Sunday, June 11, 2017

Do not demolish beach bars, admonish owners and regularize their status

Two years ago today, we published this blog post pleading with the bulldozer crew of Yaya Jammeh not to destroy the lives of small business owners by demolishing their beach bars.   Unfortunately, our pleads fell on deaf ears.  We have always stood by the little guy.


Critics of Yaya Jammeh have long maintained that he is out to punish Gambians and not to seek redress to what he and his fellow putchists, who seized power in 1994, saw as injustice during the Jawara administration.  After 21 years, the regime cannot shed the well-earned reputation of being vengeful of a class of people who would rather go about their daily chores without the additional burden of being identified with any political party.

Most of the beach bar operators whose establishments are about to be demolished fit this description. Some of them lived and worked in Europe and the little savings they had were brought home and invested in these beach bars.  Now, they stand to lose their life savings because they did not apply to, nor were they given approval by, the Tourism Board.  This is the Ministry of Tourism's version of events. We have not heard from the owners of these establishments.  As far as the regime is concerned and, since these small investors are operating illegally, their investments must be bulldozed.  We wrote a piece in March 2014 criticizing the regime for using the bulldozer, otherwise a symbol of progress, as a weapon to punish Gambians and foreign investors.

Bulldozing beach bars (and homes) is not the ideal solution to the problem.  Rather, it makes more sense to work with owners to help them regularize the location of their establishments and satisfying the building code and other requirements.  Considering the amount of the size of the investment which, in many instances, represents the entire net worth of these small Gambian businessmen and women, individually, helping them save it is certainly better than destroying them which is an insidious way of punishing Gambian and non-Gambian investors alike.

What is perplexing is the tone-deafness of a regime that claims to be the champion of the youth and women, and that incessantly assures citizens that these are not "witching hunting" exercises, yet government and security agencies are constantly harassing young men and women on the highways and denying them access to the very same beaches where these establishments are located.  No wonder tourists are fleeing the country for other destinations because of the ever present military personnel who have turned the tourism area into an armed camp.

By bulldozing these beach bars, the regime is once more shooting itself in the foot.  It is sending the wrong message to Gambians abroad wishing to invest in the country; the message being your investments are not safe in The Gambia.  To those beach bars owners whose properties are about to be bulldozed, the regime's message to them is, return to Europe via the "Back Way", the treacherously dangerous route Yaya Jammeh claims to discourage to the point of asking the ICC to investigate Italy and the European Union.   Conflicting messages of these sorts are further signs of a regime out of its depth and drowning in its own sea of incompetence and vindictiveness.
UP-DATE :  Unfortunately, the regime of Yaya Jammeh has carried out its threat and has destroyed several beach bars in the tourism area or the TDA.  Investors, both foreign and domestic, have lost their life savings in trying to make a decent living while creating employment for Gambians.  After these images, who in his or her right mind would want to invest in the Gambia while Jammeh remains in power.  (Photo : Courtesy of FatuRadio Facebook page)