real political change is illusory in Africa; Gambia case – The Mast Online
OLD POTUS Herbert Hoover once said: “All progress and growth is about change, but change must be growth in social and governmental concept if it is not to destroy it. A member of the American clergy, Andy Stanley, once remarked: “Where there is no progress, there is no growth. Environments devoid of change are ultimately devoid of life.
On The Perspective today, the focus is on political and social change in Africa. While the dynamics of political change include, but are not limited to; political freedom, political decentralization, civil society participation, constitutionalism, political openness and democratization, social change is a process that cannot be achieved overnight. And all progress towards its realization must always be for a positive change of the social structure.
In this article, the spotlight is on The Gambia; a small country in West Africa with a population of around 2.3 million people and a total geographic area of 11,295 km2 of land. The Gambia gained its independence on February 18, 1965 from the British colonial masters. After independence, The Gambia was ruled by President Dawda Jawara from 1970 to 1994.
Yahya Jammeh is the second president, who seized power after a bloodless coup in 1994, and ruled with an iron fist for 22 years. He lost the presidential elections of December 2016, admitted his defeat, but then turned around and refused to hand over power. Little-known candidate, Adama Barrow beat the Strongman in the 2016 polls, thanks to the people’s strong will for change.
President Barrow was sworn in in January 2017, following regional politico-military intervention and the subsequent departure of Jammeh. The government later formed a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to investigate crimes committed during President Jammeh’s 22-year rule.
The commission revealed serious human rights violations; extrajudicial killings of political opponents through death squads, enforced disappearances and kidnappings, arbitrary detentions, state-sanctioned torture [which included, rape, electric shock and severe beatings among others], suppression of the media and freedom of expression, attack on religious freedom and the list goes on.
Other criminal acts involved corruption and theft of state property by President Jammeh and his lieutenants; while the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project [OCCRP] reported that approximately $ 975 million was stolen from the poor and in debt [about 130 per cent of GDP] West African nation, the national justice ministry reported a higher figure of $ 362 million. In addition, it is reported that Jammeh looted at least US $ 50 million as he fled to Equatorial Guinea. He allegedly withdrew the money through a state-owned telecommunications company.
On Friday March 29, 2019, the Minister of Justice, Abubacarr Tambadou, deplored that “this huge sum could have had a significant impact on the lives of ordinary people in this country…. Instead, it was money used to satisfy the pretentious and delusional lifestyle of a selfish megalomaniac, an act that is both unreasonable and criminal.
The government obtained a court order to seize property belonging to Jamemeh and his associates; they included 88 bank accounts and 14 businesses, livestock, planes and cars, among others. The TRRC has so far submitted its interim report and is expected to submit its 16-volume final report to the President. Civil society hopes that the Commission will recommend the prosecution of the former dictator.
Exactly three months before the presidential elections of December 4, Thursday September 2, the Alliance for the Reorientation and Patriotic Construction of the former Gambian President Jammeh [APRC] President Adama Barrow’s National People’s Party [NPP] forged an alliance after months of negotiations.
APRC Party Secretary General Fabakary Tombong Jatta announced the formation of the alliance during a press conference held on Saturday, September 4 at the Coco Ocean Spa and Hotel. Mr. Jatta revealed that “Our goal is for former President Jammeh to return to this country peacefully and with dignity.”
According to the memorandum of understanding [MOU] signed between the two parties, which stated that “We, in our capacity as representatives of the National People’s Party and the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, agree to the following:
3.1 Former President Yahya Abdul Aziz Junkung Jemus Jammeh will be granted an unconditional amnesty to return home as a former statesman.
3.2 Former President Yahya Abdul Aziz Junkung Jemus Jammeh will be reimbursed for all gratuities due since leaving office in January 2017.
3.3 The alliance, upon victory, will ensure that amnesty is granted to all those associated with human rights violations from July 22, 1994 to January 19, 2017.
3.4 Not all conclusions and recommendations adopted by the TRRC will be implemented. Instead, the newly elected government will embark on a credible period of national reconciliation.
3.5 The Director of Public Prosecutions submits a nolle prose which [discontinue the prosecution] in the case of NIA 9 [the criminal trial involving former staff of the National Intelligence Agency; they are accused of crimes ranging from murder, torture and conspiracy].
3.6 The President of the Alliance grants his prerogative of pardon to Rtd. Captain Yankuba Touray [a former Minister of Local Government and Lands, sentenced to death for murdering former Minister of Finance Ousman Koro Ceesay at Touray’s residence in Kololi].
(4) The Alliance, after securing victory in the presidential elections, will form an enlarged cabinet whose ministerial posts will be allocated to the candidates of the APRC. The post of vice-president and 5 ministerial posts are allocated to members of the APRC.
Human rights groups called the action treason; according to Sheriff Kejira, president of the Gambia Center for Victims and Human Rights Violations [GCVHR] who remarked that, “Adama Barrow, by all indications he is a disappointment to the Gambian people. I can say that this is the greatest betrayal of the century… It is quite shocking and contemptible for the victims and very depressing. So many victims of Yahya’s brutality couldn’t sleep when his party announced the merger with Barrow.
And Mustapha Darboe, a Gambian journalist said earlier: “The opportunity we had in 2017 to change the country for good was sorely missed. We have not solved the past, we are heading towards an uncertain future, it is dangerous.
Jatta further revealed that “We have agreed, as Africans and, for that matter, Gambians, that we should end situations where our political leaders leaving office are traumatized, harassed, exiled or even imprisoned. For now and posterity, it is not just African leaders who are making mistakes. No government is perfect… We have seen atrocities committed by the so-called Western world… ”. However, it’s ironic how Jatta accepts that they made mistakes but doesn’t want to be held accountable. He goes further by justifying that it is not only in Africa where atrocities are committed.
In fact, President Adama Barrow has not only disappointed the Gambian people but the entire African continent and must consider reversing this unfortunate decision. Failure to overturn this decision can cause serious humiliation in the next elections. Borrowing Sera Palin’s words, “In politics, there are candidates who use change to promote their careers, and then there are those… who use their careers to promote change. President Barrow’s actions have revealed that he is more interested in his work than in service to the people.
Our only hope for serious political and social change in Africa lies in the young people, who are in the majority. American architect and author Buckminster Fuller said: “You never make a difference by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. Young people need to build a continent-wide network, for a total transformation of the continental perspective. Create synergies for capacity building, through the sharing of information and resources.
In conclusion, British writer and storyteller Quentin Crisp argued that “politics is not an instrument for effecting social change; they are the art of making the inevitable appear to be a matter of wise human choice. Because today I will end here; it’s Goodbye, from EBP.
For comments: [email protected]