Over the Independence weekend of the Gambia Mr. Dawda Jallow the Attorney General of the Gambia issued a statement dated 21st February 2023 in which he made some irresponsible and impertinent political comments against Honorable Ousainou Darboe, the Secretary General & Party Leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP).
We have also heard two cabinet ministers and the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly at a press event of the NPP attempting to cast aspersions on the character of the UDP Party Leader.
UDP will not respond to the comments of the political flunkies of President Barrow who instead of attending to the business of the people they are paid to do are constantly trafficking in demagoguery. In this case the fact that they do not understand their constitutional mandates and responsibilities under the laws of the Gambia is due to the incompetence of the Principal Legal Adviser of the Government.
However, we note that the personal attacks on Lawyer Darboe by the Attorney General is unprecedented in the annals of the Gambia’s political discourse and hence require a response: Not even in the darkest days of the Jammeh dictatorship has, an Attorney General entered the political arena in such a disgraceful manner.
Out of the twelve or so Attorney Generals that served under dictator Jammeh none has ever issued such a ridiculous statement.
In a bid to rationalize and justify the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry at this material time, Mr. Jallow exposed his shallow comprehension of the 1997 Constitution and principle of separation of powers. Mr. Jallow in his immature statement referred to another bogus Commission of Inquiry set up by former President Jammeh to investigate Legal Practitioners and businesspeople for tax compliance. Jammeh’s real target was Lawyer Darboe one of greatest members of the legal fraternity of the Gambia.
Dawda Jallow’s reference to dictator Jammeh’s malicious tactics against his political rivals betrays his invidious motives in issuing his statement. He failed to mention that dictator Jammeh used a similar witch- hunting Commission of Inquiry against former Mayor Abdoulie Conteh and eventually hounded the elected Mayor of KMC out of office. Gambians have seen this political subterfuge before.
We expect our Attorney General to at all times speak to the law and not to make trite citations of constitutional provisions in a time of transitions away from a political dispensation where the law and state institutions were weaponized by dictator Jammeh to victimize his political opponents, the media and human rights defenders.
In a democratic society, the law determines the accountability mechanisms and channels and in the case of Local Government Authorities, there are both legislative and executive scrutiny by the National Assembly and the National Audit Office respectively. But as noted above the laws under dictator Jammeh were designed to defeat proper accountability, notwithstanding the fact that the 1997 Constitution of the Gambia provided a robust accountability framework for local government authorities viz:
Section 192 (1) of the constitution provides that ‘Local government administration in The Government Gambia shall be based on a system of democratically elected councils with a high degree of local autonomy’’. And Section 192 (3) F. ‘’the management, control and oversight of the authority’s finances and the audit of its accounts by the Auditor-General;’’
The UDP as a Party upholds the principle of accountable financial management for public officials. As noted by many commentators the local government authorities have been regularly audited by the competent authorities and any audit findings therein shall be dealt with in accordance with normal administrative procedures for public financial management.
The UDP believes that the setting up of a commission of inquiry for democratically elected local leaders at this material moment is politically motivated, totally unnecessary and a waste of public resources by the Government.
This whole situation is quite ridiculous. The councils in total account for less than 2% of public finances. Barrow and his NPP sit over 98% of public resources. This Commission is coming from a government that has not prosecuted a single person for corruption. Since 2019 the Gambia has been slipping down corruption rankings.
Transparency International Corruption Index (2022) ranks the Gambia at 110/180. It is less corrupt than only 70 countries out of 180 countries considered. and the Gambia scored 34/100 in its 2022 ranking.
The Barrow government has made no efforts to reduce corruption, which remains a serious problem. Allegations of fraud and corruption on officials at all levels of government are routinely unearthed by the reports of the National Audit Office and investigative journalists, starting from the Office of the President. State owned Enterprises face allegations of improperly funneling money to private citizens.
The Banjul Roads Project, Semlex National Identity Card Project, $35 Million Fatoumatta Bah Barrow Foundation, Covid 19 Funds and Securiport Affair to mention a few. The weirdness of this situation is obvious for all to see and to see a so called professional like Dawda Jallow partaking in this is indeed disappointing.
It is widely known that President Barrow has no Government experience before becoming president in 2017. He has benefited from tremendous legal knowledge and advice from his first Attorney General. Unfortunately, that seems to have changed in 2020 when Attorney General A. M. Tambadou resigned before the new draft constitution was presented to the National Assembly.
UDP believes that it is for very good reasons that the Constitution provided a very strong professional qualifications for the position of Attorney General in the cabinet. This is to guide the government of the day on the rule of law and good governance principles.
The chief legal adviser of the Gambia Government should not be an active participant in partisan politics. The chief law officer of the state must not be engaged in political brinkmanship, instead he should focus on advising and facilitating on the enactment of just and better laws to promote transparency and accountability.
From the foregoing it is clear what the AG Jallow needs to do urgently for the Gambians is to thoroughly investigate all these allegations of corruption against the government of The Gambia and diligently prosecute all cases of wrongdoing instead of engaging in petty partisan political squabbles to flatter the ego of President Adama Barrow.
NPP’s and President Barrow’s deranged obsession with the person of Lawyer Darboe and the UDP must be called out for it is a vindictive witch hunt.
UDP believes that our nation’s recent history of dictatorship and grand corruption led by Yaya Jammeh as revealed by the TRRC and Janneh Commission urgently needs accountability as the only effective remedy against impunity.
President Barrow’s appointments of prominent enablers and acolytes of dictator Jammeh to high offices of state is considered by several discerning Gambians as the root cause of impunity and lawlessness in Gambian society. Accountability in this context refers to the responsibility for individual and collective actions and inactions whereby the government and the governed render account of their stewardship and followership respectively.
Finally, UDP believes that a socio-political system in which there is no answerability for past crimes, allegations of corruption and malfeasance is a dysfunctional system and will be unable to sustain the rule of law, good governance, and true practice of democracy. This is what our Attorney General should focus on in an impartial manner for all and not focus on partisan politics and personal attacks on individuals in society.
UNITED DEMOCRATIC PARTY SECRETARIAT