Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sit up, Yaya

Sit up, Yaya.  The country has been drifting for a very long time.  Now, it is treading water rapidly, and at a rate that Gambia is on the verge of sinking.   Nothing works in a country that was once the pride of the sub-region, if not the entire continent of Africa.

When you seized power, the first commitment you made to us, Gambians, was, you were not in it for the money or glory, you were not a politician and therefore not interested in staying beyond the transition  You said, you would rather settle in Kanilai, your home village, and farm, once you and your "Council of Soldiers With A Difference" have sorted the Gambia out after 30 years of a regime, you considered then, as one of the most corrupt 'in the world', your words not mine.

It has been twenty years, two thirds of the way of matching Jawara's record in the governance chair.  If you had matched his other records, probably most of us wouldn't have cared one bit.  His record on human rights was exemplary and too high to measure up to, but you could have restrained yourselves from using brute force on a defenseless population to remain in power..

Your security forces and military have killed, maimed, tortured, made to disappear, imprisoned and exiled.  I am one of the victims forced to seek refuge in America with my family.  I have, of course, since settled but how many Gambians are in limbo across Europe, America and Senegal?  Families, loved ones, colleagues have been separated as a result of your poor human rights record.

Your economic management record is no better, and perhaps with more victims than the naked eye can see. Businesses have closed, entrepreneurs both Gambians and foreign have been chased out their businesses by confiscatory tax regime or through the old fashion way of brute force so that you and your minions can lay claim to assets that are not rightfully yours.  In America, we call this form of extortion, highway robbery.   The resultant effect of your form of economic management has been devastating to the private sector, and thus cannot operate freely, expand job opportunities and grow.  Instead, the sector is contracting, and so is the reputation of the country as a safe foreign investment destination.  Youth unemployment is extremely high.  You have, therefore, failed your most important constituents and reliable source of political support.

Gambia's limited stock of infrastructure has been allowed to crumble despite claims of your regime to the contrary.  If it weren't for the European Union's roads program and the determined efforts of the AfDB and the World Bank, ( despite accusing them of being neo-colonial edifices) matters would have been even much worse than they currently are.   Other sectors are not fairing any better.  School buildings may be up but test scores are down nation-wide, teachers untrained and basic school supplies lacking; University of The Gambia producing graduates that are well below expected standard.

As for the agriculture sector, the lifeblood of the economy has been plagued by lack of public investment, reduced public spending in agricultural research and the linkage between research and extension severed at the detriment of the rural farmer who has been left to fend for himself/herself in many ways.  Your regime can no longer meet the bare minimum of guaranteeing the purchase of the farmers groundnuts.  Some had to be returned to them because the Gambia Groundnut Corporation, the sole player in marketing, processing and export of groundnuts ran out of cash.  No wonder, this year's total tonnage is 34,000, which represents 4,000 tonnes more than last year but 130,000 tonnes less than what Jawara purchased before he was thrown out of office unconstitutionally.

I will not close this personal note to you without mentioning the three words, you said, lead you to seize power twenty years ago: Transparency, Accountability and Probity.  By any of these measures, your regime had fallen short of expectations.  Most of your avid supporters are of the same view.  You have really let them down but they are afraid to say for because they might end up in jail or the worst could happen to them. If its transparency, your regime is the most opaque in the sub-region.  Accountability?  You are accountable to no one,  not even to the people who 'elected' you.  Probity? You probe nothing that does not threaten the interest of Yaya Jammeh.  By suggesting that you sit up, what I am really trying to say is it is time for you, Yaya, to go.