Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gambian roads : Unsafe at any speed

Yaya Jammeh's presidential motorcade is reported to have been involved in multiple car pile-up around the Central River Region (CRR) of the country.  As far as it can be determined, the chain accident did not claim any lives, but several senior officials were said to have been injured.  They have been rushed to the main hospital in Banjul.  We hope there's medicine and qualified personnel to tend to those needing medical care.

Jammeh and his entourage were in the 5th day of a 21-day Dialogue with the People Tour, and according to the official itinerary posted on the official State House website, they were to spend Easter Monday, a rest day, in Jangjanbureh, capital of CCR.  They were not scheduled to depart Jangjanbureh until tomorrow, Tuesday at 10:00 AM. Unless there has been a change in the official schedule, the entourage should have been stationary at Jangjambureh.

For a regime that touts its commitment to the development of the country's infrastructure, if the state of Gambia's roads is testimony to the claim, it is time to adopt a new propaganda strategy because, despite investments in road since Jammeh seized power in 1994, corruption has hindered implementation which has, in turn affected the quality of road network under his watch.

Contractors have complained privately of the heavy-handedness of the regime in demanding bribes and/or even shares in companies wanting to do business with government.  Jammeh is the head of this group of extortionists who's made contracting in The Gambia a highly risky business.  It has caused indigenous construction companies, as well as well-known Senegalese and regional companies, to flee to friendlier countries in the ECOWAS region. Those contracting companies that have tried braving it out in Banjul have ended up being bankrupted by a regime that is among the most corrupt in Africa.

Poor roads notwithstanding, it is a common sight to witness presidential motorcades travelling at hair-raising speeds, some say, in excess of 100 MPH through pothole-filled third rate roads, killing and maiming Gambian children and adults alike in their wake without stopping.  All, they say, in the name of the security of one man - Yaya Jammeh.  For the Gambian dictator to stop this time is something new, and to cancel an official tour involving Yaya Jammeh is quite extraordinary for a man who seems to care more about his own safety and security than anyone else's.

While wishing the injured speedy recovery, we hope that senior officials will counsel Yaya Jammeh to put as much premium in the safety and security of all Gambians as he does his.  Those children and adults killed by his motorcade practically everyday deserve the same consideration and treatment that he accorded to the injured members who were rushed to hospitals.  The lives of children killed and maimed in the Kombos ever so frequently are as precious, if not more so, than members of his entourage.  The last thing I should be engaged in is to lecture to a father of two little children about reckless driving in a congested road filled with children at play.