By Basidia M Drammeh
Now that the dust has settled following the Gambia Supreme Court’s landmark verdict to strike out the petition filed by the Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) disputing the victory of the National People’s Party’s presidential candidate Adama Barrow in the December 4 presidential election, it behooves every Gambian take a moment of reflection and move on.
The UDP was understandably shocked and stunned by the wide margin with which President-elect Barrow won the election given its over-confidence that it would carry the day, prompting it to mount a legal challenge to the election results at the nation’s highest court. The move was yet another test for our judiciary and democracy, by extension.
Through its track record over the past five years, the post-Jammeh judiciary has proven, beyond any doubt, that it’s impartial, credible and transparent, ruling In certain instances against the executive. The famous Yakumba Jaithe’s case is a case in point.
UDP and other losing candidates must engage in a deep soul search and prepare for the upcoming parliamentary elections in April because a proactive and robust opposition is a prerequisite for a vibrant democracy. The Gambia cannot afford a one-party system, which will be a devastating setback to the country’s democratic gains.
There is a litany of priorities that the President-elect should focus on as he beings his new mandate in office for the second term. Now that the judiciary cleared him, the president-elect should take tangible steps towards uniting the Gambian people deeply polarized along political and tribal lines. The healing process must start now. About 47% of Gambia’s population has not voted for Mr. Barrow, and this segment of society must not be alienated for their choice to foster national unity. After all, the president-elect is President for all Gambians and not only those who voted for him. In this vein, the President may call a national unity conference or form an inclusive Cabinet.
The President-elect must demonstrate diligence in fighting rampant corruption in the Gambia. The Audit Bureau recently issued a report lamenting the disappearance of 147 million dalasi of COVID funds. Such incidents must be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted to deter recurrence. To stamp out graft, the long-awaited Anti-corruption commission should be instituted and empowered to serve as an effective watchdog that would keep malpractices in check.
Further, Mr. Barrow ought to fully implement the recommendations of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission to ensure that the perpetrators of heinous crimes and gross human rights violations face justice and the tears of the victims wiped.
Maternal mortality has been on the increase despite the Government’s defensive approach towards the crisis. This issue should be treated as a national emergency and must not be seen as a political vendetta or propaganda,
Living cost is becoming unbearable for the average Gambian, with the prices of basic commodities skyrocketing every day beyond the means of the bulk citizenry of the impoverished nation. The Gambia has a liberal market system, but that does not absolve the Government of its primary responsibility of devising policies and strategies to bring down the prices and make life and livelihood affordable to the people.
All the above cannot be achieved without putting in place strong institutions manned by competent personalities. Therefore, an appointment should be merit-based and not on who you know and support the ruling party.
Good luck, Mr. President, wishing you a successful tenure.