EU Ambassador Weighs in on 3 Years Jotna Debate

Friday, August 23, 2019

The European Union Ambassador to The Gambia Attila Lajos has weighed in on the issue of whether or not President Adama Barrow should step down at the end of his three years.

In an exclusive interview with The Chronicle, Ambassador Lajos also spoke extensively about the coalition agreement and other pertinent issues.

Ambassador Lajos made it clear that EU has been a staunch supporter for the transition and the change to democratic dispensation.

“The hope we had were the same hopes like Gambian people had ie freedom, prosperity and development. I think is equally important for us because we also look at it from a regional perspective. I think the more secured the Gambia is, the more prosperous; the more-free and the more-democratic and the more it will have a positive impact on the region as a whole. And indeed for the EU to have countries as their partners who are embarking on democratic transition, I think it’s a good course to support”.

EU Ambassador acknowledged it is two and half years and that the challenges faced by the first coalition government in the country were tremendous, recalling that back 2017 the country was a step ahead from collapsing financially.

Despite these challenges, Ambassador Lajos said there are achievements made thus far citing transitional justice, TRRC and Constitutional Review Commission, which he said, are all success stories.

The EU diplomat lauded the current state of democracy in the country, where people are free to express their views unlike the former regime. 

He noted that from the EU perspective the rule of law and democracy in a country are key importance especially during the transition.

“The rule of law says an elected President may stay for five years. So, from a legal perspective from a legal point of view, there is nothing wrong with the winner of the 2016 elections to stay in power for five years. Legally speaking, there is no requirement in any other way.”

Ambassador Lajos also acknowledged that it is also true many are claiming that there were promises made.

When you refer to this agreement; the so-called agreement among the Coalition parties, we all know that this agreement is not real agreement. This was a draft memorandum of understanding, which effectively really wasn’t signed by the participants. Nevertheless, even if it had been signed, this is not a legal instrument, which will repeal the constitutional provisions,” he added.

 “From my perspective, what we are talking about here; is a moral question. Any politician, who makes a promise is to be held accountable for whatever promises he or she made. So, this issue of whether it is right or not by President Barrow to stay in office for five years, it is really not a legal issue. I am not judging whether the President is right or not; I am not judging whether the three years jotna is right or wrong. What I am saying as they are expressing their views, and they shall be allowed to express their views because freedom of expression is a cornerstone of any democracy; anywhere in the world. Civil Society associations are free to protest as we speak now; you can see protest in the country; every now and then; as far as they follow the rules to secure permits; they are allowed to protest”.

He indicated that he was not judging on these issues, but what he said was that: “these are moral questions; political questions, which this country including the civil society and the many different political parties will have to address. But once again, from an EU perspective, we cannot say that there is a legal requirement for the incoming President to step down after three years. He may do so, if he so wishes”.