Opinion: An old wine in a new bottle: a glimpse of the Jammeh and Barrow administrations
The APRC government of the former president Yahya Jammeh and the current administration of president Adama Barrow could hardly be distinguished from each other: An AFPRC/APRC fox and coalition 2016/NPP wolf. Jammeh came in as a saint, maybe that should be an understatement, but a sinless angel who fooled the whole nation including his fellow coupists, the soldiers. He was a destitute full of resentment, anger and hatred against people who had no hands in his predicament: poverty and underprivileged social status. He claimed that the Jawara government was corrupt in every sense of the word, hence they had to overthrow it to bring back some sanity into the system; his regime became even more corrupt than the one he and his fellow soldiers overthrew. He left a legacy of visible tribalism among ethnic groups who used to love and cherish one another as one family.
Barrow, like his predecessor, also came in much the same way: a sinless, contented, honest and truthful man. As many would agree with me, he came at a time when most Gambians were completely fed up with Jammeh's misrule and were ready to vote him out; whosoever was in his (Barrow's) shoes would have certainly immerged as the victor in the 2016 presidential elections. He was widely loved when he newly came, some would even call him Moses in comparison to prophet Moses (Musa) who had also liberated his people from the clutches of oppression and suppression perpetuated against them by the pharaonic regimes of Egypt. He would soon be hated and despised as much as his predecessor when he started following in his (Jammeh's) footsteps. He would be Mandinka today, he would be Fula tomorrow and the next day he is going to be Serahule. His ethnicity keeps changing depending on the community he meets because he wants their loyalty and votes. He should just be a Gambian and represent the whole country not just one ethnic group at a time.
Both figures (Jammeh and Barrow) are great betrayers. Jammeh had to liquidate his own enablers, particularly those soldiers who gave him the leadership role, head of state, on a gold plate. His so-called revolution, the AFPRC killed its own babies as he (Jammeh) had a hidden agenda so he had to eliminate his fellow coupists who wanted to hold on to the original idea of staging the coup against the previous regime or any other person who might have had contrary views. When they came (Yahya and his fellow soldiers) they promised Gambian people that they would return to the barracks after just six months, but the military regime continued for two years after which it had changed its status to a civilian rule. The regime finally came to a woeful end after twenty two (22) years of misrule under Jammeh's stewardship.
Barrow had to betray the coalition MOU and coalition partners as his greed for power and ambition to stay longer in the presidency grow bigger by the day. He promised to serve only three years, but when three years was up and he was reminded of his promise by members of the 'three years 'jotna', he responded with brutality, i.e arresting the executive members of the said group and prosecuting them to date. The busdriver, as he would call himself, would ask one or more passengers at a time to dropoff his bus once they have agendas contrary to his. Meanwhile, the bus continues the journey with Barrow on the driving seat as he drives towards the end of 2021 hopping to be chosen again as the driver to continue the journey in 2022. He ( Barrow) would soon discard all his previous campaign promises: serving only three years and conducting elections in which he would not be a participant (candidate); a new republic (new constitution); security sector reform; civil service reform. We are yet to see any serious or tangible reforms as the current administration recycles more and more former enablers of Yahya into the system as it hopes to win the hearts and minds of the supporters of the previous regime.
Millions of dalasis of taxpayers money were spent on the Janneh commission, the outcome of which was a pure display of selective justice. The recommendations of the Janneh commission dictated that certain former members of the Jammeh regime be banned from holding public offices for specified periods while others were ordered to pay back the squandered or stolen monies from state coffers. Interesting enough, these recommendations were thrown into the garbage as certain people perceived by the administration as supportive of its agendas had their punishments waived while others who are seen as opponents, critics or unsupportive of its agendas had their punishments upheld.
Another hundred and sixteen (116) million dalasis of taxpayers money were also spent on the draft constitution only to be thrown into garbage thanks to the myopic views of some of our narrow-minded or good-for-nothing parliamentarians who could not either read or refused to read and understand it, as a result voted against it. Some of such parliamentarians (allies of Barrow) and their collaborators went to the extent of organizing a party to celebrate after the draft had failed to pass. The myopic parliamentarians would soon wake up from their slumber and once they realized their big blunder, they started pointing blaming fingers at those who advocated for the draft as holding the the whole country to ransom. We would never forgive those MPs who think one person's interest should supercede the interest of the whole nation hence they voted against the draft.
We made Yahya Jammeh what he became: a ruthless dictator. He alone would not have been able to accomplish all his crimes without the collaboration of others. When he(Yahya) newly ascended to power, he was almost completely ignorant of how the government operates, but he had enablers such as our technocrats and selfish educated elites who would direct and advice him as to what laws he could manipulate to back his misdoings. Parliamentarians, especially the APRC members at the time, were very helpful to him in his multiple alterations of the constitution to suit his style of governance.
President Barrow was an unknown real estate agent before his ascension to the presidency. He had no prior experience of the civil service. He has shown all indications that he is a perfect carbon copy of his predecessor, fast learning his play books. He (Barrow) too has his cohorts who are wrongly giving him advices that are leading him to a wrong path. While Jammeh used selfish educated elites to formulate and execute his plans, Barrow on the other hand largely depends on semi-educated and illiterate folks such as: primary, junior and senior secondary school dropouts; failed economic hustlers from America and Europe whose hopes of finding greener pastures abroad became bleak and decided to come back home to try their lucks with the current administration as the scramble for wealth gathering is one of the characteristics this government. It shouldn't be a surprise at all that our country is turned upside down as we have such school dropouts and failed economic hustlers occupying important offices as advisers to the president. What kind of advices could such people offer the president?
Under former president yahya Jammeh's misrule, no public institutions were left untouched by corruption. People with less academic qualifications were chosen over those with better education or more qualified people to lead our institutions because of either tribal or political affiliations. The military was believed to be one of the most polluted institutions as many foreigners were drafted into the service even though the 1997 constitution has clearly stipulated who is and who is not eligible to serve in the army. Not only that, international standards and practices for promotions in the military were blatantly disregarded. Some of those officers who got their commissions through the quartermaster commissions and were not supposed to be promoted beyond the rank of a major, rose as far as Generals with command responsibilities in the army. This is contrary to the international practices. Certain commissioned officers got their promotions just through fifty or so pushups without any prior officer training course. Some of such malpractices rumoured in the past were recently revealed at the TRRC by some witnesses.
Our security institutions, particularly the military, under the current dispensation have become inferior in their own land as our security lies in foreign hands. When will the president have confidence in our own uniformed men and women, rather than the personnel of foreign armies, and entrust them with his security? Lest we forget, one of the factors that triggered the 1994 coup d'etat was the presence of foreign troops who were given command responsibilities and who despised our own soldiers on our home soil and gave them only secondary or inferior roles.
I firmly believe that some of us could vividly recall the Bonto cocaine saga under the previous regime, is it in anyway different from the recently intercepted container full of cocaine at the Gambia ports? The Barrow administration is yet to issue any statement regarding who was or were responsible or what the government intends to do with it. We all are left in the dark.
Our country is sitting on a powdered cake, but we can concretize the powdered cake seat by doing the right things and doing things right (square pegs in square holes and round pegs in round holes); not the other way round. I am sure nobody is praying for another phase of military intervention in Gambian politics as the previous Jammeh administration serves as an eye-opener for all, hence, we should try as much as we can to discourage all practices that lead to military interventions in politics. The reality on the ground is, we have replaced one bad administration with another dysfunctional administration. Our hopes of a true system change would remain illusive unless we do something ourselves. Our destiny lies in our own hands. To the Gambia ever true. Thank you.
Mr Buba Ceesay
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