Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The spectacular failure of a dictator

His Excellency, Dr, Sheikh, Professor Alhagie Yaya Jammeh, Naserudeen
When the Gambian dictator seized power illegally in July, 1994, he promised to return to army barracks after overseeing the transition from the Jawara government to a new replacement government.

He also promised an unsuspecting citizenry an accountable,transparent and a probing government with the assurance that he will never introduce a military dictatorship.  Instead, Gambians were treated to one of the most corrupt, incompetent and opaque dictatorship in Africa by one of the least prepared and most vindictive individual Gambian society had on offer.

21 years ago, His Excellency Sheikh Alhagie Doctor Professor Yaya Jamus Junkung Jammeh inherited an agriculture sector, the single most important sector in terms of employment - employing over 70% of Gambians -  and foreign exchange earning capacity - contributing 20% of GDP - that appears to have been abandoned by a regime that is over its head, a regime that lacks both capacity and the will to govern.  It is a regime that has been overwhelmed by the sheer size of the problem that the dictatorship created.

With the exception of the effects of the Ebola scare on Gambian tourism, the troubles of the Gambian economy are mostly self-inflicted. From the insistence on the dictator to interfere in the monetary sector to his lavish spending habits on official celebrations and festivities that are mandatory for all ministers and senior-level government officials to attend or risk dismissal and/or imprisonment.     When these festivities take place, the entire government machinery or what's left of it, shuts down.  In a country that has a four-day workweek, you can imagine the toll on one of Africa's smallest economy.

Gambia's per capita GDP  in 1994 was the third highest in the 16-country ECOWAS community at US $ 720, behind Cabo Verde and Cote d'Ivoire.  In 2013, the figure plummeted to US $ 488, the lowest of any ECOWAS country.  Yaya Jammeh succeeded in pulling The Gambia from the top of the ladder to the bottom of the heap in 20 short but devastating years.

Gambia's downgrade is not limited only to the economic sphere.  Its human rights record was dragged through the mud as well.  When Jammeh came to the scene, The Gambia was touted as a bastion of human rights where the independence of the judiciary and rule of law reined supreme. Today, The Gambia is being compared to North Korea, both for its human rights record and its dark and sinister style of governance characterized by forced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, exiling and imprisoning of journalists, among other forms of torture and mistreatment of ordinary Gambians.  Non-Gambians have been victims of this vicious regime as well.

As we close the year, we must renew our resolve - as Gambians and friends of The Gambia - to fight for the restoration of democracy in the tradition of Sir Dawda Jawara, freedom, justice and the rule of law in a country that has been degraded to the point of devastation by a regime that has clearly demonstrated that it's over its head.  A change is thus inevitable in 2016.