The Gambia needs a concrete and productive direction to guide us from the abyss of Yaya Jammeh’s 22 years of misrule as president. First and foremost, we need to look back at what Jammeh has done to us as a nation, and what we can do to avoid another occurrence in the history of our country.
For the past 22 years under Jammeh, our nation had undergone gross mismanagement, deception, abuse, brainwashing, trauma, cultural degeneration, miseducation, and lack of self-confidence. Under Jammeh, heads of departments became bystanders by allowing Jammeh to mismanage every sector of our government wrongfully. Institutions were rendered useless because they were not allowed to carry out their dutiful functions in safeguarding the interests of the nation. Heads of our institutions became collaborators in allowing Jammeh to run the nation as he chose. Consequently, Gambians were deceived by their own government that was supposed to protect and guide them.
As we learned from the acts committed by Jammeh and former agency heads during the Jammeh era, we should choose new department heads and other key positions based on criteria that would not allow a repeat of such acts. A total restructuring of all our institutions must immediately take place by competent individuals who have the interest of our country at heart. Heads of our agencies must be educationally qualified to lead their departments in the right direction to uplift the social and economic welfare of the Gambian people. Leaders of our institutions must also be patriotic Gambians who have a track record justifying their leadership and commitment to the course of the republic. Those who collaborated with Jammeh during his tenure should be held accountable for their disservice and selfishness towards the nation. Anything short of these conditions should be dismissed and refuted.
As deception became the order of the day, Gambians became victims of their own government. Government employees who could engage in any work to benefit the general public lined their pockets at the expense of the masses. This new, adopted work culture set the climate for total negligence and abuse within the civil service. From top executives to doormen, abuse of public trust became the norm within the government infrastructure. Total disregard for the welfare of Gambian people took center stage in the day-to-day affairs of the Gambian government. Civil servants turned against one another as a tactic to stay alive in a system that was self destructive and lethal to everything Gambian. In the quest to appease the executive, Gambians began to dig each other’s graves. The culture of abuse became rampant to the point where everybody was affected negatively. As the culture of abuse became prevalent, Jammeh started to brainwash Gambians in multiple ways to cement his grip on power at all costs. Gradually, a number of Gambians expressed their loyalty to Jammeh by proclaiming him a godly figure sent to clean the Gambia of its impurities. To those ardent Jammeh supporters, anything anti-Jammeh was deemed ungodly. As the brainwashing reached its apex, Jammeh’s operatives indulged in killing Gambians senselessly.
To counter deceptive and corrupt practices in various government agencies, every department head must be mandated to manage with Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). These SOPs would serve as a guideline for department heads to have control over the actions and attitudes of all their workers hoping to deter or expose any malpractices. In addition, all department heads would report and present the state of affairs of their department to their supervisor on a weekly basis to ensure the SOPs are being followed and executed. Failure by the head of any department in following and executing h/h SOP would indicate that person’s lack of commitment toward national development and result in dismissal. With these measures in place, government employees would have the mindset to serve their people rather than serve themselves while holding public office.
As a consequence of Jammeh’s brainwashing, every sector of Gambia’s population started to feel the pain of Jammeh’s misrule and forced Gambian people to live in a state of constant trauma. To many Gambians, leaving Gambia was the only alternative. Both young and old started to look for an exit, an exit from a system that had its people entrapped in chronic poverty and no sense of direction. Since opportunity became a rare commodity, one lost h/h moral compass in trying to make a living. Many among the young populace resorted to prostitution and deceptive tactics as a way out. Other social vices were embraced to the detriment of our culture. Unfortunately, the finest of our human resources found themselves engulfed in a state of confusion, not knowing which culture was foreign or domestic. Others in their frustration and state of retreat took to the veil as a means to mask their tribulation under the false pretext of religious purity. Thus, the Gambia became a center of great attraction to many different religious denominations because they saw an opportunity to recruit followers. All kinds of Christian, non-Christian, and Muslim denominations started to influence the locals to come to their camp because the authorities had no interest in safeguarding the national interest of its people. Some of these groups are of obscure origin and totally foreign to us. Their existence and presence in the country threaten the unity and peace of our nation both short term and long term.
To disentangle ourselves from the mess Jammeh left us in, we need to accept our failure as a community allowing 22 years of tyranny. We need to engage in drastic reforms in all sectors of our government to overcome our shortcomings and regain our past glory of Gambia for Gambians. Paramount is stamping out all potential factors that threaten the peace and tranquility our beloved Gambia is known for. Elements that will sow the seed of contention among us must be obliterated. The divine defies distinction. The existence and presence of religious groups of obscure origin is worrisome. Gambia religious councils both Christian and Islamic should identify religious groups that may have the potential of creating differences among us and recommend their departure. The Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and Islam are part and parcel of Gambia’s culture since the birth of the Republic. Other Islamic groups and Christian denominations not included in the above- mentioned groups are all foreign to us and their existence threatens the unity of our nation.
When it was clear to Jammeh that Gambia and its wealth belonged to him, he arrogated the nation’s wealth by recruiting and conniving with a few Gambians and his foreign connections controlling all sectors of Gambia’s economy. As Jammeh and his foreign associates took ownership of Gambia’s economy, Gambia’s populace was reduced to bearing the burden of chronic economic suffering and relentless inflation. This injustice was a prelude to economic slavery of Gambians by foreign elements in their own country. Still, today, Gambians are living with economic hardship imposed on them by a tyrant in the name of Yaya Jammeh. While ordinary Gambians became paupers, foreign business owners took on the role of arrogant patrons who kept amassing wealth with help from corrupt government officials who had no interest in improving the welfare of their citizenry. The kickbacks received by corrupt government officials were usually spent on their mistresses while quenching their thirst for late-night drinking over a plate of “afra.” Now you know why the Gambia is in this miserable condition. Jammeh’s greed to own everything Gambian led to the formation of frivolous regulations that allowed Gambia’s meager forest and land to be exploited by foreign merchants leaving the country susceptible to permanent environmental degradation. Land ownership by foreign elements caused the price of land to be unaffordable by 99% of the local residents. As a result of Jammeh’s land policy and his dubious connections, the country’s land ownership started to fall into the hands of ruthless foreign businesses depriving Gambians a decent residential and agricultural space in their own country. The pervasiveness of foreign ownership and control of Gambia businesses was noticeable on the streets and in the markets in and around all metropolitan areas. Foreign control of Gambia businesses and lack of oversight by the government allowed foreign vendors to price things as they chose. Subsequently, everything in the country was overpriced at a level that defied logic and common sense taking into consideration what average Gambians earned. All of these factors added to the pressure that forced young Gambians to leave in droves trekking the Sahara desert and crossing the Mediterranean Sea for greener pastures overseas. After years of emigration by Gambian youth, the villages and towns of the Gambia became deserted with only the elderly and women left behind. Many of these travelers would never make it back. Since foreigners were in charge of Gambians’ lifeline, the economic suffering of the people became very apparent and unbearable. Even now, the price of basic necessities and commodities in the country are out of touch with reality. While foreign business elements are basking in economic prosperity in the Gambia, ordinary Gambians are languishing in chronic poverty all because of bad policies, corrupt practices and inaction by the government and the citizenry.
A cure for these self –dejected, cancerous practices in the Republic is the willingness and effort by the nation to put Gambia’s economy back in the hands of Gambians. This can only occur if citizens hold their government accountable. Foreign investment in a country can only reap benefits when there are sound economic policies and regulations laid out and executed by the host government to guide and protect the interest of its citizens. A failure in the enactment and execution of well-placed economic policies by the government will only open the doors for the nation’s wealth to be taken away by predatory investors and corrupt individuals inflicting untold and calamitous economic hardship on the nationals. Economic hardship in a country is a breeding ground for anarchy and civil strife. Anger and discontent among the people is a reality. Gambia’s economic security is as fragile as ever unless the government intervenes and regulates Jammeh’s failed policies. Furthermore, Gambians should no longer be bystanders in deciding the fate of their own nation. We can achieve success in finding solutions to our nation’s shortcomings and undoing Jammeh’s misdeeds, by putting the right people who have the nation’s interest at heart in office and shut the door to corrupt practices in every section of the government. We must also desist from blind loyalty when it comes to matters of national interests and statehood. When we have a government with concrete and productive policies to guide us away from Jammeh’s 22 years of slavery and usher us into an era of self-reliance, economic freedom, political maturity, unity and self confidence, Gambia will again belong to Gambians.
Author: Mohammed Kora