Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Gambia 1994 - 2014 : 20 years of pure unadultrated hell

How Dr Jamus Jammeh looked in July 1994
Tobacco Road, Banjul compounds
The A(F)PRC regime of Alhaji Dr. Professor Yaya Jamus Junkung Jammeh is preparing to 'celebrate' what, members consider to be 20 years of progress.  The celebration is planned to coincide with the fifth Party Congress.  It is in this regard that a team of party stalwarts, led by the Leader of the National Assembly, is touring the country to sensitize and gin up support from a demoralized populace that has suddenly awoken to the stark realities of 20 years of misrule, incompetence and high level of corruption never before seen in the post-Independent history of The Gambia.  The team comprising of Assemblymen, Mayors and other party officials dubbed the "Taskforce Committee".

During the first meeting of the Committee, The Assembly Leader touted the record of the A(F)PRC and the first gem he pulled out of their success bag was the University of The Gambia (UTG), and the fact that the current Secretary General of both the Civil Service and the ruling APRC, an oxymoron, is a product of the UTG.  It is as misleading as it is frequent a claim by a desperate regime in search of success stories to justify its twenty years of failure.  To correct the record, I posted on my Facebook page a litany of the constituent institutions that make up the UTG - Brikama College Campus, Management Development Institute, the Gambia Technical Training Institute, The School of Nursing, The School of Public Health, The Rural Development Institute, National Agricultural Research Institute, all 5 of the Regional Education Resource Centers.

All these structures were built by the government under Sir Dawda Jawara, without which, there will be no University. Most importantly, the academic mission and content were formulated well before some of these structures were completed with the St Marys University link.  Pulling all of these together form the UTG.  To claim, therefore, that UTG was established singly by the Jammeh regime is not accurate.  The foundation and most of the content were in place a decade before these irresponsible and rogue soldiers entered the scene.

The Committees next destination was Basse where the A(F)PRC is losing political support from all age groups, particularly the youth who were promised free and quality education.  Access was also promised with some degree of success.  However, on all other aspects, this regime has failed to deliver in spectacular fashion.  The quality of primary and secondary education have deteriorated at alarming rates as suggested by the poor results posted by Gambian students in the West African school leaving certificate exams as well as entrance exams to secondary schools.

Under Jawara, the emphasis was on the 'software' aspect of education under the First 15-Year Education Policy 1988 - 2003, like teacher training to improve quality of instruction, text books, basic supplies etc, instead of the brick and mortar.  Admittedly, the latter is more visible and thus scores higher propaganda points that teacher training.  Therefore, the military junta went for building schools all over the map with total disregard for the school mapping exercise that would have delineated the areas that needed facilities the most.  The end results is that most schools were either under-used and/or lacked basic items, like school forms, desks and school materials and supplies.  It is fairly common for teachers in these schools to bring along basic supplies financed personally.

The A(F)PRC failed in the field of education where they should have succeeded because, if for nothing else, the Gambian youth supported the coup d'etat and thus an important constituent of the so-called July 22 Revolution.  One of the reasons of the coup advanced by the regime was that the Jawara regime reserved all scholarship slots for sons and daughters of Ministers and  PPP militants, and for that reason, the coup was justified.  Of course, Gambians now know better.

Education was the low hanging fruit, and even here the regime managed to mishandle and mismanaged the opportunity.  As regards fiscal and monetary policy, the regime relied, initially, on Jawara's hold-over both at the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank for advise and guidance.  However, with time, Jammeh convinced himself that he's acquired sufficient working knowledge of monetary policy to go it alone.  The meddling started, first by fiddling with our external accounts which forced them to start cooking the books.  They proved their incompetence in these areas to which led to their discovery and eventual sanctions by the IMF. The regime was forced to refund monies advanced by the Fund and the suspension of disbursements. The regime started tampering with the floating exchange rate which served Gambia well since 1986 which sent shock waves across the local forex market leading to decline in confidence and the withholding of foreign exchange from the market by local players.

The A(F)PRC's spectacular incompetence in economic affairs was surpassed only by its management of dissent.  Under Sir Dawda Jawara, Gambia was the bastion of free democratic expression of thought and ideas.  There were no security agencies, like the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), that was dedicated exclusively to the repression of the opposition, both real and imaginary.  The National Security Service (NSS) was it was known then, was primarily an agency that collected and monitored intelligence primarily for national security purposes and not to use the agency as a tool of repression and to stifle, gag and imprison political opponents as is the case under the current dictatorship.

Under Jammeh, human rights abuses became the norm, and torture the weapon of choice, of a regime that lacked the competence and the desire to provide a set of policy choices to those offered by the opposition. What was lacking in intellectual capacity and power of persuasion, they made up in pure and brute force. The level of brutality meted out to Gambian by the regime is comparable to the violence the North Koreans face in the hands of their brutal and secretive regime.  Just like the Kim Jung Un's regime, the Jammeh regime resort to torture, murder, extrajudicial executions, forced imprisonment, forced exile and disappearances of those who dare oppose the regime or those who the regime regard as a threat to their continued iron-fist rule.

Therefore, after 20 years of repression and the absence of the rule of law, the Gambia has nothing to celebrate but to work towards riding this scourge from The Gambia.  The A(F)PRC regime must go so that Gambians can start the long road to reconstructing a damaged economy and an equally damaged national character.  The Gambia Jammeh inherited from Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara is a far cry from the Gambia Jammeh will leave behind - a very sad story that is unworthy of celebration.  In 20 years, Jammeh has made The Gambia poorer (both materially and morally), more corrupt, less productive by working less and engaging in leisure more, more violent and less respected around the globe.  In short, the last 20 years has been a pure unadulterated hell for Gambians, a suffering that must end.