By Madi Jobarteh
It is without doubt that President Adama Barrow spoke well at the United Nations. His posture, tone and words were dignified. Barrow’s speech must be seen in itself based on its own merits. His speech must not be perceived against Yaya Jammeh’s speeches even though that despicable despot is still fresh in our minds.
Barrow is a leader in his own right and Yaya Jammeh does not serve as his standard of measurement. Adama Barrow is the President of the Republic of the Gambia with responsibilities to represent the Gambia. He did that to the fullest at that podium and he must not be referenced against Yaya Jammeh.
It is with such perspective that we would be able to objectively assess his speech in order to determine its merits or demerits. The United Nations General Assembly is not a forum for fanfare to feel good. When world leaders meet they deal with life and death issues as highlighted in Barrow’s speech. The General Assembly is therefore an accountability platform where leaders review and assess the state and performance of their individual countries and the rest of the world and offer solutions as the way forward. Barrow did not fail to do that.
For that matter, Gambians must hold Barrow to account for the speech he gave. Of particular interest to Gambians should be the issues he raised on the home front. He spoke of the intentions of his government to engage in reforms and transformations in order to address the vestiges and injustices of the past and build a future of what he called the New Gambia. He raised concerns on a number of national issues such as expanding respect for human rights, youth unemployment, reforms in the administrative and judicial structures as well as legal, constitutional and institutional changes among others.
He went further to emphasize the need to restore Gambia’s international standing in its membership to world bodies and processes and its commitment to its international obligations. In that regard he spoke of taking the Gambia back to the Commonwealth, ICC and accession to the Africa Peer Review Mechanism.
At the international level Barrow raised the usual perennial issues of the Palestine-Israel crisis, the China-Taiwan issue as well as the issues of terrorism, climate change and inequality. The world has been grappling with these issues for decades. As he rightly said these are not pestering issues because of lack of knowledge or resources, rather these unsolved issues merely manifest the lack of political will.
Gambians must therefore remind Barrow that it is already eight months into office yet the truth and reconciliation commission has yet to be set up. The process to review the constitution is yet to materialize while obnoxious and anti-human rights laws that he said, in his manifesto would be repealed within six months of taking office are yet to be done. Therefore as Barrow prepares to return home Gambians must greet him with placards to remind him of his campaign promises.
Furthermore Gambians must remind him that while he spoke of system change, yet the presence of old system managers are rife in his government. How therefore could there be system change?
The issue of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is of particular interest. This is because the APRM is a process and a instrument intended to institute system change in African governments by adhering to and practicing democracy and good governance principles at both political, economic and corporate levels. APRM is a voluntary mechanism in which an Africa government accepts to assess itself as well have its fellow governments subject it to a review on key indicators of democracy, good governance and socio-economic development.
Hence when Barrow mentions his intention to have the Gambia join the APRM, this must be a welcome move for which Gambians must follow him to ensure he does that. By assenting to the APRM process, it means that Barrow indeed wishes to see system change take place in the Gambia. Therefore Gambians must not just let Barrow speak about it but we must pick this item to flag it until he does so as soon as possible. So far about two-thirds of African countries have accepted the APRM process.
Pres. Barrow must therefore be commended for expressing this intention to join the APRM. He must also be commended for his speech, which was not only historic but also the kind of speech one expects from a leader of a country that went through a terrible political upheaval and became a subject of such international goodwill. Therefore his acknowledgements and words of gratitude were in place and directed at the right targets. What is needed now is for Barrow to pursue through his reforms with gusto so as not to disappoint and lose international partners and goodwill.
Our role as citizens is to continue to be vigilant by flagging these issues in his face so as not to allow him to be derailed or delayed. Barrow and all Gambians must realize that the international community is not in love with any country. Secondly just by attracting international attention at one point does not mean such attention will continue forever. There are far many competing urgencies around the word such that no country has the capacity to retain an unending international attention and goodwill. Otherwise the Israeli – Palestine Crisis would have been solved a long time ago. But as Barrow himself said, political will is indeed in short supply in the world. So let Barrow and the Gambia take advantage of that political will we currently enjoy while we are in the limelight of the international community. Soon the light will go away to another country!
God Bless The Gambia