APRC is Set and Ready For Their Protest On 16th January 2020
H.E. Sheikh Professor Dr Abdul Aziz Yahya Jammeh, also known as Babili Mansa agreed to step down from the presidency on 21 January 2017, and flew out from the country on 22nd January 2017, following a request from the incoming coalition government of Adama Barrow, that Yaya Jammeh excused them for a few months for them to settle into their administration.
The agreement, negotiated by the West African Heads of State, via the West African block, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) was that Jammeh should be leave The Gambia for only three months until the new government takes charge.
The prevailing Jammeh Government at the time and the incoming Barrow Government, as well as ECOWAS and the AU agreed the terms of Jammeh’s exit and all parties to the negotiation which successfully ended the month long impasses published a Joint Declaration, which was approved by the United Nations (UN) and published the notes to all the correspondents above and members of the public.
The new coalition government, now largely a shadow of itself and arguably a failed project, was led by Mr. Adama Barrow who sought refuge in the neighbouring Dakar, Senegal, after fear that Jammeh’s men were out to get him, a misplaced fear which unsettled the Barrow government and continues to do so till this day. Mr. Barrow was a political novice and it quickly showed in his first days in office. No sooner has he taken over than his coalition government crumbled into factions with some partners immediately departing and refusing to be part of his government.
Barrow also allowed the Tactical Alliance to succeed a coalition which failed within three months in power. The tactical, now farcical alliance was led by Barrow’s so-called political godfather, Ousainou Darboe, who failed to win the three previous elections until he was jailed by the Jammeh government for breaching the peace.
Adama Barrow fortuitously became the United Democratic Party (UDP) leader when most of the party’s top brass were jailed for public order offences.
The same Barrow’s star accidentally rose and became the leader of the opposition coalition and eventually won a largely disputed, believed rigged, presidential election on the 2nd of December 2016. How that was possible with his lack of proper education, lack of intellect and with no history of working in an academic system, we will never know.
As Barrow lost grip of his administration, his government failed to honour the agreement he had with Jammeh, ECOWAS, AU and the UN. All the 14 points of Joint Declaration published by the UN were contravened. The 14-point Joint Declaration may not be legally binding but it mirrored the written and coded constitution of The Republic of The Gambia. In effect, the Barrow government, abrogated the constitution of The Gambia in terms of immunity given to serving and ex=Gambian presidents, as well treat stakeholders of the Joint Communique with disdain and utter disrespect. ECOWAS/AU will be wondering why Barrow did not observe the terms of the agreement and uphold the constitution he swore to defend.
It has become apparent that Barrow is someone that cannot be trusted. He ripped the Coalition Agreement to shreds and failed to uphold any piece of the memorandum of understanding that came with it. Barrow’s focus, from day one, aided by Ousainou Darboe, was to consolidate his grip on power, entrench himself and perpetuate his stay in power against the will of Gambian people. All indications are that he will not step-down next week as he agreed, as his three years come to an end on 19 January 2020.
Barrow, in one of his rallies told Gambians that he will stay in power until 2021 when the constitutionally mandated five-year term comes to an end, whether they like it or not. What he failed to explain to his supporters is that the constitution also allows him to resign from office early to honour agreements that propelled him to power, albeit accidentally and now widely regrettable.
Not only is he ignoring the coalition agreement and gunning for the full five-year term, he has formed his own political party called National People’s Party (NPP) in readiness for the 2021 general elections where he will get thumped without a doubt. Barrow is very unpopular, and no sensible person believes in him for obvious reasons.
Meanwhile, Jammeh’s political party, the Alliance for Patriotic Re-Orientation and Construction (APRC), has organised a street protest march to demand President Adama Barrow to uphold the constitution he swore to defend; observe the terms of the Joint Declaration of 21 January 2017; and immediately lay the ground for Jammeh’s return as agreed on 21/1/2017, before the stakeholders mentioned earlier.
APRC is benefiting from a massive resurgence and getting more powerful by the day and now likely the largest opposition to Barrow, after UDP’s fragmentation caused by the emergence of Barrow’s new political party.
UDP is Barrow’s parent party and his departure from the party will cause irreparable damage to the party and this will be enhanced by the influence of the incumbency.
APRC will march on 16th January 2020, to the ECOWAS and AU missions in The Gambia; the EU and UN missions; to remind them that Barrow’s negotiation team and Jammeh’s negotiation team agreed a deal and thanks to that deal, Gambia is still enjoying peace and Jammeh should be respected for that.
If ECOWAS/AU/EU/UN cannot enforce a deal this simple, a deal this crucial, their future involvement in peace talks in Africa may yield no results. Parties may feel they are being tricked into agreements which will not hold water after the achievement of immediate objective. International Agencies should act fast. APRC says that the protest is going to be peaceful, and they want to create a clear strategy.
The strategy is to ensure the implementation of Jammeh’s agreement with the heads of states of West Africa and the EU.
APRC, the party which gave us the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia, states that the Gambian constitution gives them the right to assemble publicly and express themselves peacefully.
APRC under Jammeh
APRC under Jammeh achieved a lot and can boast that they are the architects of modern Gambia. Mr Jammeh developed The Gambia at the fastest rate in the country’s 454 years of recorded history.
Before Yaya Jammeh there was no university in The Gambia and there was no television station anywhere in the Gambia and we are talking about the mid-1990s. Jammeh not only provided free education but he made education accessible by constructing about 1023 schools from 251 before him and by reducing the distances travelled to attend school.
He improved on the road network immensely, from zero to almost 600km countrywide. He electrified the entire country and laid telecommunication facilities as well as 3G capability across the country. He empowered women and children and passed several legislations to protect them as well as outlaw female circumcision.
He passed several laws for anti-bullying, anti-slavery, and anti-abuse. He ensured security and peace in the Gambia and Gambia was more peaceful and much safer under him. To appreciate the transformation of The Gambia under Jammeh, one would need compile an encyclopaedia. This will be a topic for a different day.
He built the nation from scratch and all the great infrastructure in the Gambia, as on January 2020, was built under his regime.
APRC claims that Jammeh is being denied his right to return to the Gambia with the benefits of an ex-president. They want Barrow to ensure Jammeh’s return in the next few weeks, but they feel the international community should step in if Barrow drags his feet over this. Further, Jammeh should receive presidential immunity upon his return. He is entitled to an ex-president’s office and the benefits that go with it.
Mr Barrow will soon lose his presidency and may soon find himself, the subject of abuse from the succeeding government. The entrenched immunity clauses protect our serving and ex-presidents but Barrows malicious contravention of the constitution in order to launch a witch hunt against Jammeh will no doubt backfire, now or soon after his descent from power.