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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Gambia: From a democracy to dictatorship and now a kakistocracy

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With Alhassan Darboe

Prior to her so-called independence, The Gambia suffered many years of British colonialism, exploitation, and neglect. She was used and bastardized in the name of love, colonialism, independence, democracy, and even human rights. Before that, she was sliced like a tiny finger and tucked into much bigger and powerful Senegal. She is cursed with poor leaders who suffered and still does suffer from a certain lack of vision.

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Lee Kuan Yew, the late statesman and former Prime minister of Singapore made no excuses for our poorly performing leaders from independence to date. He moved his country from an improbable nation to a developed nation within fifty years of independence. In his bestselling book entitled From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000, he argues that: “A nation is great not by its size alone. It is the will, the cohesion, the stamina, the discipline of its people and the quality of their leaders which ensure it an honorable place in history”.

The Gambia is a very interesting country. Like the late Jamaican singer Garnett said years preceding his death: “many know the truth and hide it. Many feel the vibes and try to avoid it”. I have found myself trying to feel free to express somethings, but I don’t feel free to say them even though I am legally entitled to my freedom of speech.

PPP legacy: poverty and underdevelopment in a democracy
When I lament about the failings and misdeeds of PPP government before Jammeh, I get told how everything that we are enjoying today from the University of The Gambia, Kombo Coastal roads, electricity and pipe borne water in rural areas among others were the ideas and blueprints of the PPP government. For 30 years the PPP government sat on blueprints and ideas as the elites enjoyed while the masses wallowed in poverty, ignorance, and underdevelopment. Ideas, blueprints, and good intentions do not develop a country and it took a hot headed coupist with ambition and sense of urgency to move our country towards any semblance of development.

The men who took over our country after independence were consumed with the mere survival and existence of our country. The visions of men who led our country and their presidency over 30 years of corruption, elitism and underdevelopment has never been in doubt. Even though, in our Gambianness, we refused to clinically examine the legacy of the leaders that came before Jammeh and Barrow.

How do you try to understand the irony of our “states men” who travelled and learned all over the developed world but were okay with Gambia having no university, poor access to electricity and water, referral hospital and very few high schools in urban areas? And most of our future scientists, doctors and professors had to cut their ambitions to size under the circumstances of living under an apathetic, elitistic and corrupt. PPP government. They cannot make it to high school and even if they do, few can ever make it to university.

As captured in the words of William Shakespeare through his timeless play Hamlet, to be or not to be, to lead or not to lead, this is the question. Our leaders in their wisdom didn’t see the need for a university as long as their kids can go to universities in the West while they dole out scholarships to the children of the poor to study in countries like Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Hannah Arendt, German American philosopher once said: “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil”.Kukoi Samba Sanyang’s 1981bloody attempted coup d’état was not the actions of a crazy man but a man responding to a crisis and cry of a country looking for true, strongleadership and conviction. Our leaders at the time after many years of independence cannot be sure enough if they want to be good or bad, develop our country or let the poor masses die in abjectpoverty.

Humanrights,democracy, kindness and,praise in and of themselves do not develop a poor country. Lee Kuan Yew rightly argued that Rwanda, Bangladesh and most third world countries had democracy and trappings of democracy but still failed at leading their people to a civilized life because principally: “people want economic development first and foremost. The leaders may talk something else. You take a poll of any people. What is it they want? The right to write an editorial as you like. They want homes, medicine, jobs, schools.”

Jammeh: A Gambian-made dictator
As an undergraduate student few years ago, I presented a research paper on Gambia university and the role a military dictator played in its founding. After the presentation, my professor and some students asked me; if Jammeh was a dictator why did he build hospitals all over The Gambia, connectroads and electricity across Kombo and provincial Gambia? The fact is, Jammeh was by far the strongest, mostambitious, and pragmatic leader Gambia ever had. Apologies to his haters but credit must be given where it is due.
Jammeh would later go on to be bad, narcissistic, and self-destructive. He would later go on to be a murderer, tribalist and financial pilferer because we made him so and served him in doing so. Jammeh was not bad all by himself. No one would ever tell you they saw Jammeh stealing money, torturing people, and murdering them. Gambians helped Jammeh subjugate, kill, and torture their fellow Gambians for 22 years and nobody wants to talk about it.

Adama Barrow: Third republican kakistocracy
Take it for granted or take it as a special case, the president of The Gambia Adama Barrow currently runs a kakistocratic government. Merriam Webster dictionary defined Kakistocracy as government run by the worst, least qualified and most unscrupulous citizens in a country. Gambia is run by the worst kakistocracy I have ever seen around the world.
A recent case in point is when Barrow relieved and moved the managing director ofSocial Security and Housing Finance Corporation Mohammadou Manjang to Senegalo-Gambian secretariat to a position by law and training he isn’t fit to handle. This speaks to nothing but the gluttony and level of education of the advisers our president pays with our taxpayers’ money to give him the worst counsel ever.

Sometimes, I wonder if Barrow ever listens to his communication and public relations team. I doubt he does because if he really does, he wouldn’t be doing what he is doing and having the incompetent advisers he has. Give it up to Barrow, he did a good job by instituting Janneh commission, TRRC and CRC.Then like a man possessed by a wicked demonic spirit from hell, after Janneh commission painstakingly sat through two years of hearings and investigation to tender their report to him, he chose to cherry pick through it, dispute some of its findings and refused to implement some of its recommendations. He refused to fire the current minister of Finance Mambury Njieand chief of protocol Alagie Ceesay after they were found culpable of conspiracy and corruption.

Like the breaking bad movie star Jesse Pinkman moving from one problem to another, our president chose to use our very important and scarce tax payers’ money to politically compensate school drop outs, brain dead thugs, immature and juvenile political charlatans like Dou Sanno,Henry Gomez, Siaka Jatta and Saihou Mballow as our government and presidential advisers. This is a great source of pain for me, and I am pleading with Barrow to do the right thing by relieving these incompetent quartet of their presidential adviser jobs. Our president should do the right thingby bringing in educated, qualified and experienced advisers that can advise our president and government intelligently for a better Gambia. To The Gambia ever true. WASALAAM.

Alhassan Darboe is a Gambian Communication scholar, consultant, and Real Estate businessman. He writes in from his base in U.S.A. He is currently a graduate student at Arizona State University’s Hugh Down School of Human Communication.

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