Brighton Essay 39
The Gambia-Lawyer Ousainou Darboe of UDP, The Politician
No attempts will be made here to examine Mr. Darboe as a man and a professional/lawyer.
Full Disclaimer: I’m No ANM Ousainou Darboe
I and my family were registered (with membership cards) members of UDP. I privately and publicly supported UDP efforts with over 100 thousand Dalasis (GMD) of personal wealth. Some of these inputs went through Ousainou himself while he was neither involved nor aware of others. The point of my disclaimer is to demonstrate that I’m no Mr. Darboe hater. I voluntarily discontinued my membership of UDP long ago because I felt the party is right at pointing everything bad/wrong about Yahya but they don’t seem to have better alternative. Those assumptions seem proven right right-now. It’s more than 2 years since Yahya was defeated, forced out of office and UDP protege (now Dr. Brown) sworn-into office and no changes to any and all things that were decried about Yahya – the laws/constitution, the structure, role and scope of government, impartial law enforcement/due processes of law, protection of citizens civil rights, increasing government overhead costs impoverishing our people, no long-term fiscal plan but begging others and contracting loans, public corruption, nepotism, etc. The only 2 immaterial changes were amending the age ceiling/limit for president and vice-presidential aspirants and rescinding the prohibitive election registration fees. Both seem to directly affect Mr. Darboe in person (or UDP) and not necessarily advancing our quest for democracy.
My choice of Mr. Ousainou Darboe among the political-lot back in 1995/6 was based on the simple fact this guy avoided ALL the temptations of PPP public corruption/abuses that lured many of our educated men/women into defrauding Gambia. He was a true entrepreneur supposedly living honestly/ethically on his knowledge/skills. My support was never because he’s a Mandinka that I am. That criteria would land me in NCP camp because I’m a Badibunka like Mr. SM Dibba. Nor did I oppose others because they are of tribes different from Mandinka. My heart is ALWAYS heavy when I examine Mr. Darboe’s many unprincipled political vacillations, errors and blunders. I must admit his politics was never impressive. Although his willingness to sacrifice his livelihood to lead our people is/was commendable.
Yet today Mr. Ousainou Darboe/UDP is behaving like Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF. It appears nothing is worth pursuing that doesn’t have direct bearing to his personal interest(s). In fact, that is a very well establish trait in all of his political careers of the past 24/25 years. For instance, UDP on a number of occasions will participate in presidential election with Mr. Darboe on the ballot but will pull-out of the National Assembly crying foul with others names on the ballot. There will only be alliance when I’m leading or else there is no alliance and/or at minimum my party will not be a part of it. Now he has the guts to tell Dr. Barrow to drop his political ambition when he effectively nullified The Coalition 2016 Agreement that require Dr. Barrow to institutionally transition our nation to democracy.
Mr. Darboe is the Vice President of this government at the pleasure of Dr. Barrow. He is the leader of the largest political party in the country. His party has more members in the National Assembly than any other. The Speaker of the national Assembly, Ms. Mariam Denton is not only a registered member of UDP but also a member of party’s legal defense team. Elsewhere in the current establishment ae hand pick UDP supporters. Mr. Darboe with all these political levers, it would appear to even a novice political bystander that he has almost every tool to stir necessary democratic changes. Instead Mr. Darboe is expending his time and energy organizing UDP, holding Mega-Rallies and making statements that should be made and answer in Banjul. Sadly, the public is billed some of the costs of these partisan UDP activities – and that was one of the things we asked be stop all of our struggle against Yahya.
So, we asked:
- What Did Mr. Darboe/UDP Want?
- Why did Mr. Darboe not support The Coalition Agreement?
- What wrong with jointly working together to transition Gambia into a functioning institutional democracy in 3 years that Mr. Darboe opposed and threatened fighting any attempted enforcement at court?
- Is Mr. Darboe/UDP interested in Gambians and/or ONLY himself and UDP operative?
- Why is Mr. Darboe not seeking JUSTICE for abused victims some of whom might have met that fate because of his inspirations, words, actions/inactions, etc. as opposed to the so-called reconciliation?
- Why is the notorious Public Order Act still the law of the land in its entirety? This is the law Mr. Darboe spent countless hours in courts fighting to nullify its effects instead Mr. Darboe is now using the same laws for cover
Let’s Give It Some Perspective
For most of our 22 years of struggle UDP/Mr. Ousainou Darboe always opposed what I called ‘Equally-Weighted National Opposition-Parties Alliance’. UDP/Ousainou Darboe’s always favored a UDP/(‘Majority Party-Led’) alliance. I understood this view point and is probably is the most common form of political union. The opposite view was to collapse into one in an equally-weighted participation just of a predetermined period during which to build Gambian democracy. Only when Mr. Darboe was in jail, the remainder of his party joined others to strike an agreement on The Coalition 2016. The supposed Independent flagbearer (Adama Barrow resigned his membership of UDP) was elected to a coalition-term of 3 years during which that body will work to fix ALL (OR MANY) of our democratic-shortcomings before a scheduled general election at which he (A/Barrow) will neither be a candidate nor support the candidature of any candidate. Suffice to state, then Mr. Adama Barrow was fully aware of the conditions of accepting such role. The now Dr. Barrow’s efforts (and possibly strengthened by Mr. Darboe’s unconstitutionality claims) to circumvent the terms of that agreement are wrong and unacceptable. His claims are neither supported by the terms of the contract nor any laws of The Gambia. He simply bullied his colleagues into unfounded fear and/or probably they (or many) are contented with the status quo. We should use every democratic means to not allow him get away with it.
Our victory and the release of Mr. Darboe from jail, his first proclamations was (and I paraphrased) ‘I will challenge any effort by anyone trying to enforce the unconstitutional terms of The Coalition 2016 Agreement’. MY ASSUMPTION: MAY BE THIS WAS MR. DARBOE’S WAY OF PLEASING MR. BARROW – HIS ERRAND BOY SO HE (DR. BARROW) MAY CONSIDER EARLY VACATION OF THE PRESIDENCY. Had he’s great trial attorney but an amateur politician. In as much as our democracy is non-functioning Gambia is neither Darboe or Barrow Kunda. Mr. Darboe should know Barrow cannot transfer presidency of The Gambia to him. The exception will be appointing Mr. Darboe vice president as is the case at the moment and then resign. In that scenario the vice president (in this case Mr. Darboe) will take charge for 3 months until the nation goes to election. Dr. Barrow actions do not suggest he desired to resign. Dr. Brown is busy registering as many visible white elephant programs/projects to win Gambians to stay longer. He’s not thinking about the 3 years but several other 5-year terms. It’s the same playbook used by his predecessors.
Mr. Darboe’s statement paralyzed any hopes of instituting democracy and compounded the status quo. That was followed by National Assembly election campaign where he opposed The Coalition 2016 filing candidates to what he dubbed ‘Tactical Alliance’ to protect Barrow. But protect barrow from who? Mr. Darboe has effectively stalled the democratization of Gambia he supposedly fought for with his litigation threat but along with it he might have unintentionally buried his own political future. Time will tell!
Ousainou Darboe may have been too naïve to think that Adama Barrow was my errand-boy so he’s a care-taker president for him. I couldn’t think of anything remotely sensible why Mr. Darboe didn’t want the enforcement of The coalition Agreement. Now it appears he knew (or feels), Dr. Barrow has his own agenda and none is to hand over the presidency to Mr. Darboe and/or anyone else for that matter.
The agreement wasn’t unconstitutional as proclaimed by Mr. Darboe. The constitution do not require Dr. Barrow to vacate his office after 3 years but he’s at liberty to resign in compliance to The Coalition Agreement. This is what was expected Dr. Barrow accepted the terms of The Coalition 2016. To ignore it as nothing has been agreed upon is worrisome in several ways. How can a man who has no regard for his own signature respect any others should that not serve his interest? How can we know Barrow will respect and faithfully execute laws that were not sign by him and are on the ways of his personal interest?
The Task of The Coalition 2016
As ascribed in The General Olusegun Obasanjo Interparty Agreement, The 2015 Interparty Declaration for Constitutional and/or Electoral Reforms and ill-fated NADD MoU in words or spirit are:
- The constitution (rewrite)
- fix and clean-up
- to be enforce to the letters
- be protected from the butchery of overzealous (power grabbing) government
- The Role, Scope(size) and Structure of governing redefined
- Separation of powers – clearly define & delineate roles of executive, legislature and judiciary
- Decentralized governing – Regional, District and Municipalities
- Defined jurisdictions and resource allocation
- Overhaul personnel, policies and procedures
- Unadulterated Civic Education – this will build the requisite capacities to enable our people take charge over their own destiny
- Develop a national education curriculum to be a certification requirement from Primary/Grade 1 to undergraduate school at UTG
- Use NGOs/CSOs to reach the vase non-school going population through their social outreach programs
- Daily/weekly/monthly civic programs over the national radio/TV
- Documentation – aside from the capacities of people serving as custodians; information is the second vital component of democracy. Without accurate and timely information – democracy is impossible.
- Begin work to create (or whatever corrections) of all national/regional/district/municipal basic social data such as birth, death, vehicles, rainfall, ID cards, passport, etc.
- Agricultural statistics – areas cultivated, with what crop, production, etc.
- Health statistic – population, diseases, food, etc.
- Education and skills set statistics, etc.
- Election Reform – this is part of the constitution but only to emphasis its importance. Important to mention here that both Divisional Commissioners’ serving as returning officers (under Jawara) and one-person hand pick Election Commissioner as under Yahya are not acceptable.
- Justice for ALL victims – reconciliation only after justice. Remember some these victims were inspired by either your words, stands, actions/inactions, etc. that exposes them to harms that befell them. It’s a solemn national responsibility to make sure they get the justice deserved every citizen
These were our primary goals when we set up The Coalition 2016. Building bridges, roads, houses, buying vehicles, etc. weren’t our goal especially paying-off Senegal with a bridge at Yeli tenda – Bamba Tenda Crossing for their support and participation in ECOMIG. Both Jawara and Yahya already took us down these pseudo-developments (Singaporean Dream of Jawara, Vision 20-whatever of Yahya and National Development Plan of Dr. Barrow) and after 50 years of nonsenses we remained one of the poorest nation on the face of the earth, one of the sickest with life expectancy of only 58 years and lesser free with guarded protected than the day colonial masters leave. Above all for all this period our people are not just left ignorant but purposefully kept in dark on the basics of civic duties, roles and responsibilities in a Republic.
Achieving more of the above tasks/goals for The Coalition 2016 will means functioning democratic dispensation and rule of law. Ousainou Darboe cut that off with his threat to drag us to court
That Ousainou Darboe is roaming our country tell his supporters:
- UDP won’t be intimidated! But who’s intimidating (or trying to intimidate UDP?
- UDP won’t allow the return of dictatorship! But who’s are the government right now?
- Barrow should drop political ambition – in fact that is unconstitutional to ask of a citizen. By the way read The Coalition 2016 Agreement on that subject
- On and on and on…………………
Dr. Barrow also issued his own threats
- Barrow claimed he’s more powerful than Yahya because he has ALL the security agencies plus ECOMIG
- He won’t ALLOW detractors threatened his development agenda. Yahya also used opposing views as detractors
- He set up Barrow Youths for Development. Yahya had The Green Boys/Girls
Mr. Darboe is ferried around town for UDP business at taxpayer expense – public vehicles, public fuel, publicly paid security details and public paid times. I’m sure others are doing the same. Dr. Barrow is equally guilty of using public resources for political and personal businesses. OJ did during the National Assembly election campaign. Legal or not, this is wrong. These are serious especially when you appreciate the fact cost of government is 98% of National Revenue.
Mr. Darboe, Here Are Unsolicited Advices on Better Way Forward
- Let me recognize all your sacrifices when many (including myself have folded, crawled under our beds and/or ran away). Notwithstanding, sovereignty of Gambia will always reside with the people of the Gambia and not an individual like you or a party like yours. The Gambia will neither be DARBOE KNUDA NOR BARROW KUNDA. Both Jawara and Yahya tried different versions of ownership claims and didn’t end well. Please do not conflate your sacrifice to ownership or even having more equity than any other citizen. We will vehemently oppose you (and anyone for that matter) who want to make him/herself Gambia’s Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF. Selfishness/personal interests are important motivating human egos but be advise to align yours to those of Gambia and not place them above.
- Do not take advantage of ignorance of our people. Educate, organize and mobilize them to assume their rightful duties, roles and responsibilities as sovereigns of a republic. Both Jawara and Yahya took them for granted and the status quo is no different.
- In recent weeks your party has step up campaigning with several mega-rallies in and around kombos. We wonder why? There is neither elections approaching nor a policy/legislation to sell to the voters. Considering your party is cash-strap, at least few years ago and that there are no obvious gains for these meetings we only wonder why it became your main preoccupation. We cannot dictate what you and UDP do but we demand you separate state and party. We cried foul when Jawara did it and as well Yahya. Repeating the wrongs of the past are no solutions for our future.
- At this juncture our best path to instituting a functioning institutional democracy is to adopt the core pillars of The Coalition 2016 Agreement. Whether we are able to confined Dr. Barrow to a 3-year transition and/or 5-year full term let us implement as follows:
- Do not write a constitution for The Gambia. Help Gambians to write their own constitution. That constitution will be the contract with their governments henceforth. The previous approaches such as Dr. Lenrie Peters’ Task Force Commissioned by Yahya is no different from the current Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) set up by Dr. Barrow. The CRC will very likely only produce a constitution that is tailored to entrench and perpetuate Dr. Barrow on Gambia just like Dr. Peters’ produced helped out Yahya In fact the fundamental question we should everyday ask ourselves – IF WE CAN’T DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YAHYA DID THEN WHY DID WE OPPOSED HIM FOR 22 YEARS SACRIFFICE SUCH MUCH INCLUDING BLLOD AND TEARS.
- In a democracy the people are power and their elected officials are ONLY trustees of that power. They can only execute such power at specific times and for specified purposes. The Banjul governing infrastructure is an imperial colonial apparatus. The sub-sets of that apparatus at the Regions, Districts and municipalities set to serve the interests of Banjul rather than the people. Since the departure of colonial rulers, the denial of Banjul to let our people manage their own affairs in the singular most important to deterrent to democracy, prosperity and dignity. We will/should discard the current ruling arrangement and set up governing one. Henceforth Banjul will/should be trimmed to ‘A Skeletal National Government’ charged with ONLY umbrella national matters. The Regional/Divisional, District and Village/Town/City Municipal Governments will assume the rest of governing role. After the welfare needs/wants are better serve at where they are need and by those in need of those services. Each level will have a jurisdiction, authority and a portion of resource to carry out her role. These governments will be man by people elected by those they serve and not appointees of Banjul. Equally they can’t be ordinarily removed by Banjul.
- Darboe use your political leverage to effect desire changes and reduce purely partisan endeavors. Unless the playground is levelled you will find it hard to breakthrough simply because your party has large following. More importantly though, a levelled playground works for all Gambians now and in the future.
- Darboe, at 70 years of age, please be the adult in the room. The Coalition 2016 is effectively broken if not in words but most certainly in spirit. Work hard to get the original cast back – Halifa, Mai, Hendry, etc. The agenda should be TO MAKE GAMBIA A FUNCTIONING INSITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY. The economic development ambitions of Dr. Barrow administration should be stifled. We cannot economically prosper if we do not create a fair and just pluralistic capitalist society. It will be like wanting to go but placing your cart before the horse. The white elephant programs/projects you are all busy propagating are only burn out of begging and/or loans. These may buy you favor from at best politically passive Gambians but it will never usher economic gallantry. Let’s for once do the right thing by our people. Over half a century ago they dreamt independence will lift up their lives and their own children are making them hustle with miseries of abject poverty. Mr. Darboe you’re in a great position to not only halt our decayed politics but turn it to head towards the promised-land. The ball is in your court!
- Justice! And only justice! That’s the true reconciliation in a just society. During our struggle some of our colleagues were badly harmed, others denied life and some forced to run away from their livelihoods. Our solemn promised was to seek justice for them and by extension ourselves. Today the self-satisfying Truth and Reconciliation Commission is absolutely unacceptable. Every year Gambia spent over 35% of her revenue on so-call security. Then we demand unleashing that apparatus to thoroughly investigate each and every case and put it through our justice system. Nothing more and nothing less.
- Darboe it may be prudent on your part to be realistic about your personal interests. You’re 70. The average Gambian’s life expectancy is ONLY 58 by World Health Organization (WHO) statistics. ONLY 2% of our population live over 65. By facts you’re the few outliers. We don’t know how much long you will live and how much of that period you will be both physically and mentally sound enough. These facts may appear harsh but are basic biological realities of life. We hope these gave you wisdom to rethink what matters most – you climbing higher and/or living behind a legacy that betters Gambia.
- Darboe using public payroll as political payback is wrong and is one cause of poverty of Gambians as is an unnecessary cost paled on the public. 2019 budget has our National Revenue (taxes & non-taxes) at about (of course little less) D10b. The recurring cost of government and personnel emoluments were projected at D9.8b. This ratio of overheads/national revenue (9.8/10) is 98%. This means every dalasi of revenue collected D0.98b goes to pay for government and ONLY D0.02b is theoretically left to procure our social welfare needs/wants. REMEMBER THE PURPOSE OF PAYING TAXES IS TO PROCURE OUR COMMON WELFARE NEEDS/WANTS AND NOT TO PAY FOR GOVERNMENT. Under these extraordinary circumstances everyone especially those in-charge, and that includes you should be very careful with their decisions, actions and inactions. It may be legal (i don’t know) but neither right nor ethical to buy you vehicle worth D5m. It’s wrong to use such a vehicle to party pollical events. All of the Ambassadors-at-large employed on public payroll are political payback than serving the interest of Gambia. Equally we do not need ALL the foreign missions for Gambia’s interest be maximize abroad – there other cheaper ways to achieve exact same goal. Others are employed at (such as Customs & Excise department) – are they the most qualified or is it nepotism? Solo Sandeng case hastily went to trial while many other cases are dragging at the Truth Commission. The only difference here – Solo I closer to you. I also understood the Abdou Denton Kanifing property was return to the family from APRC/Yahya. This is fine but many other such cases are hanging out elsewhere. Is this because of the relation with Mariam Denton? Considering the goals of our struggle these examples are seriously ugly to say the least. Wrong is wrong! Where we vehemently complained the wrongs of both Jawara and Yahya; we will equally point Mr. Darboe’s and demand the same sanction.
- Darboe many or all these concerns over your politics could apply to all or some of the other politicians. For instance, Mai Ahmed Fatty could be the worst of presidents under current political setup. Fortunately, he has no political leverage.
Our struggle wasn’t about making President Darboe or Barrow or any other last name for that matter. Our struggle was to Make Gambia a Functioning institutional democracy. The reason(s) for that goal is rooted in our founding as an Independent Democratic Republic.
To The Gambia Ever True