It is with perturbation that I write to bring to your notice some serious concerns over the recent direction that the governance of The Gambia is being steered in. The affairs of the country are being mismanaged by the new Government of Adama Barrow, resulting in the country regressing and there are serious concerns arising over human rights violations consequently taking place.
At the time when this new administration adopted the mantle of leadership the European Union were diligent in expressing their concerns over the democratisation process and continued security of The Gambia. The coalition government were reminded that they must respect the rule of law and principles of good governance as a condition of the cordial relationship between the Gambian government and your institution.
It is seven months since the new governments inauguration and Adama Barrow is yet to demonstrate any leadership or clear direction. *(1) Since taking office, the President has not completed the forming of his cabinet. In accordance with the constitution of The Gambia the cabinet should comprise of the President, Vice President and ministers. The position of the Vice President still remains vacant. This is believed to be an oversight by the presiding President and his advisors, due to a lack of familiarity and understanding of the existing constitution. Their chosen candidate therefore was not eligible to take up the position due to her age, and is therefore operating the role in a caretaker capacity only. To my knowledge the ministerial position for defence also remains unfilled, and has therefore been attached to the office of the President. Is it to be assumed therefore that Barrow occupies the roles of President; Commander in Chief and defence minister at the same time? To date there is lack of clarity over this situation.
In the last few months crime has doubled and women and girls in particular have become vulnerable targets to criminals. In highlighting just a few; In February 2017 a young police woman was stabbed multiple times by an attacker for her mobile phone; she sustained serious injuries. A woman in her seventh month of pregnancy died shortly after being raped by an intruder. A seven year old girl was raped and murdered in her home. A woman who left her house in the early morning to carry out her normal trading duties of buying and selling failed to return home. a search by community members and friends later discovered her dead body under a tree outside the village.
As well as violent crime, incidents of theft are on the rise, with burglary becoming an all too common problem. People fear to park their own vehicles in their compounds, due to theft of parts and homes are now not secure.
The general level of respect for the law is declining as criminals seize the opportunity afforded to them by a weak and ineffective government. This lack of accountability for ones actions is also manifesting itself on our roads, with some road users exploiting the relaxed rules. There have been several serious accidents on our roads where many have resulted in fatalities. Some of these due to reckless driving, others due to the relaxing of rules. One recent incident involved a husband and wife who died as result of a collision which should have been completely avoidable. The incident occurred due to a broken-down lorry, which if it had not left parked on the roadside without reflectors would have been visible to the driver. The lack of safety on our roads is getting worse and is a very big concern, but the government is not addressing this issue.
There are high concerns for our environment too, as companies blatantly flout environmental laws and refuse to act responsibly, such as in Kartong/Gunjur coastal areas where the coastal areas of those villages have been destroyed by the Chinese company, Golden Lead factory. The Bakoteh dumping site and the destruction of the monkey park in Kololi for the building of private enterprises are other examples. The abandoning of the monthly cleaning exercise called Set-setal has also been abandoned and branded as a waste of time.
The government have lost touch with the people of The Gambia and have lost ability to maintain order and command respect for the law of the land. This is leading people to take the law into their own hands. With weakened governance, and lack of education and leadership some Gambian people have misinterpreted the notion of democracy as having the freedom and right to act as they please without due regard for others or their environment, as Barrow and his administration look on hopelessly. The Bafoloto and Bakoteh dump site are just a couple of examples.
An audio leaked from discussions surrounding a very high profile court case resulted in the Justice Minister and Attorney General tendering his resignation from the case, This was not however accepted by the President. Of further concern, is that the appointment of the prosecutor in that case was also an erroneous decision, as the Justice Minister chose to appoint his own brother. This does not show good governance because of conflict of interest and could compromise the integrity of the proceedings.
Gambians are struggling to find hope in an uncertain environment. The belief bestowed upon the Coalition government by young Gambians has been shattered due to the governments incompetence.
The coalition is now divided into fragments and some of the political parties of which it comprises of are now no longer seeing eye to eye. Some key figures who were regarded as the voice and face of the coalition no longer believe or trust in the Adama Barrow administration. Since January the President has not addressed the nation on some of the pertinent issues and concerns facing the country. Prior to taking office Adama Barrow promised to declare his assets on taking up his position and further stated that this would be expected of all his ministers. Whilst Barrow has done this for his own assets this is not however true of all his cabinet. Seven months on a state minister has also been alleged of purchasing a property to the tune of ten million Dalasi. This Minister has made no declaration of his assets, or if so this has not been made public.
It has been spouted by foreign reporters and journalists that the change of regime in The Gambia has given Gambians freedom of expression and speech, enabling them the opportunity to say what they please about the government. This however does not appear to be an accurate portrayal, judging by what has been witnessed so far. A Foroyaa journalist was verbally and physically assaulted in the presence of three state ministers, namely the foreign office Minister , minister of Interior and minister of tourism. He was doing no more than expressing his view and asking pertinent questions. This cannot be deemed as acceptable when there is freedom of speech, yet these ministers failed to denounce or act on the situation. In addition there is also another journalist presently going to court for calling a press conference to express his concerns over disputed lands, which if unresolved he felt could lead to unrest or violence. He was arrested and has been released on bail after being charged.
Two people were picked up by police and questioned over an audio they made expressing concerns on the political dispensation. One is on bail but not charged and the other charged for expressing his views. He has now been prevented from saying and expressing his views on politics. This does not reflect the freedom of speech which was envisaged. There have however been many additional audios shared where coalition supporters have expressed their views and opinions, in some cases inciting hatred and encouraging unrest, yet they do not experience the same recourse for their actions. It would appear that freedom of speech is afforded to government supporters, but not for those expressing opposing viewpoints or dissatisfaction. In addition, the main opposition party has also not been given the opportunities to operate in a fine and fair manner. Their political bureau has been seized and still remains closed. Their vehicles have been taken from them by force and their accounts were frozen on 22nd May 2017. Since then some of the APRC support staff have not been paid. The level playing field promised by Adama Barrow for political equality appears to have disappeared.
Seven months into office, the truth and reconciliation committee promised by Adama Barrow’s government to investigate any alleged wrong doing by Yahya Jammeh and by extension the APRC has not been formed. No evidence has been put forward or come to light to validate any allegations made against them, yet the APRC has even been refused permission by the police through the intervention of government for celebrating the birth of their own party, even though the preamble of the Constitution has recognised July 22nd as a legal Act. Furthermore in our constitution, the July 22nd Coup plotters have been completely indemnified under section 232(13). Earlier in the year 21 people were also arrested and charged in Kanfenda for wearing APRC T-shirts and showing support and allegiance to the APRC party. This was on and around the 21st of February 2017.
Freedom of speech, and freedom to express ones views would also appear to be denied to Gambians who belong to the same tribe as the ex-President. Peaceful demonstrators of Kanilai have even been shot and injured and in the case of Haruna Jatta, killed. Nine soldiers were arrested and detained on the 17th of March 2017 without charge or trial. *(2) A young man is alleged to have died under police custody just like Solo Sandeng. The government showed no concern. The victims of the Kanilai incident and the loss of life of Haruna Jatta is not of interest to the new management of selective justice. Haruna Jatta, a native of Kanilai village in The Gambia was shot whilst peacefully protesting against the high presence of foreign military forces in his village. The incident happened on the 2nd June 2017 and he died in the general hospital in the capital as a result of his injuries. Another two soldiers are detained in Fajara Barracks wrongly alleged for trying to cause mutiny without charge or trial.
In conclusion, may I bring these concerns to your attention to further urge the government of Adama Barrow to adhere to the principle of equal level ground to be accorded to all political parties. He and his ministers should be all inclusive in working out a national development programme that will lead his provisional coalition government to usher us into a New Gambia whilst upholding the principles of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. Until I hear from your office, I wish to thank the European Union for your support during the political impasse during the presidential elections and your timely intervention in supporting the alleviation of the economic situation of The Gambia. Please accept my regards and highest consideration to you and the entire European Union.
(1). The Vice President position has now been filled, after amendments were made to the constitution specifically to enable the chosen candidate.
(2). According to sources three police officers have now been arrested and are helping the investigation into the death of The young man who allegedly died in police custody.