent Gambians should stirre our hearts.
It will not be wrong to posit that the brutality of our security forces on innocent civilians is in agreement with the president bragging about the brutality and the pain perpetrated against ‘3 years Jotna’ peaceful demonstrations. Thus, it will be difficult to argue against the theory that the character of the our paramilitary officers is shaped by the character of the president.
This may be collaborated by the shtum of the president on the face of abuses by his security officers. The president seems to be busying himself scheming on how to divide us further in order to sustain his cupidity. Because he can only thrive on divisions not substance.
Our dismissive attitudes towards core civil and political rights because the victims are our adversaries, will weaken our democracy.
It is unfortunate that, it seems, we are united as Gambians, only by our contempt for each other. This is to the extent of celebrating the violation of our fellow Gambians’ human rights by our paramilitary officers.
This cliff-edge meltdown in our relationships is damaging the future prospect of the Gambia.
History, thus teaches us that if we give unfettered powers to individuals or groups of individuals without checks and balances, they will abuse it against us.
Nonetheless, the promises of democracy remains real and powerful. While it can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. Therefore, to defend our democracy and broaden its reach should be one of the great causes of our time.
We need to stop the head long rush into abandoning our human rights. To author a new chapter for the Gambia, we should see past emotions, divisions and find strength in solidarity.
This will allow us to compose a country committed to all tribes, cultures, colours characters and conditions of man.