editorialBy Ousman Njie
The hundreds who gathered at the July 22nd Square did not reflect a desire by the vast majority of Gambians to commemorate a major National event in grand style. The Government should read the situation correctly and move towards good governance. The reason for this is simple.
This year's Independence celebration was preceded by many ironies.
First and foremost, President Macky Sall's presence has been a subject of debate. The free operation of Gambian dissidents in Senegal had given the impression that the state to state relation between the two countries had gone sour and that Senegal would sanction an armed rebellion against the Jammeh administration. A number of opponents of the Jammeh administration did request for President Macky Sall not to accept the invitation. Others proposed that he should raise issues such as the detention without trial of Imam Baba Leigh during his visit.
Well President Macky Sall did visit the Gambia as Guest of Honour. He has gone and Imam Baba Leigh is still in detention. Gambians should now use this opportunity to take a fresh reading of the attitude of the Macky Sall administration towards the Jammeh administration. This needs explanation. And we hope from now onwards our readers would take Foroyaa's analysis into consideration when shaping public opinion.
Secondly, President Jammeh addressed the Nation on the Commemoration on the eve of the event. However, the 17 points proposed by the EU was his major focus. He again reiterated the claim of attempts to impose conditionality on his government.
Thirdly, the President warned anyone who steps foot on Gambian soil with the motive of aggression would be handled in such a way that the person would wish that he was never born.
What should we expect from President Macky Sall? What should the Gambian people expect from the EU? Is peace cultivated by good governance or threats?
The Gambian people who want change have the unreasonable expectation that the EU, the UN, Senegal and other foreign powers would just jump on the Jammeh administration and uproot it over night. Now it should be clear to all that that is not how the world functions. Foroyaa has been telling the Gambian people what to expect from Senegal, The EU and all international bodies so that no one would have unrealistic expectations. The world of today has no place for the ignorant, the dependent and the naive. It is important to realise that foreign policy is determined by balancing national interest with international duties.
Foroyaa was the first to interview President Macky Sall before the final results of the Senegalese elections were announced. He made it very clear that Casamance was his priority and the Gambia will be the first port of call of his presidency. We published this and it happened just as we published. Gambia was the first country he visited and Casamance was the priority. He left the Gambia with the understanding that it was President Jammeh's responsibility to solve the Casamance crisis. Senegal also had interest in linking Southern and Northern Senegal through the building of a bridge across the Gambia the river at the Bamba Tenda/Yelli Tenda crossing point. The Jammeh administration has agreed to this. Hence one should not expect any deliberate attempt by the Macky Sall administration to de-stabilise the Jammeh administration unless it fails to make convincing effort to put an end to the Casamance crisis as promised by President Jammeh. The recent storm and stress in the relationship was due to the execution of Senegalese citizens in the Gambia. The duty the President of Senegal has is to be a force of example in good governance to the point of being able to exert influence on the Jammeh administration to engage in reform to promote good governance. In the aftermath of the release of some Senegalese soldiers by the MFDC it would appear that the least President Macky Sall could do as a goodwill gesture is to accept to be a guest of honour at the Independence celebration of the Gambia. How the relation will develop in the future depends on the attitude of the two governments on the Casamance crisis. This is the first point.
Secondly, when the President accused the EU of hostile intentions against his government at a Cabinet meeting Foroyaa informed the Gambian people that the administration was simply blowing things out of proportion to its own detriment. We clarified that the political dialogue under the Cotonou agreement has been going on without public notice. We explained that sovereign nations do sign binding agreements out of their own volition. We told the people that Article 9 laid down the principles that all the signatories should observe including good governance and human rights. We have made it clear the political dialogue is part of the agreement. It is designed to come up with mutually agreed agenda and priorities. We have made it clear that the 17 point agenda and schedule of priorities or time line forwarded by the EU was a proposal and not conditionality; that Gambia failed to exercise its sovereign right to negotiate with the EU team on a mutually acceptable agenda and set of priorities and went on to cry foul. Foroyaa would like the Gambian people to know that the EU proposals are at the level of the EU ambassadors and the Ministers in Charge. It had not reached the level of conditionality and sanctions.
The most dignified posture to take is to rectify all shortcomings before others raise the issue since what is stated by the EU has already been raised by concerned Gambians.
Finally, what Gambia needs is not to teach example to insurgents but to negate any factor that could be exploited by insurgents. The Government should therefore engage the opposition in an internal political dialogue to address the shortcomings in governance in the country. This is the way forward.
Finally, the Gambian people should know that their salvation lie in their own hands. They have a right to support and galvanise around parties of their choice. Those who want good governance should support a party that is committed to good governance and be ready to vote it out if it fails to deliver the good governance it promises.