September 6, 2020
GAMBIA – WHERE WE CAME FROM, WHERE WE ARE, AND WHERE WE ARE GOING
Not long ago, we emerged from a brutal dictatorship that developmentally set the country back 200 years. It all happened under the watchful eyes of the former government. The government pitted its citizens against one another by hiding behind its so-called executive orders. These orders were ordered by the then custodian of the land to feed his insatiable, materialistic greed that had its origin in his deep-seated anger for not having anything during his formative years and thereafter, until he found himself manning the highest office of the land. He was given a blank check by all branches of the government to achieve his dubious undertakings while at the helm of the most incompetent post-colonial government in black Africa. This incompetent government set the stage for the chief executive to run the state as if he was running his private residence. As a consequence of these conditions, the Second Republic put Gambia on an economic, social, educational and psychological downward trend.
After the ruling gang of the Second Republic came to power and consolidated their position, they started embarking on misguided economic policies that would impoverish Gambia for generations to come. Because gang members had either no training or were novice in various policies that they adopted, they went on and shackled Gambia. One area that clearly emphasized the gang’s lack of knowledge in enacting sound economic policies that would benefit Gambia, was the destructive land policy that allowed the buying and selling of Gambia’s meagre land by foreigners. This destructive enacted land policy not only caused the price of land to go up exponentially, but also resulted in land grabbing that put a huge percent of the most habitable land in the hands of foreigners and thus created overcrowding and pollution in the coastal areas. Ninety-nine percent of the locals could not afford to buy land because of the price tag attached to it. The beneficiaries of this scheme were the gang members who received kickbacks from their business partners who were mostly foreign elements, and a few local intermediaries. The gang and their associates unlawfully deprived many locals of their ancestral land which led to many grievances and communal feuds. While this was ongoing, elements within the former government were selling communal land to foreign investors who in turn developed the land and sold it to the locals through unscrupulous mortgage plans that were unsustainable. The prices the developers were asking for could only be afforded by foreign elements and a few locals who were mainly receiving funds from their loved ones living overseas. Eventually, the locals were the main victims of this destructive and unpatriotic land policy. Locals found themselves struggling with the high cost of living caused by exorbitant rent prices and constant inflation. Overtime, the cost of living became unbearable for many people who found it extremely difficult to cope with life on a day-to-day basis due to stressful economic factors.
Socially, Gambians started to witness drastic changes incurred upon them by chronic hardship which did not spare any socio-economic class. As hardship took its toll on the people, they began to care less about the means by which they obtained their daily bread. These care-free attitudes plunged people into a different societal mindset compounded with lots of evil tendencies which were unknown to Gambians. Faced with extraordinary hardship, the traditional safety net started to crumble leaving many vulnerable in a system that was never prepared to face such enormous challenges. The incompetent and unscrupulous government of the time started to pile more pressure on its citizens by suppressing them with unlawful arrests, detentions, tortures and murders. Out of paranoia and jealousy, the leadership went after anyone or group deemed as a threat to its existence. Instead of allocating positions to people based on merit, positions were allocated based on individual and tribal affiliations. Shortly thereafter, the state became an individual property at the mercy of the chief executive who had nobody’s interest at heart but himself. The chief executive chose a brutal survival tactic that resorted to many deaths orchestrated by his secret death squad and errand boys many of whom had exceptionally low IQs. Gradually, Gambians started to develop huge suspicions and enmity towards one another. Infighting among the civil servants led to gross allegations and dysfunction in the everyday operations of the state machineries. As a result of the infighting, many government officials lost their jobs and became victims of their own participation. There was mass dissatisfaction with the system; however, many refused to show or talk about it publicly. When dissatisfaction with the government reached its climax, officials became irrational in their decision making and thus plunged the nation further into an abyss of chronic poverty. When the opportunity arrived for one to steal from the government’s coffer, one would capitalize on it and then go AWOL.
Educationally, the institutional failures had greater impacts on Gambians. The environment at that time was not congenial for any sound cognitive development. Consequently, people were less concerned about futuristic planning. Making a living was the main priority for the general public who saw everything else as secondary. Educational institutions were less concerned with meeting standards and more worried about creating a mindset among the pupils to lean more toward the brainwashing tactics of the chief executive. In the absence of sound judgment and rational thinking, our schools became a center for mass indoctrination all in the name of distorted patriotism. Both teachers and students were more concerned about being in the good books of the chief executive. Many could not attempt to effect meaningful change for fear of reprisals from the dictatorship of that time. The products of our educational institutions were less equipped to meet the challenges of a functional government.
Finally, government institutions were rendered useless in discharging their authorized duties. In light of these circumstances, desperation on a large scale started to set in among the citizenry and the need for political change was imminent regardless of whom the players were. Despite the different political ideologies of the different political parties, they had one common denominator, which was removal of the then dictatorship from power. Frustratingly, a coalition was formed to contest election for political change that was so long overdue and necessary. This was how the Third Republic was born, which had its core membership tapped from a loose coalition. After a few months in power, crevices within the loose coalition started to appear. Power struggle and infighting led to a split among the initial coalition members who had less interest in safeguarding Gambia’s interest but rather enriching themselves. It did not take long for the coalition to take a total nosedive by shattering every progressive Gambian’s dream of the rebirth of a functional, democratic government in the Gambia. Some major players had to lose their positions in the coalition, which allowed other factions to entrench themselves and start embarking on their egotistical and exploitive undertakings as is prevalent today.
Systematically, the economic exploitation of Gambians and Gambia is at its height and cannot be compared to anything in the past. The only vice that we have yet to endure under the current government is the killings that were done by the dictatorship of the Second Republic. When it comes to economic exploitation, corruption, incompetence, and dysfunctionality, the scale of today’s economic mismanagement has by far outweighed the economic malpractices of the Second Republic in relation to the time both governments clocked. The old guards are once again back in the current system using their old destructive mechanisms to unleash economic havoc on Gambians. The only person who appears to not notice this, is the custodian of the land who is more concerned about cementing his political future than steering the nation in the right direction. Moreover, the vision of the leadership is constantly being clouded by the distorted and misleading advice given to him by parasitic bootlickers within his inner circle.
Among the citizens, confidence in the government is at its lowest level, which is a cause for concern. If this trend continues, Gambia will soon find herself on an unpleasant path when it comes to maintaining security and peace in the land. By all standards, the signs are not looking good for the Republic, and it is just a matter of time for the underlying circumstances to exert their full forces. Dissatisfaction with the system is rampant, and the citizenry is looking for a solution. It is widely believed that corruption is a daily occurrence in various government departments. For corruption and mismanagement of public funds to be so pervasive, people are of the notion that the executive is an accomplice. And by the look of things, people have reason to make such an assumption. From the start of the Third Republic until now, many government officials, including the chief executive, have embarked on some costly projects which do not match their earning capacities in the government. What is the source of funding for these massive, individual projects by government officials who not long ago were paupers? In the name of transparency and good governance, should not our corrupt government officials be tasked to declare the source of funding for their expensive, individual projects? If the leadership is deemed corrupt, it is obvious that the rank and files will look for a way to illegally syphon off funds into their accounts.
Another disappointing aspect with the present government is the position it takes in dealing with the enablers of the former president. Instead of holding the enablers of the former president accountable for their past misdeeds in the Second Republic, the current administration has allowed them to influence policies in multiple areas. Such misjudgment by the present government is an insult to Gambians, considering what the enablers of the dictatorship had done to the country in the Second Republic. Because the chief executive is more concerned about his political future, he overlooks Gambia’s interests and leans towards decisions that he deems necessary for his political survival. The current administration has undoubtedly failed Gambians. The chief executive is supposed to unite the country and give Gambia a positive start after 22 years of abuse under the dictatorship of the former president. What Gambians are seeing today is contrary to everything that they have wished in the era of the Third Republic. Currently, making ends meet in the country is getting extremely difficult day by day. Heads of households are profoundly struggling with putting food on the table for their loved ones. It is exceedingly difficult for one to predict what one should take to the market to buy basic goods because the price of goods changes daily. The same item that you buy for 10 dalasi in the morning can be sold to you for 20 dalasi in the evening.
Psychologically, Gambians are left with big scars which will take many years to heal, so the nation needs time to heal. Many Gambians are complaining about not enjoying being citizens of their own country because most government employees do not serve their interests as citizens. Because of corrupt government officials, foreign elements are sometimes given much consideration when it comes to establishing investment projects in the country. One area that particularly stands out is the way in which land acquisition is currently happening in the country. Soon, Gambia’s most habitable and productive land will be in the hands of foreign elements. As we speak, there are foreign elements selling Gambian land to their fellow foreign leeches while the government is turning a blind eye to it. Do we even think about the kind of world we are going to bequeath to our children and grandchildren? It is the duty of the government to safeguard the interests of Gambians; however, this is not what we are witnessing in our country. The government urgently needs to act and put a stop to this injustice that is being committed against Gambians, especially future generations. Due to ineffective government policies and a lack of foresight, we are again condemning our future generations to slavery, poverty, communal feud, and economic degradation. We cannot sit and wait for a week, month or year while our government is depriving us of our ardent rights as citizens of the Gambia. Every constituent should rise and task their representative to put a stop to this misguided economic policy which is making a mockery of Gambia and Gambians. Our youth should know that it is their future that is right now at stake; thus, they have a choice to make before it will be too late. The beneficiaries of these misguided economic policies are our corrupt government officials who do not give a damn about the future of our children and grandchildren. All they care about are the kickbacks that go to them when a deal is made so they can go and quench their thirst over plates of afra and ebbeh. Instead of blaming the colonialists for our misery, we should look at ourselves and blame ourselves for the selfish and senseless decisions that we make when it comes to our national interest. One wonders what kind of education our representatives are endowed with, to justify their decisions on matters of national interest. Most of the decisions made by our representatives only deprive us of our basic livelihood and drag us into lifelong calamitous circumstances. Leaders after leaders keep dragging us into the abyss of poverty, misery, hunger, miseducation, and underdevelopment. God gave us brains to use so we can improve our standard of living in multiple ways, so let us use them positively. Gambians and Africans are tired of being held back by bad leadership time and again. Let us not limit our thinking to today only, there is tomorrow too. In a nutshell, our government needs to make policies that will benefit Gambia for eternity.
There are many areas in the government that need focus in order to augment and enhance the life of Gambians. Some areas specifically need more attention than others as far as good governance is concerned. The nucleus of any government is its staff, who keep government running daily based on their competence, performance and productivity. In our government of now, we have serious problems in all areas. Many of our civil servants do not go to work to serve the citizens but rather to serve themselves. Quite often, one can hardly complete a government transaction without bribing someone. Transactions that should normally take minutes, take days, weeks or even months. It is a common practice among civil servants to put things away for further consideration if they are not compensated for whatever transaction lands on their desks. Also, corrupt officials usually charge different fees for the same services. Government officials should not use public office as a bargaining tool to collect money from the citizens and finance their personal projects. These kinds of corrupt practices seriously deprive citizens and government of needed incomes. More specifically, our government has no standard operating procedure in executing various government functions for her citizens because of indiscipline and corruption within the civil service.
All of these malpractices in our government will only stifle economic development and progress. The Gambia will remain underdeveloped unless we do away with pervasive corruption and mismanagement of public funds. Moreover, chronic and blatant corruption is a recipe for civil dissension and chaos, and our country is edging closer to this unwanted phenomenon day by day. We cannot remain being in denial about the flaws that have been hampering progress in our nation since post colonialism. We need educated, patriotic citizens of high integrity and moral standing to get us out of this mess. The future of our nation is at stake, and under the current leadership, I see no way out.
Long live The Gambia!
Down with Political Hustlers!
Down with Corruption and Mismanagement of Public Funds!
Down with Cronyism and the Culture of Self Deception!
By Mo Kora