Not sure if “convoy syndrome” qualifies as a medical term or not, but it is something we suffer from. As school children, we were constantly yanked out of school during the First Republic to go stand on the side of the road to wave at the president as he passes with his convoy; and around Independence Day, the convoys were bigger because of invited guests coming to the celebration. I remember we used to try to count the number of cars and motorcycles in the convoy, but we would always get distracted somehow and lose count. There were also times when we stood on the side of the road in vain. Either because there was a cancellation or they decided to take a different road, and we will slowly match back to school after waiting for hours sometimes. Nahey mbowe! Not sure how many lessons we lost from being yanked out of school to wave at convoys, but am sure it’s a good amount. No wonder I was never able to spell “ehem pew” during my school days in The Gambia.
Since then, convoys have been part of the Gambian political fabric. Despite the poor road conditions, convoys are always traveling at high speed and have caused several fatalities, injured people, and damaged property. Goloh was notorious for his “100 car deep convoys” with military trucks with guns and all sorts of artillery mounted on them. His convoys were known for running people over, including children. Several incidents have been reported. But as we all know, Goloh was untouchable and above the law, until Gambians were ready for him. I remember being in The Gambia in 2006 when all of a sudden we were asked to get off the road to make way for Lang Tombong Tamba’s convoy. I swear, that convoy went on forever, in top speed nak. Veff, veff, veff…it was endless.
We have poor roads yet everyone wants their own convoy and road closure so they can “veff veff” at top speed endangering lives and property. The president has his convoy, ministers want their convoy, there are military convoys all over town, CDS Badgie too has his special convoy and likes to keep his windows down so his fans can see him and take his photo as he zooms by smiling and throwing out the peace sign. But how practical is this convoy business given the road conditions and gas prices? Why are we wasting some many resources on something so impractical? There are more guns in the US that the population of The Gambia, but you will never see a presidential convoy with military trucks with guns as part of a convoy. In fact, you don’t even see a gun. The last time I saw President Obama’s convoy in San Francisco, I think it only had three cars and a couple of local police motorcycles.
Now that there is democracy in The Gambia and the courts are open to all, maybe it’s time to start holding the government responsible for the fatalities and property damage caused by these reckless convoys? If road safety, people’s lives and property is not a concern to them, then folks should make it their concern by taking them to court when lives are lost or property is damaged. The Government is not above the law! New Gambia needs to find a way to cure “convoy syndrome”, and the courts might just be the perfect medication. We need a convoy free Gambia!
By Momodou Ndow