Dictatorship Grips Civilian Workforce

JammehOne aspect of governance that is often neglected by observers is the quality of services provided by the civilian administration under micro-management of a mad autocrat like President Yahya Jammeh. The root of the problem is that Mr. Jammeh has totalitarian control over the machinery of government though he is someone who cannot be planned much less programmed  towards the attainment of defined goals or aims. There are persons who are not disciplined enough to ask pertinent questions, seek for advice comply with any institutional or programmatic requirements. President Jammeh is in the thick of such category of persons, often erratic, and whimsical with heads held decidedly up in the clouds.

If we were in the middle of the 18th or 19thcentury and if we were as small a population as the ancient kingdom of Kiang, perhaps such a totalitarian style of rule would have worked.  So no one-man alone cannot single-handedly run a modern government. According to even the ancients, one man cannot rule the world.

So how has Jammeh managed with his one-man rule for 20 long years? To cope with the anachronistic requirements of his style of rule, Jammeh has divided his method of rules into three parallel approaches; one is the one that gives the face of correct, formal conventional show of officialdom; the other his posture of David against an imperialist coalition of Goliaths, and the third is  his rule by witchcraft. Depending on how frantic the tensions around him happen to be or how much hallucinogens he had been taking, President Jammeh would withdraw himself into one or the other of the three approaches, or styles of rule.

When he appears to be swayed into the world of the occult and witchcraft and let his Vice, Aja Isatou Njie Saidy run that of formal officialdom for him, the population of witches in our midst suddenly multiply and multiply again and the number of cured AIDS patients soar as do the country’s deposits of oil, gold and other precious metals, double up and double up again..

When he gets tired of the world of the spirits and witches, he returns to the pretense to officialdom aided by a terrified class of civil servants and other bureaucrats.

Most of the time however, the Gambian leader is in a world crushed up between the two, nebulous, half real and half surreal,  dazzling citizens and the public at large out of their sense of what is considered normal. But those most affected by the spin are his cabinet ministers and teams of civil servants working under them. Remember, the greatest clerk is not the wisest of men. It is they who cannot see life possible outside the civil service. To survive, they will have to pretend though that things are normal even if the General Orders and the Financial Instructions are no longer valid..However getting occupied with the intricacies of policy documents and the tumultuous lunacy that now reign at State House is a ratting experience for anyone, no matter how stoic.In such an atmosphere and dispensation, officials will grasp at any available venue of escaping from the grim realities of the present day Gambian civil service.

To do this Gambian civil servants are now experts in locating potential donor conferences and projects, the identification of new international threats, conventions and violations. However useless they are in the attainment of the set goals, projects come with resources, both financial and otherwise; they enable the purchasing of new vehicles, ICT equipment and the payment of new salaries, per diems and allowances,thereby helping push the GDP and increase the amount of rice in the household basin. But there also some hidden costs involved. One such cost is the number of projects, national, regional or international currently ongoing or just recently terminated; nationally generated or externally instigated; from Jammeh’s whimsical dreams or from within the ranks of the dysfunctional civil service.

Not long ago for instance, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CADP) called on each member country to formulate a national agricultural investment program as a guide. While the Gambia is yet to be even ready making the baseline studies for the project design, , President Jammeh all of a sudden came up with his Vision 2016, which wants the country to be self-sufficient in rice by January 2016. The year, 2013,The Gambia imported 137,000 metric tons of the 178,822 metric tons consumed, according to figures released by the National Central Project Coordinating Unit.. Government leaders have been promising self-sufficiency in rice since the dawn of independence, but that goal is now further than ever.. Though the general public takes this presidential promise with disdain and laughter, with 2004 oil discovery scam still in mind, the civil servants have been thrown into turmoil once more, knowing not to which of the rivaling projects to be committed to, how to prepare for the rather rashly conceived presidential project and how to meet internationally monitored project deadliness, etc, etc.

Apart from the above two above mentioned projects, there are several others, including the policy and strategy documents but was also quick to add that there are other policy documents such as National Export Strategy, Vision 2020, Seed Policy, PAGE and Vision 2016.

The type of spirit the average Gambian civil servants feels today is that of being in a sinking ship with the captain not yet realizing. Generous donor countries and agencies estranged and their projects suddenly left in limbo. Project funds diverted right in the face of donors to their great chagrin. If they dare complain, the philanthropists get lashed out at as racists and imperialists. According to the same project coordinating unit, only about 13% of public projects were successfully concluded between 2007 and 2012.



  1. Interesting summary from Mr Sillah.

    The keynotes from The President address to Parliament, were to take Gambia away from debt, and to achieve his 2016 pledge to be self sufficient in rice. His reference to a revue of civil service pay grades and benefits, means very little. For some may move up this ladder and others move down. What it could mean…is he is making the Civil Service more competitive and at the same time more cost effective in its delivery of services. i.e value for money. { Nothing wrong in that}

    However this could be a sign that he is to make some radical in roads on the excessive government spending, and imports, Gambia has inherited through under development of its weak industrial and manufacturing base.

    There are enormous economic benefits from reducing imports especially food. These are attracting an average of 9% inflation, which must make the cost of living for the majority of Gambian’s a real struggle just now.

    I noticed on Foroyaa…there was a query about banning the import of vegetables. For it seemed to be an add on and not included in the Presidents speech.

    The problem with this in a supply and demand economy…is if any comodity becomes scarce…it tends to push the price up even further.
    Of course the up side to this is it would increase local production as an opportunity of profit from home cultivation becomes apparent.

    This may be a form of Austerity, if the government seeks to ban certain imports….{ A quite drastic measure and one fraught with risk }

    Another issue touched upon quite intuitively by Foroyaa..was money supply. There needs to be a date set for withdrawel of the old currency..to avoid an over supply which would no doubt affect the value of the Dalasis.

    These appear to be directives from the Executive and would need further consultation to assertain there legitimacy under the Present rules enshried under The Constitution.

    Perhaps the economic situation is so dire…that The President appears to be taking what may be “emergency measures”

    Slashing wildly at Imports may inflict a heavy toll on commerce dependant on them. This could be a Lose Lose situation ?

    Its a question of balance and wise and careful management of all aspects of action versus reaction.

    Clearly Gambia needs to reduce its reliance on debt and its servicing.

    Tourism is another pledge to bring it back to its former glory.

    In 1999 there were 80,000 British tourists a year. Today less than 30,000 with the additional numbers made up from Gambian’s returning for holiday’s and a small amount from other countries of vairied origin.

    Whereas most other destinations have seen a significant increase percentage wise. So Gambia has bucked the trend.

    The reasons for this are several.

    However market forces generally dictate the outcome and it would be a grave situation if tour opperators begin to avoid Gambia if its profis become so depleted that it must redirect its energy, to more profitable and expandaning destinations with much better attractions and facilities.

    The other grave depletion is the goodwill that Many British have given in time and effort to Gambian’s communities

    Sadly unrecognised and grossley undervalued.

    By this leadership.

    As Mr Sillah alludes to….Goodwill and philanthropic activity should never be tarnished with negative spirit or emotion.

    Every action comes with a re-action.

    Gambia needs a change in fortune and direction. The Brits will not stand for any incurrsion upon the rights of Gambian’s.

    Its not what we do or what we stand for.

  2. In the Gambia today there is no civil service in the real sense because all departments receive directives from the office of the President.Gambia is one man show that is why all our institutions are falling apart and it look like we will be be with Jammem for some time because most of the groups in this Struggle are interested in fund raising for self and not for Country.