Gambia: The taste of a few days of Freedom

It was an incredible release in the days after election. The hushed conversations that were a normal part of political discussions, held only with your closest friends in The Gambia, were abandoned. I’ve never before seen in my years of living in Gambia, the entire staff of a fabric shop openly discussing political issues upsetting to the ears of his His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen Babili Mansa.

Freedom to speak is not a Gambian concept under his excellency’s  rule. His supporters have a feeling that opposition to Jammeh represents a desire to interrupt the progress that has been made in the country. Millions have been invested by the APRC government in roads, schools, buildings and more and the people can see this and the developments in many cases are beneficial and logical. On the other side of that, the high debt accumulated, has lead to a reduced value in the Dalasi and thus expensive rice and many developments might have been done better should there have been the ability to openly discuss and criticize government plans. For example had we felt safe to criticize government development projects, I and many others would have openly suggested the idea of building the new university in Faraba is short sighted.

It would perhaps be better to have a more distributed campus using lands such as that currently occupied by the ITC near Bijilo. The reason being that most of the population that would teach or attend the university live far from Faraba. Transportation to and from the campus is expensive for both staff and students and a huge waste of time and wasted time is wasted productivity. To work full time in Banjul and teach in the evening becomes highly tedious and undesirable given the distance. Also most of the part-time jobs that students, not in the agricultural sector, need for an income and work experience that is vital are located far from Faraba. A campus dedicated to the agricultural sector would be well suited in Faraba however. An area for agricultural students to grow organic food for UTG consumption in exchange for free tuition might be beneficial.

There are no doubt a plethora of ideas and opinions on the subject however there is no public discussion, no public criticism, everyone is scared to communicate their ideas and thoughts because they fear the retribution of the President. The fear of losing ones job for example prevents UTG staff from speaking their opinions on the matter except in private to a colleague.

The inability to provide input on the UTG campus is just one example, a metaphor for all that is wrong with the style of leadership that Jammeh provides Gambia. The society cannot properly develop without the open and free input of concerned citizens. The Faraba development should be paused briefly and a public panel at UTG put together composed of, government officials, UTG staff and students, business elite and community to have open discussion towards a potentially better idea.

A strong opposition is a concept in strong Democracies that is desired and vital to challenge and make the ruling party or coalition rethink and adjust their position to be more logical as well as adopt opposition ideas. Some in this world declare a leader to have flip-flopped when the leader changes their mind on a position. A leader who is capable to change should be a desirably trait and those who suggest otherwise are small minded indeed.

Gambia needs to adopt the concept of a strong opposition being a desirable part of governance, rather than a threat to development itself. A threat needing to be reported to the NIA so they can detain and interview the offender.

A decentralized power structure would also benefit Gambia and prevent future authoritarian leaders like Jammeh. The whole concept of a president, a concept invented perhaps as a replacement to the authority of a king, provides quite on purpose, far too much authority in the hands of one person. It’s a bizarre idea that should find it’s extinction in the realm of the governance of a society along with the first past the post system of voting that generally leads to the majority culture having more control then they should. Gambia should move towards proportional representation electoral system with a parliament with a Prime Minister appointed by the parliament.

Let Gambians now speak our minds in a constructive fashion, free of insults, towards a development strong, free and logical and let us be united by our differences and shared goals to make Gambia thrive and prosper. Let us support and give the new Government the opportunity to define a new political system and hold new elections.

There will be no reasoning with a man with so many names who demands the respect that comes with us naming all of them each time we speak his name publicly. His excellency will show his true colours and plunge the Gambia into a war with Ecowas, the currency will take a tumble and hardship on all Gambian citizens will occur for a time. Stock up on potatoes, onions and rice and prepare for a difficult time ahead before the light at the end of the tunnel. Unless the Gambian army saves us from that and arrests Jammeh for the treason should he remain in power after the transition date.

In the end the man Gambians once respected so much for his dedication to Gambian development will lose it all. Had he gone peacefully we may well have left his image on one denomination and given him the respect that he was due.

He will have no respect from anyone.

We have had our taste of freedom and we want to chop it more.

May God Bless us and Keep Us Safe

Anonymous for a little bit longer…

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