Exculpation and Indemnification of Public Officers When Commission Indicted Officers for Corruption and Enabled Former President of Looting The Gambia’s Resources
By Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: The Janneh Commission of Inquiry final report probe into the financial activities of former President Yahya Jammeh and his top aides and business associates for economics calamities and thievery of the Gambia’s resources during his twenty -two years of kleptocratic rule as well as the Gambia government’s acceptance and support of key findings of actionable recommendations contained in the “White Paper” issued by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice at a Friday press briefings on the 13th September,10. 2019.
Fatoumatta: This commission of inquiry phenomenon calls our attention to the reality that our country is still a work in progress. We can strive to build a more perfect country by embracing reconstructive dialogue, struggle for socio- economic justice and the rule of law. Or we can, as a people, be giving ringing endorsement to official and episodic pacification and annihilation of a real or imagined threat to the Gambia’ s rule of law, deluding ourselves that we are building a stronger, law abiding country. If such efforts had succeeded in the past, certainly we won’t be having the agitation we are having now.
Fatoumatta: The Gambia government 93-page “White Paper” and slow pace in fighting corruption and other violations of the rule of law tendencies that now abound in our country are not our problem. They are symptoms of our problem. We need an economically just, socially redemptive and a politically reinvented country. We need to quickly rework our democracy. We must toil to respect the constitution, the rule of law and modernize all archaic laws.
And all these are achievable with President Adama Barrow starting the spade work and turning the sod of our collective effort in this direction. And all these are achievable with President Barrow starting the spade work and turning the sod of our collective effort in this direction.
Fatoumatta: Gambians crusaded for a peaceful, orderly and democratic change of government in 2016. The Gambia is a multiparty “democracy” not a one-party state. A country where an opposition party had never come to power since independence.
Fatoumatta: President Adama Barrow’s Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Mr. Mamburay Njie and his Chief of Protocol Mr. Alagi Ceesay, close aides of President Barrow were both exculpated of aiding and abetting Yahya Jammeh of economic crimes they were found culpable by the Janneh commission. President Barrow’s Minister of Finance and Chief of Protocol represent a stark divergence from the historical norm. In the Gambia, few people of Mr. Njie or Mr. Ceesay’s, status, and political connections are ever culpable of anything according to the Gambia government’s issued White paper by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
Fatoumatta: As with so many things, Adama Barrow’s and his Attorney General’s bombast, unrestrained self-interest, and delusional relationship with facts have brought to their natural conclusion the absurdities of the Gambia system that has so often enriched the few at the expense of the very many. Mr. Mambury Njie and Mr. Alagie Ceesay most likely believed they would never face justice for their complicity in corruption, because the Gambian criminal-justice system so rarely prosecutes men like them for the crimes they commit. Yet both had been adversely mentioned of corruption and bank fraud as well as aiding and abetting former President Jammeh of economic crimes.
Fatoumatta: The Gambian justice system has consistently rewarded the corruption of the wealthy and politically connected, whether your name is connected in corruption, whether you’re a financial institution responsible for an economic calamity that turned hundred and thousands of Gambians to poverty as well as denied quality of living standard to the Gambian people. The government of Adama Barrow has all but legalized the corruption of politicians, an act that has served the corrupt of all political persuasions.
Fatoumata: What Adama Barrow has done, by consistently not committed to combat corruption, lack of prosecutions to corrupt officials, is make the implicit obvious: Regular people go to prison; rich or connected people do whatever they want. At least most of the time. The surprise is not that Adama Barrow surrounded himself with advisers who supported economic crimes, or that Adama Barrow himself encouraged his advisers to flout the law. The surprise is the mere possibility that any of them will pay for it.
Fatoumatta: President Barrow is either spectacularly corrupt, or he has a knack for choosing advisers who manage to find themselves on the wrong side of a legal system designed to protect people like him.
Fatoumatta: Exculpation of Mambury Njie and Alagie Ceesay was not only the president and his Attorney General’s latest attempt at undermining the rule of law. Since taking office even more shocking is the president and his Justice Minister’s lack of serious commitment to combat the cancer of corruption in government and prosecute those complicit in economic crimes and plunder of the country’s resources.
Fatoumatta: Even more appalling and repulsive is that the list of corruption scandal since President Barrow assumed office. These are few examples of mega sleaze which appears not to be investigated by the police and prosecution by the justice department. For example, a classical case of a Belgian company, Semlex contract award for national documents, 57 pickups trucks from an anonymous donor to some members of the National Assembly, incriminating telephone conversation to fix the NIA 9 case involving the elder brother of the Attorney General, the First Lady’s Foundation FaBB $750,000 transferred into the Foundation’s account, the bogus Banjul Streets Project corruption scandal , D11,000,000 Hajj gift from anonymous donors for members of the government and supporters to perform pilgrimage to Mecca, the pardoning of a convicted Norwegian pedophile, The Gambia Ports Authority-financed of police stations construction, 1,200 automatic rifles illegally imported into the country, Adama Barrow’s $500,000 annual grocery bill that taxpayers are asked to pay, racketeering and trafficking in diplomatic passports and other national documents.
Fatoumatta: There is no law in which President Barrow and his allies must respect, and no transgression by his critics, real or imagined, that does not demand prosecution and punishment. What President Barrow seeks is nothing less than a government that enriches himself and his allies, prosecutes his political opponents and critics, and turns a blind eye to any crimes he or any of his cohorts commit. The institutional guardrails that have restrained him will not hold forever.
Fatoumatta: Either Gambian voters will remove him from office, or the government will increasingly become an enterprise run for the benefit of a group of oligarchy and whoever earns its favor. Many commentators have described that kind of authoritarianism as not foreign to the Gambia. But it isn’t. It has its inspiration and precursor in the kleptocracy of the Yahya Jammeh in which public officers were essentially criminal enterprises that existed to expropriate wealth and disenfranchise Diaspora voters and shield acts of violence from prosecution.
Fatoumatta: Even if Adama Barrow had never entered the State House, the Gambian justice system, which harshly prosecutes any transgression by the poor, no matter how minor, while largely ignoring financial crimes, no matter how massive, would still exist. Mr. Mambury Njie and Mr. Alagie Ceesay may see prison time. But even if they are held to account, the outcomes of the government issued White Paper can’t legitimize a system of justice in which people who commit financial crimes can fully expect to get away with them. Barrow did not create the rot in this system. He has merely made it obvious.
Fatoumatta: We embraced the change. And we don’t regret it. Even now. But we have the right to demand that the change must bear the fruits of our investment of hope. If it does not, we won’t be nostalgic about the inglorious past. We won’t regress into the orbit of our past political damnation. We will only work and pray for the emergence of a better political leadership tomorrow. While condemning the irresponsible behavior of a person or a group which can lead to a breakdown of law and order and bloodshed in our country, we should not forget similar irresponsible behavior of others that may lead to the same consequence.
Justice is indivisible.