By Abdoukarim Sanneh, London, United Kingdom.
The Human Development Index Report of United Nation 2016 has indicated that Gambia and many Countries in Sahel West Africa are the worst place to live on this planet. What another disheartening report of hopelessness, despair hunger, poverty and development crisis. For many who are clouded with what is happening in this part of Africa, this report is not a surprise. Renowned American Political Philosopher Noam Chomsky stated that Freedom without opportunity is devil’s gift, and the refusal to provide such opportunities is criminal. The hypothesis is that our people are poor because they are not empowered and poorly governed.
The politics in the Gambia and many African countries should move beyond the fundamentals of individual political rights into wider issues of distributive justice such as social, economic and cultural rights. Gambia and many countries in West Africa cannot nurture functional and inclusive democracy without social justice to narrow the gap of social inequality within the society. It is a fact that human development cannot prevail in an environment where there is continuing attacks on individual liberty and it is also true that we cannot nurture democracy with development crisis such as lack of clean and safe drinking water, gender inequality, high level of illiteracy, poor health care, low life expectancy, high infant and maternal mortality, lack of access to food and nutrition etc.
New Gambia is not only for a regime change but systemic changes. 22 years’ rule of Yaya Jammeh’s rule under a bogus pretext of 22nd July revolution was degeneration into social disintegration and a continuum of intergenerational and multidimensional poverty together with an economy that collapse into a Mafioso-style chaos as evidence in current revelation at Commission of enquiry. Today the majority of our people are hallowing in absolute poverty while the disparity between the rich and poor continues to be wider because of lack of opportunities. It is lack of opportunities such as employment that is the push factors of the country’s youthful population to venture into dangerous illegal migration to Western Europe known as back way syndrome.
Gini coefficient measurement of the Gambia, according to World Development Report indicated wider issues of inequality. It is about time Gambia’s politicians become aware that the level of inequality in our societies undermines our new budding democracy. The ideal of democracy is that all individual are supposed to have equal standing. In 1992, the International Labour Organisation conducted the first poverty survey in Gambia and the figures indicated that significant number of our people in both rural and urban Gambia are living in both food and income poverty.
For many years since after Independence, the way and manner, we conduct our politics based on clientism and neopatrimonialism state but much is done in the area of livelihood diversification. The daily life of our average citizens continues to be characterised with despair and hopelessness. Every government from PPP and APRC that comes into power comes with its own unrealistic quick fix technocratic modernisation views of development. Beyond stipulated political vision such as Singapore of West Africa or Vision 2020 not much is done improved the livelihood of the people. The trend and pattern of endemic poverty had even damage Gambia’s natural environment because of depend on our forest cover for fuel wood and the major source of domestic energy. The life of average Gambia is living on the edge and confronted by all forms of development challenges.
The economy is anaemic and with rising unemployment and failing agricultural sector. The tide of rural/urban migration also out country migration is beyond the records of Gambian statistic. There are enormous challenges facing development crisis in our country and all these cannot be addressed without looking into good governance, rule of law, democracy, human rights and external financing of development programmes. Gambia’s development programme is partly finance by bilateral and multinational aids. In this age of embracing democracy as universal value development aid, should come with financial accountability and citizen’s debt accounting. For years’ lot of debt was taken from donor institutions which end up into private bank accounts or through bureaucratic wastage such as fat per diem allowance and unnecessary consultancy. In order to meet our development challenges such as environmental degradation, high population growth, hunger, malnutrition etc, the only solution is putting in place a political system or government with humane face but not a government which is always involved in murky murder, illegal arrest and detention of its people as a strategy to suppress their liberty and democratic rights.