Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jammeh must step down for failing the country's youth

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Since the loss of over 1,500 human lives in the Mediterranean in two successive boat disasters, there has been spontaneous and sympathetic reactions across the world to the plight of the African refugees drowning in the Mediterranean.

The European Union has called for an emergency meeting and other world organizations and leaders have also expressed their profound concern about the human tragedy that is unfolding.  Similar sentiments have been expressed by the African Union, ECOWAS and many others.  Ban Ki-moon was "shocked and saddened" by the human tragedy and has urged Europe to take in the refugees.

Conspicuously absent from the list of leaders expressing condolences or issuing any statement is Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian dictator.  Instead, he elected to condemn the Swedish Foreign Minister for criticizing Saudi Arabia over its human rights record. Headlining the Swedish minister's statement at a time when the citizens of the Gambia are drowning in record numbers in the Mediterranean is callous and irresponsible,  Yaya Jammeh and his regime must say something.  He, in particular, owes it to the families of those whose lives have been lost and to those who survived miraculously. .

The Gambian dictator was able to consolidate power because of his early courting of the youth vote. He won their support by promising them a new beginning after 30 years of P.P.P rule.  His numerous promises included jobs and free, quality education.  He delivered on neither.  Meanwhile, youth unemployment has been on the rise since 1994 as a result of the inability of the regime to spur economic growth and development that results in employment creation.

 Faced with poor job prospects and an increasingly repressive regime, Gambian youth elected to vote with their feet instead in search of greener pastures.  The mass exodus seen in the recent past is a direct result of the government policy failures which led to a total collapse of a once thriving economy brought about primarily by incompetence and corruption.  It is no wonder that in 2015, Gambia, the smallest (2M inhabitants) of all the countries, has registered the highest death toll and also the highest number of those who landed in Italy by sea.

The fact that the regime has not made any pronouncement and/or acknowledgement of the tragic humanitarian emergency unfolding in the Mediterranean involving a disproportionate number of Gambian youth, makes it an accomplice.

It is only a callous and irresponsible government that will ignore the recent events by attempting to divert local attention away from the tragedy by condemning a foreign minister for criticizing Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

Jammeh has shirked his responsibility of not serving and protecting the lives and interests of the youths of the Gambia.  Jammeh should, therefore resign forthwith, barring which he should step down after the end of his current term in 2016.