As we continue to sample people’s opinion on the subject matter, in this edition, we hear the views of the Honourable Ousman Sillah PDOIS Assembly Member for Banjul North.
We entered a gentleman’s agreement for a purpose, casting aside our different political agenda to change the then dispensation and to strengthen the peoples resolve that “Power belongs to the people.” Discussions centering on Constitutional reforms, the rule of law and best practices in governance were key in in the early stages.
Initially there were issues regarding the setting up of Coalition 2016. Some argued that their parties were bigger than others and that they should take the lead. This was however put aside and the consensus was to have someone from any party who will be independent to lead the coalition. All of us were well aware that the tenure of office for the President is five years but we decided that during the three years we will continue to make further reforms that will accommodate the post-Presidents transition of three years.
To this end we agreed to some Constitutional reforms to accommodate a transition in which the Vice President would step in for ninety days, in order to organise fresh Presidential election. This provision is not in our current 1997 Constitution. To sum it up we held a ballot which gave the current President the lead and he became the flag-bearer of the coalition. It was agreed that and this is contained in the manifesto President Barrow presented to the IEC on behalf of the coalition. It stated in the first paragraph, that he will only serve for a period of three years as an independent President heading a coalition.
The coalition started to have serious problems when President Barrow returned to Banjul from Dakar to take up his official duties. President Barrow failed to honour the agreement to hold consultations with members of the coalition. Any decision regarding appointments should have been tabled before the coalition partners especially that of cabinet members. But what really triggered the crack in the coalition was the National Assembly elections that followed the presidential. The agreement was that the elections were to be contested under the banner of the coalition.
This was dismissed by the United Democratic Party which decided to go solo in both the national assembly elections and that of the local government. Consequently having been betrayed, the other parties that formed the coalition had no choice but contest under their respective parties. Whether what we have now is a UDP-led Government, I honestly don’t know but by the look of things most of the people close to the UDP are occupying key positions.
It is only President Barrow who symbolizes the coalition and it’s up to him to respect his commitment on the three year transition as per the agreement of Coalition partners before the 1 December 2016 presidential elections, which brought him into office. President Barrow has nothing to lose. He will be a great statesman if he does. It is a question of integrity.
It is very rare for African leaders to honour their words. President Barrow can be a recipient of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Award which attracts 10 million dollars, in addition to receiving annual payments for the rest of his life. He will be an ‘Elder Statesman’ whose services will be sought to give talks around the world on good governance, peace building etc. But as I said it is up to President Barrow and his integrity.