Njundu Drammeh

(JollofNews) – The wheels of justice sometimes grind slowly but grinding they do. And ours is turning into full motion. Following the rule of law means all the boxes must pass muster and yes, the Government is ticking the box, meticulously and according to law and proper laid down procedures…..

The arrest and trial of the NIA9 for their alleged role in the dastardly murder of a fellow citizen, Solo Sandeng; the respect of the court order which prohibited them being handcuffed; the arrest warrants against those who took part in the macabre murders of inncent, harmless, souls; the temporary seizure/freezing of the assets and bank accounts of Jammeh through a court order; the appointment of a Public Prosecutor to be in charge of the prosecution of the NIA9…… In all these we see adherence to the rule of law. …..The State is the primary duty bearer and it has the obligation to respect the laws, to not violate rights of people regardless…… The Minister of Justice is doing just that and I am confident. Jammeh was never a ‘standard’ and our Guardians of the Laws are not expected to perform below par, to disregard standards or bend the law to get justice. Those were the hallmarks of Jammehism. They cannot be our definition now. Great job, Minister Tambadou.

A better (may be best) practice ought to be entrenched, to become an enduring ethical standard for all political and public office holders. We got this unfathomable rape of our economy and our human rights because we, gate keepers of these doors, turned a blind eye, participated in the rape, ignored the laid down standards, procedures and laws or simply failed to create and strengthen systems of accountability, probity and protection of human rights. To ensure the past is not repeated in a similar, obnoxious manner, the State must put in place and strengthen human rights and accountability systems known to and accessible to all.

One way of strengthening and sustaining such a better practice is to implement, in whole and to all they are applicable, the provisions which require public and political post holders to declare their assets before assumption of office and after relinquishing office. This is an important mechanism to fight corruption. The President, Cabinet Ministers, National Assembly Members and other political holders such as councillors should all declare their assets to the IEC (learned the President has declared his although I have not seen any who has seen his declaration list). Section 223 of the 1997 Constitution stipulates that a ‘public officer’ should submit wriiten declaration of ‘all property and assets owned……..and of liabilities owed by him or her, whether directly or indirectly’ to the Ombudsman. I think for the sake of probity and transparency these declarations should be made public, to allow the public vet the authenticity of the declarations. Corruption remains the main bane of our society and public offices, unfortunately, are often used as channels to siphon off public funds, to have ill-gotten properties through abuse of office, fronts for self-aggrandisement. It is said that those who get public offices ‘either grow or swell’- most of us ‘swell’. I am sure if the net of probity is cast wider, if Section 223 of the Constitution is implemented to the letter, if there is a little insistence on ‘let each declare his/her assets and property from 1994-2016’, we may uncover a lot of ‘wolves in sheep clothing’. Just may be. But, Section 223 was a scarecrow which did not frighten any bird of prey- they made it their perch. This we should avoid in the New Gambia. If not when our tomorrow comes, and it will come, history may not judge us kindly…. History will be repeating itself ‘1994, a farce; 2017, a tragedy; and 20XX, a betrayal’…..

In order to fight corruption, and to strengthen the rationale of the assets/properties/liabilities declaration provisions, I think the Government, in my opinion, should have a whistle-blowing policy in place (or at least for some key ministries) which is vigorously implemented or enforced. Some people among us do not have any price and will report administrative malpractice or abuse of office or corruption when they know they can do so anonymously and without reprisal. Putting in place an Anti-Corruption Commission with powers to investigate everyone without exclusion could also help tremendously in this crusade.
I think putting a Presidential term limit in the Constitution, moving from the promise of President Barrow to real action, will serve to check such impunity, unbridled corruption and abuse of office as witnessed and being uncovered during the Jammeh regime. Power is sweet and the longer power wielders stay on and entrenched themselves, the more difficult it is for them to relinquish power. But when the President knows he or she will not rule for life and may be held accountable for his or her acts of commission and omission, may be he or she would govern according to law and with fairness and probity. No one wants karma to catch up with him or her.

Democracy strives in soils where the rule of law is the benchmark; where laws govern the lives of all the people; where standards are set and accountability systems and processes strengthened; where ‘justice guide our actions’ and words; where constitutionalism is the norm; where men and women give pride of place to integrity and credibility; where each is a ‘shepherd’ of himself/herself, colleagues and public property and offices; where both the ‘big’ and ‘small’ things matters; where no man or woman is above the law and where everyone exercises citizenship.

Government is not by good intentions…. It is also my actions guided by the law….. ‘Never Again’ also means that we establish systems, institutions, standards and processes to safeguard our newfound freedom and democracy and forestall the repetition of the agonies and miseries of the past, to become the New Gambian who upholds the values of a democratic individual in both private and public lives. ‘Never Again’ means we all become alert guardians of our rights, each for everyone.

Never again……

By Njundu Drammeh