By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The leader of the Gambia Moral Congress (GMC), Mai Ahmed Fatty told the media that President Barrow “would have shown respect for the people” and demonstrated “leadership” had he “invited Political Party leaders not even through IDEA”. Mai Fatty was speaking at a press conference at GMC Party Headquarters on 3rd March 2021, less than a week after his return from Constitution talks in Abuja with fellow Political Party leaders.
According to Mr Fatty, “President Johnathan is expected to Banjul on the 8th [March 2021]” for the continuation of what is expected to be the decisive talks as time is fast running out to pass a Constitution in time for a Referendum. “It is expected that he will be here on the 8th and we will continue the discussions. But the date may change, it may not” he said.
IDEA Constitution Revival
It can be recalled that the National Assembly torpedoed the Draft Constitution in September 2020 which cost over D120 Million. Since then, talks to revive the Constitution have been coordinated by an International Civil Society Organisation, International IDEA on behalf of the Ministry of Justice.
Former Nigerian President Goodluck Johnathan flew into Banjul on 17th December 2020 as “an eminent person” to meditate on the “Constitutional Impasse” to revive the Draft Constitution. The following day, Goodluck travelled to President Barrow’s resident in Mangkamang Kunda for Constitution talks and meet Political Party Leaders that weekend at Coco Ocean Hotel.
Throughout the whole talks in Banjul, former President Goodluck could not convince President Barrow to engage in mediation talks with other Political Party Leaders.
At this stage, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) were still being engaged in the process although they were not being furnished with the “Options, Issues Paper” being used to guide mediation talks. On 24th December 2020, after the conclusion of the first round of talks, CSOs held a press conference and published a press release highlighting that “the Government, International IDEA and Mediator Goodluck Jonathan cannot tag the Civil Society as stakeholder and yet fail to avail it the ‘Issues and Options Document’ which was purposely prepared to guide the dialogue, despite our numerous requests.”
Since then, Constitution talks have continued as Political Party leaders flew to Abuja and returned to the Gambia in late February 2021. Talks are set to continue next week when Goodluck arrives in Banjul for what is expected to be make or break negotiations. It seems one of the most important points will be if President Barrow will take a seat on the negotiation table with other Political Party Leaders.
I would have invited Political Party Leaders
According to Mai Fatty he “made it very clear during the discussions here in Banjul here at the Sir Dawda conference hall that the Political Party Leaders themselves must seat. Meaning it is necessary for Barrow to seat down on the table. We all political party leaders we seat down and look at each other.”
“At some point to take it seriously, the Party Leaders. So, I support strongly a process which will involve Barrow as a person sitting with Gambians to talk about this Political Impasse. That is necessary. I think the president will be demonstrating leadership, he would have shown respect for the people and I think really is what is African of him” said the former Minister of Interior.
“So, President Barrow should have invited Political Party leaders not even through IDEA but genuinely if I were the President today, I would have invited Political Party Leaders.”
Explaining how he would have done things differently he said “I’ll say let’s talk colleagues let’s sit down forget about the three years, five years, let’s talk about this. What do you feel is your view? What is your concern and let’s talk about it? And let the Gambians see that on TV that we are sitting down amongst Gambians to find a solution. So that is something that I support and I wish President Barrow would do that.”
Party Leaders should “be receptive to ideas”
Responding to journalists’ questions that the United Democratic Party (UDP) has refused to compromise the Constitution Mai Fatty said that he travelled to Abuja with a “free and flexible mind”.
“We went to Abuja knowing clearly that one party, you said UDP says no if there’s any change. I don’t know about any other Political Party because I went to Abuja representing GMC. And I went there because my party has a vision for this country. We believe that this Constitution as drafted, with the discussion, should pass. We should go to elections on that new Draft” he said.
“When I was going to Abuja, I did not have any preconceived mind. I did not go with a decision that this does not happen. I would not do this because when you do that. I mean, what is the point, you should not have gone” he opined.
“I went to Abuja with a very open and very flexible mind willing to listen to what my colleagues would have on the table. I went with the flexibility to listen to superior arguments. If their arguments are more superior to what I present then it is going to be binding for me expecting that my colleagues are also going to Abuja with a free and flexible mind willing to look at the national advantage also to listen to superior arguments.”
“I don’t see in any negotiation where you get everything 100% there is no such negotiation. In every negotiation, you have to give up something. And another person gives up something. That is how negotiations are conducted. Even that’s how states conduct negotiations. That’s how treaties and negotiated. So, if you are a potential head of state and you are not willing to budge the Gambia may go to war because you have demonstrated the inability to be receptive to ideas that are better than yours.”