Gambia: 21 Years Later … Africa’s Most Brutal Dictatorship Still Lingers!


With reference to the commotion and political insurrection confronting Gambian society in recent years, I wish to undertake this research on the situation therein with the aim of highlighting pertinent issues and questions for public debate, discourse and consumption. The article has identified five major political and socio-economic ills tearing apart at the fabric of Gambian society; albeit there could be more! Although there has been talk, and continues to be analysis of the ill-fated 21 years Jammeh misrule, consensus building and amalgamation or uniting of the various dissenting groups as one being the focal point of the struggle fighting the dictatorship still seems a distant reality. History and empirical evidence has shown that ‘unity breeds strength’ and as such Gambians must do away with selfish egos and vested interest for utilitarian values if we are to achieve our collective aims of a civilize and prosperous society. So, as the clock strike midnight on the eve of New year 2016, the Gambia has found itself at major crossroads as highlighted below:

Since assuming office in July 1994, corruption has festered at the very heart of government trickling all the way down to the local and provincial levels of state respectively. It is troubling reporting that the Gambia has morphed into a state in which the president and his closed-knit cronies are embarking on a daily grind robbing the clueless citizens of that country. Based on sound analysis and findings in the public domain, today, Yaya Jammeh owns more property than any other African leader or head of state on earth. Not only does his children attend private school in New York, his wife frequently fly private jet attending to their vast network of businesses and vested interest stretching across the world at the expense of Gambian tax payers. History books and post-Jammeh investigations shall uncover a systematic fraud and abuse of the public purse and trust accorded to the presidency; accompanied by a massive web of lies and deceit aided and abetted by the Central Bank of the Gambia. The governor of the Central Bank is the longest serving political appointee in that administration and that says it all. Paper trail has revealed the corrupting influence of power and all those with stained hands will be held to account! Ninety-nine percent of Yaya Jammeh’s promises and proclamations are mere political theatre uttered at the spur of the moment through his TV station. Lying to the electorate has become a strategy for the presidency in maintaining relevance more so during campaign season where office-seeking politicians promise and say anything to an unversed electorate with promises of utopia. This is a characteristic of African politics and change, it must fast

Counterfeiting of the local (Dalasi) currency is of concern to all, much less the IMF and diaspora Gambians. The high rate of inflation and monthly (sometimes weekly) fluctuations of the Dalasi coupled with price hikes at the markets continues to put burden and stress on Gambian families in their daily lives. The West Africa region, including the Gambia, Senegal, Nigeria, and the Ivory Coast have witnessed soaring incidents of counterfeiting and currency fraud related cases of late. Interpol has seen its remit extended to tackling this menace but it doesn’t help when the very leadership you are meant to collaborate with are participating in and profiting from the crime. Misleading quantitative easing regimes and currency manipulation measures continue to hurt our economy as the IMF finally caught them red-handed. The economic loss to the Gambian treasury is catastrophic with annual GDP rates shrinking, the country’s domestic and foreign debt burden is 100% of GDP; latest IMF figures show; with analysts predicting 2016 to be the most challenging year on record for the Gambian economy. 

The issues of illicit drugs, both hard and soft illegal under the Gambian constitution and international law yet the leadership allow it, and participate in the trade affecting all facets of society. As early as the 1990s cocaine was alien to Gambian society, but since the advent of the Jammeh regime, slowly it found its way on the scene and onto Gambian streets. The effects on the youthful population cannot be detailed on these pages. Each passing month and year we continue to witness lost youths to the harmful effects of drugs, no wonder families are falling apart and farming is in decline. Drugs have caused havoc in every society it festered stretching economic budgets in the West. Countries such as Colombia, Guinea Bissau, Mexico and many other societies ravaged by the endemic illicit trade are all grappling with the human cost too, and the Gambia is heading in that direction. In a 2008 interview with CNN founder Ted Turner, Fidel Castro debunked U.S claims and accusations of narcotics dealings through Miami. This led to further U.S sanctions on the Island nation; but Yaya Jammeh was busted [2008 BBC Gambia cocaine case] yet prevailed scot free?! There will be major challenges facing the country post jammeh era in not just restoring democracy and bringing sanity to the economy, cleaning up the mess will take years counselling and rehabilitating those abused and/or lost their childhood. Drug money has corrupted Gambian government officials including the military, police, to immigration officers and it need an independent and strengthened judicial system and process as a curb ensuring ethics are upheld and complied with.

Prostitution – The menace of prostitution was once-upon-a-time alien to Gambians and Gambian society. However, since the advent of the Jammeh-led military junta the internal dynamics in our once serene nation began a dramatic shift fast changing beyond recognition and acceptable parameters. A despotic and criminal president leading a political and socio-economic system where anything goes politics of thuggery became the norm. Photographic evidence and testimony of young girls has emerged of the president himself engaging in illegal sexual activity with unconsenting teenage girls drugged with sedative drinks or bribed with bundles of cash. In today’s Gambia the systemic abuse of young girls go unabad, with rape cases lining court rooms across the nation. Research has also shown that, in fact, most incidents of rape do go unreported due to the stigma attached, in that no husband would want them in marriage. Gambia, how did we came to this situation where mothers and young girls of barely teenage years exchanging pleasures of their bodies for money in order to put food on the table? Poorly trained police officers in handling such sensitive cases of rape need to be addressed and the traumatic young girls be provided with health care aiding recovery and psychological counselling. The lasting damage to these girls is undone but any responsible government should have the decency making sure justice is served with punitive measures against the culprits availing dignity to the victims. 

The fifth vile vice I have come up with is that of – Decline of ethics and moral compass, the culmination of the above problems has created this new caveat where honesty and respect-for-the-other has become an expensive commodity in our society. Growing up in the early 1990’s rural Gambia, those conservative values of ethics instilled in the young had been our moral guidance. The Gambia under President Sir Dawda Jawara had been the most respected within the sub-region on democracy barometers, hence the establishment of the African Centre for Human and Peoples Right was headquartered in Banjul. A civilized citizenry with regards to the law of the land. Murder cases were if any and the common crimes were that of burglary and theft in an expedite judiciary the public had confidence in. The campaign to get rid of Yahya Jammeh should have been accomplished years ago, but for the pride and ego of a Gambian male – stubbornly reluctant to let a fellow countryman take the lead in a single unifying campaign. So many egos in this struggle each with an agenda promoting hype. Damn it! Let Halifa Sallah take the lead, a gentleman of profound intellect with capable and steady hands for the task ahead. Fellow Gambians this should and could be the consensus if our intentions and motives are true and sincere!. History has taught us that seeds of discord in any organized campaign is a recipe for failure, or at best bound to produce mixed results. Casting an audacious eye across the Gambian political scene as snowfall cascades through the hills in the north of England, one is confronted by various political parties with each professing the national cause as its rallying cry, yet 21 years later … still unable to strategize, nor find consensus in unseating that dictatorship.  

Mr. Gibril Saine, England

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