By Saul Saidykhan
In Gambia, we’ve had a problem with leadership since our political independence in one form or another. That has never been more true than in the current dispensation. Instead of trying to find solutions or ways of easing Gambia’s myriad problems in such vital areas as education, health care, unemployment, youth despondency, lack of basic utilities, infrastructure, or social services, etc. Yaya Jammeh routinely engages in ethnic-baiting and incitement of ethnic hatred as if that’s the panacea to Gambia’s problems. However, the shocking thing is not that Jammeh projects his hatefulness onto others, it is that despite the pretense, too many Gambians actually buy into his divisive and destructive propaganda. This is shameful! Fatou Jaw Manneh posted a short video on YouTube last week along this theme. I agree with her sentiments entirely. This is also what I believe largely explains the dissonance and lack of cohesion among the official opposition against the Jammeh tyranny.
Countries graduate to nations over time and develop because both the privileged few that govern – the leaders, and the majority of the compatriots that they govern or lead- the followers, play their civic duty or role in ensuring that the ship of state work towards a common purpose. Abe Lincoln famously told Americans in his presidential campaign that “a house divided against itself will not stand.”
Contrary to the wise counsel of Honest Abe, Yaya Jammeh, for purely personal reasons, has unilaterally written off a large segment of the Gambian population as “traitors” for ethnic reasons. This, for a country with sparse skilled and semi-skilled human resources. The Gambia desperately needs ALL the help it can get – especially of the skilled varieties. How any government can even expect to be able to compete with others in this day and age by confining itself to selecting its workforce from only a portion of its population – not the total population defies basic commonsense. What manner of leader is this fellow that likes to hamstring and limit our country’s potentials like this? However, like most other demagogues, Jammeh started off his ethnic-baiting with dog-whistling. Now, he spews his ethnic hate mongering openly on national TV. He even gives Gambians the ratios of the preference he has for various Gambian ethnicities when it comes to public employment opportunities. His utter disregard for merit-based criteria in public jobs be that civil or military is no longer a secret. Consequently, it is no wonder that incompetence is now the established and accepted norm in every public institution in the Gambia. Anyone whose loved one has gotten sick in the Gambia in the past several years or sponsors a child’s schooling there knows this. Everyone has a story to tell, and it isn’t a pleasant one. Most of us in the diaspora are now forced to evacuate our loved ones to Senegal for medical care or other critical services. Hell, many of us now actually do groceries for our folks here and ship it. I never thought it would ever get to this point.
It’s hard to exaggerate the level to which things have degenerated in The Gambia: hospitals with nurses that don’t know how to administer simple injections to patients without infecting them with new ailments or worse; public schools where teachers no longer even pretend to teach children during regular school hours- if one wants a child – son, daughter, nephew or niece to learn anything in a Gambian public school these days, one has to hire a private tutor. Ironically while Yaya Jammeh could rightfully brag about increasing the number of schools in The Gambia, his policies are making quality education inaccessible to an increasing number of Gambians. Anything that has to do with his government is a double-edged sword.
To demonstrate the ineptitude that passes for public service at a public utility in the Gambia currently, here is a personal experience: When I went to settle my dad’s last electric and water bill at NAWEC’s Kanifing office after he passed on back in January 2007, I had a question on a line item on the Water bill titled “Complement D50.00.” The two officials I dealt with initially fumbled and dilly-dallied so much that I didn’t know what to think. They asked me to wait for their boss because they really don’t know what the charge is for. At one point, I thought I was in the wrong Department/Agency! I asked one of the men if they really work for NAWEC. It dawned on me that they just put the charge on people’s bills, and since folks pay without a fuss, the anomaly goes on. Long story short, an hour later, when he finally arrived, their boss was no better at explaining to me what the charge is. I told him a “Complement” suggests and SHOULD BE a Credit not a charge. Any beginning Accounting student knows the difference between a Credit and a Debit no matter what the Naming Convention. He said “My brother, that’s how we do it here.” Like they say, you can’t argue with a fool, so I just paid them and hit the road. To this day, I think about that incident. It kills me to imagine the kind of damage being done to the Gambia through the sheer ignorance and incompetence of Yaya Jammeh and most of his appointees. We have never had it this bad. The country now simply typifies a classic dysfunctional state!
Even at the best of times, we Gambians are generally not a competent people. I get into trouble with my friends for saying this, but it’s true. We’re too comfortable with excuses we shouldn’t be. We tend to settle for the mediocre when a little extra effort would make a world of difference. We love perks without the sweat; the glory without the effort. That’s us. And it’s mostly with us Gambian men. This is terrible weakness that we don’t even want to talk about. Yet it is makes us a vulnerable target for a dangerous prey like Yaya Jammeh. It is part of what has given Yaya Jammeh so much power over us. Which is why occasionally he swoops down and grabs some real weakling from among us as he did to Uncle Kaw not long ago. When an unscrupulous autocrat knows you’re a weakling who cannot carry his/her own weight or take the heat despite your noise-making, he’ll use that knowledge to his advantage. Especially if you’ve said something against him in the past!
And one would wish we could all exhale base on improvements in the Gambian condition. Instead things don’t seem to be getting any better where it matters. Take the latest crisis involving the very probable murder of several United Democratic Party (UDP) officials by the murderous tyrant, and his subsequent arrest of the party leader Ousainou Darbo and his entire Executive Committee members.
To underscore my issue with Gambians, factor this: in less than ten days after news of this latest outrage of the Gambian dictatorship became known, hundreds of Senegalese have hit the streets of Dakar to protest and show solidarity with the UDP. In contrast, Gambia’s other opposition parties on the ground – PDOIS, NRP, and PPP, carry on as if nothing is amiss! They continue to portray the issue as a UDP versus APRC government issue. While this doesn’t really surprise me knowing what I know, it is nonetheless disgraceful!
Let’s get some things straight: the UDP, like them or hate them, is the biggest opposition party in the Gambia. They have the largest reach of all the opposition parties. More importantly, they score higher votes than any other single individual opposition party even going by the rigged elections Yaya Jammeh runs every five years. That, PDOIS is an older party seems to be irrelevant to the voters who are the ultimate arbiters. UDP is the same age as NRP. I believe that and their leader’s ethnic origin is precisely why Yaya Jammeh has been going after them relentlessly for all kinds of excuses. And this has been true for the past twenty years. The price the party has paid has been very costly. These facts make UDP the natural leader of the Gambian opposition. Now, some may not like this, but it’s the reality. We have to accept this reality if there is to be any progress against the fight against the Yaya Jammeh tyranny that we KNOW is unsustainable. Personally, If I had a choice, I’d be born in a bigger and richer country where people are probably better educated, and more aware of where the wind blows from. Instead, I was born in poor nano Gambia where lack of material and human resources aren’t the only things missing at the table. I sometimes feel cheated by destiny. But my reality is what it is, so I accept it and live with it. I offer the same advice to other opposition leaders and their supporters who may feel aggrieved by the prospect of having to play “second fiddle” to the UDP. The issue is non-sequitur.
It’s time the rest of the Gambian opposition fall behind the UDP leader who is leading gallantly as we need him to and help accelerate an end to this Yaya Jammeh madness. Gambians have cried enough. and suffered enough.
So ENOUGH of the excuses as to why NRP and PDOIS cannot join UDP protests. This is NOT about UDP. It’s ABOUT Gambia. It’ really not ok for the two parties’ leaders to show up at the Banjul courthouse for photo-ops to show ”solidarity.” Showing up in court and watching the proceedings makes NRP and PDOIS OBSERVERs in my book which is what diplomats and reporters/correspondents do. Rather, NRP and PDOIS ought to be part of the news makers. The world needs to see and feel that the Gambian opposition is in sync and equally outraged at what happened to the unarmed electoral reform protesters. No mixed signals, no chasms! Who can say that’s currently the case with a straight face?
The current situation calls for both parties to recognize the moral imperative to act on behalf of the long suffering Gambian people, by asking their supporters to join the UDP supporters in the peaceful demonstration UDP’s are engaged in to save our country from the slow but certain civil strife it is sliding toward. The genie is out of the box like they say. Those who think this is just another passing skirmish that Yaya Jammeh will ride out are deluding themselves. These are people who are tired of being routinely violated by the state and are ready to take their destiny in their hands. NRP and PDOIS can help manage that transition by joining forces with them or they can side with the people’s oppressor by telling themselves that they’re neutral. The choice is theirs!
I studied both Economics and Accounting in college and wouldn’t know where to begin to assign Costs to the damage Yaya Jammeh has inflicted on the Gambia: the massive brain drain; the indigenous capital flight to Senegal and the Guineas and Mali; the relocation of foreign embassies to neighboring countries and the concomitant effects on Gambians; the failed schools and hospitals. How does one assign a figure to these considering how protracted they’ve been. All of these hardship because of one lunatic tyrant!
MRS. FANTA DARBO JAWARA
Among the group arrested with UDP leader Lawyer Darbo is Mrs. Fanta Darbo Jawara., a foster daughter of Mr. Darbo. Fanta is a professional Nurse, and a mother of four living in Frederick, Maryland. I’ve known her and the family for over two decades now. In addition to her regular job, Fanta wears some very large shoes that are very hard to fill. She is the primary caregiver for a sick family member. As such, it is important for all conscientious people to call the US State Department since Fanta is a dual citizen and demand the release of Fanta Darbo Jawara and ALL the HOSTAGES of conscience Yaya Jammeh has locked up for NO REASON. My prayers are with Mr. Janko Jawara and the kids in this trying time. God bless Fanta for standing tall!
Halipha sallah and hamat bah have shown their cowardice ,selfishness and incompetence to govern our country.the former thinks bombarding us with big english jargons is what will make him a head of state.the latter ‘s hypocrisy and betray is the same as the present occupier.gambians are learning who is the real figure that loves to see justice for gambians .it will our second indepence from neo.colonialism by a black colonialist.long live mandela darboe,solo sandeng biko’sacrifice.long live the gambian freedom fighters.
Saul , thank you very much for speaking up for me . I 100 % agree with all your points . I think our opposition leaders such as Ahmat , Halifa and others are all selfish and bigot . It is bigotry that is why they refused to stand up for justice . They refused to support Darboe and UDP because of ignorance and bigotry which they will never admit. Their corrupt and ignorance mind has been exposed . As UDP leader and his executive are in prison , this corrupt and bigotry opposition leaders sided with an oppressor to further show their ignorance , cluelessness , hatred and despicable act to general population by signing a stupid agreement which is meant to throw UDP under the bus . That was a despicable act . I don’t have any damn respect for any of these selfish politicians because they care for selfish interest . We do not need hypocrites to show up as a foolish observers when we have journalists and diplomats to observe the trials . Some of the opposition leaders are the problem which is why Jammeh cannot be removed some 20 years ago .
Halifa sallah Hamat Bah OJ they only see them self not The Gambia? If u see Gambia u will also will be arrested like Darboe long live darboe long live the gambia solo sandeng SOL FULA SILINING KAKILING Rest in peace U Died for ur country.Great hero.
Saul, reading your article brought tears in my eyes. You have spoken ‘hard metal truth’. It is sad , truly sad, the brotherhood we talked about in the Gambia is merely on the lips. If the rest of the opposition party leaders choose to step up and call on their supporters along with UDP supporters frequenting the courts march to the police HQ demanding the release of all the detainees, the show will take a different turn. Alas, they will not. Thank you my brother for speaking the facts.
Indeed; the writer & commentators have said it all….
I have nothing to add; except reaffirm that, certainly beyond this point, evidently the country is slipping into strife & anarchy; which isn’t beyond redemption yet; & could surely be averted when we all act collectively in unison….
Sooner or later, the ‘us & them’ opposition politicians, supporters & sympathisers will all realise a strife doesn’t differentiate one from another but engulf all….
The moment we all clear our collective conscience sooner the better…..
Long live the Gambia….
The truth about all these is that the UDP has started a fight which they said they are the only group that can wage. They said all others are FRINGE parties who have no followers but very good at creating aparthy and noise. How can those without followers call on their supporters to join a protest they were not privy to. The civil thing to do is to call for a meeting of all political parties in the opposition GROUP OF SIX to discusss a demonstration or otherwise, but to jump start something only to call on others to join you later is bad politics.That’s the importance of protocol which many of you had dismissed all the time.
You can call others all kinds of names but that would not change anything. Others can only do what they think is the best thing under the circumstances. I don’t think anybody will believe you when you say leaders like Halifa Sallah and Sidia Jatta are cowards. How many times have they defied the regime when it was at its most ignorant and vicious stage?
Talking of selfishness, I think Darboe and team that are selfish because they started something that belongs to everyone without involving others only for their supporters in the Diaspora to call on them when the whole thing has failed. My take is that others should try and help to resolve the crisis but should not do anything to aggravate it. You may agree with this or not but it’s an opinion.
As long as UDP supporters like Maxs continued to see other leaders as the problem, supportersof other parties will also continue to see the UDP as the problem thereby making cooperation much more difficult.
My information is that Darboe and Co expressed appreciation to Halifa and Sidia’s presence at the courts.You are just making things difficult for the resolution of the crisis by rejecting initiatives of stakeholders. Diplomats are there only to report to their governments which is important but is not sufficient to replace the role of colleagues on the ground.
I hope Kaironews will continue to accomodate the views of my dissenting voices in the interest of free speech and divergent views if they are not to be accused of stifling dissent like the APRC regime.
Don’t fall for the cyber warriors’ chicanery, subterfuge and hatred…They don’t represent the UDP and don’t speak for any Gambian, as far as we know…They are just loud mouths, living in delirium…
Lawyer Ousainou Darboe will be the first to acknowledge the efforts and support of his colleagues, regardless of what he might have said elsewhere or what anyone wants you to believe..
Yerro Ba, you are a shameless and an ignorant bigot who is clueless about the power of people and current Gambian’s situation . All these while you were absent and now you can foolishly come here to show your indifference and lack of conscience . Keep dreaming and think that Gambians will formally call for a meeting where all leaders will discuss demonstration . This tells me you are very ignorance of history of liberation struggle . Americans civil rights movement started with Rosa Parks defiant to give up her bus seat to whiteman , Tunisian revolution started with single protester and later led to Arab Spring . Gambian revolution Started with solo Sanderg and his group of Patriotic citizens who called for electoral reforms . You foolishly came here to defend your fellow bigots and an agent of dictatorship . You careless about The Gambia because if you do , you won’t stupidly called Darboe and protesters as selfish . Today Darboe and UDP are vindicated and Gambian people have more love , respect and admiration for them than your confused leaders of pdois . History will judge Darboe as a patriotic son who has answered to call of his time while pretentious leadership acted as observer or hypocritical refereers. Shame on you with your narrow partisan view but it wasn’t a surprise because your fellow confused disciple Bax also acted in the same despicable manner .
“This is NOT about UDP. It’s ABOUT Gambia. ”
Thank God, Mr Saidykhan did actually pause to make that statement because until then, he has tried very hard to wrap and clothe recent happenings in The Gambia, in the garb of the UDP. Even the Dakar demonstration was “in solidarity with the UDP”, but that is not the impression we get from the information relayed to us. The Senegalese demonstration, as evidenced by some of the speeches, was in SOLIDARITY WITH THE GAMBIAN PEOPLE”, as acts of impunity were mentioned that had got nothing to do with the UDP.
I personally think that the other opposition leaders are damned, whether they act or not. Their appearance in court is described as a “photo-ops”, but where are the photos ? A photo-op is pointless if it is not in the public domain. If these opposition leaders had not appeared in the court room, it would have been the same because that too would have been presented negatively.
I think a little reminder is in order here. The Gambia’s opposition, collectively, opts for a change of government through the BALLOT BOX. Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, contrary to some fantastic claims, did not go out to initiate a “revolution” to change government. He went out to demand the release of arrested demonstrators, who themselves, went out to demand “electoral reform”. We know who want a demonstration to change government, and that is certainly not Lawyer Darboe and his opposition colleagues.
A very desirable virtue of good leadership is calmness at the height of turbulence, patience and clarity of thought at the time of decision making and I think the opposition leaders have shown great leadership virtues, under very challenging and difficult circumstances. They have not only withstood the pressures emanating from many quarters with courage, focus and a very principled stance, but have succeeded in restraining their people from setting the country on the path to self destruction…
These people who have long abandoned the country and are calling for a tit-for tat strategy do not seem to realise that The Gambia CANNOT afford conflict without total destruction. It is ridiculous that Gambians can wish what happened to countries that have millions of citizens to happen in our country of less than 2.5million. All patriotic Gambians should aim to get out of this situation as orderly as possible, because unlike many places, there will be no safe place if conflict breaks in The Gambia. It will spread like wildfire, from Banjul to Koina in less than a week, because it is that small and that easy to get around.
I personally think The Gambian People know much better than what these cyber warriors are wishing for our country. May Allah (SWT) continue to guide our actions and preserve our long cherished peaceful nature, as one big family, that Yaya Jammeh can never destroy. Amen
Bax , you are indeed a hypocrite , please take a break from partisan view and focus on bigger picture that is Gambia. Stop writing garbage . When Jammeh is gone you will be remembered as an agent of dictatorship .
Max…You are just a joke and a big one, for that matter…It ia absolutely clear who have been drumming up partisanship and divisiveness in this forum..And you have failed miserably, perhaps the reason for your frustrations.
The Gambian opposition is determined to achieve change of government, through peaceful means, and there is nothing you can do about that, except to support them…
Continue your lies of accusing me of partisanship in this matter.. The evidence speaks for itself…We love our Gambia and we will not burn it or openly advocate for its humiliation by anyone else, no matter how close we are to each other..
Yaya Jammeh is our problem and we will solve it, though we appreciate any support we can get from the international community, near and far..
BTW Max…You and your lot should be ashamed of mentioning the name of Lawyer Darboe by your loud mouths because you don’t share the same principles…
He is a peaceful and law abiding citizen who abhors death for political gains, whereas you advocate death, through your “all options on the table”, and calling for the extra-judicial killing of people you regard as enablers, in your tit-for tat strategy..
Truth be told, your position is closer to Yaya Jammeh than.Lawyer Darboe, and so you should align yourself with the killer himself and do us all a favour..We don’t want advocates of KILLING in our ranks because we value human life..
Imam Ceesay delivered a beautiful sermon on Kaironews about those diasporans, like you, who want Gambia to burn and I can only recommend it to you…Thank.you Ya-Imam..
Bax, it is really shameful and disgraceful to see you openly against any efforts which will bring change in The Gambia . You have recently blamed the peaceful protesters for what in your myopic and silly mind considered as poorly and messly planned protest . In your narrow and indoctrinated mind , tell us what is the best plan . Every one here condemned you for your despicable act . You must be a terrorist to support Jammeh and condemned the peaceful protesters . You are indeed a hypocrite . You can’t have it both ways .
It is bigotry and hypocrisy that is why you refused to support any efforts . In your mind , you think there is peace in The Gambia ? Go and tell that to families of all those innocent citizens killed by this regime . If your father was murderd by this regime , I am sure you will talking differently . Put your damn self in the place of other families and then you will feel the pain . Put your igonrance political beliefs away and look at the Gambian’s situation . Please for God sake , use your brain .
Bax , it is indeed a lie to claim that I or those who prefer “all options on the table ” are calling for extra -judicial killings of Jammeh’s enablers . Stop your lies . All options on the table simply mean we will support and use any means necessary to remove Jammeh from power , whether it is violent or nonviolent means . Remember that Jammeh himself came through violent means. No one is calling for civil war or any conflict in our country . December 2014 statehouse attackers , peaceful protesters and political parties never call for extra -judicial killings of Jammeh’s enablers . I will never support such act . But anyone who committed a horrific crimes must face competent courts post Jammeh .,and I hope you get that .
Peaceful protesters were killed for exercising their constitutional rights which you blamed them for their rights . Stop spinning for the tyrant . You don’t value human life because you are an agent of dictatorship . If you value human life you would not have condemned and blamed those who protested for their constitutional rights. You are a religious hypocrite . Don’t use the honorable imam name to make your silly argument . Honorable imam is with the oppressed citizens while you are with the tyrant who you shared the same origin in thinking or whatever . I hope one day you come forward to repudiate your support and political propaganda . I don’t trust you a bit . I suspect Jammeh must have contributed to your education or stay in U.K.
Gambians should open their eyes and see now who cares about liberty and justice for all. These so call opposition leaders like Amat Bah, OJ and Halifs are all fake and have personal agendas. Please don’t mind them.
Our spineless and clueless wannabe opposition nincompuup’s have betrayed the Gambia and her people. OJ,Amat n Halifa have shame us all. They are bunch of cowards who have collectively fail to show leadership in this trying time in the history of our country.They only come to the online radio’s talk big without substance. Darboe and his Executive will go down in the annals of our country’s history. You are all heroes.