A Gambian disable says he is a victim of state discrimination. He has accused The Gambian government of denying him access to the COVID-19 D15 million dalasis bailout funds. The funds were allocated to the media by the Barrow administration. Mamat Gai, a Gambian disable, widely known as Baye Njoll Gai, is the proprietor of the Wellingara based Fayda One FM. He made the allegations in an interview with Freedom Radio Gambia on Tuesday.
The Fayda One FM was set up in August of 2020. It operates on 90.9 FM. It is Gambia’s premier privately owned disable radio station.
According to Gai, when he applied for the COVID-19 bailout funds, his application was never approved. He was told by the Committee overseeing the disbursement of the funds that the Gambia Public Regulatory Authority (PURA) has informed them that his station was not on air.
Gai disagrees. He said his station has been in operation since August of 2020. He also said there are other Gambian disables working with at his station.
Gai lives in the US State of Minnesota. He has entrusted his radio station to his fellow disables in The Gambia.
Gai said his station has met all the necessary requirements that would qualify it to be given COVID-19 bailout relief. “I am a victim of discrimination. I submitted all the necessary documents through The Gambia Press Union during my last trip to The Gambia. My application wasn’t considered,” he said.
Gai says he suffered a similar bureaucratic red tape when he applied to set up his radio station. It took him nine months before his radio application could be approved.
Also speaking to Freedom radio Gambia, was Lamin Manneh. Mr. Manneh works at Fayda One FM on voluntary basis. He also said Fayda One FM was denied access to the COVID-19 bailout funds.
“Gambian disables are often marginalized and discriminated in this country. We are not treated as human beings. If they can exclude us from the COVID funds, what would make them support the physically disable people in this country. Our plight is a sad one. We have been neglected by our own government,” he said.
Mr. Manneh is a former Civil Servant. He has accused Information Minister Ebrima Sillah of being unfriendly to the disables.
“When we visited him at his office to enquire about our pending radio license, Sillah refused to grant us audience inside the Information Ministry building. He walked to the gate to speak to us. He was very arrogant, rude, and unmeasured when he spoke to us. He felt too good to invite us into the building. Ebrima Sillah has really let us down. This is a guy, who claimed to be a journalist and an activist during Jammeh’s rule. Today, he is behaving as if he is better than us. He should bear in mind that disability could happen to anyone,” Mr. Manneh charged.
Manneh, a native of Sukuta, has called for Sillah’s sacking from the government.
“Ebrima Sillah should be fired. He has no use at that Ministry. He is there for his pocket and nothing else. He has been spewing a lot of lies on West Coast Radio to please President Barrow. I cannot stand this sycophant. He has no love for the disables,” Mr. Manneh further alleged.
Manneh did not spare Gambia’s Vice President Isatou Touray. Like Ebrima Sillah, Isatou Touray too is another corrupt official, he alleged.
“The Vice President also do not have love and empathy for the disables. She has denied us access to an EU and World Bank funds that are meant for the poor and the needy. I have seen people given D3,000 monthly allowance from those funds. I am a disable, and I couldn’t access the EU/World Bank relief funds,” he said.
Manneh disclosed that he and the VP used to be close buddies. But they later fallout because according to him, the VP, was trying to prevail on him to stop criticizing the Barrow government.
“She onetime telephoned me and asked me to stop picking on the government during my radio shows at Hot FM. I refused. I told her that no one can stop me from speaking truth to power. This woman is a disgrace. Here is a lady, who used to claim to be a human rights activist, a gender activist, she is no longer an activist. She is a turned coat. She was just using vulnerable Gambian women to line her pocket. She has no love for the disables,” he further alleged.
Mr. Manneh has thanked Mama Kandeh, the leader of the Gambia Democratic Congress Party for his unflinching support to The Gambian disable community. He says Kandeh had onetime donated The Gambian disables D100,000 dalasis.
He also says Mayoress Rohey Lowe, has been a kind supporter to the disable community. He added that the Banjul Mayoress is still supporting the disables.
Mr. Manneh has also accused the Barrow government of excluding the country’s disable community during the government COVID-19 food aid relief program. He said the disables never benefited from that food aid. His claims couldn’t be independently verified.
There are over 500,000 disables in The Gambia. Manneh has accused the Barrow administration of neglecting the disable community.
“They are just using our names for political and economic expediency. They have do programs to support the disables. In neighboring Senegal, and other countries in the sub-region, disables are financially supported by their governments. Not in The Gambia. I was so mad when our disables were used to participate in a march that was organized by Barrow’s five year rule supporters. I was out of town when the march happened,” he said.
Information Minister Ebrima Sillah could not be reached for comment. His line was off when contacted. There was no contact detail for the VP to reach her for comment.