Banjul, Gambia(PANA) - President Adama Barrow said here Wednesday he swore twice by the Holy Qur’an in Dakar and in The Gambia to defend and act according to the national constitution.
“Under these circumstances, I cannot accord the Coalition Agreement preference over the Constitution. The desire to dislodge dictatorship by all democratic means guided us in the development of the Coalition Agreement,” he said in his New Year address to the nation.
The Gambian leader came to power in 2016 with the support of seven political parties and an independent candidate.
By a gentleman’s agreement, the coalition team agreed that whoever won the popular election to end ex-president Yahya Jammeh 22 year’s rule would sever for three years.
In 2019, President Barrow changed that decision, generating debates and giving birth to an activist group known as three years jotna (three had reached).
The group on December 16, 2019, organised their first protest demanding that President Barrow step down.
They submitted a petition calling on Barrow to step down on 19 January, 2020, failing which they would take to the streets on January 20 and force him out of office.
“After I took up office, the gravity of the institutional failures, abuse of office, human rights and bad governance became more apparent. Thus, the need to weigh fulfilling the Coalition Agreement and acting on the Constitution I swore to uphold.
“The confidence and mandate entrusted upon me have subsequently guided my decision to respect the voice and will of the people, by maintaining to serve the full Constitutional mandate of five years,” President Barrow told his compatriots.
He said it was in the same spirit that both the legislative and local government elections occurred and the circumstances now dictated that national development and the national interest take precedence over partisan or sectional interests.
“While tendering my resignation is not unconstitutional, as some people argue, it is irresponsible and imprudent to do so if it is not prompted and justified by principles linked to statehood and the people.
“To resign after three years in office implies betraying the people, multitudes of whom continue to pledge support for my Government and our development agenda.
“I have judiciously counselled myself to bow to the will of the people, and I refuse to yield to the sentiments and ambitions of a minority group. For this reason, my decision is to complete the five-year mandate stipulated in the Constitution for a sitting President. I am not ill disposed in any way to warrant my resignation as President,” President Barrow stated in his New Year address.
According to him, in consequence, the next presidential election will be held according to schedule in 2021.
He said that, for this purpose, the electoral reform process was in progress to ensure that all national elections were free and fair.
He added: “The greatest threat to the nation is disorder and instability. Lawlessness will undermine the peace and tranquility we now enjoy.
“While all citizens should remain vigilant, the security services have to be alert and well-disposed to maintain law and order, defend our sovereignty and secure our territorial integrity,” Barrow stated.
He urged all citizens to resolve to become better democratic and productive citizens in the year ahead.
Barrow told Gambians that his government’s policies were geared towards establishing strong institutions and the right legal frameworks for nation building, adding that it was within this context that structures were established, and the country had started to realise their impact in the current year.
He further said the implementation of the recommendations in the commission inquiry, known as “Janneh Commission” report, had marked a sharp turning point for the entire country in respect of the former president’s financial dealings and his close associates.
He said secondly, the truth commission revelations had opened a new chapter in the history of The Gambia and world politics.
He pointed out that this commission had exposed numerous hideous crimes committed under the watch of the former president, instilling a reign of terror in the populace, which resulted in the clamour for change.
Barrow noted that change was now embraced by Gambians, and its impact was a source of solace and optimism for all.
Thirdly, he said the submission of a draft constitution to usher in the third republic marked another significant and progressive turning point in the annals of the nation.
“My Government has reviewed, approved and presented nine Bills to the National Assembly for consideration. Amongst these are the Access to Information Bill, the Media Services Bill, Public Order Bill and Anti-Corruption Bill.
“We have also proposed to remove all gender discriminatory provisions from our laws. These, among others, together with the National Development Plan (NDP) projects, programmes and the continuous institutional reforms have yielded positive outcomes. While we expect to reap the actual fruits of my Government’s strategies in the long term, Gambians will soon enjoy in prosperity and development that encompass the entire nation.
“It is obvious that the Government has taken the right steps, and we are heading in the right direction,” President Barrow told Gambians.
According to him, 2020 is a popular target year for key global development goals, many of which will not be attained, pointing out that although this is not an excuse for failure anywhere, it is a reminder that unforeseen circumstances and external factors can affect any national plan or target.
“So far, my Government is in the pursuance of Projects that would touch the lives of rural and urban dwellers as designed in the NDP, and we are poised to do better.
“Thus far, the legislative frameworks, structural arrangements and institutional reforms executed manifest how genuine and how organised, realistic and consistent we have been in the pursuit of our national development objectives,” he stressed.
President Barrow said from 2020 onward, sharper focus would be cast on human resource and infrastructure development, the economy, the social services, institutional strengthening and performance.
“Our achievements and endorsements, nationally and internationally, have encouraged us to remain at the helm of the affairs of the nation. Today, we are more determined, more focused and much more devoted to the cause of the people.
“We have learnt lessons and are better prepared to tackle the challenges that confront us as a nation within the context of a world marked by unexpected developments.
We will continue to galvanise support from the international community through convincing evidence of the vigour, seriousness and sincerity that underline our approach to governance,” he said.
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