Today is August 13th, which means we are edging closer to December 2019; that month which will mark three years since we successfully ousted a dictator and did away with autocratic rule. This is a very important month in the annals of the history of the Gambia.
However, this time around, it has other implications for us as well, and there is a need to talk about it urgently. Yet, we see that the Presidency is quiet on this very important issue either deliberately or due to a lack of full appreciation of what it entails for the country.
As an ordinary citizen concerned with the welfare of this country, I wish to, from my very limited knowledge of the inner workings of the economy, raise some concerns vis-à-vis this potentially catastrophic problem.
There is now little doubt that a section of the Gambian society are pushing for President Adama Barrow to respect his promise of stepping down after three years. These people, we are told, are planning on holding protests to compel the president to respect his words and step down. Of course, there are others who are equally bent on ensuring that he complete the five year term as stipulated in our constitution.
It is also known that the Government of the Gambia is preparing to take all measures to ensure that the Three Years Jotna group does not have its way in the country. By all standards; therefore, we are heading for a confrontation come December 2019. No matter the level of this confrontation, it is likely to cause harm to the economy.
According to a report on http://export.gov.usoffices, twenty percent of our foreign currency comes from tourism. Thus, tourism contributes hugely to the Gambian Economy.
Everyone also knows that tourists certainly do some findings before going to a destination for tourism. Thus, with the media (both national and international), social media and other internet platforms replete with issues of Three Years Jotna and the protests being planned, tourists are likely to change destination and go to other countries instead.
December is the peak of our tourism industry season and if this were to affect the number of arrivals, it will have a negative impact on our economy. If there is a drop on tourism in the country, it will have domino effect on our economy and ultimately our way of life. That is dangerous.
It is necessary here to say that the issue is not about who between these two factions is right or wrong; the issue is about what it will do to the economy of the country and what we, as a nation, can do to minimize the potential damage. This should be everybody’s concern and citizens should not just sit idly by and feign that they are not interested in politics. This is a matter of life and death.
What is the way forward?
In my humble opinion, dialogue is key in solving this problem. The people who are calling for Barrow to step down have a genuine cause to do so because it was Barrow and his coalition partners who promised us that he will serve for three years and step down to pave way for a free and fair election.
The people who are calling for him to serve for five years are also basing their position on the fact that the constitution stipulates a five year term for the presidency. Thus, they also have a genuine point in their own way.
So if both parties have points, what then is the middle ground on which we should formulate decision? It all boils down to communication. Whatever reasons Barrow may now have to want to complete the five years instead of three, he should come out and explain to the people who voted for him in this first place. If he explains to the nation why he thinks that we cannot go for elections now, then we can avoid a lot of trouble.
Again, here is another challenge for our political parties. All political parties have a role to play in this rather than sit until the damage is done and then start talking about what ifs. Let them engage in dialogue amongst themselves and come up with a solution. The Gambia is bigger than all of us and therefore ewe should be able to put aside our egos and self-pride and seek solutions to our problems.
The National Assembly is also silently watching as if they are not concerned as the Barrow camp and the others tear at each other’s thoughts, as it were. The truth is, this has the potential to cause harm to us all and therefore we have to collectively seek a solution.
This is a cause for concern!!!