Monday, September 8, 2014

Gambia's indentured (civil) servants

Last week, the Gambian dictator launched an appealed to his subjects to come and help him stamp out invading weeds that threatened his crops at his village farms.

The following weekend, four thousand "volunteers" led by the newly-minted Secretary General of the Civil Service, Head of the Civil Service and Minister of Presidential Affairs, that includes members of the security forces, cabinet ministers, civil servants of different assortments and hue, youth brigades and women, to list just a few of the categories of humanity who showed up at Yaya Jammeh's village farm.

The call of these modern day indentured servants by the Gambian dictator to work as "volunteers" is anything but voluntary service.  Anyone who dares ignore the call without being officially excused will be sanctioned by jailing or dismissal.   People have been dismissed and/or jailed for not showing up.  Therefore, if you want to keep your job, it is obligatory to "volunteer" your weekend at one of numerous farms of the dictator tat are spread across the length and breadth of the country.

Farmers who are faced with serious challenges this season because of late rains and farm inputs that are either scarce or beyond the reach of the ability to buy, like fertilizer, are being coerced, implicitly, to abandon their farms for the dictators.   Failing to "volunteer" can mean the difference between being in the good books of the regime or being ostracized as an "enemy of Jammeh and his ruling party".

Senior members of the government frequently abandon their official duties to work of the dictator's farms at the expense of the general welfare of ordinary Gambians.  It is not that these officials do not know that what they are engaged in is wrong; they do know.  Some are even embarrassed by it because, as civil servants, they are not to engage in partisan politics.  Is an apolitical service designed to serve the government of the day.  

But when the Head of the Civil Service is engaged is such blatantly partisan endeavor, not to speak of the humiliation, it is not only a dishonorable thing to do, it lowers the dignity of the office to an unacceptable level.  And for a Civil Service of such respectable and enviable past, it is a shame to see civil servants allowing themselves to be misused in this humiliating manner.

These officials, who are nothing more than indentured civil servants, are quick to let the rest of the world know that they are not toiling under the sun for Yaya Jammeh but they are doing it for themselves.  But then the question that immediately comes to mind if they are not doing it to save their jobs (and their necks in the process), why aren't they out weeding their own farms.

It is not that Jammeh's farms are communally-owned (yet, they are communally-farmed), the proceeds of which goes in his pockets and so-called foundations, the farms have deprived rural communities of farmlands that were once farmed by rural communities.  Farm labor is also being diverted from rural communities to a purely private venture of the dictator.  It goes without saying that Jammeh's farm is both exploitative and dehumanizing, using the civil service as a source of indentured labor for his private profit-making venture.