Prof Saine on Gambia’s “Dishonest” Character
Prof. Saine’s great insight into the Gambian psyche needs reinforcing. It is a painful observation and difficult to read, but it should be read by more Gambians, even if one feels ashamed, because, as the great Frantz Fanononce said:-
“Shame is a Revolutionary sentiment … it makes one want to change”.
Feeling ashamed of the African condition, that great African Revolutionary and disciple of Fanon, Thomas Sankara, renamed his country Burkina Faso (the land of upright people) and set about a short-lived revolutionary that remains an inspiration to Africans globally.
I say “be read by Gambians” because foreigners become aware of these negative aspects of the Gambian psyche very quickly, first in shock, and then with outrage. Foreigners need to learn the terrain very quickly, if they are to survive.
Professor Saine asks:-
“How many stories of dishonesty have you witnessed over the years in which so-called friends, who, after winning your trust betray it?”
The first time that a man, an “upright” Jawara-Era Minister in whose house I enjoyed my first plate of benechin, stole from my African Village hotel-room it shocked me. He asked if he could use the toilet in my room and I gave him the key without a thought! In my culture you don’t rob a man with whom you share a meal, with whom you “break bread”. Such a man you protect with your own life like a brother. But as Prof Saine says, in The Gambia such dishonesty extends even into married relationships. Infact, as a Gambian woman once said to me, “you don’t even trust your own husband, you try to get as much as you can from him before he marries a second, third or fourth wife”!
Freedomnewspaper has become many victims’ champion because dishonest land dealers have only paid up when victims tell their stories to Pa Nderry Mbai. Freedomnewspaper has also had stories of generous foreigners buying someone a taxi to earn a living, only for the taxi-driver to turn around and try to steal their compound! Many of these dishonest people have succeeded – they are the “upright” lawyers, hotel owners, etc.
On that African Village first trip to The Gambia in 1992, I went for dinner to Churchill’s and the topic of discussion amongst the toubab’s was dishonesty. Infact, one of the customers there sold me a book called “Under The Baobab Tree” which detailed a tale of dishonesty, though humorously (Amadou Samba is mentioned there as “turning up with a niece on his arm”, no doubt seeking to “manage” a toubab). A couple of years later, after a young Gambian girl was killed in UK, I said to Peter Singhateh, in a bar in Fajara, that “laws should be in place to protect Gambian girls from foreign men”. I was shocked when Peter said “It is the foreigner men who need protecting”! I was to find this out from bitter personal experience a few years later but that is another story.
Prof Saine also refers to “foreigners”:-
” We patronize foreign businesses and their foreign owners, love and treat foreigners better than ourselves, love most things foreign, and discard our own. Call it self-hate“.
Two points to make here:-
One: A very wealthy Gambian neither (VP Isatou Capo whom I described in the story “Ahaji The Cat”) drove by once and saw me carrying a crate of Fanta. “For my builders”, I said and he started on me: “You see, it is you foreigners who spoil the workers. I struggle to find workers to complete my hotel”. I asked, with a smile: “What do you pay them daily?” “Ninety dalasis”, he said. My smiled broadened: “I pay them 200 dalasis daily, plus their fanta and their benechin”! He drove off disgusted. One of those masoners became watchman on dalasi 5,000 a month, got his family plot fenced and got two water tanks installed for him. His loyalty to me, a foreigner, I call self-love.
Two: I loved the Ali Baba Restaurant in Kotu, just opposite what used to be Kotu Elton (now Atlas). It was run by a young Lebanese guy for his uncle who was in Lebanon for a whole year. Contrast that with this point made by Prof. Saine below:
“How many stories have you heard in which “trusted” individuals swindled relatives, diasporans of money intended to construct a house, or buy a piece of valuable property?”
Need I say any more as to why Gambian workers like foreign employers … and why foreign businesses thrive in The Gambia?
Prof Saine’s is a sorry lament of the Gambian Condition and I paste it in full below. But here is another example of the “dishonesty”, here a wholesale robbery of the nations cofers, that I found on WhatsOnGambia this morning:-
This GRA official is richer than the Kanifing Municipality
– He owns a multi-million dalasi house in Kotu
– He owns a multi-million dalasi house in Brusubi Phase 2
– He owns a multi-million dalasi house in Farafenni
– He owns a multi-million dalasi house in Latri Kunda Nema
– He owns a multi-million dalasi house in Senegal
– He owns a multi-million dalasi house in Niumi Sittanunku
– He’s building another multi-million dalasi house in Niumi Sittanunku
– He’s building a multi-million dalasi house for his daughter along the Coastal Road
– His daughter is right now the most talked-about young woman in the country. She owns multiple luxury cars worth more than D10million
– His 21-year-old son drives a D1million car
– All his 3 wives own luxury cars
– His two teenage children attend private universities in Ghana
All these he was able to do within 5 years. And his basic salary is less than D20,000.
We have spoken with insiders at the Central Bank, Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), GRA and Fraud Investigation Department of The Gambia Police Force. Shocking revelations coming soon!
Prof Saine laments, below, that the Janneh Commission Report has been shelved! As I said here on Freedomnewspapers before, China developed because corrupt officials would be quickly tried, and if found guilty of corruption, be quickly shot – to allow them to give an explanation to God ASAP.
Professor Saine’s piece:
The Gambia’s “politics of promise and fail” culture
Freedomnewspaper, April 28, 2021
There is a cancer that is embedded in the bowels of Gambia’s body-politik, whose roots lie in Gambian/Senegambian society. I call it, the “promise and fail to deliver,” syndrome. It is a short-term cultural and political instrument, or set of tricks, if you wish, used by perpetrators for personal gain at the calculated expense of trusting citizens.This cancer has infected family relations, friendships, contracts between commercial parties, and most certainly political entities. And, the “social-contract” between the governed and their governors. In sum, it involves winning the confidence of unsuspecting individuals, making strong and convincing promises only to renege on them in order to “win,” at any cost.
How many stories have you heard in which “trusted” individuals swindled relatives, diasporans of money intended to construct a house, or buy a piece of valuable property? How many stories of dishonesty have you witnessed over the years in which so-called friends, who, after winning your trust betray it? Better yet, recall the carpenter, brick-layer, tailor, painter, etc., who promised you the moon but does a half-ass job? It is pretty much the same in politics.
Politicians during each election-cycle promise the electorate all kinds of goodies, but once in office generally fail to deliver. Do you remember the 2016 seven-party party Coalition and the fallout thereafter. I am sure you remember the glowing promises Barrow made to the population, political allies, and diaspora? Political platitudes that’s what they were.
In politics, and especially in Gambian politics, this is more the rule than the exception. President Barrow assumed power amidst high expectations that were inspired by promises of reform of the civil service, security sector, women, and youth empowerment, a better standard of living for all, and justice for victims of Jammeh’s autocratic rule. Remember the Draft Constitution Bill? It too, was a colossal failure. These promises, including the three-year transition term-limit, never mind diaspora voting were never meant to be fulfilled. Barrow had studied, mastered, and executed Jammeh’s political tricks.
These promises have been jettisoned by the “politics of hunger”: power-grab, self-perpetuation and self-aggrandizement. One of Barrow’s biggest failures being his unfulfilled promises to the Gambia’s “Eight Region.” Will this change under Darboe? Wait and see.
Regrettably, it is all an act; a case of smoke and mirrors. Barrow never intended to deliver on any of his promises despite the numerous billboards that tout his political promises to any who cared to look at them. How can one, otherwise, explain Barrow’s failure to enforce the Janneh Commission recommendations? Why do Gambians feel more insecure today than they ever have under his watch? What happended to Security Sector Reform (SSR)? You get my point.
A combination of raw, unbridled ambition, ineptitude, ignorance, arrogance and lofty “promises and fail,” rhetoric combined to derail the so-called “Transition Program.” Rather than transitioning, Gambia is in the throes of a precarious “de-transitioning,” a slow foray into political instability, political and ethnic violence.
This is not a coincidence! There is a connecting tissue to these failed promises in government, families, friendships,workers, even in many romantic relationships. I propose this is a moral shortcoming, or flaw deeply rooted in Sene-gambian culture, and captured so vividly in our languages. We all know about “marche Mou’sante (markets in which seller and buyer try to outwit one another for personal gain).
“Mou’sseh” (to outwit in Wolof), “morneh” (Mandinka) permeate most social relations in the political, social, economic and other transactional spaces- with a sinister twist. It is the order of the day where most try to make a quick gain at the other’s expense, given the opportunity.This appears to be the norm today.
Ours, with few exceptions, is a performance, or “promise and fail” culture, where appearance rather than substance is valued and rewarded, dressed in a “holier than thou” garb. We compete for Gambia’s limited resources and overseas handouts to “outwit,” outsmart (Mousseh/Monneh) one another at our peril.The State is a slain cow for the taking. We revere thieves and scorn the honest and hard-working. Materialism is the new God.
Political wives, senior female political figures live “high on the hog” and conceal thousands of dollars in shady foreign accounts while lying on per diem claims. It is all part of “politics of promise and fall,” culture built around short-term gain. Accountability is to self and constructed fiefdoms not the common good.
We suffer from a psychosis/split personality that drives our performance-based, “promise and fail” culture. We Senegambians, (including myself), suffer from a split personality that manifests in conducting business in mostly foreign tongues, and foreign scripts, worship foreign Gods, and practice foreign religions, patronize foreign businesses and their foreign owners, love and treat foreigners better than ourselves, love most things foreign, and discard our own. Call it self-hate.
Jammeh pounced on elements of this pre-existing psychosis to consolidate twenty-two years of personalist-rule. Decades, even centuries-long Islamization/ Christianization, Colonialism, Imperialism (Arab, European and American), economic and cultural globalization have compounded this national psychosis. This may account for, in part, our current culture of indifference to the common good, and nation.
Barrow and those before him along with the political and bureaucratic classes, as well as the larger population operate within this space, perhaps to our collective detriment. It will take (national) soul-searching through open dialogue and collective action to salvage our nation.