Corruption has been an uncontrollable epidemic in Africa since the continent attained its political independence more than half a century ago. According to an AU report released in 2013 more than $148 billion Dollars are lost to corruption in African countries on an annual basis (Ghanaweb). This is estimated to be roughly about 25% of Gross Domestic Product of African countries. These corruptions are mainly attributed to assets looted by public officials through bribery and corruption. This massive looting of African resources is believed to surpass the billions of dollars African governments receive in grants and loans from the World Bank, IMF and other International monetary institutions and governments. Yet Africa continue to wonder why the continue is ravaged in poverty and lack of development.
A new generation of African leaders are morally obligated to do everything possible to not only promote democracy but stamp out corruption. Already we are witnessing General Buhari of Nigeria who was elected on fighting corruption uncovering unprecedented corruption in Nigeria. He declared his assets when he was elected President in an effort to promote transparency in government. Buhari and new breeds of African leaders are faced with challenges of leading the fight against corruption. It is unfortunate that while African leaders continue to live lavish lives styles, their people continue to live in abject poverty.
Mr. President you will agree with Gambians that your predecessor Yahya Jammeh was one of the most corrupt African leaders the continent has ever produced. The young man who seized power on the premise of “transparency, accountability and probity” turned out to be the most greedy and corruption leader the nation has ever witnessed. He went from a being poor soldier in rags to one of the richest in Africa far richer than the state he presided over. Jammeh did not hide his quest for material wealth as he controlled everything by turning public corporations and assets to his personal properties. He forced business men to give him kick back, partnerships and deposit funds into his personal bank accounts. He was alleged to withdraw over $18 million dollars from the Central bank in less than twelve months. He once openly declared that he will “never be poor again in his life”.
The Gambian people expect their new President and your government to be an example of new breed of African leaders who will end corruption and restore citizen confidence in government. One of the most critical things African leaders have consistently failed the continent on is the issue of accountability and corruption. Many experts over the years believed that Africa’s number one problem is their leaders’ lack of vision and humility to set the tone for transparency and accountability in government. It is indisputable Africa has massive untapped wealth and resources, when invested wisely will transform the lives of this beautiful continent and its people. The foundation for setting the stage to stamp out corruption and government transparency is leaders leading by example.
We therefore are calling for you Mr. President to lead by example. Declare all your assets including your bank accounts both domestic and International. This will set the stage for transparency and accountability. When the leader sets the tone and sends a clear message to the rest of the country that the buck stops with the leader, everyone else must comply. You should not only stop at declaring your assets, but ensure that all your cabinet ministers and public officials declare their assets for the whole country to see. Mr. President we must warn that if you don’t take steps to put in place mechanisms to prevent corruption, your coalition government could turn into raise to acquire more wealth than govern the country. It is known to many Gambians that some in your coalition cabinet have struggled with financial stability in the past. Without serious measures to prevent corruption and hold these ministers accountable, your three years or five years transition government could lead to massive corruption.
Mr. President, many Gambians don’t doubt your honesty and sincerity, but as the saying goes “power corrupts absolute power corrupts”. Like in your daily efforts to govern, you must put in place policies and measures to ensure that your cabinet and government are accountable to the Gambian people. It is indisputable that corruption is an epidemic in Gambia and across Africa. You must understand that 22 years of Yahya Jammeh openly looting government coffers and grabbing as much land as he could, left many public and private sector officials scrambling to loot as much as they could as well. Gambians knew petty project managers or public officials who became massively rich from stealing public resources. President Jammeh’s ‘do as I said and not as I do’ despite his heavy handedness in firing, arresting and imprisoning thousands of public officials, corruption continue to be rampant in Gambia during the last 22 years.
How then can you prevent such massive corruption from continuing to take place? It starts with you, and how you behave and handle public resources filters down to your subordinates and government officials. Mr. President you are faced with unprecedented challenges, but your legacy will not be judged base on what you inherited from 22 years of dictatorship, but rather what you are able to do to expand and improve the democratic space in Gambia. You will be judged base on how your government impact the standard of living of the ordinary Gambian. Mr. President when you take the lead in declaring your assets and demanding accountability and transparency, you will realize the power of the Presidency to influence public behavior and perception. Gambians are yearning for a nationalist leader who will put country first over self and party. Corruption is what is holding Africa from realizing its potential to elevate the standard of living of its people. Stamping out corruption will be a monumental step in laying down the foundation for a more transparent and prosperous Gambian. We await your announcement to declare your assets as symbol of the birth of the New Gambia!