Companies either have no money to spend, or are too scared to spend; the value of the dalasi is on a downhill slope; NAWEC is on the usual; GAMTEL inherited the black cat that went into the NAWEC generator; beggars have multiplied in a month; Price for petrol has increased twice in 2 months; some crazed killers killed 3 people in one weekend; a Gambian got shot in The United States; yet shouldn’t we be happy for the fact that one good thing has happened for all of us recently…the start of a new tourist season!
Ok, so to be absolutely honest, I received this year’s tourist season with mixed emotions. We need the foreign exchange to keep our economy afloat and a number of young “gentlemen” will certainly get tourist wives before the end of the year. That is truly a reason to be happy is it not? It reminds me of a few months ago at one of our posh cafes on Kairaba Avenue when a young man aged around 30 (I assume) walked in with a woman whose wrinkles sunk deep into her cheeks and most probably had all her teeth replaced. She wore a mini-skirt which revealed legs that suggested a life of much “toil” and 6 inch heels that made her stagger as she walked. She was Caucasian and carried with her a smile that almost hid her face. I was careful enough not to stare for these young men are very protective of their investments (he was much bigger than I was and a weapon was out of sight). The man did seem in love though. There was a way he looked into her purse when she reached for the bill which suggested it was love at first sight when they met. Maybe the woman was not the object of said love but there was definitely some sort of love involved. For a man so young to actually be attracted to a woman who was evidently at least 30 years older and to share her bed (I assume a bed was being shared), there must be love…right? This woman was no Mariah Carey so don’t even take this conversation there!
I apologise for the digression. So the tourist season is back again and things should be financially better for all of us. Tourists are expected to spend and business is supposed to thrive once more whilst we try to fix our faults as a nation and prepare for another potentially tough rainy season in 2013. However, tourists are not always good news. Where we as a people welcome tourists, this is the time again when we are denied the pleasures of our country. Last year, after being disrespected and ridiculed by TDA security, I ignited what would later be a mini-movement of words showing disgust at how we have been treated time and time again by security officers who do not seem to understand the ethics of “protect and serve”. I know this is not The United States but certain values are supposed to be universal.
Going to the beach last Sunday on what has now become a weekly ritual for me and my brothers, we were to learn that the beach was now out of bounds to locals until after 5pm. The security officials my brother spoke to said the beach was not supposed to be “groovy” before 5pm. I am still confused as to what he meant by his statement but I believe he meant that the beach should be clear of locals or simply put, “dark skinned people” who did not speak with an accent. We were not disturbed by the officials maybe because there were one or two famous faces with us that afternoon (the perks of hanging with famous faces) but many young people were stopped from enjoying the pleasures of the beach that afternoon and it is only going to get worse as the season proceeds. It is no secret that the common Gambian who goes to the beach once a week to clear his or her head after a hectic week is not the problem with the industry. The problem is actually the people you do not expect to be “bumsters” hassling tourists wherever they go. You’d be surprised to learn that well to do, business minded, well attired, I.D. card carrying, dollars waving Gambians do as much “bumsing” if not more than “ghetto dudes”. You’d also be surprised to learn that tourists also do just as much “bumsing” in one way or another. I am not implying that our beaches should be so open; that could kill an industry we’ve tried so hard to maintain. However, some rules are just simply discriminatory and ridiculous!
How on God’s green earth do you institute a daytime curfew for locals wishing to spend time with their families on the beach. Gambia is not Las Vegas. We have four or five entertainment venues to choose from at the end of a long, depressing week. The only cheap option we have is to take a walk down the beach and enjoy the beauties of our land. Let’s be frank here people. This year has been a bad year for us financially. How do we expect a struggling family to release the stressful months past when we cannot even allow them to go out on a Sunday? If indeed all these rules we have heard of are true, the authorities responsible should in fact let the general public know so that we as a people will know who happens to be at fault, because IT IS A FAULT.
Just when you think this month is not going to get any worse, it gets irritatingly hot and humid and NAWEC seems to feel this is the best time to just drop the power ball. It is sad that the one most important part of the development of every nation continues to be the one big hindrance to our development. What’s wrong with NAWEC this time; certainly not another black cat…or maybe the same black cat? So now you can’t take a stroll on the beach during the day, the air is hot and humid and NAWEC is taking a break! When that happens you turn to your cell phone to get yourself busy and the first thing you notice is that the internet is also on a vacation (Yes I know it happened ONLY twice in one or two months…and the second time for close to 24 hours). What’s a man to do?
Then also in the midst of all of this, there is the “UnGambian” cruelty. We all know that anything evil that happens in the smiling coast is “not Gambian”. Gambians are such lovely angels that wouldn’t hurt a fly. However it is our people that hoard foreign currency to manipulate the exchange rate (don’t sue me, just an opinion); they hike the prices of foodstuffs; they help out ONLY when they are bribed to do THEIR JOBS; they kill off the businesses of their fellow countrymen when they cannot provide a viable alternative; they set up regulations that cause locals to feel imprisoned; they harass peace-loving people whose only crime is to seek solace and peace on our beaches; they demolish people’s hard built properties in the name of city planning without so much as a clue of what they’re trying to accomplish; they break into neighbours homes ridding them of their belongings etc.
This edition of Red Black Nonsense is simply an opener to future pieces on many such issues. It is neither an attack on institutions nor an attack on personalities. The fact is that this nation BELONGS to every Gambian and to allow our society to be ripped apart by the few that gain pleasure from such acts would be the biggest mistake we would ever make. We can spend days on end talking of the positives of our motherland. I for one cannot endure the pain of living anywhere else but it has reached that point when contemplations that could never have held weight in the past now stay prominent in my mind. I am sure it is the same for many. NAWEC getting its act together would be a great start. Encouraging young entrepreneurs by providing incentives could be another…however guarding the rights of its citizens in the simplest of forms is not only a good start but the very necessary beginning to true development. Institutions must realise this before all forms of investment and creativity get lost to foreign lands that do not need these half as much as a developing Gambia does.