Dear Pa,

I am happy that Gambia is seeing a new dawn, that the sun is to rise again and hopefully Gambia will come out of the dark ages. 

I lived in The Gambia between 92 and 2003. I ran a building and construction materials business in The Gambia. Having served the sector I also interacted a lot with the previous government officials, some of the close members who were associated heavily with the Jammeh regime. I interacted with them only in the capacity of supplier and always kept a distance from the politics as that was not my place. 

At one time I was almost deported due to someone who did not want me as a business competition. They failed miserably in the end and I stood out as a winner.

I am categorically grateful to Capt Lamin Bajo who was at the time the Interior Minister, the then attorney General Mr Marong. In addition to these I owe a huge gratitude to Mr Amigo Jeng (Iceman), and his wife Mrs Yasin Jeng, then the former Immigration Director Nai Ceesay. Followed these late Hassan Harding who was my solicitor, Mr Musa Bittaye and Mr Raymond Sock who also assisted me as my solicitor. And finally the wonderful Mrs Amie Bensouda who was instrumental in helping me during a dire circumstance. And ofcourse my dearest friends such as Ibrahima Sambou of Bundung, Mr Sang Mendy of Old Jeshwang, and Mr Osman Badjie from Nemakunku, and the Waggeh family, Dr Sanyang of SightSavers, Mr Laming Bojang (former procurement officer of Bansang Hopsital) Mr Ibrahima Bojang of Cape Point Hotel and also one of my maids Isatou Sarr. Without the input from any of these individuals I’d have suffered tremendously. So I am grateful for their kindness, friendship and the help they gave me over the years. Thank you all if you are reading this.

Thankfully, I have had many years of joy and delight in the Gambia. Over the course of 12 years of my stay there I have developed some truly great relationships, friendship and bonds with many Gambians in particular. As such I hold Gambia very dear to me. Despite being an Indian by birth, and now a naturalised British national I see Gambia as my home.

Over the years of my stay in Gambia I witnessed the awesome time of Presidency of Sir Jawara when the business climate was on the boom, and of Mr Jammeh when I saw the business climate on a consistent decline and doomed. I felt at times Jammeh’s governance was a right rip off for business’s and small investors like me. The government policies were outright & blatantly racist. As an example a non Ecowas citizens who ran a business or worked had to pay around Dalasi 50000 for a work permit each year as compared to the time of Sir Jawara when the same permit cost just Dalasi 5000. Similarly, there were many other levies which we non Ecowas citizens were what it felt like was we were being penalised in terms of rates, government duties and taxes etc. 

As you know that Gambia is in a much worse condition now than ever before I’d urge the new government to review their policy towards small businesses, especially owned by Non Ecowas citizens. Doing so will send a strong message out to the business, trading community all over the world that Gambia is one of the best places to do business. I’d urge the new government not to run racist policies that are blatantly discriminating nationals from the EU, India, Lebanon, Turkey and elsewhere charging them unscrupulous amounts of money. Especially having lived there I have learnt that everyone assumes that all foreign nationals who are non Ecowas citizens are rich and they just find an easy way out to up the government reserves by charging exorbitant amounts to foreign nationals. I feel the new government should abolish work permit related tax altogether, reduce the import duties, reduce sales tax, duties on fuel and also encourage small businessmen to buy land at a subsidised rate so they could build their own house as renting one is just too dear. This will have direct, positive impact on the pricing index ultimately benefiting an average consumer and restoring confidence in the business community which was completely not there during the Jammeh era. That is why I left. I just could not afford to sustain expense and had no confidence in Jammeh’s governance. 

Mr Barrow is a business man also. I knew him from when he worked at Musa Njie and Sons in Kanifing (Mamadi Manjang highway) just after S.Madi and Sons, and before West African Timber Co. I have personally known Mr Mai Fatty also who is a highly learned and incredibly intelligent person. He will make an excellent team member of Mr Barrow’s team. I remember having an in depth discussion with Mr Fatty back in 2001 about this as far as I am concerned I felt we both were on the same page. I’d now urge Mr Fatty to advise Mr Barrow accordingly and consider abolishing the racist and discriminatory taxes. 

Where I am now Pa is I work in the Medical and Healthcare Sector in The UK. I am pulling my contacts to see if I can secure some used or discontinued machinery, laboratory equipment, beds and so on from the NHS here. If I do I shall be shipping this to Gambia on my own accord. I am genuinely excited about the change in The Gambia and I wish to contribute to the success of the new government in my small way. I also urge other business community members past and present, and all those who at one time stayed in The Gambia but had to leave because of the bad racist and discriminatory policies of the former regime. Please let us all join together, put our differences and preferences aside for sake of the country and give a helping hand out to the new incoming government, and particularly Gambians who have been severely deprived of the basic necessities. 

Pa, finally my message to Mr Fatty. You have suffered incredibly Mr Fatty, and have endured a lot of pain, anguish and mental, plus physical torture by previous government. I hope you see this as a bad experience and rise up to put all this behind you and not to revenge this from those who did bad to you, for you are better, way better intellectually and as a person then all of them put together. I hope to see you soon in The Gambia. I was the 1st Indian boy in Kanifing who changed the Building Materials business in The Gambia for good and you were a good customer and we had many hours of in depth conversations about Gambia and how we can make it better. Sir, it is your time now and I am confident that you are one of the best assets to the new administration. All the best.

 Written By Rakesh Sharma

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