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African Bar Association – persona non grata

Dec 23, 2016, 11:20 AM | Article By: Modou Mboge

Such is our political predicament that associations of all colours have been coming out of the woodwork, but as far as I can gather, from reading the newspapers, they have all been singing from the same hymn sheet: the out-going president must step down peacefully, in honour of his acceptance speech. All in choral harmony, bar one: the African Bar Association.

It was quite curious to me that an undistinguished, hitherto un-heard of, collection of lawyers had decided to wade into our troubled political waters, giving unsolicited advice, on matters they hardly know anything about.

Reports of their meeting with our out-going president were splashed all over the papers, and when I read what they had to say, I could not believe the sanitised, mealy-mouthed pap these legal luminaries were passing off for sound judgement.

At the meeting, the president of the Association spoke about “Gambian issues can best be discussed and addressed by Gambians”; and that the Association believes in “African solutions to African problems”.

He cautioned against outside involvement in our domestic politics; and rambled on a bit about dispute resolution – in short, the president of AFBA skirted around the elephant in the room and ‘came out of this detergent process sounding perfectly banal’, and cleansed of all quiddity.

The elephant in the room, Sir, is this: the constitutional position of the Gambia right now is what the IEC declared: President-in-waiting Adama Barrow won the presidential election. And it will be so until the Supreme Court decides otherwise. I am not a lawyer, but I do understand that, though the Chief Justice can sit on his own, all matters of finality can be decided only by a full, 5-member Supreme court. More importantly, this process of petition filing does not in any way affect the fact that the current presidential term ends on the 18th January 2017.

And that President-in-waiting Barrow will be sworn in on the 19th January 2017. In 2011, while out-going president Jammeh was being sworn in, Ousainou Darboe’s petition was doing the legal rounds. So out-going president Jammeh’s petition is one thing; President-in-waiting Adama Barrow’s swearing in ceremony on 19th January 2017, quite another. And the twain shall not meet.

And the thing about ‘Gambian solutions to Gambian problems’ and ‘African solutions to African problems’ – where have you been, Sir? When the Gambia voted in Adama Barrow, we were applying a Gambian solution to a Gambian problem; when ECOWAS sent over four presidents in one day, not to mention the series of meetings held, to try to resolve our situation, they were applying African solutions to an African problem.

President Hollande’s views, and the EU’s, and the rest of the West’s, merely reflect and echo what we ourselves have been saying. There is no imposition, here. The thing is, AFBA has been the dissonant, weakest link in a universal orchestra of vocal unanimity.

While writing this piece, a story I heard some time ago came to mind: in the 2008 presidential election in Ghana, a group of Nigerian officials had gone to Accra for the event, and when news broke that John Atta Mills had defeated the ruling party candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, one of them asked, how could you let this happen? Because by his reckoning ‘the party paid for the electoral commission, therefore had the right to expect the ‘right’ result’. This is the kind of cynical politics we want to steer well clear of. And to that end, we must be wary of enemies who look like friends, and the self-seeking who noisily wallow in the stardust of selflessness.