Diaspora calls on the Government to prioritize and accelerate promised reforms
Lament the disenfranchisement of at least 100,000 Gambians living abroad
Participants of the Gambia Conference on Reforms and Democracy- GAMCORD, met on 10-12 June, 2019, under the theme: ‘The Diaspora’s potential for impactful reforms in times of transition’, and raised concerns over the slow progress being made in prioritizing and accelerating democratic reforms in the country.
The conference produced a three-page Resolution, which observed that transitions are challenging, especially after 22 years of tyranny and dysfunctionality across the entire system of government. They stated that revamping such anomalies is daunting. However, participants agreed that, there was no excuse for the slow progress being made to consolidate, promote and protect the democratic gains made, when the citizens elected to remove dictatorship from their midst. They pointed to the disintegration of the Coalition 2016, and lack of political will, as responsible factors for the deviation from promises made, which has precipitated a worrying trend of political polarization, and politics of ethnicity in the country.
Participants also expressed shock and frustration over the actions of the government, whom they blamed for deliberately ‘engaging in a set of selective amendments, which do not inspire confidence and undermines public trust and goodwill in the current Administration.’ These, they said included the Elections Amendment Act 2017; and the Gambia Public Procurement Act 2017. Concerns were also raised about the continued disregard for environmental laws and policies.
The conference expressed deep disappointment at the disenfranchisement of more than 100,000 Gambians, which they say violates fundamental rights of expression and universal adult suffrage. ‘The 1997 Constitution guarantees every Gambia the right to vote and be voted for, and this has been selectively applied in every election. This illegal practice needs to cease, as a matter of urgency, to allow for Gambians abroad to vote in the upcoming referendum, and beyond’. Failing which, delegates said they will propose legislation to align the electoral law with the 1997 Constitution, otherwise they will take legal action against the government.
The gathering zeroed in on the corruption, a legacy of the Jammeh regime, which has crept into the Barrow Administration. Delegates requested the Office of the President to desist from interfering in contracting and procurement processes, which only entrenches the culture of secrecy and corruption. They urged the Presidency to re-delegate such responsibilities to The Gambia Public Procurement Agency, a move they believe will ensure that transparency in contracting and procurement are in line with the laws and procedures. ‘This will also discourage tender rigging, price fixing, cartelism and rent seeking behaviour, which are the hall marks of secrecy, corruption and arbitrariness, which is being entrenched in the Barrow administration’, the Resolution states.
The National Assembly was not spared either. Delegates implored National Assembly members: ‘to show leadership and exercise their oversight role by ensuring that the constitutional review process is protected from political interference’. They called on the MPs to pave the way for a referendum on the finalization of the review draft (Constitution), by passing a law that expressly provides for a vote on the proposed constitution before the 2021 general elections.
The GAMCORD Resolution focused on key sectoral areas, which were identified for urgent reforms: the security, civil, and foreign service sectors; media legislation, and accession to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM); and the educational sector.
The two-day meeting saw about 50 participants from the Diaspora, CSOs, and private sector, also interact with the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), as formal submissions for inclusion in the review of the constitution were made through the Right to Know (R2K) Gambia chapter.
The GAMCORD document was first drafted in January 2017. It was shelved mainly due to the dashed expectations experienced over the period. The 2019 meeting was jointly organized by the Right 2 Know-Gambia (R2K) and others partners.
- To interface with the Constitutional Review Commission and exchange views on the CRC process in general and on issues specific to the relevant provisions of the Constitution that impacts directly and tangentially on the lives of Gambians living and/or working abroad.
- To initiate / strengthen citizen driven processes, in collaboration with NAMs (particularly the Foreign Affairs Standing Committee) who derive their authority directly from the citizenry, and elevate the most pressing issues/challenges that the country must tackle if the principles of a citizenry centred developmental agenda is to be attained.
III. To assess and identify the thematic areas of intervention (for the government, the private sector, development partners, and friends of The Gambia) through an open, systematic process commencing with an agreed to methodology, set of evidence based exercises including discussion papers, technical documents and broad national debate.
- Agree to a strategic developmental and legislative agenda.
- Ensure that the GAMCORD Conference is participatory, representative and vibrant- working with CSOs, the CRC, development partners and NAMS ensures that representation at a constituency level is guaranteed, in a strategic and systematic manner.