By: Dr Alhagi Manta Drammeh, Associate Professor of Islamic Theology and Philosophy at The Muslim College London, Researcher at the University of Dundee and Founder of Timbuktu International Research Centre

The Gambia is going through an important moment of its political history and development. The Gambian people have made history on many occasions in a very short period. The Gambians have made history by organising a very successful convention in the history of the Gambia and Africa. This convention brought together the major political parties and an independent to form a coalition of the willing to unseat the incumbent through an electoral process. Despite their different political ideologies, they were united to restore the rule of law, good governance and respect for human dignity in the Gambia. The Gambians have made history at the convention to elect a flag bearer in the name of Adam Barro to contest the incumbent Yaya Jammeh. Adam Barro was not known compared to other political heavy weights like Lawyer Darboe, OJ, Fatoumata Tambajang, Halifa Sallah, Mai Fatty, Dr Bojang among others in the political circles of the Gambia until very recently. The Gambians against all odds, surprised the whole world by conducting an almost trouble-free campaign. The Gambians have made history by going to the polls without fear to elect their President for the third Republic. The presidential election on December 2 was hailed by many observers as free and fair. History was made when the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Alhaj Momar Njie declared Adam Barro as the winner of the December 2016 presidential election. Momar Njie has left an indelible legacy in the Gambian history that will be forever remembered. Those who insulted him for cowardice or collusion with the regime of Yaya Jammeh should apologise. This history making in the Gambia was extended to the fact that the outgoing President Jammeh conceded defeat on the Gambia national television to Adam Barro and also called him on the phone to congratulate him on the victory. This declaration of defeat by Yaya Jammeh was greatly appreciated and highly welcome nationally and abroad. Suddenly, some Gambians wanted to forgive all the alleged atrocities and violations committed under the watch of Yaya, as the euphoria of smooth transition and transfer of power was imminent. However, the celebration and jubilation evaporated when Yaya Jammeh reversed on his earlier decision by announcing on the national television that he challenged the results of the election on claims of anomalies. It was the same Jammeh who had declared that the election was free, fair and the best in the world. He in fact made a new terminology by describing the elections in the Gambia as rig-proof. The Gambians have made history by defying vehemently the threats of Yaya Jammeh and went on their normal business fearlessly and courageously. The Gambians came together as one people and one nation to confront the tyranny and brutality. They confronted Yaya on the moral, judicial, political, religious and socio-cultural grounds to ensure that the democratic process was not derailed. Jammeh assumed the mantle of Chief Justice to declare the election results null and avoid and that new elections should be administered. Later, he filed a petition in the supreme court of the Gambia to contest the results. The saga of the petition resulted in the Chief Justice saying that he would not be able to hear the petition as the quorum was not formed to do so. As a layman in law, I would read that as throwing the case from the Courts as it was a political matter par excellence without any legal merit. In the interim, the leadership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were shuttling in and out of Banjul to have a peaceful resolution to the impasse and the looming political crisis inflicted upon Gambians by Yaya Jammeh. The ECOWAS delegation said categorically that the will of the Gambians must be upheld and that the outgoing President should facilitate the smooth transfer of power to incoming President Adam Barro. In defiance to threats of Jammeh and in line with the Gambian constitution and other international protocols Barro was sworn in at the Gambia Embassy in Dakar on 19th January 2017. The ceremony was attended by the Senegalese Prime Minster, Senegalese minsters and other foreign dignitaries. All this was to mount more pressure on Jammeh who was already losing his power base as many of his ambassadors and minsters either defected or resigned. President Barro arrived in Banjul on 27th January 2017 and was welcomed by the Gambians cordially and tumultuously as a hero and the President of the Third Republic of the Gambia. Now that the legitimacy of the new President has been reaffirmed nationally and internationally, there are inevitably big challenges awaiting the new President and his government for nation-building.

Following the formation of the new Government which I assume will be of technocrats in their different capacities and orientations to build institutions and structures for governments to come. As President Obama once opined, Africa does not need strong Presidents but it needs strong institutions. Our politics should not be personality centric. Rather, it should be centred on strong institutions. Strong institutions require a constitution that reflects the aspirations of the people- a constitution that will respond to the needs of our people clearly delineating different authorities and powers of the State. The Justice/Judiciary System has to be independent of other arms of the Government, namely, the Executive and Legislature. Our army, police, the NIA and other security apparatuses require a complete overhaul so that discipline and professionalism will be the other of the day. They are meant to provide internal and external security of the State and must not be used to terrorise the people they have come to serve. The Civil Service of the Gambia used to be admired by many African countries and that respect and administration for our Civil Service must be restored. I believe that our education system from the kindergarten, primary, to secondary and tertiary levels must be revisited to respond to the socio-economic and political challenges that we face because of globalisation and technological revolution. Education here entails education in both the English and Arabic media; and what is normally referred to as “religious” and “secular” education. On Foreign policy, the Gambia used to enjoy cordial relations with the international community and that should be restored. I believe our foreign policy must be based on mutual respect and cordiality without unnecessary confrontation and hostility. As a matter of fact, the relations with Senegal are historical, cultural and familial. Our relations with Senegal and inextricably linked. Their development is ours and our development is theirs. It will be difficult for the two states to develop fully without upholding that level of brotherhood, sisterhood and cordiality. The Gambia and Senegal are One People and two sovereign States. Having said that we should not forget to strengthen our relations with countries of the sub-region and other parts of Africa. We need to both develop our bilateralism and multilateralism in our foreign policy. I also believe that our diplomacy will need to explore new influential partners in South-East Asia such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and in South America such as Mexico, Brazil among others. This means that as much as the Gambian diplomacy must restore traditional allies, it has to extend hands to new allies in emerging economies in Africa, Asia, South America, Austrasia and beyond.

In the end, I must say that this history making in the Gambia is due to the patience the Gambians have exercised. Gambians are no cowards but they love peace and stability. Their resilience and patience resulted in the transformation we are witnessing. Let us exercise patience and restraint. May Allah bless the Gambia and may Allah help the new Government.

Ends

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