Our Gambia: Demonstrating flexibility to emerging challenges to help restore and retain confidence

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Sariang Marong

By: Sariang Marong

It is collective understanding that the alliance between societies and governments are likely to face persistent tensions because of growing inequality between what the public expect and what government can deliver. If widening of lack of delivery by government for societies continues more political volatility, risk of washing aways democratic gains and the call for a better source of governance will amplify. Growing public discontent, catapulted by persistent crisis and uninspired leadership could be a recipe for public uprising. Over the past week, our public discourse has shifted due to President Barrow’s inability to direct and communicate the pressing issues of our society.

Gambian people with the expectation that their government is responsible for addressing their challenges, and to solicit more from their leaders to deliver creative solutions to their complex problems.

Notwithstanding, not only do we see the lack of addressing those pressing issues, but the President engaged in political scene which created euphoria to further polarized our divided country. Let me make this clear that political tensions have negative bearing on “Mama Gambia” and her poor people, the back and forth does not do a darn thing for those average Gambians struggling to make end means. The lack of solid economic growth has strained the capacity of Barrow administration to provide services. His government has been hamstrung with debt on an unprecedented scale, persistent inequality between rural and urban Gambia coupled with corruption, citizen’s faith in government and trust in one another has dissipated. Individually and collectively, citizens will continue to mount pressure and challenge the government to shift their role in many new ways to render services for its citizens.

Citizens give mandate to their government, for government to harness the system of governance by providing adequate expectations to meet the demands of its population. Among many of these expectations at a smaller scale; address advancing economic opportunities, address the gap between the rich and the poor, reduce crime and corruption depending on who you asked? Barrow administration is under water on all these goals.

If you asked supporters of Barrow Administration they will point to infrastructure developments, such as roads, health centers and most recently the addition of mix rewardable energy which are all are commendable. However, lack of transparency in our government institutions, insufficient government responses, lack of desire for system change and public dissatisfaction of the status quo are all signs of political turbulence.

President Barrow’s recent utterances especially in response to UDP party leader Darboe regarding ferries. As the main opposition leader, it is incumbent upon Darboe to rise the issues of ferries especially when it impacts the economic wellbeing of the people, the free flow of goods and services of those living in the north bank region of the Gambia. Who is more suited to bring this issue into public domain than the main opposition figure? The president should have responded with his government’s plan to tackle the ferry debacle rather he gets into the personality stuff which has zero bearing on the plight of those poor folks who’s live, and livelihood depends on the ferry. The president and his minister have not addressed the plight of farmers, address food sufficiency and plans to minimize dependency on imports for basic commodities. The national poverty rate is at 53.4%, poverty is concentrated in rural areas which stands at 76% of the population; nearly 75% of the poor population are farmers. Approximately 11% of the country is chronically food insecure and 21% of the children are malnourished which impacts life expectancy.

I attended a conference three weeks ago; the facilitator implied at the end of the session by saying “Learn to be more honest with yourself and others”. The facilitator further elaborated by saying “focus on things that you are in denial, or you are uncomfortable to share, which may be good or bad it will make you a better person”! I took heed to the advice. Is President Barrow comfortable with the status quo? Is the President holding to account those who lack capacity to deliver services on behalf of Gambians? Is the President honest with himself the 100 SUV’s procured for two days OIC summit when the country’s debt has spiked out of control? Is the President honest to explain to Gambians the actual cost of those 100 SUV’s and how they are acquired?

Finally, my advice to our President and former cousin, appealing to the dark instincts of our population will be exceedingly difficult to reverse. If the trend continues the situation will worsen and reinforce political dysfunction, gridlock, and intensify risks of political instability. The former close confidants of Yaya Jammeh are now the confidants of President Barrow go figure, these are individuals who never objected or voiced dissent against Jammeh’s atrocities, because they believe in power, short- and long-term economic gains at the detriment of many Gambians. The chest pounding, going after opposition parties, self-claim of supremacy is Yaya style of leadership replica of dark days of our Republic! Gambia has chosen the mantra “Never Again” to end self-perpetuating and dictatorial tendencies. Gambians are persistent in their collective spirit to uphold the democratic gains from 2016! No matter how the pendulum swings they will be steadfast in their resolve to maintain an enduring nature of peace, political pluralism, economic growth which will shape our country for future generations.

Sariang Marong
Vancouver, WA
USA

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