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City of Banjul
Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Dead wood

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With Aicha

Our Minister of Tourism and Culture, Hamat Bah, has once again spoken his mind, and it would be interesting to be able to read that mind of his to see what is going on in there.
For me it seems as he is occupied with so much else than what he is supposed to do. Every time I read about him, he has spoken of things that are none of his concern. Doesn’t he have any document telling him which tasks he has? If he is insecure he could at least ask the president for advice….eh…… sorry, not a good idea. ”A blind is leading another blind”, as we say here in Sweden. Minister Hamat Bah could call me for advice instead, my head is always buzzing ideas.

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I have a good friend in the Gambia, he is a tour operator, and I get interesting information through him from time to time. I ask him what the good Minister has done for the tourism sector in the Gambia, it becomes quiet on the phone and after fifteen minutes or so we changed the subject because there was nothing to say about that. Considering the fact that the income from the tourism sector is one of the largest parts of the Gambia’s GDP, it is crucial that the minister for this sector is on his toes all the time. Minister Hamat Bah is now speaking about ”dead wood” and advising the President to get rid of them in the government. Maybe minister Bah should be careful with what he wishes for, because the ax might hit him as one of the first to start with.
To be fair, I will give Minister Bah some points. Here are some quotes from the article I am referring to:

”The bottom line is that some of these old dead woods in the system have to go and give way to young educated Gambians to come and take this country forward”.

Ok, let us analyze this part first. Minister Bah is speaking about dead wood as he would be an expert in this area. In a way he is that, as it hasn’t been shown that there is much life in our dear Minister. Not much has been achieved since Mr Bah became the Minister of Tourism and Culture. This sector is struggling on its own without much input from the Minister. A Minister in this important area should be creative and be able to give life to this slumbering business, but you can’t give what you don’t have.

”Bah said the president should “put the right people in right positions” if the country is to optimally benefit from “the unprecedented international support and millions of dollars coming into the country”.

”He stated: “I have to be honest with you Mr President, with the amount of money and support coming into this country today, we need capacity because the current capacity in government cannot deal with it.”

I have read these two statements over and over again and every time I can’t help myself thinking that this doesn’t sound like Minister Bah is concerned about the welfare of the Gambia. Instead he is more concerned about the fact that not enough is coming in from abroad. His statements sound greedy and that really upsets me. It is a fact that not enough money is coming in from abroad but that cannot be changed as long as the current government is ruling the country’s finances.

The reason for why only a part of the money is coming in is because of the lack of transparency. The government is unable to declare every area where the aid should have gone to. The transparency that President Barrow promised the citizens of the Gambia is so transparent that no one can see it. Yet another president has promised to fight against corruption but has fallen for the temptation and continued in the footsteps of the former president.

A leader of a country must be a role-model, but there is absolutely no awareness of this fact in our current presidency. The signals the president is giving the citizens are a message to the people. If the president is unable to stand by his word; why should the citizens do that?

If the president can’t control his government’s or even his first wife’s finances – how can we trust that he has the welfare of all the citizens in focus?
Minister Bah is saying that the dead wood in the government should be replaced by young educated people. That sounds good, but do we have enough people like that? Do you trust them to be experienced enough? Everyone knows that you are not considered as an adult in the Gambia until you are old enough to have grandchildren. People speak about men who are 40-45 as young boys. Come on! How long do you need to live before you are considered as an adult, as the life expectancy is only 61 years in the Gambia? Maybe Minister Bah is right, maybe there is a lot of dead wood in the government- literally.

I can give Minster Bah right considering the fact that there are a lot of people who hold positions they are not qualified for. Some of them are too old to be able to do an efficient job anymore, others has got their position because they are friends or relatives of the current president – or the former. We all know that we still have members of the APRC in the government, which I find deeply alarming. This party should first of all have been banned and second of all not having anything to say about the ruling of the state’s affairs. Hasn’t enough damage been done to the Gambia? Even if these members have approached the president and asked for his forgiveness- has the citizens of the Gambia been asked about the same?

We still have some members of the APRC who celebrate the memory of Jammeh, but it is not they who tell their sad stories in front of the TRRC.
It is not they who find the remains of their relatives buried in the sand of some distant beach, or thrown in a dry well. It is not they who have been woken up in the middle of the night by hard knocking of a gun barrel on the door and dragged out of their houses to never be seen again. It is not their daughters who have been sexually assaulted and raped by Jammeh and his men. How is it possible to keep on defending a beast like that is beyond belief! How is it possible to let people who are members of a party that has tried its best to cover up the stories of Jammeh’s atrocities even harder to believe. It is a shame!
Let us go back to the ”dead wood”.

We must ask ourselves why people are reluctant to leave their positions. Well, maybe because they know that this is their only chance to get a job with a decent salary. This is also their only chance to have some influence or even power. Power has such a sweet taste and who bothers about the responsibilities that comes with it? No, living in the Gambia doesn’t automatically come with solidarity and a requirement to be responsible for one’s actions, does it? No, grab the power and use it as you wish. Make sure that you gain as much as possible from it as long as it lasts. That seems to be the melody that plays all over the Gambia, and as long as the president plays the same tune as others it will go on repeat.

Why is Minister Bah acting as he would be the advisor of the president? Is he qualified to do that? How come that most of the times we hear Minister Bah speak in public he is speaking of nothing that has to do with his own sector: Tourism and Culture? Does he feel safe in his position just because he is a childhood friend of the president’s? Is that why he is acting like an advisor, but not as a Minister of a large and important sector? Deep within Minister Bah must know that he is not qualified for his position. Being in charge of the entertainment of guests at a small hotel is not qualification enough. How many more do we have in the government who doesn’t have more qualifications than that? If we should get rid of the dead wood as Minister Bah wishes, then how many would remain? Who decides who to go and who to stay? Who has those qualifications, as we can see that it is all about ”scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

If we should replace the dead wood with young and new people – who would teach them what the newcomers need to be aware of before the old ones leave? If you force someone to leave his job, you can’t expect that person to share any kind of information voluntarily. I agree with Minster Bah that there needs to be an overhaul of the staff, but that needs to be done with consideration. Every leader must be able to be pedagogical and I doubt that neither the president nor the mentioned Minister has that skill. We have seen that the president doesn’t have it as he has sacked people without telling anyone the reason. That is an action of a weak leader, he feels that he is above others and doesn’t have to explain himself. What he doesn’t understand is that sooner or later this will come back and hit him, it is a matter of karma; what goes around, comes around.

In another article in the Standard Newspaper the president told us that he is not leaving just because his opponents tell him so. Tell me – how many times do we need to remind the president of his own word? How many times didn’t he promise that he would stay for three years and then it was up to the people to decide? Why should we trust a president who is unable to be a man of his words? He really doesn’t understand the impact his actions are having. He really doesn’t understand that this is not a matter of what HE wants, it is a matter of what the people want because it is the people of the Gambia who are paying his salary. The president is nothing more than a public servant, he is not anyone we should worship or celebrate no matter what.

A president has an obligation to his people and that is to always focus on their welfare. A president is supposed to look at the welfare of the whole country, not only his party, his tribe, his village and his bought fans club. The Gambia is not big enough to be split in small parts where some of them have more benefits than others. The country is small enough to be taken care of with consideration, love and compassion.

So what do we do with the ”dead wood”? Well, as the president is clinging on to the power with his fingernails, he ought to get better advisors. Give Minister Bah a document with his working instructions and tell him to keep himself to that.

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