Sunday, January 31, 2016

Acts of desperation in Jammeh - Kunda

Donated  standing room only school bus
Gambia's jet setting First Lady, Zeinab Yaya Jammeh, has suddenly found a new passion for philanthropy in the fields of health and education which has led her to the creation of not-for-profit organizations to address them.

There is nothing in her past that would suggest that her latest passion is genuine or permanent. Her interest has always been a Hollywood-type lifestyle characterized by frequent shopping trips to New York, Washington and Paris with little appetite for showing compassion for the less fortunate in her adopted home - The Gambia.

Since she married the Gambian dictator more than 15 years ago, the Moroccan-born First Lady has never attempted - or even pretend to - blend in with the locals or attempt to learn any of the local languages of the country that made her who she is today - a far cry from her humble beginnings in Rabat.

Circumstances have changed and so have the political fortunes of her husband which have taken a nosedive together with Gambia's economy. Her extravagant lifestyle has also suffered a set back impacted by donors holding on to development funds because of the appalling human rights record of her husband and the high level corruption that has slowly brought the economy to a standstill.

Lack of financial resources has made it difficult to divert development funds to sustain a lifestyle that has proven to be too expensive for a poor country like The Gambia.  Their $ 3.5 million mansion just outside Washington DC is rumored to be on the verge of being put up on the market.

Meanwhile, the new found passion of raising funds for cancer and to save Gambia's children has begun in earnest by aggressively employing misrepresentation of facts to attract donors.  For example,  the First Lady's Save the Children Foundation invited the CEO of an obscure organization based in Washington DC to help in the promotion of the First Lady's "good works" by appointing her as Gambia's Goodwill Ambassador.

In the testimonial issued in conjunction with her appointment boasts of the Gambia being country " where the school buses are clean and fully air-conditioned luxury buses, children looking well nourished and healthy,  the handicapped in wheel chairs, lights on, water running, clean public utilities, didn't see any one asking for bribes to do their jobs.  These are just a few.  The Gambia - Hope for Africa."

Of course, there are no luxury air-conditioned school buses in The Gambia.  In fact, there are no government-provided, regularly operated school bus service beyond the donated standing room only buses for Gambian children in the urban area, similar to the one depicted here.  Most Gambian children still walk for miles to and from school.

In trying to paint a false and more favorable picture, the First Lady and the staff of the Gambian Embassy in Washington DC succeeded in defeating the very purpose of their charm offensive, that is to raise funds, not to help Gambian children who need it the most but to help finance the expensive lifestyle of  Mr and Mrs. Yaya Jammeh.