Gambia makes the list of the poorest countries on the globe where the GDP per capita according to the World Bank 2019 Report is a whopping $751.3. Tourism and small scale industries and agriculture are the biggest representation on the pie. The lubricant that keeps the Gambian society lubed and smooth sailing are the remittances in millions of hard currency that float into the financial sector from loving family members across the globe to support loved ones who are either not gainfully employed or underemployed without the resources to support themselves. Gambia since independence has been privileged with vast amount of Grants, Projects, Loans to help in the fight against poverty and diseases, food security/self-sufficiency, environmental protection,  democracy and human rights, education, the list goes on and on. Against this milieu, Gambia has not seen significant improvement and the lives and livelihood of the average citizenry remain mediocre.

What is identical across the 3 regimes is bad leadership, corruption and the absence of accountability. We are all living witnesses of the Algali and Janneh commissions and we have seen how public servants who are supposedly the sentries for the public trust squanders and syphoned the scarce resources into their personal possessions thus further exasperating the dire situation of the tax paying poor. If all the looted resources are invested in priority areas like electricity, water, healthcare, education then maybe the Vision 2020 Singapore dream could be a reality. Gambia is one society where lots of public servants are living way outside of their means and nobody dare question it before you are branded jealous and envious. The Maslaha syndrome provides cover and insulates bad actors and relegates transparency, accountability and responsibility out of sight out of mind.

I say all these to lay the foundation for my frustration when I heard the Gambia president confirm on national TV that the multimillion dollar mansion that he is building in his hometown was gifted to him. It is a gross violation of the law because a president cannot accept a gift of that magnitude, it is bribery, pay to play, conflict of interest and an instrument for blackmail. The president used his megaphone and announced to the public and to all public servants that accepting gifts and brides are ok, he broadcasted an ad for corruption either knowingly or out of ignorance. Here is Investopedia’s definition of a bribe.​ “A bribe is an illegal

act involving the exchange of consideration, such as money, with the purpose of influencing behavior. In business, it is illegal to bribe public officials or regulators in order to win contracts, expedite processes, or look the other way on any number of other activities”. Exactly my point, what will be the president’s position if his donor is bidding for a project/contract, a government job, is a party to a litigation or worst case potential blackmail that can jeopardize national security and interest etc., favor is a two way street.

Accepting a bride is a high crime and a precedent we cannot afford to set for any president, it’s a violation of the public trust. I challenge the National Assembly to look into this claim. The president was never gifted that lavishly until his appointment to the highest office of the land and there are legitimate personal and business reasons for it. The assembly should challenge the president to the legality of such a gift:

  • The president should disclose who is/are the donors.
  • Is the donor a foreign state actor, individual or entity?
  • Is the donor a Gambian entity or person?
  • How much exactly was gifted to him.
  • Has the donor been influential in the award of government contracts and jobs?
  • What favors are accorded to the donor so far? As spectators for the last 3 years, what’s evident is that the president has no credibility and is not grounded in principles. He doesn’t honor campaign promises, signed agreements and he recycles more than Jammeh. He seems to be more concerned about building wealth and possessions for himself and family with very little energy to elevate the lives of poor Gambians. Never Again slogan should be an all-inclusive adage: Never Again to dictatorship, to corruption, bad government and leadership, violation of rights.

Gambia, it is time for us to live the true meaning of democracy and start holding people accountable if we want our country to move forward. Socio-economic progress is entirely dependent on true democracy the tenets of which include the Rule of Law, Respect for Human Rights, Transparency, Accountability and Responsibility. We need to put a final stop to the ​Kleptocracy, “literally meaning “the rule by thieves,” is a form of political corruption in which the ruling government seeks personal gain and status at the expense of the governed.

Through graft and embezzlement of state funds, corrupt leaders amass tremendous wealth at the expense of the broader populace”.

“People’s indifference is the best breeding ground for corruption to grow. Only by working together can we hope to end impunity for corruption and the corrupt”. Delia Ferreira Rubio. ​Chair, Transparency International.

Written By Sofa Nyama

Atlanta GA

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