History is written with deeds and not words unless they sum up deeds. A Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission is meant to document real happenings in good faith in the public interest. This is inconceivable unless witnesses are truthful.
Justice has two sides. It must be done and must also be seen to be done. Testimonies also have two sides. They are meant for hearing by the presiders as well as the public.
I am compelled to help the public to make sense of certain testimonies. This is precisely the reason why I have decided to narrate what gave rise to my arrest on 15th November 2005 which was mentioned by Mr Omar Jallow in his testimony before the TRRC. I have already said that I was arrested alone on the 15th of November, 2005 and first taken to the NIA headquarters for two nights before I was transferred to the maximum security wing of Mile Two Prisons where I later learnt of the arrest of Mr Omar Jallow and Mr Hamat Bah.
The three of us eventually appeared in the high court before justice Paul charged with sedition. I defended myself and requested for the judge to recuse himself from the case instead of making a plea. He entered a plea of not guilty and maintained that an accused person has no right to request him to recuse himself from the case. The prosecution indicated that they still had more investigation to make. The judge remanded me in custody along with Mr Omar Jallow and Mr Hamat Bah.
An appeal was filed before the Court of Appeal which was heard by Justice Savage (presiding), Justice Agim and Justice Izuako. Bail was eventually granted followed by the deployment of President Obansanjo, under the auspices of the Commonwealth and the AU, to mediate between NADD and the Jammeh administration. The case was withdrawn and a memorandum of Understanding signed between NADD and the APRC and other parties that were not members of NADD, which was broadcast in the public electronic media in all the languages.
NADD participated in six by-elections and won four and lost two by narrow margins. Unfortunately UDP and NRP decided to break away from NADD before the 2006 presidential election. Before publishing word for word the letter I wrote, it would be relevant to inform the reader how NADD came into being.
In brief, the AFPRC banned the PPP, GPP and NCP from registration as political parties when suspension of political parties was lifted before the September presidential election in 1996. Instead of appealing to PDOIS not to register and call for unity to select an independent candidate to stand just to prevent the continuation of the existing government or a restoration of the past the banned parties supported the registration of the UDP. Hence PDOIS was left to register and was not supported by any coalition.
However by the 2001 presidential election the ban on the NCP, PPP and GPP was lifted. The parties met before the 2001 presidential elections to discuss the possibility of establishing a coalition without inviting PDOIS until Mr. Sheriff Dibba pointed out the anomaly. When PDOIS was approached it requested for one day adjournment to prepare its representatives to participate. It is reported to us that the PPP representative rejected the appeal and they proceeded to form a coalition without PDOIS, NCP and NRP. The NCP then decided to participate in the 2001 presidential election. After Jammeh was returned to office in 2001, Mr. Dibba felt that he was deprived of his opportunity to lead a coalition.
Observers would recall that in the 1997 National Assembly elections many of the people who won under the ticket of the UDP were former members of the NCP leadership. Hence Mr. Dibba sought to form an alliance with the APRC in order to reclaim what he considered to be National Assembly seats of his party taken by the UDP. The UDP decided to boycott the National Assembly elections and the APRC did not see the need to form an alliance with the NCP and insisted for those who may have stood for the NCP to stand as APRC candidates. PDOIS won seats in both Wuli and Serrekunda.
I later became a member of the PanAfrican parliament and Sidia Jatta a member of the Ecowas parliament. We had all the opportunity to build PDOIS.
All parties were invited to deliver speeches at a meeting organised by Gambians in Atlanta, Georgia in 2003. A side meeting for the opposition was organised by those who wanted opposition unity in the 2006 presidential election. Mr. Omar Jallow told the meeting that if I happened to be made the Coordinator he had hope that the unity would be possible. I worked on the ground until NADD was formed and eventually the very people who proposed for me to be the coordinator were scrambling to be presidential candidates. I had to point out that unanimity was necessary or a primary to select the candidate. Before deciding on one or the other in selecting a candidate the UDP and NRP left NADD.
This is a brief account of the alliance which I was trying to defend in 2005 and got arrested for writing the following letter to Jammeh:
LETTER FROM HALIFA SALLAH TO EX PRESIDENT JAMMEH
In Reaction to Jammeh’s Interview
Mr. President, on my return from the United States where I toured eight states, some alone and others with my colleagues, under the auspices of the Save The Gambia Democracy Project and their affiliates such as the Movement for Democracy and Development and the Group in Raleigh, North Carolina, I was informed of your slanderous subterfuges and tirades against my person, my colleagues and the National Alliance for Democracy and Development. I could not rest until I give a fitting response to your apostasy.
Mr. President, if you consider your opponents donkeys then you must also by extension see their supporters as donkeys. In the same vein those they oppose must also be donkeys. Hence you are implying that you are either a donkey or contesting with donkeys or that you are the only human being riding on the back of a nation of donkeys. Either conclusion would constitute an insult to the Gambian people.
This is the tragedy of allowing a person without sound ethical or intellectual properties to preside over the affairs of a Nation. Such a person must be crude in vision and raw in behaviour. Such uncouth characters must bring endless shame to a dignified and sober people.
This is enough justification for you to be removed in 2006 so that the dignified Gambian people will be free from your unruly behaviour. However such perceptions will not be allowed to prevent the fundamental discourse regarding the future of our nation and destiny of our people. We will give a fitting response to every attempt to vilify us or denigrate our integrity to help the people to have an informed notion of your style of leadership and the need to dump it in the waste basket of history once and for all.
Mr. President, your assertion that Hamat Bah and myself will not return to the National Assembly because of your claim that we are opposed to everything and are overbearing to the majority despite our number, is at best preposterous. I have never called you a dictator because I am fully convinced that you cannot dictate how I conduct my politics.
However, the fact that you are tormented by your opponents in parliament to the point of wanting to silence their voices attests to your dictatorial tendencies.
You have confessed to the whole world that you belong a defunct era of rulers of one party states. This is why you still lament that things were better for you when there were no political parties.
Amazingly you accuse me of belonging to the Soviet era when few tyrants monopolized power in the name of the working class. This is a laughable prognosis since I refused to accept your offer of ministerial post so as not to be linked to an autocratic government.
You can never tarnish my democratic credentials and my repulsion for a reign of impunity. I stand for the total empowerment of the people. Unlike you, I am fully convinced that genuine democracy can only be built when the free associations of youth, women, workers, professionals, media practitioners, human rights activists, farmers and other interested groups serve to dictate the policies and programmes of government, at all levels. I strongly believe that the media should be the instrument for the amplification of the voices of the people if there is to be a transparent and accountable government.
You are afraid of the organized influence of the people. This is why your government is afraid of peaceful demonstration. This is what led to the murder of innocent children on April 10 and 11th. Furthermore, your revulsion for Justice made you the architect of an indemnity provision. I wish to repeat that the allegation of your security operatives that the head of the students union Mr. Omar Joof was under the influence of the opposition was utter fabrication. I will present you with a comprehensive view of what happened. I was totally in the picture as an elder who is always consulted by youths in this country when they are in a state of despair. I wrote letters to the Secretaries of State for Education and the Interior to avert the problem.
That early morning of April 10, I spoke to army Commander Badjie to give my advice. Since your government is afraid of an organized people you plunged the nation in bloodshed. Hence if you are looking for a replica of the soviet state you better look at your own government. Your fear of the media is what led you to come up with all the draconian media laws while you utilize the state media in the most irresponsible manner to chide and castigate your imagined and real opponents. Who can you accuse of trying to be a soviet type of government? You know very well that PDOIS had more influence in the armed forces of the Gambia during Jawara’s days than you ever could have had.
Mr. Marena who is now NIA Director and Mr. Bah who was your Secretary of State for the Interior, were brains in the Intelligence services. Ask them and they will tell you how much Kukoi held PDOIS in high esteem and how he hesitated to intervene in the Gambia when his envoys realised our commitment to derive our authority to lead the country on the basis of popular consent. Press Jagne would tell you how we under the Jawara era could have allowed ourselves to be used to gain power when certain foreign agents planned to build armament caches close to a foreign embassy to implicate The Gambia in the Casamance conflict and destabilize the regime. If we were interested in a soviet like government we would have been where you are today much earlier. Suffice it to say, you know very well how weak you were in October 1994. You can pretend to others but not to me.
At that time when your camp was in total disarray I called for a National Conference which could have done what NADD aims to do now. Since your aim was to establish a monarchy you succeeded in mystifying your weakness to translate it into strength by neutralizing all your colleagues and develop civilian security operatives to contain the military. This is what gave rise to your call for committees for the defence of the revolution. If we were interested in a soviet type regime we would have used our influence to seek for power.
Are you oblivious to the current boldness of Sana Sabally, Kukoi and the endless information being passed about the arrest of some military officers? Are you not conscious that every attempt you make to stifle the legal opposition you are nurturing the strength of the illegal opposition. Do you really have love for this country or are you simply a political charlatan who talks about patriotism inwards but does everything to undermine the peace and stability of the Nation by your arrogant political misconduct and intolerance. If we were interested in power by the barrel of the gun rather than power derived from the consent of the people you would have never been in power today to lord it over the people.
You should remember that you have no personal power. What you have is state power. Your duty is not to abuse it but to use it responsibly to protect liberty and promote the welfare of the people.
Since you have become omnipotent in conception and do not have advisers, allow me to tell you that the quickest way to create a crisis of legitimacy and governability in a country is to try to wipe out a parliamentary opposition. However, every attempt to do so encourages the non-parliamentary opposition to step in the shoes of the parliamentary opposition.
This is the type of uncertainty that arrogance in leadership can foster. In my view, your arrogant and hostile attitude towards NADD which came out with a code of conduct to promote political decency confirms that you are an ambassador of mischief and not the ambassador of peace you often proclaim. If you were a different type of leader the birth of NADD would have ushered in a healthy multiparty politics in the Gambia characterized by mutual respect and peaceful coexistence of political leaders.
You know very well that I have been calling for political decency on your part for the sake of the Nation. I am the least concerned about my personal security. I know that my death will not go unavenged in the speediest and most judicious manner. Hence I am speaking out not to enhance my personal safety but to safeguard the welfare of our people. I therefore urge you to abandon your unruly political conduct and prepare the ground for decent multiparty political conduct..
You have also been using religion to kill its letter and spirit. What happened to the Imam of the airport Mosque? How can you justify your religious convictions by presiding over ceremonies where palm wine is poured and the intervention of ancestors sought to secure NAWEC machines? What about your presiding of wrestling matches of half-naked females? Religion, to you, is a tool for maintaining your power. The time you spend watching wrestling matches and cultural display and the amount of money you waste on such things is more than you spend promoting human values and virtues. Unlike you I spend most of my days helping the young of today as we helped your own generation to develop values and virtues to serve people and humanity. It is amazing that you are calling people who contributed to your own upbringing idiots.
I remember the plays Mr. Sam Sarr and I used to produce when you were in Gambia High School. The plays were designed to bring you up to be a humble and respectful person. It discouraged vanity (Hebate amut Ngering,” Belful na bone na throat”). Apparently, you have not learned from all these developments and you now prefer to transform your elders into donkeys on whose backs you ride. How great is your betrayal of cultural values which Gambians hold dare!! History will never forgive you for such travesty of human decency unless you change your ways with immediacy.
Lastly you indicate that we have proven to be ignorant people without knowledge of the Constitution and therefore landed ourselves where we are. I am confident that you lack the intellectual maturity to understanding what happened without explanation. This is what gave rise to your simplistic assertions.
First and foremost, it is necessary to explain why NADD came into being. In short, it is the interest and right of every opposition party to seek the mandate of the people on the basis of its principles, policies, programs, practices and the merit or quality of its chosen candidates. The 1997 Constitution provided for a second round of voting to ensure that no person becomes present with less than 50% of the votes cast. Under such a system, opposition parties could put up candidates to test their strength against a party in Government. If the party in Government has less than 50% of the votes cast , as was the case in Guinea Bissau and Senegal, the candidate of the opposition party with the highest number of votes would contest with the candidate of the governing party in a second round of voting. In that regard, the opposition parties could form an alliance to support the opposition party with the highest number of votes. Under such circumstances one does not need any form of formal alliance. One needs an electoral alliance. The party which comes into office is free to govern as it wishes just as in Senegal and Kenya. The Opposition parties which help the person or party to come to office, would not have any authority to influence how the person or party rules.
On the other hand Mr. President, you utilized your parliamentary majority to amend the Constitution to abolish the second round of voting. This would mean that any attempt by the opposition parties to put up candidates to test their strength, would lead to their division.
For example, 5 opposition parties can share 70% of the votes and still allow the candidate of the ruling party to win by 30% of the votes cast. Hence apart from the desire for opposition parties to unite, the single most important decision which made it strategically necessary for the opposition to unite is the revocation of the provision for the second round of voting. The opposition parties had two options. They explored the viability of rallying around one party and its candidate and program. It was a common view that such an alliance would have serious limitations. In the first place, supporters of other opposition parties and more so that of the ruling party, may not be won over by such a party. Secondly, there would be no way of determining whether the party won because of its merit or on the basis of the support given to it. In that respect, the party that attains victory will have no obligation to honour any memorandum of understanding signed.
The opposition parties finally concluded to establish an alliance under whose ticket, the 2006 presidential elections would be fought so that all the candidates will be accountable to the alliance and could never violate the provisions of the memorandum of understanding without cost. One may now ask why NADD was registered. The answer is simple. The Constitution has made it abundantly clear that no association can put up a candidate under its name unless it is registered with IEC. It is therefore evident that if NADD aimed to sponsor candidates, it had to be registered. This is why prior to the registration of NADD, elections were fought under party led tickets. After such electoral contest, the lack of consolidation of NADD was seen as a major obstacle to success. One may now ask: How was NADD registered?
A review of the electoral decree revealed that there was no specific law for the registration of an alliance. However section 127 of the elections decree reads:
“Where any issue arises relating to electoral matters which is not addressed by this decree or any other law, the Commission shall resolve such issue in keeping with the standards and rules of natural justice and fairness. (2) A decision of the Commission with respect to an issue arising under subsection (1) shall be final and shall not be called into question in any Court of Law.
In fact, the decree says that the decision of the IEC is final. It is the 1997 Constitution which subjects the interpretation and enforcement of all laws to the dictates of the Supreme Court.
Section 127 obliges the IEC to handle electoral matters that are not provided by any other law according to the dictates of natural justice and fairness.
How did the IEC handle the issue of the registration of the alliance?
According to the Constitution, an association may be registered as a party. The IEC conceived an alliance as an association of parties. It conceived it as fair to the alliance as a party of parties or an umbrella party.
This is the portion that minds which are neither fair nor innovative, fail to comprehend. The position of the IEC is however very simple to understand, if we look at the Trade Unions. The Gambia Workers Confederation and Trade Union Congress, are all Trade Unions but they are Unions of Unions. In the same vein, an association can comprise individual membership or group membership. An alliance is an association with group membership. Since an association could be registered as a party, the IEC told the Court that it registered the alliance as a party of parties. The objective of the IEC was not to enable us to become members of two parties, but to enable our parties to come together under an umbrella party. This is in line with the spirit of Section 91 (1) (d) which reads:
“A member of the National Assembly shall vacate his or her seat in the National Assembly, if he or she ceases to be a member of the political party of which he or she was a member at the time of his or her election.
provided that nothing in this paragraph shall apply on a merger of political parties at the national level where such merger is authorised by the constitution of the parties concerned ”
The provision is clear.
You said that you put the provision in the Constitution. I doubt whether you have any understanding of what gave rise to Section 91 (1) (d). In fact my most disappointing moments during the Court case, is my failure to hear reference being made to the fundamental principles of jurisprudence which enables judges to make landmark judgments.
Our Counsel started very well by dwelling on the spirit of the Constitution and the mind of the makers of the Constitution. If you know your role as the custodian of Executive power and had respect for the separation of powers, you would not make yourself the maker of the Constitution. Where parliament is the maker of laws, judges try to know the mind of parliament before interpreting legal provisions. In the case of the 1997 Constitution, the reasons for the provisions are clearly stipulated in the report of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC).
The reason for putting Section 91 (1) (d) in the 1997 Constitution is clearly explained. It was mainly due to the desire to prevent cross carpeting of members of parliament. It is specifically stated in the report of the CRC that in the past, opposition almost disappeared in the Gambia because of opposition members joining the ruling party after being elected by the people, on an opposition ticket.
Secondly, it conceived as important to have a strong opposition in order to consolidate democracy. This is why it makes it provision for a person to vacate his/her seat if one moves from the party to which one was a member when elected, to another party. Thirdly, it saved the seats of members, if parties merged to become stronger. This was the letter and spirit of Section 91 (1) (d). This is the interpretation that should be given to it.
Hence the IEC was not favouring the Opposition. If the APRC and NCP sought registration, it would have done the same thing for them. However, the APRC/NCP alliance is just an alliance in words. All the National assembly seats belong to the APRC. There is no NCP Secretary of State, Chairperson of Council, Councillor or Political Representative in office. This is the outcome of Alliances that do not have legal foundation. They simply depend on the good will of those who control executive power. Maybe after this letter, you will favour the NCP with little recognition rather than humiliating its leader in major gatherings to drive him towards political extinction. This is the type of alliance we did not want.
NADD is an Alliance which sought to be a United Front for all Gambians irrespective of party affiliation to rally around, and to bring about a level ground for future multiparty contest under a democratic environment. Hence if one understands the purpose of NADD and the mind of the IEC, one would not question the integrity of the process. On the other hand, if one simply considers the outcome of the Court case, one may cast doubt. There is however no need for you to jubilate. There are many roads to achieve an aim. What is important is to remain focused on noble intentions. Let me state without any fear of exaggeration that the verdict of the Court will give rise to the very opposite of what is intended. Whether a review shall be pursued or not, the outcome of the Court case will lead to the consolidation of NADD. My only regret about the case is the attempt being made by you and those working under your instruction, to subject members of the IEC to unparalleled intimidation. Fabrications of all sorts have been made against them. A press release from the State House went as far as to accuse them of criminal behavior. This is the height of indecency and abuse of executive power.
In that press release, it is claimed that the National Assembly declared our seats vacant and that our seats should have also been declared vacant by the IEC.
Mr. President, the Constitution is very clear on the guards and fences around the exercise of duties by the IEC. Section 44 Subsection (3) of the Constitution states: “In the exercise of its functions under the Constitution or any other law, the Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.”
How can a Commission act on a matter which it has knowledge of just to abide by the dictates of a Clerk who gave reasons for declaring our seats vacant that the Commission knew were erroneous? Before the decision of the Supreme Court was made the Commission knew that we had not ceased to be members of the parties to which we were members when we were elected. It was clear to them that they had registered NADD as an umbrella Party. It was their sovereign right not to be dictated to but to wait for the decision of court.
If your government had any respect for law you will not try to influence a Clerk or Speaker of the National Assembly who are employees of the National Assembly to declare the seats of their employers vacant. This is why it is still amazing to me how this fundamental safeguard of the separation of powers is defended by the judgment. Where in the World could a nominated Member elected Speaker and a Clerk employed by parliament have the authority to remove an elected member of parliament and members of the Independent Electoral Commission removed for failing to abide by their decision? It is only possible in a place like The Gambia under your government where justice is standing on its head and reason is off balance.
It is now every clear that if the separation of powers are not protected by the courts and the independence of oversight institutions protected by law executive encroachment to stifle their independence must be the order of the day.
Let me give you concrete examples of how you are reducing the independence of the IEC to ashes. Your press release accused the members of the IEC of misconduct. The allegations which appears to one as mere fabrications have been elaborated in your press release. Now, what is the appropriate thing to do under the Constitution?
The answer is simple, section 42 subsection (6) (c) of the Constitution states that,
“The president may remove a member of the Commission from office for misconduct, but, before removing a member, the President shall appoint a tribunal of three judges of a superior court to enquire into the matter and report on the facts. A member or the Commission shall be entitled to appear and be legally represented before the tribunal.”
Mr. President, you claimed to know the Constitution, could I say that you have no respect for the Constitution. What moral authority do you have to indict the IEC of misconduct when you have no respect for the procedure established by the Constitution to investigate into the misconduct? Instead you are threatening to prefer criminal charged against them.
Let me make further observation of how you uphold constitutions and other laws with total disregard. Section 42 Subsection (5) (c ) states that,
“A person shall not be qualified for appointment as a member of the Commission if he or she is, or has at any time during such period of two years been, the holder of any office in any organization that sponsors or otherwise supports, or has at any time sponsored or otherwise supported, a candidate for election as a member of the National Assembly or of any local government authority; or if he or she has actively identified himself/herself with any such organization.”
Mr. President, look at your recent appointments to the IEC. It is not obvious that your former Secretary of State for Agriculture has actively been identified with the APRC. Do you have any respect for law?
Lastly, you claim that no law exists that makes it a requirement for Gambians abroad to register and vote section 39(1) of the constitution states that “Every citizen of the Gambia being eighteen years or older and of sound mind shall have the right to vote……”
Section 141 of the Elections Decree states that,
“The Independent Electoral Commission may make roles for Gambians in any foreign country to vote in a Presidential election.”
It is not your prerogative to announce that Gambians abroad will not be registered. This is the prerogative of the IEC. Your statements constitute gross interference with the Independence of the IEC.
I have shown with overwhelming thoroughness that you either do not understand the Constitution in your manner of removal of the IEC Commissioners and so on, or that you have no respect for the Constitution. The only remedy is for the people to remove you in 2006 and select such other person who respects the Constitution and create the conducive environment or the independent operation of the court.
Furthermore, you have shown total contempt for the courts by threatening extra judicial measures to handle matters that have already been handled by the courts.
You therefore have little moral authority to question our understanding and respect for the provisions of the Constitution. This is how matters stand on the Constitution and NADD.
Mr. President, you also claimed that the Opposition has been undermining your anti-corruption campaign and had been agitating for family members abroad not to send money to those at home if they fail to vote for NADD.
It is important to put things in their proper perspective, I have been among the first to declare that your operation no compromise was motivated by queries raised by the World Bank and IMF of the unauthorised expenditures of your government from national coffers and gross mismanagement at the Central Bank. As the executive, instead of accepting responsibility you decided to pass on the blame through Operation No Compromise.
Let me give concrete facts on how your government had mismanaged the revenue base of the country add sectors such as agriculture.
Mr. President, let’s take the expenditure on the 10th anniversary of the July 22nd coup d’etat in 2004. The Secretary of State for Economic affairs indicated to me in question raised at the National assembly that a sum of D10 million had been spent and that more figures were being expected. Needless to say, if one checks the whole estimate of revenue and expenditure for 2004 one will not find a budgetary item for July 22 celebration amounting to 10 million dalasis. This confirms that your regime has been making many unauthorised and unbudgeted expenditures which constitutes gross financial indiscipline.
In fact, Gambians often hear about transports, helicopters and other hardware being bought but one hardly sees any item in the government budget providing for them. On the other hand I have repeatedly pointed out to different secretaries of states for finance and economic affairs that monies allocated for the settlement of what is itemized in budgets as confirmed debts signified unauthorized expenditures. For example, one will find 13 million being spent for 2004 and 15 million for 2005 on the settlement of confirmed debts on vehicles. Under miscellaneous 26 million was spent to settle confirmed debt in 2003; 20 million for 2004 and 20 million for 2005.
The utilization of the funds of the Central Bank without regard to the budgeting allocations led to the growth of the deficit and the issuing of treasury bills to finance the deficits. It is therefore no surprise that the domestic debt has grown to 4.0 billion dalasis as of December 2004 warranting an interest cost of D588 million dalasis annually.
Needless to say, it is such mismanagement of the Central Bank which compelled the IMF and World Bank to condition the government to have external auditing of the accounts of the bank. It is no surprise that you came up with ‘operation no compromise’ after this pressure which would have certainly revealed the cases that amounted to 400 million dalasis.
It goes without saying that your government is also mismanaging the public enterprises. Just look at Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation. You decided to utilise the funds of this corporation to purchase Mariatou Beach for 45 million and spent over 300 million to refurbish it. How long will it take you to recover the money of the working people? To add insult to injury the Nation was informed that a new company GAMCO will be able to purchase all the groundnuts produced in 2004/2005 season. To everybody’s surprise, social security had to contribute over 50 million in cash and also provide guarantees in support of GAMCO to enable it to receive 120 million dalasi from Trust Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank. It goes without saying that while public money was being utilised to purchase the groundnut crop not much was done to enhance farmer’s income compared to the rising cost of living. In short, while the world market price for groundnuts varies between D29,000 to D31,000 dalasis, the local price was put at D8,100 per tonne.
Mr. President the proper way to manage an economy of a developing country is clear to anyone with an understanding of how to run an economy.
A budget of 3.2 billion dalasis is being collected from the people this year. Over 2.5 billion comes from our taxes. Over the years you should have spent the money in such a way that you will have surplus to finance development projects or repay loans without encroaching on the monies designed to put drugs in our hospitals or learning materials in our schools. Instead of managing the economy properly you have driven it to a perpetual state of budget deficits.
Consequently all the development projects in the country depend entirely on loans.
People have recently heard that the Soma Mandina Ba Road is to be built by a loan of over 1 Billion dalasi. The TV is from a Libyan loan. A 30 million dalasi Libyan loan built the Bwiam Hospital. BADEA and Kuwaiti Fund amounting to D112 million built the Kombo Coastal Road. A Taiwanese loan built the Kerewan road and bridge. I can go on and on. There is nothing wrong in receiving loans if there is further investment in the productive base of the economy to ensure a larger revenue base to repay loans. The fact of the matter is that the revenue base of the economy is not expanding in a proportional manner to the rise in debts. Consequently, while company taxes increased from 248 million to 399 million between 2003 and 2005.
Interest rates for borrowing is now 23%. Companies are therefore overtaxed and excessively indebted. In the same vein customs and excise taxes have risen from 750 million to 1500 million between 2003 and 2005, thus increasing the cost of living while income remains stagnant.
Mr. President, both job creation and income have literally been stagnant. The public service and private sector employ less than 50,000 people while over 200,000 children will be out of the school system in the next 10 years. This is why many Gambians are leaving for greener pastures abroad. They work 16 hours daily in the US and UK to make ends meet and send some money home. Contrary to your comment that NADD sought to incite Gambians abroad against their dependents at home, the Gambians in the Diaspora are concerned with the fact that the monies sent home are no longer sufficient to meet the needs of their relatives due to the high cost of living. This is why they vowed to vote with their mouths if they cannot vote with their hands, by convincing their people to vote for NADD.
Mr. President, the true state of the economy is manifested by a debt of 22,000 million dalasis. This year also we are to pay 1,400 million from a budget of 3200 million. This is why hospitals built will lack the necessary drugs to cure and so on.
In my view, all the schemes you have launched such as the youth development enterprise, the millennium airlines, etc., have only served to enrich a few people whom you have now sacrificed in the name of an anticorruption campaign. Public enterprises contribute funds to APRC activities as if the state is a party property.
The first submitted Statements of accounts of government to be presented by the Auditor General to the National assembly was done only in June this year and it covers only 1992 – 1999. The anomalies are unimaginable. The same lack of transparency shrouds your salary and allowances. Section 68 (1) states that “The President shall receive such salary and allowance as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly, and such salary and allowances shall not be altered to his or her disadvantage during his or her tenure of office.” However, the Secretary of State for Finance would not reveal your salary and allowances to the National Assembly. This is why you want a National Assembly that is under your control.
So to take leave of this subject. Mr. President let me emphasis that the Gambia is very rich but your method of governance has made it impossible for prosperity to reach the common people.
For example, in 2003, 145 million dalasis was invested in agriculture from the recurrent and development budget. This increased to 172 million in 2004. In fisheries and the environment 201 million was invested in 2004. Where is the development? The volume of transactions in the purchase and sale of foreign currency rose to 13,600 million in 2004. These large sums did not go into the productive base even though the money is available in the Gambia.
This is why in 2002 we sold 417 million worth of goods and imported 2.9 billion leaving us with a deficit of 2.5 billion. This deficit increased to 3.9 billion in 2003. It should therefore be clear that you have not come up with any economic blue print to make The Gambia prosperous. This is why 69% of the people are living in abject poverty. Mr. President you promised to meet violence with violence
Mr. President, you claimed that the courts are ineffective in serving as a deterrent to political violence and went as far as to threaten to take mattes in your own hands by responding to violence with violence.
You would agree with me that such comments would only bring the office of the president into disrepute. In my view, the court’s role is to deliver impartial justice. It is the duty of those who are given the mandate to manage the affairs of the country and those who wish to be an alternative to them to bring about peace and stability in the country. A national leader of a sovereign republic should be able to speak to all sides of the political spectrum in dealing with matters of national interests. This is where you are failing in state-personship.
What is expected of you is how you can avoid violence between citizens. In short, which Gambian who is conscious of that fact that election is nothing but the exercise of their individual sovereign power to determine who will manage monies derived from their welfare would allow himself or herself to be used to perpetrate violence against others to bar them from exercising their rights? A sovereign Gambian citizen cannot be a thug.
A thug is one who accepts to play the role of a dog with a master. A thug becomes dehumanized and senseless. One is robbed of conscience. One becomes a blind tool in the hands of the master.
Mr. President, no sovereign Gambian can accept to have a master. All dignified Gambians who are conscious that their elected representatives are their servants and not their rulers would not allow their flesh to be food for their knives and bullets just to enable a person to occupy political office.
For your information, NADD has already made the decision to empower the Gambian people. It had prepared a code of conduct to promote decency in the politics of different parties. In fact if it were not for your own decision to pollute the political climate by calling the opposition donkeys, cockroaches and other names one would have been envisaging the most peaceful electoral contests Africa has so far.
In fact, the first task I carried out as coordinator when NADD came into being was to have a meeting with the secretary of state for the interior and the Inspector General of Police. The list which cannot be completed because of eventual developments includes the National Security Council, the GAF and the NIA. The visits were to culminate with discussions with the members of the secretariat of all the parties that had not had relations with NADD with a view to motivating them to agree to a common code of conduct in pursuing our objectives.
NADD has therefore not been on the trail of bringing violence to the Gambia. It has been on the trail of consolidating democracy, which is characterized by the protection and promotion of the sovereign right of each Gambian to support the person of his or her choice without inducement or intimidation.
In fact, before you dismantled the IEC as previously constituted, all the parties met with the IEC and the representatives of the donor community, comprising the US Ambassador, the British High Commissioner and the Representative of the European Union and the Resident Representative of the UNDP.
NADD made it abundantly clear that free and fair elections serve as a pillar of integrity for any government that comes into office; that while competing for political office separates the different political parties, the existence of an electoral system which will guarantee an outcome that reflects the undiluted choice of the people should be a common objective.
We undertook to look at the strength and weaknesses of the electoral system so that no interested party will be disadvantaged. I only hope you are in touch with your party representatives at such talks. If you have been fully informed, how then could you anticipate violence when mechanisms were being put in place for a peaceful coexistence of political parties?
Mr. President, Gambia is at a crossroads. We can either take part in protecting a common destiny determined by the expression of the free will of our citizenry or promote a clash of interests promoted by an unquenchable hunger for power or greed and facilitate the crash or disintegration of the common will to survive as a people.
You have the choice to preside over the peace and development of the nation or its disintegration. At the moment there is uncertainty and skepticism because of your gross intolerance of opposition. You need to abandon such a path if you are really interested in promoting national peace and stability. In 2006, Gambians will be saying, ‘no to impunity, intimidation, violence and disunity’. They will demonstrate zero tolerance for any attempt to pit the poor against each other just to consolidate the privileges of few political elites.
2006 shall be the year of enlightenment and empowerment of the people. It will witness the democratic opening up of the country and the association of the sovereignty of the people with overwhelming thoroughness. Those who go against the wave will be marginalised. The Gambian people want leaders who will promote the free exercise of their citizenship rights in a climate of peace, freedom and justice. They do not want rulers who will subject them to fear, intimidation, impunity, insults, threats of violence and tyranny.
There is absolutely doubt that the 21st century is a century for democratic leaders and not a century for tyrannical rulers .no!. It is a century of the people, one , when there will be no need for heroes and heroines or for a personality cult to be built. It is an era when all seemingly omnipotent and omniscient leaders shall be demystified. The people shall take ownership of their power at last and utilize it to promote their dignity, liberty and prosperity. Leaders shall be humbled to abide by the dictates of the common will of the people. This is the verdict of historical science and it is inevitable and irrevocable.
To conclude, allow me to say that every attempt you make to create obstacles to the opposition is in fact having the opposite effect of transforming some of us into heroes or heroines in an unheroic age.
This is another form of mystification. The people of The Gambia should realise that it is tyrants who create heroes and heroines through their defiance in defence of truth and justice . Democracies do not create heroes and heroines since there is no tyrant to defy. There is only the hearts and minds of the people to be won. Hence in our battle to build a genuine democratic society, we must never be led to believe that we are liberated by an individual and build a personality cult around him or her. We must acknowledge that it is the duty of each to render service to the nation in accordance with one’s capacity but no one has the right to be more of a citizen than another.
Once each Gambian sees himself or herself as equal to others and sees their representatives as service providers they will never have a leader who would rely on their votes to climb on top of the pedestal of power just to become a powerful tyrant s who rules by might above them.
This, Mr. President, is the Gambia that is emerging.
Your government is confronted with a new reality, which makes your old confrontational approach unsuitable. If you fail to see the new trend you will be left behind. The people will move forward to be the architects of a new destiny of dignity, liberty and prosperity.