FULL STATEMENT of African Leadership magazine on Jammeh's award
THE GAMBIA: Leadership Award For Tourism Development – Our Position
African Leadership Magazine has from inception positioned itself as a Pan-African medium, dedicated to telling the African story through the lenses of Africans. The magazine’s philosophy is founded on the premise that, too many platforms are already promoting the trite headlines of hunger, war, disease and famine, and all things evil about Africa. Before now, if it is not negative news, it wasn’t worth reporting by some major international news outlets. Hence the need to present the other side of the story – the untold successes. It is for this reason that the African Leadership Magazine seeks to promote the positives over the negatives, celebrating whatever successes recorded by leaders on the continent. We understand that there are no perfect beings, leaders, or regimes anywhere in the world, and this knowledge guides our outreaches. The Magazine does not share in the view that the Change we seek can be achieved through bullying or isolation, but rather through strategic engagements and mutual respect.
We therefore wish to state that our Awards seek to reward the best in people not the worst, and the recent Award to the President of Gambia, Yahaya Jammeh falls within this category. The Gambian President was honored during the 7th African Leadership Summit 2015, alongside other political business and diplomatic leaders with the “Political Leadership Award for Tourism Development”, and the award was received on his behalf by the Vice President of the Gambia, Isatou Njie-Saidy.
In selecting Gambia for this category of award, the Editorial Board of the magazine reviewed submissions from our online subscribers and independent sources on the ground in The Gambia and available records and statistics, and was satisfied that there was clear evidence to show that Gambia is a leading Tourism hub in West Africa and indeed on the continent.
From available World Bank records, Gambia’s tourism attracts about 100,000 visitors yearly, mainly from Europe and has maintained a consistent growth in the past four years peaking at 171,000 visitors in 2013, before the Ebola outbreak, which strained the growth in 2014. The country’s Tourism growth has been very consistent, earning her the sobriquet-Smiling Coast of Africa. It is based on these findings that the country’s president was honored award for providing the political leadership for tourism to thrive.
Since the announcement and presentation of this award, African Leadership Magazine have received emails expressing reservations at this award-citing widespread human right abuses, and our independent findings have shown that there is a high probability that they do exists. The magazine therefore felt it was its duty to clarify its position.
While this award is in no way an endorsement of the Gambia’s president regime and reported human right abuses, it would be safe to state that, the category of award in which the Gambian President was honored had no direct bearing on Human right indices. More so because, we are of the view that for tourism to thrive in any country, there must be the political will. Cases abound on the continent, where countries with huge tourism potentials are blighted in the face of the lack of political will. It is a common feature to find tourists from all over the world freely mix-up with locals on the streets of Banjul; we are of the opinion that this would not have been possible in the face of insecurity and poor leadership.
Alluding that this award is an endorsement of Jammeh’s regime, is also inferring that his hosting at the white house on the invitation of the President of the United States, Barack Obama, during the African Leaders Summit, was an endorsement from the United States Government. This is definitely not the intention of the magazine or the award.
We therefore call on President Jammeh and his team to urgently address the concerns raised by credible international organizations on the human right issues, so as to consolidate on the gains already recorded in other areas. These successes, especially in the Tourism sector are seemingly dwarfed by the glaring cases of injustices and rights abuses.
It suffices to say also that a time has come for Africans to begin to set certain benchmarks for assessing her leaders, as the time for an all-side-fits-all approach is gone. It has been shown over and again that “perception” on the continent is a far cry from the reality on ground. If there ever is any thing positive to report and celebrate in Africa, we shall report and celebrate – for no one else may do so better than the non-political African press. The overall narrative on Africa has changed, and we urge all to embrace this change. We therefore call on President Jammeh not to see this award as an endorsement of his regime, for it is not; but a pat on the back for successes recorded in the tourism sector and a call for him to act as honourably in all other sectors of the Gambian national life.