By: Prof. Abdoulaye Saine
President Barrow’s diatribe against Media Platforms, Human Rights Advocates, and Community Activists, which symbolized and targeted Madi Jobarteh, was both shocking, and frightening. Wagging his finger as he threatened all who dared to express a different or dissenting view, President Barrow reminded me of Gambia’s dark, and dictatorial past under Jammeh. Never Again!
A “New Gambia,” and its handlers must exercise tolerance for dissenting, and different views and voices- these are essential ingredients for a democracy to evolve and mature. I am not sure who is advising President Barrow, but he could have handled the situation differently by paying greater heed to the deeper meaning, and message of his critics rather than his outburst and personal attacks on Jobarteh and Media, Korrriteh Day 2022.
President Barrow Must listen more to his critics rather than his panel of advisors/praise-singers, spin-artists, and apologists. This is because Gambians have a lot to be angry about:(I see and live it every day): unfulfilled promises, perceptions of rising corruption, mounting food, rent, and fuel prices, shady land allocations to the well-connected, crime, just to name a few, and the general perception that Government has not done much to alleviate the suffering among average Gambians. To add insult to injury, President Barrow has yet to unveil his cabinet, four months following his inauguration. Barrow should have hit the ground running and seized the proverbial first 100-Days of his second term, to deliver a policy punch rather than wait until Korriteh Day 2022.
From where I sit in the Gambia, supporters, sympathizers, opposition, and dissidents alike live in the same predicament and express views of their suffering(s). This does not mean they are opposed to Barrow’s rule or wish to *”set the country on fire.” Far from it, in a democracy people have a fundamental right to express their views- the 1997 Constitution with all its flaws guarantees these rights. In addition, an electoral victory/mandate must not be a basis to erode the rights of citizens or take a dictatorial turn.
President Barrow must reconsider his policy pronouncements and endeavor to reconcile a deeply broken people and polarized country; speak words that heal rather than aggravate a traumatized nation where hopelessness is deepening by the day.
President Barrow, please Don’t shoot the messengers. They embody the aspirations and frustrations of the average Gambian who placed you in office. A confrontational and threatening posture from your office is likely to inspire resistance.