Friday, November 13, 2015

How Jammeh continues to benefit politically and financially from the human migration

African migrates being rescued in the Mediterranean 
"May your souls rest in peace in the Mediterranean Sea, in advance" was the cryptic response offered by Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian dictator, to a group of young Gambians who raised their hands indicating their desire to take "The Back Way" -  meaning the Mediterranean route to Europe - when asked how many of them wanted to leave Gambia.

The macabre wish, in the form of a prayer "in advance" to these young Gambians in the village of Sukuta, illustrates how Jammeh uses the "Back Way"syndrome to serve both his political ends as well as his financial needs, even as the world, especially Europe, is trying to cope with a massive wave of humanity crossing the Sahara Desert, the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas into Europe.

Yaya Jammeh was addressing a political rally in Sukuta when he asked the youth who were present who, among them, wanted to venture into the journey.  Raising their hands in unison was an exquisite way of repudiating the regime's economic policies and then human rights environment of the making of the Jammeh regime.  The incident occured in June, a month after 5,000 lives perished in the previous twelve months in the Mediterranean, 1,500 of whom were reported to be from The Gambia - a country inhabited by less than 2 million.

The regime of Yaya Jammeh has a long history of human trafficking, extensively documented in the United States State Department's Human Rights Report on The Gambia. It did not come as a surprise for Jammeh to transition or embrace the Back Way by engaging in the lucrative business of transporting young Gambians, the majority of whom are from the rural areas, all of whom are untrained and unemployed, and primarily from the rural areas.  The problem prompted us to post a blog entitled "Is Jammeh behind the human trafficking that feeds the Back Way syndrome"?

In addition to personally benefiting from the human trafficking operations, Jammeh, like the rest of his African counterparts are benefiting, if not personally, indirectly by the remittance flows these migrants provide monthly to their respective countries.  In 2014, $ 436 billion were remitted to developing countries, a figure that represents half of all net foreign direct investment and well over three times as much in official development assistance.

The huge remittances from migrants is primary reason why African countries are opposed to the repatriation of African migrants to their home countries.  It is also the reason why the proposed $ 2 billion "Trust Fund" considered meager by many African leaders who assembled in Malta this week. For example, foreign remittances to Gambia increased in 2014 by 40% during the previous year from $ 64.90 million to $ 90.30 million.

Politically, Jammeh is benefiting from the Back Way syndrome because the large numbers of youth seeking greener pastures and those voting with their feet because of the deplorable human rights environment - potential source of political opposition and social unrest - fueled by high youth unemployment.  The regime actively encourages out-migration for the reasons cited above but it also serves as a pressure valve.  The less disenchanted unemployed youth there are, the less the changes of unrest eminating from this population group.