A Conversation with Fatou Ceesay Ambassador At-large and the new head of the Barrow Foundation
Fatou is close to President Barrow and has acknowledged the creation of the Barrow Foundation. Our conversation with Fatou was an effort to hear from the people who are allegedly behind the formation of the Barrow foundation. Prior to speaking to Fatou, we had posted a brief story which alleged that fatou and others were behind creation of the foundation. That post will be updated base on additional facts we gathered…
In our conversation with Fatou she acknowledged the existence of the Barrow Foundation and in fact she is the head of the foundation running it as we speak. Fatou said this foundation has been in the works for several months and the people only knew it now because they created a face book page… Fatou emphatically said the IDEA of a Barrow Foundation came from President Barrow himself. That the President wanted to do good things for people from building mosques, helping youth unemployment and other charitable work. She said President Barrow said since he cannot use state funds to do things he wants to do, he thought it was a good idea to create a foundation so he can do things he wants…
Asked if anybody advised President Barrow that creation of a foundation while in office constitutes conflict of Interest, Fatou said she did not advice the President that this would be a conflict of interest. Fatou also added that she did not know anybody who advised the President not to go ahead with this idea. She however opined that she did not see any conflict of interest in the president wanting to do well for the country through a foundation. She was reminded that Dictator Jammeh created youth movements, foundations, built mosques and donated to youths and religious organizations using the President’s office. She acknowledged that but added Barrow has good intentions and was different from Jammeh.
Given further reasons and how the President’s foundation could create conflict and how donors will donate base on the President’s status and not his personality, Fatou said she can see how that would create a conflict of interest. She was quick to add that the decision is not hers but President Barrow’s. Fatou said she has no role in bringing up the idea of the foundation and that the President is responsible for the decision and she was asked to run it and she accepted. Fatou advanced the idea that the President is not running the foundation and has no hand in it, but she was again reminded that’s exactly what Jammeh did and ended up using State funds and the Presidency to advance his own agenda. Fatou questioned whether there is any provision in the constitution that prohibits the president from running a foundation. She was told that there are provisions that guard against conflict of interest and that the 1970 constitution had a provision that restricts the President to only engaging in agriculture and not any profitable business. This was of course changed by Jammeh through an act of parliament which opened the flood gates of corruption that is the show in town at the Janneh commission of inquiry.
Emphasizing the serious nature of the president engaging in conflict of interest and how the integrity and transparency of the office of the President should be paramount, Fatou acknowledged. Pressured on whether she would in fact continue to run the foundation base on what she knows now, Fatou said for now she will run the foundation and when it is time for her to return to the Diaspora she will do so. She however, said that she will have an audience with the President and will express our concerns and that of citizens on the potential conflict of interest. Fatou said she will speak to the president about it and tell him about our direct conversation.
Upon reading our initial posting as to how she and her team are allegedly out to “Drive a wedge within the UDP” Fatou dismissed the allegation and said she has always been UDP, she is still UDP and as far as she knows Barrow is UDP as he ever was. She was told that there are two opposing camps within the UDP party, those potentially pushing for Barrow to consolidate power by creating youth movements and foundations and those loyal to the party leader, she said “they are dividing and destroying the party” She added they are being unfair to both Barrow and Darboe. Said suggest that Barrow and Darboe should sit down, discuss the issues and communicate to the Gambian people as to what is happening.
Our editor went back to remind Fatou again that the issue is not about Barrow, UDP or herself. That what is at stake is the credibility of the presidency. That the integrity of the office of the president should always be jealously guarded against conflict of interest regardless of who is occupying that office. The idea that a sitting President in an African country can form a foundation without any fear of conflict of interest is unrealistic. The Gambia came from a recent ugly history of corruption, gross rights violations and abuse of office. For the subsequent president to do anything that resembles what was going on several months ago, is beyond comprehension. President Barrow ought to think and know better, if not he must have honest and patriotic citizens who will look in his eyes and tell him what is potentially destructive to his presidency and what would promote transparency and good governance in the country. Failure to do that is an ultimate betrayal of the sacred duties of citizens to protect the integrity of the President and the presidency. If President Barrow continue to think this way or listen to people who have other motives to consolidate power, he would face a rude awakening which will lead to repeat of history and an ugly legacy of African leaders fighting one thing only to turn around and do the same.
The solution to ensuring that President Barrow does not derail the agenda that elected him in office is for the coalition cabinet to sit down with him and honestly discuss getting back on the reform agenda. Cabinet ministers must put country first before their positions and threaten to resign if the President continue to do things that contradicts good governance and accountability. They must not fear losing their jobs and risk going down in history as a cabinet that negated its duties and responsibilities to the Gambian people. We therefore call on all cabinet members; VP Fatoumatta Tambajang, Ousainou Darboe, O.J Jallow, Ahmat Bah, Dr. Isatou Touray, the two Lamin Dibba’s, Justice Minister Tambedou, Communication minister Demba A Jawo, Henry Gomez, new minister of interior Mballow and all the rest to call the attention of the President to signs of consolidating power. They must be brave enough to walk away from their jobs and leave Presdent Barrow alone to face the Gambian people on going this path. If they too fail to live up to expectations, history will hold them accountable and decent sons and daughters of the Gambia must standup pick up where they left off and continue the fight for good governance, transparency and accountability to the Office of the President and the state at large!
Story filed by Demba Baldeh Associate Editor