The stand off at the Bakoteh Dumpsite that continue to dominate the airwaves, social media and political news headlines in the Gambia and abroad should not come as a surprised. It is results of over 5 decades of public service negligence and total disregard for the life, dignity and well-being of the Gambian people. Dating back to the first Republic and since independence, there has never been a comprehensive blue print that caters to the long term well-being of the people of this tiny strip of land with population less than some of the smallest cities in the West. In other words both the first and second republic never cared or bothered to think about uplifting the standard of living of the Gambian people through public service innovation. There was virtually no vision on where and what kind of life the people of the Gambia should live five decades or a century later.
Although there were limited resources which is the case anywhere in the world, the government of the first republic choose to do as little as they could with the resources they had but frankly without a grand vision plan of development for Gambia. Regardless of how much freedom or Democracy and human rights the people enjoyed, public facilities that promotes the standard of living of a population were barely visible for decades. One would have thought providing basic fundamental public services such as clean drinking water, energy supplies, public transportation, education and health facilities would be basic service for any government to provide its people. But in Gambia these basic things the world takes for granted were too much of a goal to attain. Instead, leaders were content with the bare minimum they could provide the general public while they continue to enjoy those basic facilities in their own homes and whenever they visited abroad. In other words, that crop of leaders could not see development beyond their personal political ambitions.
One may ask a fundamental question, what was the plan and or vision for collecting garbage which is a natural human waste that every community produces? Where there any permanent sites identified for dumping community garbage or was an idea of processing artificial waste into some sort of processing like seen in the West and other African countries ever seriously considered either in cabinet meetings or the National Assembly? Was there even any attempt to provide sanitary facilities and engage in public education to prevent public littering and defecation? What were the priorities of the first and second republic to provide basic standard of decent living with dignity for the Gambian people? Looking back now, how should this present generation judge previous political leaders of the Gambia? Do we see how basic fundamental human services needed to promote the well-being of a people were neglected?
The lackluster or failures of the first Republic led to the birth of the ugliest chapter in the history of the Gambia. A clueless junta with small brains like ants took over power and yearned for everything in the world. What initially started as a good initiative to decentralized government, build infrastructure for the tiny country soon turned into massive looting and survival of the disadvantaged. Yahya Jammeh did not only take the Gambia backwards but reduced the country into the dustbins of history with gross human rights violations and isolation from the rest of the world. He drove all promising brains out of the country and entrusted government with some of the most incompetent citizens who would have never seen office if it wasn’t the lower standard of entry into government office. Their lack of skills, experience and vision basically condemned the population into servitude. He had some of the most degrading schemes to rob the Gambian people of their remaining dignity. His griots – the likes of Yankuba Colley were entrusted with running big municipalities like the KMC. All Yankuba Colley could offer was loud noise of praise singing the dictator. The citizens of KMC and it’s surroundings who pay the highest taxes in the country continued to see their basic services run dry and neglected.
The Bakoteh dumpsite which was started during the first republic with all fairness, should never have been a dumping site in the first place. To identify that area in Bakoteh as a dumping site while population growth was exploding in the KMC region at the time was yet the most indicting idea anybody could have ever thought of. It was simply a pure lack of vision for what could happen if development were to expand in the area. Worst, during the second republic instead of exploring new ideas to find an alternative site for the dumping and processing of waste, Yahya Jammeh and his chronic brains introduced the dictatorial tendency of forcing the nation to come to a stand still every weekend for a so call ‘setsetal’ (community cleaning). It was simply an excuse to enslave the people while local and central government continue to neglect their responsibilities to put tax payers’ money towards public service. Simply put, Yahya Jammeh and Yankuba Colley’s reign are some of the most disgraceful public service to the people of the Gambia.
Fast forward to the new Gambia with new opportunities to do things differently and move our tiny Gambia forward, things have to be different not only personnel changes but delivery of public services and accountability. The people of the Gambia after enduing two decades of human degradation and negligence, must raise the bar high on their government and elected officials. They must not be taken for granted by lackluster elected officials who show signs of incompetence and gross negligence in delivering their services. We must comment the young people of Bakoteh and Serekunda in sending a clear message that their taxes must be used to provide basic services to the people. Although we agree that dumping garbage in front of Mayor Colley’s office is not the most appropriate way, we do recognize that desperate times requires desperate measures. The message to the Mayor and other local area elected officials could not be more clearer. The people deserve as much service as the elected officials and any elected official who did not live up to the expectations of the people must be taken to task, recalled and possibly force out of office.
The Bakoteh dumpsite issue is not unique to KMC but the same problem is found across the width and breath of the Gambia. Almost every major town and city in the Gambia face the same insanity problems and lack of basic human services. Where is the dumping site in Banjul, Brikama, Farafenni, Soma, Basse, Bansang and you name it? When are these basic services required for decent human living provided to the Gambian people? What is the vision of local elected officials and the Barrow government in addressing these fundamental basic services? Are we going to see a change in attitude and service delivery to our people, or would this continue to be a dream that would never come true. The fact remains that the new government both local and national in Gambia does not lack the brains to think outside of the box and be more creative in delivering services. Most of the people in government today both local and national were opposition to the first and second republic. It is time for them to come up with new ideas and create these basic services for the people. Anything less would be an equal negligent of their duties to providing basic services for the people. A join declaration by local elected officials to demand an explanation of the allocations of the KMC budget is in order. While national assembly members can scrutinize the national budget, bringing it down to the local level is the first taste of doing things different. Gambian people expect nothing less, no legal processes, no political maneuvering without service delivery. A permanent solution to the KMC Bakoteh dumpsite and in general across the country must be a priority! No taxation without service delivery!