“The Old Order is Fading Away and A New One Is Struggling to Be Born”
Fatoumatta: Despite the hopes and aspirations invested in President Adama Barrow, Philosopher Karl Marx’s reference to Hagel fits Barrow like a glove: “All historical personalities reveal themselves twice, the first time as tragedy the second time as farce.” Fatoumatta: Was President Barrow of 2016 Coalition standard bearer a tragic figure? Has the Barrow incursion since January 19,2017 descended into farce?
Fatoumatta: Youth unemployment, corruption, bureaucratic incompetence and economic paralysis are the bane of this regime. The country today is crying for action — practical measures to guarantee the citizens that the government has been seized of their concerns. Instead of providing this leadership, President Barrow and his lieutenants, the Cabinet, and National Assembly members — have adopted a default campaign mode of regaling the public with tales of largesse to come.
Fatoumatta: The rise of anger within the polity forces a recall of Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notes (1891 – 1937). Therein the Italian philosopher states that, “The old order is fading away and a new one is struggling to be born. In the interregnum all manner of morbid forces is revealing themselves”. The Gambia is in an impasse, the strategies needed to slay the morbid symptoms have become the issues of our time.
Fatoumatta: In new Gambia, the crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old order is dying, the new could yet be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear in the government of President AdamaBarrow. This is where the Gambia currently finds itself. The old order where a handful of oligarchy of men around the president lord it over the poor masses is dying and the new order struggles to be born; now is the time of monsters. The old order of a society built on the quicksand of tribalism, corruption and impunity is dying but the new cannot be born. The old order, where thieves in white boubous and suits walk along the corridors of power pretending to be captains of industry is dying, and the new order struggles to be born.
But the new cannot be born. The new beloved community built on a foundation of truth, justice and brotherly love. The new order governed by the rule of law, where nobody is above the law. The new Gambia where we uphold the inherent dignity of each citizen. This new order cannot yet be born because of the morbid fear of those who temporarily wield power. They sense that power slipping away, and they are terrified to know what they did to attain it and they know what they have done with it, and they sense that the hour of reckoning is at hand. They are scared because they cannot survive in a world of fair competition because they have never had to.
Fatoumatta: President Barrow, there comes a time when the rhetoric must stop, and some work gets done. Gambian voters challenge you, President Barrow to walk the talk of executive probity and nationhood this year. For close to three years, you have been declaring your ‘tigritude’ on rooftops, it is now time to pounce. Not least because your legacy hinges on it, but it is the only decent thing to do.
Corruption has scarred nearly all aspects of life in the Gambia, and all too frequently it is the middle-level officials who are caught and scapegoated, whilst the so-called “big fish” continue to go unpunished. Until the system forces these upper echelons to be accountable for their actions, the public will continue to perceive that things have not improved.
Fatoumatta: President Adama Barrow administration’s penchant for secrecy is not a media issue; it is a democracy issue. The lack of definitional precision for strengthening accountability, the importance of government transparency, respect to probity, and enhancing good governance makes it the weak spot in Barrow’s otherwise successful measures to curb megasleaze and corruption .
Ponder this irony: A political movement driven by populist fervor is now aggressively shutting the public out of the business of government. The proclivity for concealment extends from State House briefings to government agencies to the executive, the judiciary and the legislative’s taste for hiding institutional processes from the prying eyes of taxpayers.
President Barrow, meanwhile, has not authorized the Ombudsperson from disclosing on the release of his Assets and Liabilities Declaration, and all of his Cabinet Ministers, senior government official and security heads from the general public and the news medias to scrutinize their dockets supposedly to “protect the confidentiality” of the public document and government officials who submitted them. President Barrow media aides have not provided information at otherwise routine news briefings concerning dockets about all Assets and Liabilities of serving and sacked Cabinet Ministers examining about their wealth.
Admittedly things change fast, but so far opinions about openness in government have not splintered along ideological lines. (The attacks on leaks is perhaps another matter.) There is no populist groundswell insisting that the government be trusted to run in privacy, or the public be kept in the dark. This is especially true when trust in government institutions seems to be at historical lows on both sides of the political spectrum. Sunlight is always a good disinfectant, but never more so than when the public is convinced that we are disinfecting a fetid swamp.
Fatoumatta: The periodic public disclosure of personal assets would help to ensure that unexplained wealth, especially ill-gotten gains, do not go unnoticed. The government of President Adama Barrow has conducted a spate of probes into the corruption of Yahya Jammeh, and the string of corruption cases indicates a serious and alarmingly routine abuse of power and misconduct by public officials. This points to serious structural flaws in the system that have allowed these loopholes to be manipulated for massive fraud and the swindling of public funds. This issue has been plaguing the Gambia’s growth and competitiveness.
Declaring assets behind doors, which is what occurred in the past regimes and in the current governments, no longer suffices, as it reeked of secrecy and opacity instead of promoting transparency and honesty. Asset declarations should be accessible to the public as part of their right to know and be informed, instead of being made only internally within the government.
Studies show that an asset declaration open to public scrutiny is a way for the public to ensure leaders do not abuse their power for personal gain. Published information on a person’s assets allows a civil society to hold its leaders to account. Making a public declaration of assets is an effective anti-corruption tool.
Fatoumatta: While the Declaration of Assets should be done periodically and kept on record by an effective independent body, it is also appropriate to have forensic accounting experts and investigators monitor the assets periodically. An asset profiling system should be introduced to determine what assets personnel are expected to have, based on their positions, years of service, and their present and past emoluments.
Fatoumatta: The Gambian society needs to bolster the campaign on enactment of the Declaration of Assets and the Anti-Corruption law to build a public understanding of the debilitating effects of corruption in society. To ensure the well-being of the nation, such enactments must be undertaken in a courageous and impartial fashion. All too often, anti-corruption voices are themselves deemed to be tainted and lacking in impartiality.