The ongoing tirade against certain former elder statesmen in the social media bears the hallmark of selective disrespect and simple ethnic discrimination. Let those without sin cast the first stone. Nyang Njie, you are not the first to read economics nor the first to serve in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs. Whatever views you may wish to express should be done in decorum and in the spirit of respect for people who served The Gambia more than you can ever dream. The same goes for those who want to portray others as villains and traitors whilst they are equally guilty as enablers, accomplices and deviant opportunists. Let us be courteous and respectful in discussing public issues in the social media. With due respect Gambia is a small community yet we should celebrate our diversity with respect, courtesy and appropriate value traits which reflect our culture. This is particularly important when we wish to disagree on political matters and we should do so in full awareness that our elders are not saints but fallible people. BB Darbo is not an angel and so are many others who are claiming to be saintly.
I must add that the social media hero who behaves as if he is the best technocrat with solutions to all matters of governance in The Gambia, Sidi Sanneh, was the foremost enabler of Jammeh. Not only did he hone his skills in the first republic, but he quickly jumped shipped to embrace Jammeh opportunistically rising to become an Executive Director at the African Development Bank with full support of the last regime. As if that was not enough he accepted cabinet and diplomatic appointments from the same administration only to cry wolf when there was none. Joe Sambou reminded him appropriately about his checkered history as a public servant.
Where are the people whom we all respected who benefitted under Jawara and turned around to embrace Jammeh as if Jawara never existed. Sam Sarr former veteran diplomat urged Jammeh to vie for the presidency as a military ruler in 1996. We saw Ebou Taal, Fisco, A A Faal, S. M. Ceesay, Fatoumatta Jahumpha and Bala Garba Jahumpha accept positions of influence under the former administration but no one made noise while they were benefactors of Jawara for decades. Who betrayed the memory of Ousainou MM Njai more than some of these turncoats?
Amadou Samba, Mohamed Jah, Edi Jobe, Hadim Gai, Taff Njie, Badara Mbye, Pa Makumba Njai, Pap Demba Jobe among others embraced the former regime in different capacities but they are not saints. Yet they were more privileged to outdo other competent entrepreneurs driven out from competitive success by a regime that has a visceral hatred for the Mandingo as a group for reasons best known to Jammeh. The discrimination was borne out of nothing but ethnic bigotry. We all know the tenacity of the Badibunka businessmen and their success stories including the late Alhaji Sidiki Jawara who was hounded by the regime from his Albert market location with the full support of Njogu Bah, Secretary General at the time. The latter’s cousin Njogu Sayerr Bah is known for his most anti Mandinka vitriol yet he is back serving a government accused of Mandinka tribalism. Wonders shall never cease. We know what Muhammed Jah did behind the scenes all in the pursuit of the same anti Mandinka crusade. For now we will allow them to come clean about their dubious activities with Jammeh and to move forward as equal citizens in an equal playing field. They were willing financial guinea pigs for Jammeh largely out of selfish reasons and hardly for any patriotic fervor.
The story must be told of noble men and women from Banjul who did not associate with the injustice of the past like Alhaji M.B. Njie, Alh.Kama Badjie, Ousainou MM Njai, Pesseh Njai, Ebou Manneh, Aja Mariam Denton and her siblings, Aja Yam Secka, Dr. Amadou Taal, Momodou Gaye among others. However there are no shortage of enablers who have always resorted to veil and smearing campaign against any Mandinka who nursed the idea of becoming President. The most expected and natural reaction is to label them tribalist to suit their polarizing agenda. Sheriff DIBBA, Bakary Darbo and lately Ousainou Darbo are all painted with the same brush unfortunately.
This has to stop. Every citizen has a right to seek political office but not to be vilified, blackmailed and insulted because of the potential threat of his political constituency to someone else’s jaundiced views of power at all costs. Jammeh mistreated UDP more than all his political foes if not as enemies because he did refer to them as such out of a calculated strategy to discredit Darbo at all costs. In the end, the Almighty in his infinite power and omnipotence came to our rescue as a just God when Gambians realized the futility of his divisive ethnic agenda. To our common peril we responded at the appropriate time only for the same evil minded people to start their third columnist scheming anew.
Progressive countries are led by visionaries and just men and women not those lacking ideas about spreading prosperity to all sections of the community rather than engage in such visceral campaign of hate and fear mongering. What is required now is a national debate about Justice and shared prosperity. Dangerous trends of divide and rule will not bring lasting peace. I am of the view that the government of Barrow should realise how Gambia has become acutely poorer under Jammeh than at anytime in our sovereign history.
The dependence burden and damaging effect of the back way was all masterminded by Jammeh to ensure that peri urban and rural Mandinka communities are impoverished to desperate levels which will spur them to seek the back way in their large numbers. This means using economic levers to strangle them out but correspondingly building a para military state structure that is highly imbalanced and ethnically based as the most effective method of ensuring perpetual rule. Fear, torture, forced disappearance, killing and economic exclusion ranging from expropriation of businesses to prized farmlands was the perfect blending of his evil schemes.
Edward Singhateh was denied his natural position as Vice President since 1997 but nobody made noise because Jammeh ensured that his ethnic military machinery was entrenched before edging all his co- coupists from the limelight by relegating them to political limbo and subjugation. If Edward had a hand in all the atrocities attributed to him, who should bear ultimate responsibility for his absolute immunity from justice? Lawyers help us because there is a local proverb to the effect that when the drummer stamps his foot on the drumming stick expect no feasting from the drum beat. They are hand in glove and birds of a feather. It is time that Edward speaks out and let them sink together.
On the economic front Barrow needs to open the private sector globally to ensure equitable participation of every Gambian and genuine investors. Those who were deliberately crowded out must be allowed to participate in all sectors. It is therefore urgent that operators in all vital sectors have their licenses and operational conditions reviewed as most if not all of them are fronts or collaborators of Jammeh who presided over grand larceny of our economy while claiming to be a pan- Africanist with Potomac and Dubai properties. But is Potomac and UAE in Africa? Be your own judge!
All these sectors must allow public and more private equity participation through share restructuring, board representation and effective regulatory oversight. President Barrow should reconstitute the Boards of all parastatals within the first 100 days to give them new directions for meaningful economic development. They are largely unfairly constituted by sycophants, cronies and outright incompetent henchmen. He should abolish duplicity of public enterprises and reduce the number of diplomatic missions abroad. The NIB misguidedly disbanded by Jammeh, which I am familiar with can perform the role of PURA, Gambia Competition Commission and GIEPA and this will save the public purse so much costs in overheads. This is pragmatic governance.
The governance front also requires discipline and transparency in the composition of the security and administrative services and if necessary a National Conference to determine the manipulation of the armed and security services by Jammeh with so many incompetent men and women being dished with unmerited ranks and bloating a useless defense budget for egotistic reasons. This National Conference should look at the demobilization of many incompetent service men with a basic standard for recruitment, training and promotion to appropriate ranks. Those who carry ranks that they can best dream of in a disciplined army should be reranked or discharged.
The Armed and security services should recruit at Divisional levels to reflect parity, national identity and character; and not a regional imbalance to be used as a destabilizing trump card against us. This was Jammeh’s grand diabolical scheme until Allah forsook him as an epitome of evil. Make no mistake about it unless we hold a full and frank debate about negative tribalism and the ethnic militia we called an Army, our collective peace and security will remain a threat to our yearning for meaningful socioeconomic development. To all our brothers and sisters, let us respect one another and treat our differences as a source of strength and diversity and not of disrespect and perpetual animosity. If we open the private sector effectively to fair competition, the over crowded public service will become less attractive for a dog eat dog scramble often disguised as Mandinka hegemony. Respect is a two way street with reciprocal values of decency, honesty and decorum. Treat our elders with respect and we will reciprocate otherwise expect no less henceforth. For The Gambia our homeland.