Saturday, April 12, 2014

A morally repugnant scheme

The joint announcement by Yaya Jammeh, billed as the founder of the APRC and the political bureau was plastered across the Daily Observer and national television informing the general public that "fundraising accounts... have been opened at the Guaranty Trust Bank" for the purposes of soliciting contribution for Yaya Jammeh and his coup plotters to celebrate 20th Anniversary of their constitutionally illegal act of staging a coup against the government of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara.  A more appropriate fund-raiser would have been to buy new ferries for a ferry-less country whose capital sits on an island;  but that's for another blog.

To kick off the fund-raising drive, the announcement claimed that Jammeh was personally donating the superstition-driven sum of D222,000, and thus arguing all those "who have benefited one way or the other from the 20 years of the July 22nd Revolution" to contribute. "No amount is too small" concludes the plea from the supposed president of the Republic who led the illegal coup and its only surviving member.  The rest have been killed, imprisoned or exiled.

There's something degrading about the idea of a 'president' going around, unashamedly, soliciting funds from an economically-deprived population that live on $1-a-day, in one of the poorest countries on earth.  If the funds were to be used to help alleviate the hunger and suffering of the many Gambians who are presently going to bed hungry, the solicitation might have been excused.  But to mount this massive campaign, using state resources, like GRTS, the national radio and television network, for the sole purpose of extracting cash from an unsuspecting and highly taxed population is unconscionable.

Gambians are presently among the most taxed humans on earth.  Women selling 'akara' and 'mono' on street corners have been driven from their road-side open air stalls into their living rooms, and the more frightened, into their bedrooms, to escape the revenue agents and rate collectors.  These women are being asked to pay D1,000 as tax and/or rates to the state and city when their total annual earnings is probably less than D2,000.  These are the very same people that Yaya Jammeh is soliciting cash from to celebrate the hardship he's brought on them - the women of Gambia, who are among the hardest-working people anywhere.

The APRC party Congress has been postponed because of lack of financial resources.  Previous party functions have been financed exclusively by the party founder, Yaya Jammeh.  That was then.  This is now. Faced with depleted personal bank accounts, Jammeh has resorted to bizarre and repulsive schemes to finance his "extravagant life-style", a phrase that stuck with me for 20 years.  Even this usually friendly business community has run out of patience for someone who's always devising money-making schemes to extract cash from a weary populace.  Business response to an earlier fund-raising effort to fund the Congress has been disappointingly low.  Donor-fatigue has hit the business community too.

If celebrating the 20th anniversary of the illegal coup d'etat that brought Jammeh to power, and with it the corruption, death and destruction that accompanied it, it should be worth his while to either foot the bill himself or ask the state to provide a line item budget, properly reflected in the Estimates.  He knows he cannot do this, coming right at the heels of two successive and devastating IMF reports on the finances of The Gambia, so he devised this very repugnant and shameless scheme to raise money for what is purely a partisan affair.  If referendum were held today on whether the anniversary will take place, it will fail miserably because the majority of Gambians are tired of APRC 'celebrations' and 'festivals' and would like to see their government concentrate on making their lives better by addressing the urgent challenges facing the economy.

Given the deteriorating conditions of the economy, it is, therefore, morally repugnant to be asking for money from the very victims of the most corrupt, repressive and inept regime the Gambia has even had.  No true Gambia should contribute a dime to this fund, and the sooner we get rid of these criminals, the better.