1 July 2019
TO: WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
PETITION TO PREVENT ANOTHER DICTATORSHIP OR SELF PERPETUATION IN THE GAMBIA BY PRESIDENT ADAMA BARROW.
You would recall that on December, 2016, the Gambian people voted out Dictator Yahya Jammeh as President of the Gambia, thereby ending his 22 year-old misrule of the country. In his place, we elected President Adama Barrow as his successor. This feat could not have been achieved without the ingenuity of our political opposition parties, who pioneered an opposition coalition of seven political parties and one independent presidential aspirant, which later became known as ‘Coalition 2016’. The arrangements that gave birth to that Coalition were rooted in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed by the seven political parties and independent presidential aspirant that formed the Coalition.
The significant terms of that Coalition MOU can be stated as follows:
- Each Coalition political party would send 70 delegates to a Congress to serve as an electoral college to elect a flagbearer for the December 2016 election. The Congress was held in October 2016.
- It was agreed that the elected flag-bearer would contest the 2016 elections as an independent candidate, who would not have allegiance to anyone party of the Coalition;
- It was agreed that the flag-bearer, once elected as President, shall head a transitional government and shall serve a 3-year term of office.
- It was further agreed that the flag-bearer once elected as President, shall organize and supervise a presidential election, at the end the 3-year term, which he shall not participate in as a candidate, but free to contest in the ensuing elections, after the first term of his successor. These terms gave birth to the Gambia’s first opposition coalition and resulted in the election of President Adama Barrow as the flag-bearer of the Coalition 2016.
Thereafter, the coalition agreement became the bedrock of the Coalition 2016’s political campaign and manifesto, which was sold to the Gambian electorate. For example, it was inscribed in the introduction of the coalition manifesto that:
“………, I (Adama Barrow) have offered myself as an Independent Candidate who will serve for only three years at the head of a broad based and inclusive Coalition Government aimed at conducting Constitutional, institutional and administrative reforms that would establish the foundation of a democratic system of administration that would put an end to the culture of impunity and self-perpetuating rule and usher in an era for Gambians to enjoy liberty and prosperity under a system of government that is sensitive and responsive to the needs and aspirations of its citizenry.”
This was further reiterated in the Coalition’s campaign posters, which were inscribed with the pledge that:
“Adama Barrow does not aim to be a President for life but is committed to serve as a transitional President for 3 years to consolidate democracy and create a level playing field for parties to contest elections.”
It was as a result of this understanding that many Gambians, including the members of our movement called “Operation Three Years Jotna” (meaning “Operation Three Years is Up” in the local dialect), voted for President Adama Barrow to become the 3rd President of the Republic of the Gambia.
However, after two and half years into office, President Adama Barrow has chosen to disregard the third condition of the Coalition agreement and his election pledge to the Gambian people, which is not only contrary to the democratic ethos and consultative spirit that molded the 2016 opposition Coalition, but constitutes a betrayal of his campaign promise to the Gambian people, who voted for him in the 2016 Presidential elections.
This is now a great concern to many Gambians including members of our grassroots movement, Operation Three Years Jotna. And to compound our concerns, President Adama Barrow further continues to exude autocratic and dictatorial traits which the people never expected of him, especially after two decades of dictatorship. We make reference to the following examples of the President’s undesirable actions:
- He consistently violated the procedures for appointment and removal of Ministers in the Coalition Government. He has arbitrarily removed from office all but two of the Ministers who represented Coalition parties in the Government. This is in clear breach of the Coalition MOU, which requires consultation with coalition partners, when ministers are appointed and removed.
- The President has also increasingly concentrated power in the presidency, claiming to be driving a bus, and whoever is not following his agenda will be dropped from the bus. Such concentration of power in the presidency is a stark reminder of the days of dictatorship under Yahya Jammeh and flies in the face of the aspirations of all Gambians, who voted for change in 2016.
- President Barrow further made it abundantly clear that he intends to serve a full term of five years, contrary to the 3rd condition of the Coalition MOU, which requires him to step down after 3 years and organize free and fair elections, which he should not be a candidate.
- President Barrow further made it clear that he also intends to breach the final condition of the Coalition agreement by vying to contest in the next Presidential elections to be scheduled in 2021.
As a result of these concerns, Gambians from all walks of life remain resolute in our determination to hold President Barrow to the terms of the Coalition MOU, which informed our choice in the 2016 elections that culminated in his election as President. Gambians at home and abroad, united by that resolve under the umbrella of “Operation Three Years Jotna”, are determined to take all lawful measures to prevent President Adama Barrow from becoming another dictator or self-perpetuating president in the Gambia. This is because it is our shared beliefs that:
- integrity and accountability on the part of political leaders is sine qua non to building a foundation for sustainable democratic development, good governance and the rule of law. This is particularly critical given the Gambia’s recent experience with dictatorship. It would be dishonest of President Barrow to renege on such a milestone agreement, which is in the best interest of our country for his own selfish interest.
- if President Barrow is allowed to renege on the Coalition MOU and contest the next Presidential election, they would be neither free nor fair. Currently, the President has created fans clubs called the Barrow Fans Club and Barrow Youth Movement, which are political quangos, aimed at misrepresenting national government’s development projects, as that of the President’s personal projects for his political gains.
- the President’s argument that he was elected on the basis of a Constitutional mandate of five years, is disingenuous at best and a deliberate political manipulation, given that he was fully aware of the Constitutional term, when he appended his signature to the Coalition agreement and when he was selling the same to the Gambia people in 2016. This shows a lack of integrity on the President’s part; moreover, it sets a dangerous precedent by which politicians can easily make and break promises to the electorate with impunity;
In early March 2019, we sent a petition to all members of the Coalition of political parties, who were scheduled to meet on April 10, 2019 at the Kairaba Hotel to discuss the 3-year term of the Coalition Agreement. Whilst on their way to present the said petition to the Coalition politicians, fifteen of our members were arrested by the Gambia Police Force and later released on police bail on condition that they report daily to the Police. The Police have since leveled bogus charges against our members, for what they alleged to be a ‘breach of the peace’. However, up to the date of this petition, none of our members is yet to be brought before any court of law in the Gambia.
We believe that the aforementioned police tactics amount to nothing more than attempts to instill fear in our members and citizens from exercising their fundamental constitutional rights of freedom of expression and assembly. We further believe that the police tactics amount to harassment of our law-abiding members and an abuse of their fundamental rights to hold their President accountable for his election pledges to the Gambian people.
We are further concerned with the rhetoric coming from the President and his senior government officials since that arrest of our members, against citizens’ rights to manifest their grievances against the President. We wish to draw your attention to the following threats made by the President and his senior government officials at political rally in Brikama City on Saturday 15 June 2019.
- The Minister for Tourism, Mr. Hamat Bah, stated that President Barrow is the Commander-in-Chief of the Gambia Armed Forces and will not hesitate to use the Army to defend what he terms as the “sovereignty of the country”.
- The Interior Minister, Mr. Ebrima Mballow, who is the President’s brother-in-law, was unequivocal that the Government had imported “Hot Water Cannon” vehicles in preparation for those who plan to “stir up trouble” in December in the name of “Operation Three Years Jotna”; and that the Government would not hesitate to spray hot water on such “trouble makers.”
- The former Minister of Youth and Sports and now Presidential Adviser, Mr. Henry Gomez, threatened that the Government will shoot at anyone, who comes out to the streets in December 2019 to protest against them. He compared the Government’s plans to the brutal quelling of the student protests of April 10 and 11, 2000, when the former Dictator and his regime gunned down 14 innocent school children and a journalist during a peaceful demonstration.
We therefore wish to put you on notice that Gambians both at home and abroad are determined to exercise their fundamental rights to peaceful protest in December 2019. Our rights to freedom of association, assembly, speech and movement are enshrined in the Constitution of The Gambia 1997, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to all of which The Gambia is a party.
We intend to fully exercise these rights by staging peaceful demonstrations to protest against President Adama Barrow’s plans to perpetuate himself in power, contrary to the letter and spirit of the Coalition MOU and his campaign pledges to the Gambian people. In doing so, we intend to fully comply with all legal procedures and requirements for holding such protests. However, we will not allow the Government to unduly restrict or violate our fundamental rights without just cause.
For this reason, we solicit your kind attention to our political strive in the Gambia and further seek your kind support in ensuring that good governance and the rule of law prevail in the Gambia, and our people’s rights to peaceful protest is respected by the government of President Adama Barrow. We further request your utmost efforts to prevail on President Adama Barrow to honour his election pledges to the Gambian people and to his partners in the opposition Coalition 2016. We strongly believe that this is in the best interest of our country, the Gambia.
We thank you for your kind consideration of this petition and look forward to your support to the Gambian people.
OPERATION 3 YEARS “JOTNA” MOVEMENT
On behalf of all concerned Gambians, who voted for President Adama Barrow and the Opposition Coalition in 2016