THREE BEGINNINGS 1965 – 1994 – 2016
We digress a little before coming to the present.
The Second Beginning fostered by Five Officers several trained in the ‘School of the Americas’ known as the Counter Insurgency training ground. Note that if one learns Counter they also fully understand Insurgency and some say assisted by their sponsors with a navy vessel offshore – wink, wink!
The newly self-appointed Captains arrived at Dakar Senegal for official meetings and held a press conference to which few journalists attended. One Pa Mody Sow a newspaper publisher interviewed them accompanied by his reporters at large Babacar Somare (The son of General Somare the first leader after independence of the Senegal Mali confederation) and Khassan Sarr. Sow returning to the office expressed to this author that the Young Captains appeared to be “Fixing” The Gambia however, the international community would not recognize the new government.
We had a Bit of African and world experience and based on the USA pushing out a Junta in Haiti it would not be in the cards to honor a new one despite a number of hints as to involvement in backing the latest one.
Sow asked this author what could be done as he had been invited to establish a newspaper in Banjul. Well, it was a rather novel idea back then and now very much in vogue. It was called “The Five Points of Recognition the Will of the People” A Referendum would be organized whereby the population would tick off the Yes or No boxes.
- The Committee (Captains) to continue Fixing the system for another 18 months and then hold an independent election duly monitored by outside observers.
- The establishment of a Free Trade Zone (Note: this actually jelled years later as the Trade Gateway Act).
- Allow banks and financial institutions to set up under a Finance Center concept, much like other offshore jurisdictions bring in accounts and massive amounts of foreign currency flows.
- Open company registration for offshore companies. This produces annual fees for government and local service companies
- Establish Gambian flagging for vessels. A that time Liberia was in dire straits and many vessel owners were in need of a re-flagging country. More annual government revenue.
On or about the end of 1994 this author visited The Gambia to meet with MC Jallow and seek medical advice at the MRC. This is noted here because of an event that took place at that time and again 22 years later. The Trust bank junction at Bakau fronted the entrance to the temporary headquarters compound of the committee and coming to it was a then Rag Tag convoy with the Chairman peering out the passenger side as mirrored sunglasses met another pair of mirrored ones making a joint acknowledgement. People standing nearby said that is the Chairman, do you know him?
History shows that there was a referendum and that early events in the 2nd Beginning were positive and perhaps fruitful in reorganizing the government, however, events always lead to other events and so the independence of an election was never an option once Power was conceived and the old guard from the 1st Beginning was shoved aside and in many cases, severely dealt with.
In New Town Bakau there is a popular meeting place where on any given night, especially on weekends, at least 2 or more former ICP’s, Attorney Generals, Port Director and then serving officials would gather to complain about the spoiling of the Gambia business situation. Before the port charges were increased to nearly the highest in Africa, business had boomed. There were jobs for many and money flowed before the downward spiral of the Dalasis. One particular night several of the regulars were complaining about the ‘Bastard British banks’. One said, ‘I have over 5 Million pounds in such and such a bank and they won’t let me take out more than 5,000, while another stated that he had over 4 Million and faced the same problem and a third said he had over 3 Million with the bastards. How would civil servants obtain such funds during the 1st Beginning? That picture was painted again in the 2nd Beginning.
The 3rd Beginning
A coalition was put together to force out the 2nd Beginning and all that it had encompassed with the slogan that Gambia Has Decided.
On the late afternoon of the day before the election, exactly 22 years later, the author was passing by the same Trust bank junction as a convoy approached. No longer a Rag Tag grouping but the same individual this time standing in the open sunroof. Once again the eyes met the eyes as one head looked back while the other turned in kind and both knew it was Finished.
What was decided now appears to be quite like a combination of the first two beginnings.
Contracts entered into without tender or bidding. Appointments leaving a number of the 2nd personnel in key posts. A significant amount of funding arranged and not accounted for and the constitution bypassed with justification that it is to be Changed later. Certain Ministers have verified criminal records in Europe and elsewhere. Known potential investors that pledged projects have got off the plane before it departed for Banjul. There is a Wait and See Attitude prevailing in the West and it has spread to the outside Gambians that have cut back on remitting funds into the country, while a commission explores the looted funds and hears so many making their justification for having done justice to the crimes. It has become the “Excuse Coast” and none are Smiling as they hear; he made me do it!
The country is hoping for a positive tourist season, which in no shape or manner can pay for the humongous projects being committed to: i.e. Turkish power monopoly (Estimate $750 Million Minimum). Israeli Tourist care hospital (Estimate $250 Million Minimum). Chinese ‘No Bid/Tender’ Port Project increased by $54 Million with no accounting documents for the increase. The stated 47 Billion Dalasis debt reflecting as $1 Billion will grow to two with these contributions. For all, there is no shame while the outside world is well aware. They know all of this and more. All text, twitter, landline or cell call, Facebook posting, lowered voice discussions in modern vehicles, are heard, recorded, logged and saved.
The 3rd Beginning custodians are not alone, they have plenty of company!
As they say, it is the Beginning of the End of the Beginning!