A Gambian rights activists, Madi Jobarteh, cautions the newly appointed cabinet of President Adama Barrow to prepare for the challenges ahead.
We welcome the first batch of the Cabinet with open arms, minds and hearts and we will support you. We hope you will allay our fears and concerns, fulfill our expectations and make our nation greater and stronger. By supporting, we will encourage and applaud your good decisions and actions, but we will also expose and criticize what we think are your poor decisions and actions. We will hold you to account based on your acceptance statements as we expect that you will conduct the affairs and manage the resources of our country with transparency, urgency and efficiency to change our lives for the better. We will not give you space and we will not entertain excuses. We expect openness, truth and information in full at the right time.
After 50 years of nationhood, we do not expect anything less and you must appreciate that we are indeed impatient because we have lost so much time and resources. We have incurred so much cost. After 22 years of an immoral tyranny, we have been deeply hurt and we are in severe pain. We are hungry and thirsty and we are sick and tired. Hence do not expect us to cool down. You will have to prove yourselves to us in every step of the way otherwise we will make the place very hot for you.
We have come almost 50 years since independence with a population that is reeling under poverty. Until today, the majority of Gambians live in deprivation with inadequate basic social goods and services. We have many more communities that lack electricity and potable water. We have the vast majority of our people who are not connected to the Internet, while preventable diseases continue to kill our people. Mothers die continuously as they give birth to a Gambian child because our public healthcare system lack the basic tools and facilities to provide the highest attainable standard of health. Our public schools and quality of education are in shambles despite the incredibly huge amount of loans and grants allocated to this sector.
Scores of our young people lack basic opportunities to acquire the necessary skills to be able to contribute their quota to national development. Consequently thousands of them continue to migrate through the most deadly journeys. I do not need to give you social and economic statistics to tell you that indeed we have a broken country that needs urgent, efficient and robust fixing.
While we pay taxes, which are among the highest in the world, and have consumed loans far beyond our GDP, yet it is still more expensive for Gambians to acquire the basics of life. We still pay more for education and utility. We pay more for communications in all its forms. But in return we receive only poor quality goods and services that we have paid with so much money by our taxes and from our pockets. Even though our constitution guarantees our fundamental rights and freedoms, and we have signed all the major regional and international human rights instruments, yet we have lived in a culture of abuse and impunity. We need justice urgently.
Thus when we come this far, we wish to tell you that you have found us really broken down and tired and angry and aggrieved. We therefore expect not just compassion and honesty in addressing the needs and aspirations of our people, but equally important, we need a new, modern and smart leadership and administration.
You have only 36 months in office and during that period we wish to see our statecraft modernized in such a way as to deliver us in a Third Republic founded on strong pillars of democracy and good governance. We also wish to see a modernized economy with relevant and necessary policies and renewed institutions that would support Gambian investors and entrepreneurs and make our economy flourish. We need a legal and policy environment, which would make it cost effective for Gambians in the Diaspora to easily transfer their knowledge, skills and resources back home to help further strengthen our economy. This way they will create jobs, contribute to government revenue and transform the lives of our people.
While I await the announcement of the rest of the Cabinet, and in particular the position of the Vice President, I wish to emphasize the adherence to the rule of law in all the decisions and actions that your administration will make.
I have no doubts that you are all men and a woman with immense knowledge, experience, and integrity with unshakable patriotism. Therefore I do not expect anything less. I would further advise that in the remaining positions to emerge, the gender and ethnic balance be better manifested which will help to make this regime even more inclusive. In that way, the leadership of Barrow and his government will enjoy much more legitimacy, public confidence and trust and therefore strength.
I wish you all the best.
God Bless the Gambia.
The author, Madi Jobarteh, is a human rights activists currently studying in Neitherlands