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City of Banjul
Friday, July 12, 2024

Can money heal you?

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With Aisha Jallow

Money allows us to meet our basic needs—to buy food and shelter and pay for healthcare. Meeting these needs is essential, and if we don’t have enough money to do so, our personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of the community as a whole suffer greatly.  We all have a responsibility to work towards a society where everyone has access to adequate food, shelter, and healthcare where we are all safe. Let us stress that last sentence: where we are all safe. How safe do you feel in The Gambia? That depends on whom you ask, of course, but the lack of safety is an on-going issue. Some weeks ago, we lost two police officers in line of duty, and another was seriously injured. Will the families of these victims bounce back in a haste, or will this trauma follow them for the rest of their lives?

That is a question only those involved can answer, but even if we don’t see them cry anymore, they are still grieving. The injured police officer; I wonder if she is getting adequate help to deal with her trauma and her grief of losing two fellow officers? We all know that the healthcare system in The Gambia is poor, the mental healthcare system is almost non-existent. There is only one trained psychologist in the whole country, so that area is unfortunately neglected. Is it because the country is fortunate enough to have no mental health problems? No, rather it is because mental health is an area that is more or less taboo to mention, but still it exists and the problems will become worse if we don’t deal with them.

The victims of all the atrocities caused by the former president Yahya Jammeh still suffer and they are still waiting for some kind of reparation. The discussions go high on how to repair what has been broken and with which means. According to a recent article in The Standard Newspaper, the National Assembly Member for Foñi Kansala, Almamy Gibba, has said monies generated from the sales of former president Yahya Jammeh’s assets should not be used to pay reparations to his victims. Mr Gibba tells that the NAMs should be careful with which laws they are passing, and that there has not been any ruling from a competent court, or the justice minister, saying that Jammeh aquired his assets illegally.

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Mr Gibba seems to be eager to defend Yahya Jammeh’s purchase of properties, plots of land and cars, telling that it seems unbeliveable to him if Jammeh shouldn’t own anything for himself as a former president.

Well, of course Jammeh owns properties, plots of land and cars, but how was he able to invest millions of US dollars in all these? He had a very high salary, but not that high.

A commission, set up after Jammeh lost the election in 2016, discovered that the former president had 281 properties in the country, as well as one in the US and one in Morocco, and controlled more than 100 bank accounts.

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There was no way that he could have afforded this on his salary and it concluded that he had misappropriated more than $300m.

The commission also uncovered that more than $1m had been diverted to Zineb Jammeh. Much of that money had been intended for charities, including Operation Save the Children Foundation.

“Nearly all the funds of the Foundation were wasted on events which from appearance were intended to boost the profile of Zineb Jammeh rather than help Gambian children,” said a government White Paper summing up the commission’s findings.

Mr Jammeh was also found to have extorted money in the form of bribes to grant monopoly licenses for the import of certain items, such as petrol. In addition, he used the threat of withdrawing those licenses to get more money. All this doesn’t end the list of the funds stolen by the former president, this is only what has been discovered thus far. Mr Gibba, the NAM of Foni Kansala, needs to consider these facts before he feels sorry for Jammeh. Perhaps Mr Gibba tries to appear honest and fair, but his statement doesn’t help the victims of Jammeh’s atrocities. The only thing that is fair in this matter, is that the aquired funds after selling Jammeh’s belongings, will benefit the victims and somehow repair the damage.

When Adama Barrow became the new president of The Gambia, he promised transparency and the end of corruption. Corruption is what leads The Gambia into despair, and continuing corruption hasn’t lifted the country out of the dark hole it was stuck for 22 years. I don’t give a rat’s ass about Yahya Jammeh and that some assets rightfully belongs to him. What I care about is the lack of transparency, that we don’t know which of Jammeh’s assets have been sold, for how much and where this money went. There are so many bank accounts that are waiting to be filled, so many pockets that can be stuffed with money to make someone stop asking questions.

Properties can be given to someone as a favour to make sure that this person will vote for someone or as hush money. What do we know? Not enough, as long as there are so many who believe they deserve taking part of the funds.

We have victims who suffer physical injuries. They need medical care and medications, all this paid by themselves or their poor relatives. Most victims are more or less poor, unable to fend for themselves as they are fully occupied with trying to survive from one day to another. The funds aquired after selling Jammeh’s assets could be used to open new healthcare clinics. New university programs could start where they educate psychologists and mental care nurses.

Mental care clinics could be built in several parts of the country, to help both those who suffer from Jammeh’s atrocities and other kind of mental issues.

It is about time to end the taboo considering mental health, those problems don’t go away just because we try to ignore them. A depression can lead to mental issues if it is not taken care of. Feeling depressed is normal, the reasons for it can vary, but it still needs to be dealt with. The 22 years of fear during the dictatorship seemed to have placed too many minds in freeze mode. It is a matter of survival, and if you can’t fight or flight, the oldest part of the human brain tells us to freeze.

Even if people move around, their minds seem to be frozen. Life is so hard in The Gambia, that you don’t seem to be able to do more than trying to survive. Is that what life is about? Only survival?

Dear Mr Gibba, you tried to sound fair, but I don’t think that Jammeh’s victims care about that. He didn’t care about them and now he has to pay the price. That seems fair to me.

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