By Saul Saidykhan
The stories about the horror Black Africans go through in North Africa in transit to Europe via the Mediterranean has been known for years now. Yet, African leaders generally haven’t done much to stand up for their citizens. As usual, it has to take the intervention of the western media to catapult many African leaders into action. The current deluge of images and video coming out of Libya speak for themselves, and confirm EVERYTHING we’ve been hearing for years. The fact that so many barbaric criminals – Arab, European, and Indian- daringly video-tape themselves while inflicting UNPROVOKED and UNJUSTIFIABLE SAVAGERY on Africans cheerfully is testament to the mindset of the people of the region as far as Africans are concern. Let me be clear: as outrageous and egregious as what is currently taking place in Libya is, the country is merely a metaphor for Arab attitude towards Africans. If truth be told, there isn’t a single Arab country where Africans are treated as human beings. Muamar Ghadaffy, and before him, Kama Abdel Nasser are simply exceptions when it comes to Arab leaders and Africans.
In the early ‘90s, I remember watching Tony Brown’s interview with one of Minister Louis Farrakhan’s senior aides after they returned from Libya. The gentleman stated bluntly that from his first-hand experience, “the only Libyan who likes black people is Ghadaffy.” Now, I realize this isn’t politically correct, but it is the truth! I hear and read many people engage in all type of semantics to excuse or rationalize the wickedness directed at black people in the middle-East. But the fact is, from Mauritania to Qatar, the story is the same regarding Arab behavior towards Africans. Anyone who follows African affairs know the stories about how countless Ethiopian women, and other African females have been put through hell in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arabian gulf region in contemporary times. It was only a couple of years ago that scandals about African women getting lured to that region with promises of gainful employment, only for their passports to be seized and the women forced into being sex or domestic slaves! This is years before news of the current savagery ongoing in Libya broke. Yet, some of us still act as if Libya is an aberration.
On the contrary, we roll the carpet for these people in Africa, give them exclusive business deals, preferential treatment, and allow them to pocket our political leaders and control our economies. We Africans really need to wake up, and treat others EXACTLY THE WAY THEY TREAT US!
In The Gambia, it’s not enough to merely rescue our people from the barbaric savages in the Maghreb. The Barrow administration must act quickly to create opportunities to give our youth reasons to be hopeful about both their individual and the country’s future. Most of the Backway migrants are desperate rural youth who embarked on these dangerous voyages out of hopelessness and despair. The places in the rural Gambia where employment opportunities used to be- Bwiam, Mansa Konko, Tendaba, Kerewan, Kuntaur, Janjang-bureh, and Basse were all neglected and turned into shells by Yahya Jammeh. Reviving these places and others will have two GUARANTEED benefits: 1. It will dramatically cut down the unsustainable Rural-Urban migration we’ve seen in the Yahya Jammeh years, and 2. It will help tremendously in increasing Gambia’s agricultural output by getting rural youth back to the farms. My dad worked in Mansa Konko for nearly forty years formally while at the same time farming subsistent crops like peanuts and couscous, and rearing animals informally. As did most of his native colleagues. When I lived in Jarra, neither my dad nor grandpa ever bought a ram for religious Eid celebrations or cultural reasons like baby-christening and weddings. Today, that’s all changed because the youth who used to help with such things are all away in Kombo looking for non-existent jobs thanks to the idiocy of Yahya Jammeh’s policies. President Barrow needs to reverse this expeditiously!
As a long-term strategy, the new government needs to come up with ideas to enable those who prefer rural life to access meaningful employment while remaining in their domain. In this day and age, there is no reason why someone born in or near Bwiam, Mansa Konko, Tendaba, Kerewan, Kuntaur, Janjang-bureh, or Basse can’t go to school and study their desired vocation in their locale and subsequently find a job that can sustain them and their family. The government’s goal should be to have a branch of the national university, and a Vocational Center in every region of the country.
Earlier in the year, I suggested the creation of a Magnet location in each Region of the Gambia. This initiative should be expedited. These towns can be called whatever – Employment/Administrative Centers, Industrial Parks, Skills Acquisition Centers, etc. The important point is to afford our people the opportunity to better their lives and contribute to national development meaningfully. We have thousands of miles of roads to build (BETWEEN our towns and villages, and WITHIN them). Also, we need to build hundreds of food banks or silos to safely store our agricultural products. Not to mention the issue of shelter. On roads, our country needs to move away from throwing away money on temporary road infrastructure that do not even last five years. We should endeavor to build tarred roads that are more durable. Same goes for home dwellings. We are blessed not to have experience natural disasters like earthquakes or extreme winds like many countries do. But we need to start building our infrastructure as if we expect an earthquake or tornado to hit us anytime.
This way, if such catastrophe comes our way, we at least have some decent chance of saving many lives. Our current mentality of leaving everything to the gods isn’t a wise thing in my view. It makes sense to be proactive by upgrading our infrastructure standards. One simply never knows.
In that same opinion, I advised that our Foreign Minister engage the European governments which are now hosting thousands of our youth as migrants to help us train these mostly young people “academic-light” vocations like road-building, refrigeration, mechanical and electrical engineering, auto-mechanics, welding, building construction, masonry, carpentry, plumbing, land-scaping, horticulture, solar panel- installation, and so on. ALL these occupations take two years or less to study and be proficient at. The Europeans (mainly Italy, Spain, and Germany) probably will be more amenable to this short-term assistance than being a permanent host to our people. In fact, every African that lives in the west knows having legal papers doesn’t shield one from the harsh reality of a life of discrimination. Home is where we all belong! It’s the history of deficient leadership that has put us in such a pathetic state.
Circling back to the plight of the youth- especially those being repatriated or already repatriated, it is a NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE for government to quickly engage these citizens in something useful. Leaving them to be idle will lead to their frustration, which in turn will make them turn -understandably, to undesirable livelihoods. Or worse, to the small but vocal army of False Prophets- who we have no shortage of, with fantasy theories and Blue-Sky solutions about the country’s myriad problems. If the Barrow administration doesn’t act quickly to get the ball rolling, the Fantasy gurus will seize upon that fact to prod our youth towards a path that is bound to lead to anarchy or protracted instability. The urgency to act swiftly couldn’t be more imminent.