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Thursday, February 22, 2024

State of siege: a call to sobriety

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“There are moments when citizens come across something that they don’t recognise, and then that something turns out to be their country. That discovery, the horror of that discovery — that’s the feeling so many” Gambians are dealing with right now.

The foregoing quote from an article published by the New York Times regarding the aftermath of a plebiscite in Columbia was brought to my attention by our Resident Philosopher who saw a resonance of its reality in the current situation of The Gambia. 

The shocking fraudulent victory of President Barrow and the tacit aiding and abetting of the nation’s foremost institutions that are supposed to check and sanitise our democratic process have left many Gambians dumbfounded. Sadly, the voice of dissent has been muted in this country because a lot of us are drunk on our desire for comfortable lives which we erroneously believe can only be sustained by being nice to the powers that be.

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Our country has become a strange place of late. The situation is getting worse by the day while voices of denial keep rising. If you talk about skyrocketing prices they retort that it’s a global phenomenon. If you decry the Barrow Administration’s laissez-faire attitude towards drug trafficking, they respond that it happens even in the developed countries. But the poor masses are feeling the pinch and there is a limit to their forbearance.

The most common headline on Foroyaa newspaper after the December 4th presidential election is that of consumers complaining about the rising price of basic food commodities.

This fact was poignantly reflected in Monday night’s Facebook post by Paradise TV that consumers are lamenting the shocking jump in the price of a crate of eggs from D200 to D300.

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None of these should come as a surprise to Gambians because I have foretold this state of affairs in numerous articles widely published by newspapers and blogs: saying that the reckless fiscal binge of the Barrow Administration has a price and that price will surely be paid by poor Gambians. I did assert that the high incidence of bribery and corruption in the Barrow administration will give their patron businessmen free range to recover their costs from the masses by way of hiking the prices of their goods and services.

When I accused him and his cohorts of funnelling our state resources into their private coffers as manifested in the building of an expensive mansion by the president himself in his hometown of Mankamang Kunda, they quickly responded through one of their surrogates that Barrow’s mansion was built from donations given to him by his friends. Well my answer was simple. I responded with a quote from the patron saint of our field, monetary economics, the legendary Milton Friedman: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Therefore I was not surprised when the price of bread skyrocketed barely a week after election as social media grapevine opined that there was a secret pact between Barrow and the key actors in the flour and bread sectors that they should help the incumbent win the election by both fair and foul means and then they would have the freedom to set their prices as they see fit.

Adama Barrow is a slow learner but I did sternly warn him about the implications of rising bread prices as exemplified by the recent social-political upheavals of North Africa. Bread is too sacred, too sensitive a commodity to be left unattended to because the consequences would be disastrous. 

The sad reality of our situation as a country still in transition a full five years after we went through a tumultuous change of regime is that we are in a state of siege. The situation is dire and unsustainable. The writing is on the wall and we’d better take heed collectively or face the consequences together. It’s the case of the prophetic lines of the poet William Butler Yeats:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre  

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere  

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst  

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand…

In Adama Barrow’s new Gambia, every single day brings upon us a new nightmare. The latest is the disappearance of a young mother and her child among many such bizarre incidences.

The media seems to be subtly gagged through a mixture of self-censorship and benign inducement. Some politicians like Essa Faal and Dr Ceesay seem to be on vacation and the troubles of the masses elude their attention.

Essa is actually better since his silence seems to be some sort of a break for recuperation after his unpleasant awakening at the polls. I don’t think Essa can be bought by Barrow and his kleptocratic cabal. But Dr Ceesay has sold his soul to his former nemesis as his own party militants have alleged that he took money from Adama Barrow with a few pick-ups and secretly campaigned for him during the recently held election. He is caged and gagged; no wonder he remains a spectator in our state of affairs.

Our situation is really sad and the lamentation is quite muted but for the interventions of the UDP and GDC among a few who truly care about our situation as a nation. Former information minister DA Jawo has also earned my respect of late even whereas we disagree on many points. We are in some dark stupor as a nation but we must sober up for some courageous dialogue towards the common good.

So I keep sharing some snippets of my thoughts as I observe The Gambia under Barrow 2.0. Here’s a serving from two posts I recently made on Facebook:

State of Siege (Part 2)

And then another confirmation of the fact that our country is in a state of siege:

A sitting National Assembly Member has confirmed that Senegalese soldiers arrested two Gambian citizens within our territorial borders and took them into custody in Senegal while Barrow and his feckless caretaker cabinet are drinking attaya in Banjul…

That is the ‘mbojo mbojo nation’ Barrow has transformed us into.

A news report by Kerr Fatou actually got me scared this morning:

“The Gambia Armed Forces said its high command has already invited officials of the Personnel Management Office (PMO) led by their permanent secretary to the defence headquarters, seeking clarification on the recent pay cut of the officials of the army.”

With a pro tem government headed by a caretaker-in-chief, the house of Barrow is as #weak as that of the proverbial #spider in the Qur’an.

May Allah save us from the menaces of Mannasi


State of Siege (Part 1 – edited)

After their heroic exploits in the recently concluded Cup of Nation, the country’s gift to our players was to keep them stranded in Cameroon and instead of coming home together for a hero’s welcome, a lot of the players had to buy their own tickets and head back to their respective clubs.

The culprit is the corrupt Barrow Administration and its offshoot, NCC.

What do you expect from an incompetent government with a low-energy sports ministry devoid of initiative?

If you dig deep down into this mess you will see the twin evils at work: incompetence and procurement malpractice/fraud; nothing else!


It is time for us to wake up as a nation. We must duff our mbaaja, wake up and walk the talk; especially those of us who think we know something and claim the trust of the public to play leadership roles in our country. We must try to live the truth of the following words from the scared scrolls of the paper of record headquartered in New York: “real citizenship is a life-transforming vocation. It involves, at base, cultivating the ability to discern good from evil, developing the intellectual virtues required to separate the rigorous from the sloppy, living an adventurous life so that you are rooting yourself among and serving those who are completely unlike yourself…

The demands of democracy are clear — the elevation and transformation of your very self. If you are not transformed, you’re just skating by.”

The author, Momodou Sabally, is an economist, author and former minister for presidential affairs.

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