Gambia’s Problem Goes Beyond Language

Former WUlli MP Sedia Jatta
Former WUlli MP Sedia Jatta

Sidia Jatta of PDOIS, Please Note That Gambia’s Problem is More Than Just Adopting English As an Official Lanugage

By Papa Kumba Loum

Sidia Jatta’s recent assertion in a public lecture in Norway that adopting the English Language as our official language is our major Problem is at best a half truth. With all due respect to Hon. Sidia Jatta, I do not believe for once that having English as the official language in The Gambia is the main cause of our problems. Adopting Mandigo, Fulla, Wolof etc as our official language(s) or allowing Members of the House of Representatives to communicate in the local languages in their deliberations in the House of Representative will not necessarily hurl Gambia into a developed and first world country.

The cause of Gambia’s current socio-economic and political problems cannot be reduced to the adoption of a foreign language (English) as an official language and a medium of instructions in schools. Tanzania for example had replaced Kiswahili with Englfor some over 35 years ago as its official language but that alone has not catapulted it to a developed country. The same can be also said for Ethiopia andSomalia which have adopted their local languages as official languages and also Kenya which adopted both English and Kiswahili as its official languages.

Let us face it, Gambia’s problems are numerous. Recently, bad governance, Yahya Jammeh’s blatant corruption and disregard for the rule of law, lack of foreign investments, mediocre educational schools and tertiary institutions a massive brain drain are perhaps the major reasons why the country has reached its nadir point in terms of socio-economic development. Equally, the country’s size and population and a lack of a sizable middle class with purchasing power, lack of an informed and vibrant civil society, disorganized political parties, a selfish and unsophisticated elite and educated class, religious bigotry and hypocrisy and subtle tribalism all contribute to our past, current and future underdevelopment.

PDOIS and its leadership should know this. They have been actively campaigning in rural Gambia trying to educated rural Gambians and the masses (using the different local languages) about their civil, political, economic and cultural rights and other developmental issues for the last there decades. Despite all their efforts, PDOIS has been unable to capture any meaningful support which could be translated into votes during general elections. I am not writing this piece to criticize or to give reasons for PDOIS political underachievement over the years but I expect informed politicians of PDOIS caliber like Sidia to give a more holistic picture of the Gambian problem otherwise he runs the risk of sounding like our idiotic President Yahya Jammeh and his acolytes of sycophants.

Gambians all over should start looking inward to decipher who we are as a people and why we are the way we are which unfortunately has resulted in a barbaric, semi-illiterate, corrupt leader with inferiority complex to manipulate and

rule The Gambia for 20 years with the support of religious leaders and a so-called educated class. These are the issues we as Gambians should discuss and decode and then begin to forge ahead in a positive way as a people and as a nation.

Let me iterate here again that Jammeh is corrupt with the help of Gambians, Jammeh tortures and kills Gambians with the support of other Gambians, Jammeh sells drugs, trump up false charges against his perceived enemies and imprisoned them with the connivance of a corrupt legal and judicial system, Jammeh molests and rapes young Gambian women with the help of his middle men/women and sometimes with the acquiescence of family members and meanwhile the so call religious leaders continue to pray for his long life and prosperity using the local languages and in Arabic and not in English. I hope you get my point. The problem is with us.

By Papa Kumba Loum



  1. Look who’s here….The “veteran” Anti-PDOIS commentator himself. . Is this a coordinated offensive effort…? Just wondered, given the timing of both commentaries. ..?

    I haven’t had the chance to listen to this lecture, but my gut feeling is that this statement, if made by Sidia Jatta, is most probably taken out of context…

    The reason is that Sidia ‘ s party (PDOIS) has spared no efforts, through numerous publications, press conferences, meetings, dramatisation, etc, to expose, inform and.educate the people about our problems…Whether they be in education, agriculture, politics, governance,economic management, international relations, etc. ..

    Why would Mr Jatta suddenly decide that all these are not our problems…Just English as the official language…That does not make sense to me…

    What is most curious about these commentaries, which lends credence to accusations of attempts to divert public attention from a very important political development at home,is the timing of both pieces…


  2. It is reported that at the celebration of his 66th Birth day,Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, in assuring his followers and fans about his candidature in the next elections, stated that all is not lost, as the law could be changed to remove the age restrictions….

    Now, consider these….

    Given the fact that the APRC Government has not shown any inclination towards electoral reform;

    Given the fact that a party needs a.leader whose candidature should not be in doubt at any time, much more with elections fast approaching;

    Given the fact that individually, the UDP presents the strongest challenge to the APRC;

    Considering the fact that the next elections are less than 2 years away;

    One would have thought that this atmosphere of uncertainty that the Gambian electorate have been left in, would have been like a “hot potato” for political discussions/commentaries. …But two of our most active and known online political commentators, thought otherwise and instead, chose different topics relating to the same party…

    Whilst one chose a commentary event that is a few months old, another chose an obscure event in far away Sweden, thousands of miles from Banjul, as if these are the most important current political events…. wonder what is up…..

  3. Lafia Touray la Manju

    What bothers me most is that Yahya Jammeh expressed displeasure about English being the official language and now Sidia too is saying English as an official language is a problem. Scary isn’t it?

  4. Let him bug off. Since the second republic all my presidential votes went for him Seedia and his PDOIS but I have lost hope in them. Look at how he is marshalling ideas with Yaya Jammeh.

  5. In the past, I have witnessed Sidia in a campaign rally in Sutukonding in Wuli that he was a better candidate because his opponent, would not be able to express himself in English because of the opponent’s low standard of education. I am glad that the change of heart has come.

  6. Papa Kumba Loum

    Papa Kumba Loum
    Mr Bax, it is a pleasure to read from you. Point of correction however.I am not anti nor pro PDOIS, UDP, NRP, GMC , PPP etc when i felt the need arose. I see myself more as an independent thinker and I have taken a swipe at the UDP and other parties. What bothers me is that supposed intelligent and educated people like you refusing to see the real picture and being sycophants for political parties and leaders who talk bullshit. The APRC is in power because we have dishonest and educated intellectuals such as the Dr Mbows, the past Minister of Justices, Judicial Officers, the Mamburay Njies, the Imam and religious leaders and may others who refused to speak the truth when they knew that the APRC and Yahya Jammeh stinks.
    I can see you Bax and your colleagues doing the same thing if PDOIS was ever to come to power. I can even imagine a hypothetical situation where Halifa and Sedia Jatta would sanctioned the executions of many like Papa Kumba and I can foresee you Bax and your colleagues justifying such actions and or even writing copious rejoinders explaining that those executed committed mass sucide. Grow up Bax and all you “Talibes” of PDOIS, UDP and other parties. Our salvation is not in the hands dogmatic political and religious leaders. Let us be strong, independent, and sincere in our thinking. Yahya Jammeh is enough example for Gambians. We cannot have another dictator in the name of Hallifa, Sedia, Amat, OJ, Mai Fatty, BaX, Papa Kumba etc.
    Peace and love.

  7. Papa Kumba Loum,

    You begin by saying: “Mr Bax, it is a pleasure to read from you”.

    But infact you do not sound pleased at all! You pepper you comments liberally with pretty antagonistic and highly disrespectful comments towards “Mr. Bax”. For example: “supposed intelligent and educated people like you”, “sycophants”, “bullshit”, “dishonest”, “stinks” … “a hypothetical situation where Halifa and Sedia Jatta would sanctioned the executions of many like Papa Kumba and I can foresee you Bax and your colleagues justifying such actions and or even writing copious rejoinders explaining that those executed committed mass sucide”, … “Grow up Bax” … “Talibes” … “dogmatic” …

    It seems to me, Mr. Loum, that you appear to be something of a “Talibe” yourself (I assume this has the same Arabic meaning as “Student of” … though now applied to enemies as being dogmatic fanatics thanks to 9/11!).

    You end, Mr. Loum, by wishing Mr. Bax, after all that venom, “Peace and love”!. I wish you “peace and love” too and direct you to the contrastingly temperate and respectful piece, directed to your good self, by Sulayman Bah here on the pages of KairoNews.

    Finally, as you know, I have had much to say about Comrade Halifa’s “blah blah blah” – but it takes a gigantic leap of the imagination to see Halifa of all people carrying out “executions”, or even justifying it. Whatever his faults, Halifa’s fundamental stance on Human Rights are so well establish as to be beyond question.

    Peace & Love, Bro.

    PS: This is the second time I have backed Halifa. Some 3 or 4 years ago the Daily News had a front-page piece entitled “Halake Backs Halifa”. Infact, it is the third time because I recall writing in defence of Halifa over the witch-hunting nonsense. Equally, I recall Foroyaa backing my Human Rights when I was arrested. I have no doubt that Halifa and Foroyaa would back Mr. Loum’s constitutional rights too. We must be mature, rational and balanced in our disagreements. (As for “Mr. Bax”? I say no more here since he has threatened to torture me by leaving me without a wife if I continued to provoke him as an in-law!)

  8. Lafia…

    Records proof that Mr Jatta has “expressed displeasure” with English, as our Official Language, long before Yaya Jammeh even enlisted in the defunct National Gendarmerie…..

    Wasn’t he a.member of the committee that researched and developed curriculum material in the national languages for use in schools, whilst at the Curriculum Development unit..? The Report was left to collect dust on shelves…

    Did the PDOIS not start adult education/literacy programmes in the local languages right back to the first Republic ?

    Many would have jumped at the chance of working at the President’s Office in the first Republic, but Mr Jatta is reported to have refused to report there, insisting that his qualification (as a linguist) was better utilised at the Curriculum than.the state house…

    Your insinuation is baseless and malicious…

  9. Brother P.K.Loum. …

    Thanks for the response….I.wish I did not have to label you as “Anti-PDOIS”, but I.honestly think you are….However, I should hasten to add that I do not attach any negative connotations to it because being “Anti-PDOIS” is as perfectly normal as being “Pro-PDOIS”.

    Let me assure you that if we live to see the PDOIS Leadership in office, I will be the first to voice my objections to anything they do that is a departure from their ideals…

    For example, the PDOIS calls for a selfless, non parasitic leadership. ..I will be.watching them very keenly if I witness their ascension to power…It is easy to hold account because they have extensively provided us with what they stand for and how they wish to achieve it…

    The trouble with the rest is that, apart from.wanting Yaya Jammeh out of office, not much is clear about what they do, never mind how they are going to, though many see the best alternatives ahead of PDOIS. ..That’s Gambia, isn’t it….That’s why we are where we are today….You have said that much yourself, though you erroneously put Bax in that mixture…

    I think many will agree that your latest criticism of the PDOIS is completely misleading and nowhere near the sense or understanding that Mr Jatta intended to communicate….

    Having said that, I.think it is a healthy thing for our political discussions and.exchanges…It is right that we always put our Public Figures and wannabe figures under the spot lights.


  10. Mr Loum, putting aside Sidia’s comment about our problems, in the struggle to liberate the Gambia from the situation we are in, there could be nothing as “independent thinking”. You either condone the atrocities going on or you condemn it. Fence sitters have no place in our society.

  11. Lafia Touray la Manju

    Bax, Yahya jammeh learned everything from Sidia then and that makes things even more scary.

    Of recent, you’ve been talking a lot of BS.


  12. Quote…. “.. Bax, Yahya jammeh learned everything from Sidia then and that makes things even more scary…”

    And you say I’m talking BS….What could be.more B’S than this..? I rest my case..

  13. Well, it is a bit of an exaggeration for Lafia to say “everything” Bax – I agree. But you have to agree that Jammeh was a young Moja sympathisers and a regular reader of Foroyaa – and an admirer of Halifa and Sidia: that is why he offered them cabinet posts after July 22nd 1994. That is an objective fact Bro.

  14. My – in law…

    It’s the exaggeration I objected to…It’s no secret that many disadvantaged people in the fist Republic, including soldiers, identified with the PDOIS message and followed Foroyaa…

    Capt.Ebou Jallow ( former AFPRC Spokesman ), in a recent interview with Freedom, admitted that the junior officers, including Jammeh, religiously followed Foroyaa, prompting Mr Mbaye to mischievously label Halifa as the “Godfather” of July 22nd, which Capt. Jallow instantly dismissed….

    So, in a curious sort of way, one could say that the soldiers drew inspiration from.the writings of the Great Inspirer, “Comrade” Halifa Sallah, but he or his associates cannot be held culpable to what is happening. …

    It is also a fact that “Comrades” Halifa and Sidia, were probably, the first opposition politicians to be nabbed by the junta and threatened with imprisonment….

  15. 1. Pappa Kumba Loum Missed the point and all of you mislead by his article. Fatou Jaw Manneh forwarding this rejoinder for publication please?- From Pappa Lowe- facebook



    As reported by Kibaaro Sidia Jatta focused on Africa’s problems and cited an example on Gambia where he campaigned and explained why he campaigned “for the local languages to be used in Gambia’s national assembly deliberations”; but deliberately twisted by Papa Kouma Loum and maliciously taken out of context. Kibaaro NOTED AS QUOTED THAT “Other issues discussed at the said meeting are; P.D.O.I.S’s agenda 2016 and the political landscape.” This line sums up everything and would have save Pappa Kumba Loum with distortion, misinformation, misleading the public, malicious slander against PDOIS and its dynamic respected leaders.


    Full report of Kibaaro News which covered Sidia Jatta’s tour and public speeches on a range of political issues for “We are backward because we have chosen to wear borrowed clothes – Sidia Jatta at Oslo Meeting” under link…/

    2.Modou Nyang pointed out that “Good reportage just care needs to be taken when it comes to the use of euphemisms as in this case “borrowed clothes’. I guess Sidiya was speaking in Mandinka and hence directly translating that in English does not send the same message. Any non Gambian who reads the story is likely to get confused. Other than that good story and reportage.”

  16. Mr Dawda,
    Stop being a cry baby and grow up. Whenever someone mentions anything against PDOIS or its leaders you start jumping all over the place. You really need some counseling. Halifa Sallah,Sidia Jatta, Ousainou Darboe, Mai Fatty , OJ, etal are not God and they can all be subject to criticism if one feels that they are talking ” rubbish” sorry for using such disrespectful language agaist your PDOIS demi-gods. On a more serious note, Mr Dawda you really need to be mentally liberated so that you can have an independent mind. I know that Halifa with his hypnotic eyes and voice (which he mastered from Tivavon from the Grand Marabouts in Senegal) has cast a spell on you and has blinded you from thinking straight.
    Please send me your email address so that I can direct you to where you can get counseling and help to free yourself from the shackles of PDOIS archaic ideology.
    Peace to you Dawad and no need for you to cry. I repeat- note that Uncle Halifa and Uncle Sidai Jatta (i bet the title Uncle will ease some of your pain) are only human. They are nice people with many good ideas and intention but unfortunately for them only Bax, Dawda and a handful of Gambias 2% population understands and vote for them in General Elections. This is a fact and there is no need for you to cry Dawda.
    Peace and love.


    HOWEVER THERE IS NEED TO PUT ON RECORD THIS QUOTE: “The non use of our languages in Education and in our development enterprise has been and still remains one of the major obstacles. Take for instance the mass of people prevented from enjoying their civic rights by participating in decision making processes because of their inability to read and write in a foreign tongue, in a sovereign republic? Can you imagine!” Sidia Jatta