Friday, November 18, 2011

Special Coverage: 2011 Presidential Election...

United Democratic Party Election Manifesto 2011


Ousainou Darboe, UDP Leader
 
PREFACE
This Manifesto of the United Democratic Party (UDP) embodies the policy guidelines of the party to be presented to the Gambian people in the forth-coming Presidential/Parliamentary elections. It is a statement of intention in respect of socio-economic development as well as institutional and constitutional arrangements to be put in place by the party during its term(s) of office in the Second Republic. The party intends to be identified with the pronouncements in this manifesto, the overall aim of which is to transform The Gambia into a haven of peace, stability and prosperity.
In this regard, major policy areas have been identified across the board and are carefully examined to reflect their relevance to the realization of the aforesaid objectives. They range from strengthening democracy and good governance, security matters, economic policies in a free market economy, trade facilitation, monetary and fiscal development to provide an enabling environment for a balanced and sustainable economic growth and development, agriculture and women’s empowerment and development. A pragmatic foreign policy has also been highlighted in line with continental and global realities.
 
 Reforms in the civil service is crucial to the implementation of the UDP policies, and special emphasis has been placed on National Unity, Social Justice, Poverty Alleviation, sound economic management, youth engagement and the empowerment of women. The problem of drugs abuse has also been scrutinized and programs envisaged for the rehabilitation of drug addicts and the overall eradication of the menace in society.
The transformation of the Gambia into a haven of peace and prosperity through the realization of economic objectives for a balanced and sustainable economic growth and self-reliance is the hallmark of the UDP national policy. It is thus envisaged that this will guarantee Poverty Alleviation through an uplifting of our agricultural productivity, industrialization of the economy and the development of the country. Consequently, the UDP is determined to mobilize all resources both internal and external for the fullest development of the country. We have opted for a free market economy as the point of departure from the current government economic strategy. 
 
The UDP is determined that with the co-operation of development partners and the commitment of each and every Gambian to play his or her own part, we will achieve the goal of improving the well being of the Gambian people. Indeed the potential is available and in place, and we are not wanting in the will and determination to forge ahead. 
 
1. INTRODUCTION
The people of The Gambia have arrived at cross roads. The transition period has come to an end and the military, contrary to initial promises and sanctimonious statements, have shown clearly their desire to perpetuate themselves in office. The choice that we have to make is clear. It is between a military regime disguised in civilian costume, and a truly genuine democratic civilian government to place The Gambia among the progressive nations of the world. The UDP will provide such a government. 
 
Important though is the choice between policies, these elections are also a choice between values and visions. At the heart of our conviction is the belief in the freedom of the individual and the right to a chance to develop his or her potential. We believe that for freedom to have real meaning, standards of public service must be high and widely accessible; that the rights of the individual, like all others in a free society, are the same for all men and women irrespective of age, ethnic origin and class. For these rights and responsibilities to be exercised fully and fairly, the Government of The Gambia must work hard to promote the general well-being of the Gambian people by adequately supporting initiatives, research and innovation, the improvement of skills, infrastructure and industrial development. 
 
Guided by these values, the UDP will make The Gambia more competitive, productive and just; more secured against crime and more conscious of the danger of environmental degradation. A government must serve the whole nation irrespective of differences in political leanings. The UDP will provide such a government. The realities of current world order requires that the government provides a stable economic environment that lays firm emphasis on productive investment in the public and private sectors, education and training to develop the skills of young people and adults. 
 
The UDP will implement these policies as they are vital for improvement in the living standards of the people. The UDP have confidence in our country and its people and wants to create a society that provides equal opportunities for all and promote development of the people’s potentials and the exercise of their rights. The UDP shall therefore introduce constitutional and other changes that will give renewed vigour to our democracy. 
 
It is time for change, time for a fresh start; a new beginning in our lives and in the life of our country. The Choice is clear. Let us put an end to a government that would mean the perpetuation of economic stagnation, political isolation and a repressive social environment and disrespect of Gambian nationals all over the world.
The military in Africa have proved beyond doubt what they are incapable of improving the lot of its citizens while in government. They have no policies, which means no sustained development, better health care or improved educational standards. Throughout Africa rule by the military has been a disaster and The Gambia is no exception. The UDP believes that ANOTHER GAMBIA IS POSSIBLE and now is the time to get it  by voting massively the UDP to power. 
 
The UDP government will give a fresh start to The Gambia. It will mean action to rebuild confidence, fair taxation and incentives for enterprises, and support for essential services; it will mean greater freedom, security and opportunity for all. 
 
2. GOVERNANCE, HUMAN RIGHTS AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
Abraham Lincoln in 1863 described Democracy as Government of the people by the people and for the people. The UDP is committed to the concept of a representative democracy in which people choose, based on informed decisions, who they want to represent them, defend their interest and conduct the affairs of the state on their behalf.
The present 1997 Constitution was tailor-made to suit the members of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC), who were preparing to turn themselves into politicians. Despite popular demand, the AFPRC ignored the wishes of the Gambian people.
A UDP government will introduce Constitutional amendments, which would amongst others include:
- limiting the term of the Presidency to 2 terms of 5 years;
- limiting the term of local government executives to 3 terms of 4 fours;
- making the office of Chiefs an elective one;
- entrenching provisions relating to the Independent Electoral Commission;
- Making provisions, which would enable organisations, other than political parties, to sponsor candidates for elections.
 
2:1. COMMITMENT TO DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS
A.         Governance
The APRC regime is notorious for its poor governance practices .Human Rights abuses have been entrenched and there is no respect for the rule of law. Corruption, bribery, Repressive controls over the press and the abuse of civil liberties have been the hallmarks over the past seventeen years of AFPRC/APRC rule. Records of such instances can be found all over and are clearly mutually reinforcing.
The UDP shall;
- Establish good governance to enhance the capacity to function;
- “providing a genuine lift out of poverty” and
- Establish good governance, which includes an absence of corruption in the broader sense of the word and should also comprise of the ability of the public sector to design and implement efficient and effective policies to realize development goals.
 Government responsiveness and respect for citizens and the institutions of society and the mechanism for the peaceful transfer of power in accordance with popular will, including widespread participation will not be compromised.
 
B.         Human Rights
The current regime, the APRC, is a well known serial violator of human rights, the fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law. This has resulted in the creation of a very repressive environment and a culture of fear in The Gambia.  Even the tailor-made Constitution is being violated on a daily basis
Although the Constitution provides for the protection of most human rights and civil liberties in The Gambia, there persists continuing cases of arbitrary arrests and detentions without warrants or trials particularly against political opponents, both real and perceived, and journalists.
 
Detainees face prolonged pre-trial detentions and are held beyond the 72 hour Constitutional limit without charge.
The regime restricts freedom of speech, assembly, press and other rights through intimidation, unwarranted arrests and detentions, and restrictive legislation.
The restrictive media environment that exists in the country has forced many journalists into self imposed exiled or out of business.
 
Although the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the regime continues to fire judges without resort to Constitutional procedures. Such firings relate particularly to those who made unfavourable decisions against the present regime
The Lower Courts are also subject to executive pressure
The National Assembly is not effectively performing its oversight roles and responsibilities particularly in the area of budget formulation, ensuring implementation of policies and public expenditure control. It readily succumbs to Executive pressure which leads to them failing to perform their duties. In essence, it has now developed into a rubber stamp to all executive decisions.
 
B:1  Civic Education
Civic education can only take place effectively in an atmosphere devoid of authoritarianism. We will encourage and support civic education through the national committees, schools, NGOs, and the political parties so that the citizens can play a more active and enlightened role in the political abuse of power and a defence against military interference in politics.
Civil education will also take care of sensitisation and education in the area of environmental responsibilities and awareness. The role and responsibilities of Local Government Authorities will also be the object of sensitisation. 
 
B: 2 The Judiciary
Everyone has the fundamental right to be listened to and be heard when accused or found to be in breach of the law. Fraud, waste and embezzlement are absolutely no reasons for the seizure, abuse and demolition of the rights of the citizens of this country or any other country. All citizens of The Gambia must be treated equally as human beings in the eyes of the law.
Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the regime continues to fire judges particularly those who made unfavourable decisions against it without the due process being followed. The most recent high profile case being the removal of the country’s Chief justice, Justice Abdou Karim Savage. The lack of security of tenure works against the independence and impartiality of the judiciary. The UDP will ensure the establishment of an independent, impartial, apolitical, and knowledgeable and corruption free judiciary. 
 
A UDP administration will therefore guarantee the independence impartiality and integrity of the judiciary by –
-           Ensuring that no judge or magistrate will be removed from office without following the due process of law.
-           Guaranteeing the right to fair trial, access to justice and equality before the law for all Gambians.
-           Implementing and enforcing the code of conduct and ethics on judges.
-           Establishing and maintaining an independent, strong and robust judicial Service Commission.
-           Improving efficiency in case management and the dispensation of justice in our court system particularly in the lower courts.
-           Ensuring that the judiciary is the final arbiter of all disputes in the country.
 
C. CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
The present [1997] Constitution was tailor-made to suit the members of the AFPRC Military Junta who were preparing to turn themselves into civilian politicians. Despite popular demand, the junta ignored the wishes of the Gambian people and instituted a self perpetuating rule for President Jammeh, (who is now expressing a desire to turn the country into an absolute Monarch with him as King and his six year old son, Mohammed, the heir to the throne.)
The UDP is committed to ending the culture of self perpetuating rule and shall introduce a Constitutional reform programme that will include, among others-
-           Introducing a presidential term limit of two 5yr terms.
-           Abrogating the presidential power to dissolve the National Assembly
-           Closing down the constitutional loophole that allows the President to fire elected members of the National Assembly and the Independent Electoral Commission.
-           Repealing the Local Government Act 2007 to ensure that our local government administration is purely based on democratically elected councils as opposed to the present hybrid system of presidential appointments and popular election with no autonomy whatsoever.
-           Amend section 58 and 59 dealing with the appointment of District Seyfo and Alkalo. To facilitate grass root empowerment in Governance it is necessary that district Seyfo are elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage. Alkalolu should be selected by village elders, taking into account traditional lines of inheritance. In the absence of a consensus, the issue shall be subject to election.
 
-           Adapting a highly decentralised form of local government administration with local authorities having a significant autonomy.
-           Limiting the term of local council chairmen/women and mayors to 2 terms and they should be elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage.
-           Strengthening and entrenching the constitutional provisions relating to the Independent Electoral Commission to ensure a truly independent electoral body.
-           Re-introducing the second round voting system to ensure that no party governs Gambia without the expressed approval of at least 51 of the electorates.
-           Making provisions which would enable organisations and communities other than political parties to sponsor candidate for election.
-           Repealing all obnoxious media laws to ensure press freedom and allow for a vibrant debate on national issues.
-           Guarantee and safeguard the independence and integrity of the judiciary particularly the Criminal Justice System.
 
The UDP shall give meaning and respect to the sections of the constitution dealing with sovereignty of the Republic of the Gambia. Nobody shall be allowed to use The Gambia and its resources as his/her personal property, as is indicative of the present time.
In addition to the local revenue generated within the local central government shall allocate some resources to each council to bring about a more equitable distribution of the National wealth.       
 
The UDP has a fundamental belief in and is committed to democracy and respect for human rights. There can be no sustained and meaningful development in the absence of a genuine democracy. The people of this country have an inalienable right to participate in all decision-making process on all issues affecting their lives and the conditions of their existence.
We are strongly committed to the protection of the rights of the citizen at all times as reflected in the constitution of The Gambia, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and similar legal instruments that seek to protect the individual against the might of the state. We shall also give full support to the strengthening of the democratic institutions in the country. These will include:  

C: 1. Political Parties
Political parties will be recognized as the vehicles for expressing the political will and aspirations of the citizens. As one of the pillars of democratic practice, political parties shall provide the necessary framework for the effective participation of the citizenry in the political process.
We shall support and encourage the operations of a multi-party environment that will subscribe to the process of effecting a lawful change of government. Any law that seeks to restrict the operations of such political parties shall be abrogated.
As important agencies in the political educational process, the UDP government shall provide support to political parties in carrying out their civic education programs.
The IEC will be made to play a more tangible role in party politics and will be empowered to ensure at all times a level playing field for all parties to function in.
 
C: 2. the Press
The press has a particularly important role to play in strengthening democracy. It has the responsibility of informing and educating the citizens as well as the government on the concerns, needs and possibilities of the ship of state. To fulfill this role effectively calls for an active press and committed journalists, whether from the public or private sector.
The UDP will support and encourage a free press as a pillar of democracy, and abolish all unjustified restrictions on the press. We shall also ensure that individual privacy and personal information of all citizens are protected and respected. 
 
D. SECURITY
The role of the Armed Forces, Police and other security agents is to defend the sovereignty of the country and maintain peace and stability for all citizens. We will provide adequate resources and needed equipment for the effective defence of the country.
The UDP will provide improved professional military and other training facilities to allow the army to play a useful role in the development process especially in constructing roads, bridges, gully erosion control and forest management, during peace time. Army personnel will be given appropriate training that would enable them to be integrated fully in society and contribute to national development using the skills they have acquired.
The Police Force will be strengthened to deal with crime and drug trafficking that are becoming a national embarrassment. Police patrols have now become things of the past. These will be introduced with the police being fully equipped and endowed to perform these tasks.
The Ambulance and Fire Services and the Prisons staff would also be further trained to live up to the expectations of the Nation. Their roles are crucial to the wellbeing of the population and the also should be fully equipped to play their roles.
Above all, the remunerations of these service personnel must be looked at with a view to making them more commensurate with the very important role each of these services are playing in making our country secure 
 
3. THE ECONOMY
The main policy goal of the UDP is an attempt to reshape the country’s economic and productive structure. This is to be achieved through state intervention and private sector led initiative to achieve high productivity and better management of state assets and Corporations. We shall provide a sound economic environmental targeting the productive base of the economy, using prudent fiscal and monetary policies that will aim to achieve the following:
 
3:1 Overcoming low level of productivity
 The Gambian economy is characterised by low productivity especially in the agricultural and industrial sectors. This has led to low income (increased poverty), low ability to purchase nutritious foods, low capacity to work leading to low productivity.
The APRC Government instead of addressing the problem choose to focus its attention on increase taxation and acquisition of overburdening loans (domestic/foreign) to move the economy forward. The UDP government shall, on the other hand, undertake to transform the economy through production increase both in the agricultural and industrial sectors. In the former mention has already been made of the need to transform the current peasant substance agriculture into mixed and diversified farming system as a foundation for specialised modern commercial farming. In this transformation the important role of women is emphasized. The policy paper on agriculture provides the details. For the industrial sector, the UDP shall encourage and initiate the growth of manufacturing industries based on the products of the mixed and diversified farming system. This can take the form of agro based industries such as fruit canning, vegetable canning, groundnut oil processing, meat canning etc. The employment generated by these ventures, and the value added obtain through the export of these products can be quite significant. The success of these ventures will be highly dependent on managerial competence, access to information, workers motivation and institutional flexibility.
For increase of productivity in these activities, there is need to mobilise domestic savings and foreign finance to generate new investment in physical capital goods and build up the stock of human capital (i.e. managerial skills) through investment in education and trainings. Institutional changes are also necessary maximise the potential of the new physical and human investment.
 
3:2 Taxation
The current tax policies and laws have given rise to a lot of uncertainties and de-motivation for investment and private sector growth. These shall be reviewed and eventually consolidated to provide the highest level of motivation for private sector growth and investments. In particular:
The borehole tax of D50, 000.00 for agricultural enterprises is a serious impediment for development in that sector and shall remove.
??The high level of expatriate tax shall be reduced especially for skilled workers from ECOWAS countries to encourage competence in economic management. Training opportunities shall be opened up to nationals to improve capacities
 
3:3 Monetary Policy
The object of our monetary policy will be to encourage investment and reduce inflation in the economy. The capacity of the central bank to manage and direct   the monetary policy of the economy shall be enhanced.
The regulation and supervision of the financial services sector shall be strengthened to ensure its efficient and prudent operation and maximize protection for depositors’ funds.
A full liberal exchange rate policy will be maintained. Nonetheless, we will ensure that no one abuses the system to the detriment of a sound economy.
 
     3:4. Private Sector
UDP fully recognises the potentials of the sector as an engine for growth. We shall support and encourage their activities through the provision of an enabling environment with minimum government intervention and interference.
In view of its pivotal role in the socio-economic development of this nation, the growth and development of the private sector shall be an essential and integral component of our overall economic policy.
UDP Shall:
-           Ensure regular consultation with the private sector through its umbrella institutions like the Chamber of Commerce, on all issues of concern with the aim of putting in place friendly policies that encourage and facilitate growth.
-           Consider the views of the private sector as an essential input in our overall economic policy formulations and implementations.
-           Put in place institutional structures and mechanisms for capacity building, and to make the private sector more proactive and efficient in the execution of its functions.
-           Encourage and support a healthy private sector partnership for speeding up of the achievement of our micro-economic objectives.
The Gambia successfully implemented a number of bold macro-economic policies in the latter half of the 1980s that have released the productive sectors of the economy from the crippling control of the Government. The liberalization of the economy and the encouragement of private sector development constituted a necessary first step on the road to macro-economic policy reforms already undertaken with the support of the World Bank and IMF. These strangleholds have been creeping in with the advent of the AFPRC and subsequent APRC governments... 
 
3.5. Small business Development
The culture of small business development is not new to The Gambia. Our priority will be to strengthen the institutional support for this sector. In this, we will work with the relevant agencies and organizations in the country. UDP shall update current sectoral surveys and a small business award scheme will be instituted to encourage competition. 
 
3.6. Promoting Investment
We shall place special emphasis on the promotion of investment by providing the necessary tax and other incentives .Investment in the service sector as well as other sectors that are labour intensive shall be encouraged.
Current bureaucratic procedures encountered by investors in the processing of claims under the Development Act shall be streamlined and simplified to eliminate subjectivity and uncertainty.
A special investment promotion body shall be established for the implementation of an aggressive investment policy aimed at bringing direct foreign investment, encourage the local enterprises initiative and facilitate the transfer of technology and expertise. 
 
3.7. Power Supply
Power supply remains to date a major constraint to our development efforts. Power is needed for our industries, hotels and houses. Electricity is known to be unavailable or/and where available, irregular and expensive.
UDP shall increase the generating capacity and thus the supply of electricity; improve the quality of service in distribution and management and reduce the high cost of electricity charged to industry and domestic consumers. This policy will improve the competitiveness of Gambian industries.
Alternative energy sources will be evaluated and exploited to diversify our options and reduce our dependence on diesel engines, components and fuels, which we imperatively have to import. The bridge barrage project will be revisited with a view to establish its feasibility for implementation. Thus The Gambia can gain the potential of becoming a net exporter of electricity.
The current policy of charging duty on generation fuel shall be reviewed with a view to exempting it from all director taxes.
 The bridge barrage project on the Gambia River will be revisited immediately with a view of establishing its feasibility for implementation of this very important alternative source of energy.
 
3.7. Employment
The UDP government shall provide an enabling environment for employment creation. In this regard the reforms envisaged in the agricultural sector as well as anticipated investment in the manufacturing and tourism sectors will lead to the creation of new jobs especially for young people. A cultural of self-employment will also be promoted.
We shall invest the human resource of The Gambia and provide the necessary skilled labour force required for our economic take-off.
Employers will be obliged to invest a minimum amount in training their own work force to make a contribution to the national training effort.
People will trained to acquire skills relevant to every aspect of the economy-agriculture, manufacture, trade and the service industries.
Give women real and equal opportunities to work; with equal rights and status under the law.
UDP policy will be to invest in the human resources to provide the necessary skilled labour force required for our economic take-off.
Employers will be obliged to invest a minimum amount in training their own work force to make a contribution to the national training effort.
People will be trained to acquire skills relevant to every aspect of the economy - agriculture, manufacturing, and trade and service industries.
We shall give women real and equal opportunities to work and all employees will be given equal rights and status under law.
 
3;8 Tourism
The high level of operational fees and charges on hotels and business has become a disincentive to development in these areas and shall be reviewed downwards.
The high level of expatriate tax shall be reduced especially for skilled workers from ECOWAS countries, to encourage competence in economic management. Training opportunities shall also e made available to Gambian national to improve personal capacities and competency.
The Hotel Training School shall be upgraded to provide adequately trained staff to man the hotels and tourism facilities that presently endowed with and to raise the standards of service commensurate with international standards. Other tourism training institutions would be encouraged to establish and contribute towards this objective.
A permanent promotion of our tourism facilities and potential would be embarked upon and the diplomatic missions abroad, particularly in Europe, would be given a pivotal role in this.
Up country and cultural tourism will also be encouraged. The Gambia is well endowed with attractive sites and sceneries that would be of particular interest to the new kind of tourist running away from beaches and sand.
 
3:9 Promoting Investment
Investments in the Gambia have been lagging behind since the military takeover and it is the intention of the UDP to:
Place special emphasis on the promotion of investment by providing the necessary tax and other incentives.
Encourage investment in  industrialisation especially Agro-industrialisation
The current bureaucratic procedures faced by investors in the processing of claims under the Development Acts, shall be streamlined and simplified to eliminate subjectivity and uncertainty.
A special investment promotion body shall be established for the implementation of an aggressive investment policy aimed at bringing direct foreign investment into the country, encourage the local enterprises initiative and facilitate the transfer of technology and expertise.
Tax incentive will be provided businesses that provide significant employment opportunities.
.
3:10. Civil Service
The civil service is the largest institution in the country. It has gone through a lot of changes that has robbed it of its drive and efficiency. In its present state, it needs rehabilitation and reorientation to enable it to cope with the new demands of society, business and industry. The UDP government will restore the Service to its former position. Civil servants will be well remunerated and motivated. Facilities like housing and car loans will be reintroduced. Additional training on the job and at institutions of higher learning in country and overseas will be reinforced.
Advancement and promotion shall be done on the basis of set service rules as embodied in the Public Service Regulations. In this regard, the powers of the Public Service Commission, eroded under the present regime, will be restored. There will be zero tolerance for corruption and inefficiency and in service training for proficiency will be a regular part of civil service progression.
 
3:11. Transport and Communication
For a vibrant and sustainable economic development, business people need good roads and reliable communication facilities. The road and communication conditions of Gambia today are unacceptable. The road networks have remained all the time largely seasonal; the national radio hardly covers the entire country satisfactorily.
The UDP government will open the country by developing a road reconstruction program, which will provide permanent all-season roads for business and communities. Initially, priority will be given to the north bank of the river, which has endemically suffered from getting less than its fair share of the country’s paved road network.
Most of the roads that lie damaged could have been saved and kept in good conditions if a good maintenance system was in place. The National Roads Authority was set up to do just this but it is apparent that it has not lived up to expectation. The UDP government will review the functions of the Authority to make it more responsive to the present exigencies of a developing country in need of opening the hinterland.
To this effect, the excellent river facilities with wharves and jetties lying in disused along the River will be resuscitated and vessels procured to transport both goods and passengers between Banjul and Basse via intermediate ports.
It will be a priority of the UDP development policy to provide extra urban space in the Capital by reclamation of the swamps. This will provide enough space for extension of the Port of Banjul, construction of an industrial zone including a fishing complex.
 Banjul International Airport and the Seaport shall be developed to maintain the Gateway concept for the Gambia. Government, International Donors and private sector partners will be encouraged to participate in order to realize this great dream mooted twenty years ago.

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