HELPING THE GAMBIA TO PICK UP THE PIECES – Article by the ISS Peace and Security Council Report

ISS Peace and Security Council ReportPosted: April 20, 2017

Following a dramatic exit from power by The Gambia’s former leader Yahya Jammeh in January 2017, the country’s democratically elected President Adama Barrow is slowly picking up the pieces. After 22 years of authoritarian rule by Jammeh, a lot needs to be done. At the end of February, Barrow met with Prof. Eddy Maloka, Chief Executive Officer of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), about acceding to the Mechanism. If this happens, The Gambia will be the 37th member state of the APRM. The PSC Report asked Prof. Maloka about the implications of this decision.

Ques: The Gambia’s President Adama Barrow has indicated that his country wants to join the APRM. What will it mean for The Gambia?

Ans: It will be a very important symbol that The Gambia has now entered a new era. As the APRM we are the best placed to address the institutional deficits facing the country. For example, The Gambia doesn’t have a human rights council and many other institutions that can ensure good governance, sustainable development and so forth. We can assist them with building institutions of accountability and governance.
The Gambia is also facing huge issues of transitional justice. We can help them in this healing process.

Ques: The APRM was designed to improve good governance in Africa through internal processes. Therefore it requires certain institutions for self-assessment. Won’t it be too difficult for The Gambia under the current circumstances where many institutions are in disarray or simply don’t exist?

Ans: No, this is what the APRM is all about. We hope that The Gambia will accede to the APRM at the next APRM summit [on the margins of the AU summit] in June or July. After that happens the country has to set up its own structures, like a national governing council [the national APRM institution that is independent of government, including all stakeholders] and then draw up a plan of action. Being part of the APRM will put energy into the process of establishing institutions to ensure greater transparency, accountability and human rights.

Ques: Will the APRM send in consultants or outsiders to help The Gambia to set up these institutions? How will this happen?

Ans: It depends on what comes out of the process. We now have a technical team that is helping them with acceding to the APRM, which should happen at the next summit. An APRM panel member will then coordinate the process and determine which missions should be undertaken and what actions have to be taken. Then we can see if any external assistance is needed. Remember, this is a self-led process. The APRM will pick up the strengths and weaknesses and take it from there.

Ques: What about the other country reviews?

Ans: In January this year, Senegal, Chad, Djibouti and Kenya presented their reports [to their peers] at the AU summit. These reports will now be launched, but this will be preceded by a stakeholder meeting.

We are now insisting that before the public launch, there must be a roadmap in place. For example, if the country report states there should be more female representation, or that a human rights council must be set up, these challenges should be part of the roadmap, with timelines of how it will be implemented. This is new. You have to unveil the roadmap and say what you are going to do, together with publishing the report.

So immediately after the [AU] summit, we were already busy looking at the plan of action, the next set of actions to be taken, the challenges the country is facing and how to move forward.

Ques: Will there be any APRM country reports presented in at the 29th AU summit in July?
Ans: The Sudan report is ready and Liberia is also ready. We thought we might add Uganda and Nigeria [undergoing their second review], but they need more time to finish. That’s not a bad thing, because launching two reports at a time is enough. In fact, we want to negotiate with the new AU Commission for more time allocated to the APRM summit. We can’t rush through these reports. At the previous summit we were given just four hours, which are not enough.

Ques: What about the rest of the year? So far 17 out of the 35 member states of the APRM have been peer reviewed.

Ans: We are moving fast, but some countries, like Nigeria, have asked us for more time. Our aim is to do five to seven reports this year.

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