By Nkumba Sillah
After 22 years of dictatorship, misery and agony, Gambians put aside their political differences, united as one and formed an Opposition Coalition in 2016. The purpose was to rescue the country from a brutal dictatorship, to salvage a country where people were living in oppression, to save a country where tortures, killings, and disappearances were rife.
The 2016 Presidential Election was a watershed in the history of The Gambia, as the people were able to dislodge an incumbent president through the ballot box. Almost five years on, and what do we have? A president who never kept his word!
1. Three years transition agreement
Seven political parties and one independent candidate came together to form an Opposition Coalition. Adama Barrow, then Assistant Treasurer of the United Democratic Party (UDP) was selected at the primaries as the flag-bearer of the Opposition Coalition. The most important agreement of the Coalition is that anyone elected under its platform will serve as president for only three years, to oversee a transition period in which institutional reforms will be made. It was also agreed that the Coalition candidate will not contest in a presidential election at the end of the three-year transition period.
Barrow, after winning the Coalition ticket, promised to serve only three-years if elected president, as per the agreement. And after winning the Presidential Election on the 2nd December 2016, in an interview with several media outlets, he did confirm that he will only be president for three years and lead the country through a three-year transition.
However, President Barrow has reneged on his promise in a very disgusting and shameless manner. He not only wants to serve his constitutional mandate of five years, he went ahead and launched his own political party, National Peoples’ Party (NPP) in January 2021.
A Constitution Review Commission was created, and consultations were made across the county and in the Diaspora to enable every Gambian have a say in their country’s destiny. But President Barrow and his political prostitutes have “killed the final draft of the constitution”, which gave him a two-term mandate of ten years with his first mandate included. This is not what he wants! He wants to serve for 15 years!
2. Restoration of the provision of Section 48 of the Constitution
Section 48 of the 1997 Constitution requires a presidential candidate to have more than 50 percent of the votes cast before assuming the Office of President of The Republic of The Gambia. We all know why Jammeh removed that section from the constitution. The 2001 Presidential Election in Gambia was a close call for the dictator. He won just 53 percent of the votes, narrowly avoiding a second round run-off with the United Democratic Party.
In 2003 he instructed his then rubber stamp National Assembly to amend the constitution, changing the voting system for presidential elections from 50 percent plus one absolute majority, with a second round if no candidate obtained the required vote in the first round, to the first-past-the-post system. Jammeh adopted the new system to ensure continuous victory in a country with a history of weak and fragmented opposition parties. The plurality electoral system allowed Barrow to win the elections with 43.3% of the votes to Jammeh’s 39.6%, without the need for a second round of elections.
Now we have less than six months to the next election and Barrow has kept mute on the issue.
3. Promise on health care service
President Barrow promised that “Primary health care service focusing on the basic health needs of the population will be the basis of the health delivery system”. But the country’s health sector has been deteriorating with little or no medication in our hospitals. People are dying from preventable illnesses. Of recent, series of maternal deaths were reported which prompted a peaceful protest in September 2020, tagged “Women´s Lives Matter”.
4. Promise on Education
President Barrow said that “we will deliver a quality and relevant basic education that is free, accessible, and compulsory”. Right now, there are several schools in The Gambia where children are sitting on the floor to have classes. The immediate past West African Examination School Certificate examination recorded a sharp decline in the performance of students in this country.
5. Barrow pledged 10% of his salary to the country´s so-called National Development Plan (NDP). We are yet to be aware of any donation he made to the NDP. Instead, there have been allegations of corruption and mismanagement.