OPINION: SHOWCASING THE GAMBIA EXPERIENCE: A BLESSING IN DISGUISE

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has manifested its effectiveness in its handling of the political impasse in the Gambia. Measures ranging from a series of high level diplomatic overtures that did not yield the desired results to a Military Intervention designed to literally uproot an oracle-oriented charlatan were launched and ECOWAS can now be proud of flying its flag high for coming in the form of a divine intervention to salvage a member state that was tottering on the brink of an armed conflict. This is a clear manifestation of the spirit of solidarity member states should render when another is in genuine need of salvation. The Gambia Experience can now be cited as a reference within international circles on crisis mitigation.

The Gambian Experience furthermore attracted the attention of the entire international community particularly the African Union and the United Nations that unanimously endorsed the ECOWAS Declaration that called for a respect of the will of the people: the verdict of the people must prevail was the theme at their high level meetings. Cards played in the favor of this country of two million people because if one needed a prism or a pair of lens to locate Gambia on the map it suddenly rendered the use of glasses futile or obsolete as a lot of light was beamed onto our nation giving her a more pronounced image on the world map. What the international community watched was the forcible transfer of power – diplomatic channels had failed to yield fruits – that led to the inauguration of the third President of the Republic, President Adama Barrow. What the international community is expecting to see is the institution of credible and viable democratic institutions – the structures exist already but must be reinforced with the values concomitant with good governance. We must not be oblivious of the fact that it was not only officials of the United Nations, African Union, European Union and ECOWAS that were watching the Gambia Experience, perhaps with keen interest. Potential investors as well as traditional and would-be Partners were also watching and this augurs to be beneficial to sectors such as Tourism, the Agricultural sector, Health and Education as well as other sectors. We have a lot to gain from this experience and maintaining sound policies is going to prove to be a means of attracting investors and the attention of the above mentioned international bodies that may choose to boost their funding of projects and programs to our benefit. To Decide means to Choose and if the Speech Delivered by President Adama Barrow on his inauguration on Gambian Soil on 18th February, 2017 coinciding with the 52nd Independent Anniversary of the Republic of the Gambia, is anything to go by, then I can safely say that we have once and for all chosen to be guided by democratic principles and the rule of law to the best interest of the country – that is the bait we need to tickle their attention and subsequent support.

The disgraceful extirpation of Ali Baba and his Gang on January 20th – even though they embarked with their loot to the chagrin of many - and the return of President Barrow as well as Gambians that had sought refuge in neighboring countries is a significant achievement for ECOWAS but also for the entire international community as it poses as an event that marked a sincere demonstration of good will, resolve and of solidarity among the members of the Community – particularly when backed by the global body. The Gambia Experience therefore serves a mutually beneficial role both for the Regional Body – ECOWAS – and for our Country. It is going to translate into an asset for the country and we must capitalize on it in terms of the democratic image or toga that the country must now wear to entice support from outside. ECOWAS on the other hand, has a lot to study from and learn from the Gambia Experience as well as the bigger international bodies that backed its intervention in the Gambia. The physical presence of a detachment of the ECOMIG Forces at the Parade marking Independence Day cum Inauguration of the President-Elect is testimony to the symbol of solidarity expressed at the Regional Level. The physical presence also of notable ECOWAS Heads of State at this Inauguration lends credence to their desire, not only to pay lip service to events in the sub-region but also to play an active role when necessity calls for it. Their presence also beamed high intensity light rays on the country because it manifested their stance for the choice for democratic practices as enshrined in the charters of the international bodies thereby boosting the country’s credibility towards the international community whilst also scaling up our resilience to the impasse. The Gambia Experience is already a written document on an intervention mission to a country where the citizenry is not divided along ethnic or religious lines but where political power is used to suppress the voice of the majority. An intervention force as already demonstrated in the Gambia Experience will solve the problem much easier than it would have in the event there was deep seated ethnic or religious schisms that would involve a division or even disintegration in the army along ethnic or religious affiliations as well as the creation of militias and jihadist groups or suicide bombers. Any Plan of Action by ECOWAS to intervene militarily in the sub-region must consider the nature of the problem as regards ethnicity or religious orientation of the population or whether it is purely a political problem as in the case of the Gambia. There is no ethnic or religious strife in the country though projected to appear extant. Rather people get on well irrespective of their ethnic or religious origin. It has now been proven to be a cosmetic decoration that only served to propagate the insatiable appetite to hang on to power by any means by a Machiavellian leader.

This February 18, 2017 event also marks the first of its kind in the History of the Gambia that the inauguration of a Head of State was done under the auspices of the Regional Body – ECOWAS – and for reasons well known to all of us. Diplomatic pressure propelled by President Macky Sall of the Sister Republic of Senegal played a crucial role in dissipating the December 9, 2016 to the 18 of January 2017 impasse that brought sanity back to the country. The diplomatic moves he undertook at the level of ECOWAS, the AU and the UN in our best interest was just to get them do the right thing and he will be assessed thusly. Is there a difference between the Person of the President and the Office of the President? I think there is. Whereas the person of the president is an occupant of the seat of President, he may not conform to the acceptable norms or standards governing national or international behavior and we have had our fair share of such a leader and wish that he be the last. Where the person of the president conforms or abides to the rules, regulations, standards or norms defining the Office of the President, he or she may be perceived as taking actions that do not overstep or transcend the acceptable limits of national or international behavior and thus earn the reputation of being a good leader and this is what we wish for our new leaders. Good governance therefore pays dividends as it attracts investors and other potential partners rather than provoking an undesirable intervention that would reduce or relegate one to the category of a pariah.

We therefore must adopt and maintain it, preserve and conserve it so jealously as to hand it over as a palatable legacy to the future generation. Only then would success be a feature or trait of this administration and with all wishing and praying for good luck, the desired result would be reached. The journey is not going to be mellifluous but hard work can ferry us across to the other river bank where the Gambia Experience would have paid off dividends.

 SHEIKH TIJAN M.D.SALLA

Source: Picture: SHEIKH TIJAN M.D.SALLA