Lawyer Darboe disproves the way President Jammeh meets Gambians. In a detailed interview with the Point Newspaper, UDP leader talks on several issues. Below is the full text.
The opposition leader, Ousainou Darboe, has said President Yahya Jammeh’s ongoing tour of the country is required by the constitution, as he has to visit the rural areas and listen to the problems of the population, so that the Gambia government will provide solutions to these problems.
Darboe said the constitutional review committee did a very good job in putting that clause in the country’s supreme law.
It is supposed to be a tour that is a political; it has to be a non-political tour. “Unfortunately, it has been somehow misused, and made a campaign tour, with the yai compins, youth mobilisers; “the sort of gathering you find at mass rallies,” he added.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Point, centered on some of the burning issues of the day, the leader of Gambia’s largest opposition party, the United Democratic Party (UDP) also stated that public servants whose departments have dealings with the rural population – health, education, agriculture, and so forth, are given a back-seat role.
“One would have expected that on such occasions, the technical officers would be addressing the issues there, but you do not find that.”
It is not un-common, Darboe went on, for President Jammeh for every tour to pick a theme, and use that as his campaign tool. He recalled that there was the “back-to-the-land” call in one of his past tours.
He added that one cannot divorce from the policy of “back-to-the-land”, the new call for food security and food self-sufficiency.
“If the government had meaningfully pursued that policy of back-to-the-land, we would now not be talking of a 2016 target for food self-sufficiency in The Gambia. We would have by now been self sufficient in food; not only in rice, but other cereals, all the necessary food items we need.”
“But”, continued the opposition leader, “these are mere propaganda tools, just as he has done with talk of a railway project – what has become of it. We have heard him talk about the Alhamdulilahi project for the oil business – what about that – that is now a forgotten story; we’ve heard him talk about the Silicon Valley project – another forgotten project.”
Darboe said Jammeh is adept at diverting people’s attention, and that his cronies help him in achieving that. “They coin a theme that looks very attractive; very sensible, but unachievable.”
“I cannot imagine how by 2016 you can prepare the land, in any part of the country, to such an extent that you cultivate the required hectareage to produce rice sufficient to feed the nation, and then export the surplus. It’s just not possible!”
Darboe recalled that in 2008, Jammeh said The Gambia should be self-sufficient in five years, “and nothing has happened”.
“My view is that Gambia certainly is capable of growing food enough to feed the population. I had zonalized, in my own thinking, the country into zones. Central River Region is certainly quite suitable for rice cultivation, and all we need to do is to create the conducive environment for foreign investors in commercial farming”.
About the announced plan to set up a food security corporation, Darboe advised against “standing on a platform and playing to the gallery; saying this is what you are going to do.”
“It has to be seriously thought out. You just don’t get up and say we are going to establish a food security corporation, just from the blue. Your technical experts have to advise you.
“If that happens, then what is going to be the role of the department of Agriculture, of NARI, all those institutions. These are things that you think about; have them thoroughly discussed at the drawing board, when you discuss the policy issues, and then come out with the fine product.
“You just don’t go to Fatoto, see a crowd of people wearing your ashobi, and clapping for you, and you say this is what you are going to do, without really discussing it.”
Ousainou Darboe said the government must look at the pros and cons of such a corporation, and how it would impact on other departments that are involved in agricultural activities.
He said there was an agri-business agency established for achieving self-sufficiency in food, but it was not workable, simply because the policies were not given the adequate consideration that they deserved. “They were just matters that impulsively came out,” he said.
Darboe said he was not surprised that Jammeh said so, and that he will, come next year, say something different.
Jammeh is fond of blaming his technicians, and accusing them of not doing the work required, as was the case with some projects in CRR, when people in the department of Agriculture were blamed for the failure, “at the time when he was, in fact, the minister in charge of Agriculture.”
“But then, because of his ability to shift blame on people, he did put the blame on the technicians, on the technocrats, who had no means of responding to his allegations,” Darboe added.
“I would love to see The Gambia really self-sufficiency in food.”
However, he continued, “with all these farms that are being cultivated for him; when you use the sweat and toil of the ordinary people from Panchang, Mabali, Garawol, Kartong, Som, Kafuta and some people coming from across the border; tilling his farms in all parts of the region, in all parts of the country.
“If this was properly harnessed, and the resources made available to the ordinary farmers, then we would have started moving towards a target for food self sufficiency.”
The opposition leader continued: “Because we have to equip the farmers, so that they can produce enough to feed themselves; but if they go to the land, till the land for you, produce for you, and then you want those people to be self sufficient in food, you are not achieving anything; you are just using their labour to promote your so-called back-to-the-land, which is in my view back-to-Yahya Jammeh’s-land; and not back-to-the-farmers’ land.”
“Let me commend one thing. I’ve said this once or twice in the past. The former minister for Youth, Mr. Gomez, when he embarked on these youth farms, I thought that was a commendable policy, and thought that should be replicated throughout the country.
“Equip the people, at the grassroots level to have their own farms, their own community farms, and not to have farms cultivated for Yahya Jammeh in Kaur, when the alkalo of Kaur is there as the supervisor and the chief of Janjanbureh is there, in Tumani Fatty, doing things for the President.”
Darboe hoped the minister of Agriculture would encourage the sort of thing that former minister Gomez did with regards to youth farms.
1. Commend the a point for granting Lawyer Darboe an interview to express hie views on an important issue…
2. The APRC’s “Dialogue with the people tour”, is a carbon copy of the PPP’s “Meet the farmers” tour…
3. Lawyer Darboe completed one aspect of the job..: criticise the APRC…The missing bit is the alternative… (how will the UDP do it..?)
4. The idea of attaining food self sufficiency by creating the conducive environment for foreign investors is absolutely ridiculous…We should be putting every butut (if needed) into food production,rather than depend on foreign capital to feed ourselves…
5. Did Lafia notice that Lawyer Darboe has subscribed to the PDOIS ideology of “community/communal farms as the way forward..?
1. Solomon Owens is the most technical expert on Gambian Agriculture living today – and he is Minister of Agriculture on tour with the President;
2. Yes, the headline in 2008 was “AGRICULTURE BATTALION IN 2009” – if that had happened Gambia would be food self-sufficient today.
3. “Foreign Investment” in agriculture is a nonsense: as with the USA & the EU agricultural success came from HUGE government SUBSIDIES to farmers (Yankuba Touray as Agriculture Minister said to farmers: “No Free Seeds, No Free Fertilizer”!!!)
4. Mr. Darboe ““Equip the people, at the grassroots level to have their own farms, their own community farms”. THAT IS THE ONLY WAY FORWARD. Gambian women are already doing it bravery – all they need is the subsidies and support that other professions such as lawyers – yes really! – get from government and abroad.
(BAX: Do PDOIS ideologues know how to farm? Or will they be setting up Collective Farms and force the Peasantry to work there (as did Comrades Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin???)
My in law,you said it yourself…Gambian farmers have been farming since time immemorial…All that is lacking is the investment,planning and organisation of the Agricultural sector…As well as the storage,distribution and marketing of the agricultural produce…The PDOIS “ideologues” don’t need to know how to farm or actually farm themselves…The country,as you pointed out,already has a vast resource of experienced farmers and agric experts/specialists….What is lacking is the will power,backed by clearly defined policies of the government….. and that is what the PDOIS “ideologues” can bring into government.if the people decide to entrust them with running the affairs of the state…
The PDOIS,well,before both the APRC and UDP emerged on the scene,has made it clear that communal farms,organised in Farmers’ Co-operatives,backed by mechanised farming that is linked to a small scale cottage industry,is the way to lift our farmers from abject poverty,as well as address food self sufficiency..
There will be no Lenin type forced labour because our experiences and the nature of our societies are completely different…Claims of forced labour or appropriation/confiscation of people’s properties,or banning of worship,etc,are ALL scare mongering tactics against the PDOIS…No body really believes these smear campaigns…
I am not surprised that Lawyer Darboe has exposed the UDP’s lack of sensible Agricultural policy to answer our ever increasing National food Crisis situation…They want to wait for foreign investors to start commercial farming to feed us…Does he think that foreign commercial farmers will invest in The Gambia to feed Gambians..? Even if they come to our shores,they will only do so to exploit the cheap labour and land resource to export their produce overseas…
Unfortunately,this is the opposition party that Gambians trust most….
Actually Comrade Bax, one particular collectivisation could work: Build a new Janjanbureh on the South Bank and turn EVERY INCH of the island into a rice plantation — even moving Armitage School and the Governor’s Residence!! Surrounded by fresh water 365 day’s a year, the plantation on the island can produce enough rice to feed the whole nation.
Hahaha..!!!!! We will spare Armitage and the governor’s residence….But you are right…We have abundant land and fresh water resources to produce enough rice to feed ourselves…(at the least)…
As lawyer Darboe rightly stated,Central River Region alone can satisfy The Gambia’s rice needs…(waiting for foreign investors is where he got it wrong)..
What we lack is the political will to embark on meaningful rice cultivation and production ,because it is our staple food…We must be humble and cut off the pomp and extravaganza in state management and invest the saved funds ( and that will be quite substantial) in rice production or other productive areas of the economy..
The unnecessary July 22nd Celebrations is upon us and a cool Ten Million Dalasis or more (D10 Million) may be wasted on the occasion……The endless Kaninlai jamborees,the millions he throws at singers and other scroungers,etc,will go a long way to enhance real production in the economy…
We do not lack the resources,even funds,to enhance our rice production capacities…We are simply mis-spending and mismanaging the funds…
Bax, Armitage would be spared only if it is turned into an expanded PRISON – so that those GENUINELY found guilty of heinous crimes and sentenced to HARD LABOUR can work the vast Janjanburreh Rice Plantation to FEED the Nation! And also we can shut down the infamous Mile 2 if we have more prison room in Jamjanburreh (This is serious stuff: No “Ha Ha Ha” – Ha!
Oh no…My in law…Prestigious Armitage High School will not be touched…I’m. Surprised he hasn’t changed the name…His anti – British colonial legacy is obsessive…
Anyway, if I was privileged to advice the next government, I would.suggest that Mile 2 be gone…It’s not fit for human habitation…Also, the land may be needed to expand GPMB (Saaro) facilities….We need new modern prisons fit for rehabilitation of offenders…
People will definitely be held to account for their actions, but we need to be sensible about this when the day comes…
There are lots of good folks who are following bad orders because they have no choice…The consequences of disobedience could be disastrous, career and security wise…
It is a simplistic attitude by some in the diaspora, to blame people for not resigning or leaving the country, instead of following illegal orders…Whilst some can easily survive without a government job, or sneak quietly out of the country, it is not that easy for many people…
No doubt, many must go to jail and for long jail terms, but proper investigations by competent and independent (of government ) committees/bodies must be carried out to determine, among other things, the crimes and nature of crimes, the individuals who took part in these crimes and those who authorised it, the extent of their roles in these crimes and those who helped them (no matter how remotely), the degree of damage their actions have caused, the impact of these damages (to individuals/groups/institutions ) and the recommendations for further actions…
I definitely subscribe to the idea that prisoners must work to maintain themselves in prison…Not necessarily through “hard” labour…Just normal labour, like everyone else…
Armitage is indeed colonial. No PDOIS revolutionaries could have been nurtured there – just coupists like Sanna Sabally (HA HA HA). My good friend Fafa Mbai is really brainy – but I kept asking him why he quotes only Willie Shakes, Blake, etc in his books – none of our very own wonderful proverbs and griots quoted. It was all about colonial brainwashing for “sons of chiefs” Bax. Why should a PDOIS revolutionary like Bax worry about “colonial prestige” preservation???
Anyway, it sounds from the Daily Observer last week that the government is really serious about Rice Self-Sufficiency by 2016. All I say is Good Luck.
That “Colonial prestige” is our history..it’s part of us..We can neither run away from it, nor hide from it..Let’s use it as a reminder of the past..
I wish them good luck too…Perhaps, of the many slogans, they might achieve this one by 2016…
But the professor needs a change of attitude with money first…Otherwise, there won’t be much for anything else..