“Any man who has ever tried to use political power for the common good, has felt an awful sense of powerlessness.” -Robert Casey

My few years of studying Political Science have enhanced my understanding of the way in which the great appetite for political power can destroy a human mind, destroy principles and values, and change people into dictators.

In July 1994, Jammeh led the  Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) which overthrew Jawara’s government that had been in power for about three decades. They masqueraded themselves as ‘Soldiers with a difference’. And accused the Jawara-led PPP government of endemic corruption, which they promised to curb. Interestingly, many Gambians welcomed the coup d’etat with high hopes and excitement, while some sections of our society were cautiously pessimistic. The public reaction to it was complicated. There’s always a town gossip: `oh did you hear about the military interlude? Or did you hear about the removal of PPP government by young and promising soldiers?
Jammeh promised that dictatorship would not be introduced in the Gambia; transitional programme will be implemented to restore civilian rule and stamp out all form of  corruption; abuse of office, misuse of public property, nepotism, and patronage.
Soon as he developed a huge appetite for political power, he demonstrated that AFPRC were not ‘soldiers with a difference’. He suspended the 1970 Constitution and political parties, muzzled the press, violated fundamental rights, emasculated the courts and he paradoxically entrenched himself in power for two decades.

In 2016, a coalition emerged, and we thought the ‘Political Messiah’ has appeared, to salvage us from the deep-rooted human rights violations, endemic corruption and dictatorship. The coalition was portrayed as a transitional government and it was greeted with huge enthusiasm.
Following Barrow’s presidency, the manpower of the coalition government began to disintegrate and major rift happened within.

While promising that there would be a system change, Barrow led coalition government displayed their inability to bring a system change yet; there are extra judicial killings (eg Faraba incident) and corruption and inequality are becoming the rule.
President Barrow is, to all intents and purposes, entrenching himself in power and fast understanding the games of politics, chicanery and stratagem he probably is learning from Machiavelli’s “The Prince” and Jammeh’s governing style. According to all available indications, he wants to consolidate his power and extend his rule beyond the mandate of the Coalition MoU.

The central question is, when will our political leaders understand that, once you’ve built the big machinery of political power, you won’t always be the one to run it?

By, Buba S Njie
Political Science Student
University of The Gambia.

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