Gambia: Impressive NA Covid-19 Emergency Debate
One must be impressed by the vibrancy of the debate in The Gambia’s National Assembly where, post-Jammeh’s dictatorship, the contributions are real, substantive and fearless. Of course, there are learning curves, as is clear from the regular help the Speaker receives from her Clerk, but I am impressed.
Not least with Comrade Halifa Sallah who always gives the most salient and to the point contributions – which mercifully have grown shorter (but uncle Sedia Jatta, out of habit having listened to Halifa for 50 years, always puts his head on the desk as if to go to sleep whenever Halifa stands up to speak!). Halifa’s understanding of the rules of the house are simply irreplaceable, and like the Griots of old, he needs to train NAMs to ensure “the library” remains after him.
The NAMs are really all amazing (even the one who got his colleagues tittering away as he spoke!). Whatever finesse (or lack thereof) was deployed in putting their arguments, the fact remains that all their contributions were really substantial and always addressed the concerns of the people they represent. Personally I am biased towards the “bush-men and bush-women” and I consider them far more sensible (and more honest) than our “PhD” lot, but then the NAM who mentioned the “philosophy” of Saint Thomas Aquinas brought a smile to my face: Aquinas is on the reading list for my daughter’s Ethics course next year, so I am having to refresh my memory on the Saint to assist her – and who knows, as President of The Gambia in twenty years time she too might quote Aquinas!
Health’s Dr. Samateh was the personification of cool and calm confidence, as befits a doctor who has dedicated his life to curing the sick. Even though his subject matter, the “uniqueness of Gambians” in the particularly negative behaviour he described, was disheartening, he remained cool, calm and clear to the end. Inspite of all the attacks he has received recently, not least from that Yahya Jammeh “Secretary General and Presidential Minister” whose name I forget, Dr. Samateh was impressive and won me over (why do people still boast of their Yahya Jammeh bestowed titles – when we all know that Queen Elizabeth’s corgis have more respect and authority?).
Finally to Attorney General Tambadou’s contribution. I know he is a good lawyer (someone told me some years back that he was part of the team that defended VP Ruto of Kenya – though I thought he was an Asssitant Prosecutor to Bensouda). But Tambadou seemed not as confident as Dr. Samateh in the National Assembly, as seen in his combative comment that “some of the comments by the NAMs are not helpful”. I suppose he has a history of being bruised in his battle with the NAMs over the last three years, but Dr. Samateh’s demeanour would be more effective in winning friends amongst the NAMs.
In conclusion, it seems to me that the NAMs are assertive and confident and might grow into a force than can defend The Gambia’s new-found democracy. In that respect, the more the Executive arm of government complains about the NAMs the better – because that shows that they are doing their job by holding the Executive accountable.
(PS: Pierre Gomez, nice to see someone else also remembers Rev. Titus Pratt’s tribulations in The Gambia more than 20 years ago. He suffered from what Dr. Samateh bitterly calls “Gambia’s uniqueness” in his speech to the National Assembly. But it ended well for Rev. Pratt. He became the head of the Methodists in Ghana and has a happy and blessed retirement)