Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ebola and The Gambia's 2014 Hajj

Amid rumors that a number of Guineans have been issued, or are in the process of being issued Gambians passports, that will allow them to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform this years Hajj, are just that, rumors.

But given the serious nature of what is at stake here, it is incumbent on the Government of The Gambia to do two things immediately.  It should quell all rumors by assuring the travelling public, especially Gambians planning on performing the Hajj, and their families, that Guineans are not being allowed or will be allowed to fill the Gambian quota to travel to Saudi Arabia.

However, before the regime can come up with such assurances, a thorough investigations must be conducted of the Immigration Department, an outfit known to be one of the most corrupt outfits of the regime, that passports are not being issued, especially to Guineans or other nationalities, for that matter,  for any reason whatsoever, including to perform the Hajj.  Anything short of a thorough investigation and ironclad assurances of the integrity of Hajj preparations is unacceptable, and may suggest to the Saudi authorities that The Gambia is the weak link in the chain, the consequences of which may result in suspension of Hajj visa.  

Gambians do not trust this regime but are afraid to say so because of the repressive nature of the dictatorship. We are, therefore, appealing to the regime to put all shenanigans aside and do the right thing by not issuing visas to non-Gambians to travel to Saudi for this year's Hajj.  In fact, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that other West African countries may join the list of Saudi's travel advisory should new cases are discovered.

The Ebola outbreak is real but can be managed if their is concerted international effort and cooperation and that goes for infected areas and front line countries like The Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea Bissau.  The Saudis, on the other hand, are taking no chances even when there's no proof that the virus has spread into the Kingdom.  They have not only issued travel advisory to its citizens not to travel to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia but they have suspended the issuance of pilgrimage visas to the affected countries.  It means Guineans cannot perform the Hajj this year.

The Jammeh regime is known to buck the international system if it is going to draw attention to himself.  We have seen him displaying his one upmanship when a poor country like The Gambia donated $500,000 to mineral-rich country like Sierra Leon.  The donation is being seen in The Gambia as one more example of how misplaced the Jammeh regime's priorities are when school children who wanted to contribute their own sensitization campaign where turned away because, according to authorities, "there's no money."  One can image what such treatment at the hands of their own government will do to the children's sense of community and their attempt at being good citizens.

We urge the regime to get in front of the Ebola outbreak.  The regime must stop all "celebrations" and other "feel good" activities for the balance of the year, and the money saved be diverted to the preparedness and sensitization efforts.  At least, he has not yet claimed that he has a cure for the Ebola virus.