In his yesterday’s press conference, Honorable Halifa Sallah stated that the involvement of members of the cabinet in the nomination of candidates in the upcoming national assembly election will pave the way for the reproduction of another dictatorship in the Gambia. While his argument might be channeled by our constitution that sanctions the separation of government powers by separation of personnel and checks and balances, I contend that the fusion or separation of power of the government is not sufficient for nourishing democracy or fashioning dictatorship. In most third world countries, there is a complete separation of power and the members of the legislature are selected and voted by their constituencies; yet this never brings a surety for healthy democratic government. This is evident in many Arab countries, especially Egypt, and many Latin American and Sub-Saharan African countries.
On the other hand, the concentration of power of the government in the parliament never guarantees dictatorship in countries wherein democratic systems require that top executive members must be a member of parliament. In the Unite Kingdom for example, members of the parliament are elected by their respective constituencies to become committee members of the parliament that preside over the executive agencies. Despite this, the involvement of top executive members in the parliamentary affairs never resulted in the production rubber-stamp parliamentarians or to create dictatorship in the UK.
The reproduction of dictatorship in the Gambia can only be guaranteed if His Excellency Adama Barrow develops a tendency to control all aspects of all citizens so that they become the kind of people he wants.
Moreover, the dictatorship of twentieth century manifested characters which cannot be implanted in the Gambia as far as the recent political awareness of the Gambians and the democratic dispensation are concerned. These character include, but, not limited to:
– An official ideology covering all aspects of human existence to which members of the society must adhere
– A single mass party, led by one person and consisting of a relatively small proportion of total population
– A system of terroristic police control making full use of modern technology for spying and surveillance
– Complete control of mass communication
– Control of the entire economy
The demonstration of these characters by leaders like Muammar al Qaddafi of Libya and Saddam Hussain of Iraq made them fit to be called dictators. Yahya Jammeh’s systematic terroristic police control, his complete control of mass communication and the entire economy of the Gambian qualifis him to be called a dictator. Unless Halifa produces a convincing evidence that Adama’s personality is a reflective of some of these characteristics, it will be disingenuous to for him to deduce that the involvement of ministers in the nomination process of their candidates for the legislative elections is tantamount to the reproduction of dictatorship. Parliaments are tools that are exploited by dictators to achieve their control of the nation.
The absence of a dictator means the parallel absence of the exploitation of the parliament to endorse dictatorship in the country. Moreover, the fact that some of the political parties are exerting their efforts to be the majority in the parliament is a common practice in all democracies; this is sought as a quest to guarantee that their vision for development of the countries is not obstructed by their political rivals in the parliament, who might have different visions and ideologies. This explains why prominent political parties like Labor, Conservative in the UK and Democrat and Republican in the US, seek to control their legislative bodies to permit the smooth passing of bills and motions tabled by the members of their parties. The fact that certain political parties in the Gambia are seeking majority in the Gambia should be interpreted along this lines. Unless Halifa has a close-door access to the personal character of Adama Barrow, his assumptions should be interpreted through lenses of politicians’ jealousy over the acceleration of their rivalries and their bid to win the hearts and the minds of the electorate.