Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Why Gambians are poorer and hungrier under Yaya Jammeh

Yaya Jammeh's $ 3.4 million Potomac Mansion 
The fact that the Gambia is one of the poorest countries in the world with a world ranking of 175 out of 188 countries in the United Nations Development Program's 2015 Human Development Index with nearly half the population living in absolute poverty is not sufficient deterrence for the Gambian dictator to exert financial discipline and curb corruption in absolute defiance of the International Monetary Fund.

The European Union's Ambassador to The Gambia reminded the regime that the failure to diversify the economy is one reasons why half of Gambians live below the poverty line, and many of them - about 60% -  live in a rural setting. 600,000 Gambians are food  insecure, meaning that they cannot afford three square meals a day. And when agriculture is neglected, despite the noise generated by the Jammeh machine about "growing with you eat and eating what you grow", rural poverty to aggravated levels with longer and than severe ever hungry seasons.  No wonder, acute hunger and malnutrition is prevalent in areas around the central, northern and the most eastern parts of the country.
Zainab Jammeh in Malaysia 

The numbers are very depressing as they are but when they are juxtaposed with the luxurious lifestyles of Yaya Jammeh and his wife, the contrast is repulsive and unconscionable.  For those who knew him as an ordinary military police, they will tell you that Jammeh was poorer than a church mouse when he seized power in 1994.  To be worth hundreds of million to a billions of dollars - depending on the source - a couple of decades later, from his job as President of one of the world's poorest country on earth, is reason enough to start questioning the sources of such illicit wealth.

Jammeh's interference in every sector and aspect of the economy is a primary source of frustration for foreign investors and local operators, most of whom had to relocate in more business friendly environment in the region with Senegal and Guinea-Bissau being two of the biggest regional winners. Instead if being the best president that he could be, Jammeh spent the last 22 years building a business empire, using state resources, refusing to pay taxes and undercutting the competition in the process.  The result is many businesses, both locally and foreign owned were bankrupted while he painstakingly protected a select few businesses who support his politics and help supplement financially his expensive lifestyle as a price of doing business in The Gambia.

Meanwhile, Jammeh continues to amass wealth with a mansion valued at $3.5 million near Washington DC, despite his anti-American, anti-Western rhetoric, and numerous businesses reportedly owned by his wife in Morocco and Guinea. "Rampant corruption" was the reason Jammeh advanced in seizing power in 1994. Gambia is a more corrupt country today than in 1994 according to Transparency International.  This is one more reason why Yaya Jammeh must vacate the State House at the end of his current term.  The consensus now is that 22 years of high level corruption coupled with a high degree of incompetence displayed by Jammeh and his team is enough. #JammehMustGo