From its inception the AFPRC justified the military take-over on the grounds of widespread corruption, embezzelment of public funds and mismanagement on the part of the ertswhile government. Thus, in launching its Programme of Rectification and Transition to Democratic Constitutional Rule on the 24th October 1994, the Head of State, Captain Yaya A.J.J. Jammeh Stated that the rationale of the Coup d'etat of 22nd July, 1994 was "respond to the early warnings of a potential political turbulence emanating from social injustice and human rights violation inflicted upon the majority of Gambians for thirty years, by the ousted Government of the People's Progressive Party under the leadership of Alhagi Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara". He continued that "these malpractices were exacerbated by crime, drug trafficking and rampant corruption." The main thrust of the remedial measures will emphasise "compliance with the principles of accountability, transparency and probity".
Since democracy is predicated on the will of the citizens, our mandate clearly obligates us to consider the opinion of the people on the programme and timetable. The third element the NCC is enjoined to consider is the views of our development partners who have made over the years substantial contributions to our national development. due regard must be paid throughout the grievances, concerns and aspirations of the AFPRC if the NCC wishes its recommendations to have maximum impact on our future political evolution.
In concluding our report, it is most appropriate to highlight the enthusiastic welcome a large segment of the populance accorded the military in taking over the reins of power and absence of casualties during the coup of 22nd July: all of which are in accord with the Gambians' traditional love of peace and hatred of unnecessary blodshed. Many were pleased that what they percieved as three decades of self perpetuating rule by one political party was overturned. Others accorded legitimacy and even blessings to the coup once the on-going Commissions of Enquiry brought into focus the magnitude of the corruption and misappropriation of public funds under the old regime. However, in this contex it is difficult to discard the view of many serious members of the public that the ballot box is preferable to the army as an instrument of change of government in all circumstances, because of the potential of military rule lead to serious economic and social disaster.
Our extensive consultations with the people disclosed that some citizens do favour indefinite military rule. but it is clear that the majority of the people would opt for a democratic, civilian government after a reasonable transitional period. We were not mandated to and we never sought to conduct a referendum on the timetable. However our statistics show that most people we consulted favour a transition period of two years or less for return to civilian rule. some of the reasons given for shoosing a shorter period are:-
- that there has been a long tradition of regular elections devoid of significant violence;
- that the culture of human rights and rule of law have taken root in the country;
- that countries like Mali which knew nothing of democracy and everything about despotism for decades succedded with a transition period of about fourteen months;
- that the consquences of the withdrawal of donor support in its diverse forms will have serious effects on the countrie's economy with mass underemployment leading to social unrest.
- that if thirty years of what they perceive as being dictatorship under the Jawara regime was tolerable so are four years of military rule;
- that the AFPRC needs time to instill probity in the people and cultivate a climate of accountability and transparency;
- that The Gambia is a sovereign independent state that should not be dictated from outside.
Our Sub-committees covered the length and breadth of The Gambia to elicit the true opinions of the People. Everywhere emphasis was laid on the need to complete the work of the five Commissions of Enquiry into assets and properties, Government departments, public corporations, land administration and donated crude and refined oil before the AFPRC members return power to a civilian regime. Many speakers at our village meetings were extremely passionate, others vividly agitated when they recalled the huge ammounts of money alleged to have been embezzeled under the overthrown government. Many echoed the AFPRC's demand that every butut stolen must be recovered and that those found culpable be severely punished according to the law of the land if they fail to comply with the decisions of the Commissions. There appears to be no intention on the part of the bulk of the people to compromise on this issue.
We now have to dwell on the position of our development partners as directed in our terms of reference. It is common knowledge that a huge part of our terms of reference. It is common knowledge that a huge part of our economy depends on the donor community who provide loans, grants, advisory services and technical assistance. Some informed Gambians even believe that as of now the economy would rapidly collapse without outside aid. The development partners have made it abundantly clear that they consider a four year transition period too long. Contemporary international opinion favouring democracy,respect for human rights and the rule of law militates against support by donor community of military governments, eventhough admittedly where strong geo-political, financial or national interests warrant it, some donors have been known to continue their support for military regimes.
Be that as it may, however, The Gambia being very small and devoid of mineral resources or great strategic advantages stands no chance of being exempted from the treatment meted out to military regimes by donor community. Therefore the views of our partners in development are important. Our intelligent guess is that most donors have stipulated eighteen months from July 22nd as a reasonable period of transition. However, from our consultations with them it would appear some of them would be inclined to be flexible if a proposal backed by the peoples', views and our considered opinion called for a period not longer than two years.
In our consultations with the people we laid emphasis on the implication of the AFPRC's programme and timetable in constitutional, ethical and economic terms. We have dealth with the ethical and economic terms. We have dealth with the ethical aspect to some extent and the constitutional issues will be touched upon in our recommendations. But it is pertinent here to dwell briefly on some economic realities crying out for a shorter transitional timetable.
It is evident that the donor community in general has since the announcement of the timetable embarked on a gradual but steady isolation of the Gambia government as leverage for a change of direction. The result has been partial loss of budgetary support in the form of grants. Some European governments have advised their citizens against spending vacations in The Gambia. The consequence of the adverse donor response has been a downward trend in buisness confidence and activity, mass unemployment in the tourist industry and an increasingly unaffordable rise in the prices of essential commodities. Government, personal and corporate revenues have plunged and some observers fear a depletion of our national reserves and a sudden and continuing depreciation of the Dalasi. in reality, without the co-operation of our development partners our nation is presently incapable of sustaining a short term, severe socio-economic hardship the ultimate outcome of which is daunting to contemplate.