The Gambia’s ruling Alliance for Patriotic Re-orientation and Construction, APRC, is this year 2014 celebrating the 20th anniversary of what it calls the 22nd July Revolution .This was the day in July 1994 when the army seized power in a peaceful coup and when Yahya Jammeh first came to power as the chairman of a military junta. Called the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council, the military government was in power in a two-year transition period, and during this time, it embarked on the construction of roads, schools, hospitals, the country’s first national television station and other public buildings which highly impressed the populace. The military’s building spree was made possible by US$35 million loan from Taiwan.
Thus, in elections held in 1996, Chairman Yahya Jammeh contested as a civilian and was elected president. Since then, he has been re-elected every time the country went to the polls. Should he choose to run again for office in 2016, he will have more “achievements” to boast of, and would justifiably do so.
Indeed, this October 2014 when the APRC is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 22nd July coup when Jammeh came to power, it has inaugurated several “development projects”, additional to projects in all sectors implemented in the past 20 years, 22 years if one counts from 1994.This has happened since October 9, 2014, when the official celebration started, and has continued throughout this month. Take, for instance, the inauguration of the US$27 million National Assembly building, funded with a loan from the Indian Exim bank. This edifice located at the entrance to Banjul, the capital city, has been described by observers as the “most magnificent” building in the country. The inauguration of the West Coast Region Electrification Project, reportedly funded by the Gambia Government to the tune of US$10 million, on Friday October 24, 2014 was the latest. It will bring electricity to 48 towns and villages in the region where President Yahya Jammeh’s birthplace, Kanilai village, is located. There is also the US$5 million potable water supply project inaugurated in Gunjur, to serve the provincial town and its satellite villages. It was funded by the Islamic Development Bank and Gambia government, and brings pipe-borne water supply to a region of the country which lacked this important facility.
Other projects are as follows: The D473 million Brikama-Marakissa-Dimbaya-Darsilami road network including the Marakissa-Busura foot bridge. It was funded by the Saudi Fund for Development and Gambia Government. It is in addition to the much-improved network of national roads, some funded by the EU under the regional roads programme, which has made travel within the country and beyond easier, when compared to the situation 20 years ago.
There was also the laying of the foundation stone for a new government edifice, which will house, among others, offices for the Ministry of Tourism and Gambia Tourism Board. It will cost US$225,000 (about D9.056 million) and is to be completed in 24 months by Construct Ltd, under a public-private-partnership arrangement. Fish smoking facilities were also inaugurated in coastal villages of Kartong and Sanyang, costing D2.4 million.
There was also the inauguration of the new Law Faculty building, reportedly the first such building financed by the University of The Gambia, from its own resources. This happened on the very day that old Law Faculty building was also officially opened for the new School of Journalism and Digital Media of the UTG, another first in the country under the APRC government. It was announced by the UTG authorities that a purpose-built structure will be built in the near future for the new journalism school. The new University of The Gambia has been producing home-produced lawyers at the new UTG Law School, and doctors at the UTG’s School of Medicine and Allied Sciences. This has brought to Gambians the opportunity to receive higher education at university level at home. The UTG Faraba Bantang campus is evidence that it is here to stay, and higher education has finally arrived in the country for good.
Definitely, these are all concrete, tangible “achievements” which are benefitting Gambians enormously. These are just some of the projects which have brought about “development” felt by Gambians in all parts of the country. Consequently, the ruling APRC government has been engaged in a lot of self-praise and chest-beating about its achievements in the “development” of the country, with much justification. This is obvious, when its performance is compared with the record of its predecessor in the First Republic under former President Dawda Jawara.
However, its critics would ask whether that was not what an elected government is supposed to be doing – working for the development of the country. Because of the APRC’s focus on bringing development to the doorstep of all Gambians, it would not come as a surprise if Gambian voters return President Yahya Jammeh to the country’s presidency, come the next presidential election in 2016.