With reports of ‘protocol’ officers serving as pimps to provide an unending supply of girls to be abused and raped by men in power as narrated at the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) and former victim-perpetrators and perpetrator-victims being reconciled, the society has – and continues to have – enough doses of soap operas in the past month or so.
These strange narrations, accusations and counteraccusations have the potential of burying or overshadowing anything else going on in the country. With the result that the focus of the nation is diverted to things that are of ‘less relevance’ than some of the real issues in town.
This has been the case of October which should rightly be called the month of breast cancer awareness. This is a huge struggle with many of our womenfolk losing their lives to breast cancer because they do not reach treatment centres on time. Or, because the equipment to diagnose and treat them are not readily available.
This brouhaha almost overshadowed the efforts of some of our gallant women who are in the forefront of the fight against breast cancer. True, their efforts were being reported in the media every now and then but in comparison to the attention given to the debate on whether or not the reconciliation of Sanna Sabally and Edward Singhatey, these efforts were thrown to the backburners of the national dialogue. Thus, the needed attention has not been as forthcoming as would be necessary to jolt policymakers into action.
Sunday last, another disaster struck when a gas factory at the Kanifing Industrial Estate exploded causing damage which ran into the millions of dollars; and the cost is still being counted. The damage was so extensive and devastating that an Indian businessman was seen crying bitterly having lost up to or more than two million dollars according to him.
His Excellency President Adama Barrow had to personally visit the scene to see for himself the damage that was done. As is his wont, he promised to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the cause of the damage and also to quantify the cost. He has now qualified to be called ‘The Commission President’ as he sets up commissions after almost every incident. The question is: what does he do after such commissions present their reports.
The report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Faraba incident has not been given the attention it deserves, or at least that is the perception of a large section of the society. Many see it as having been politicized in order for the president to score some political points from it. The Janneh Commission has been viewed as George Orwell’s Animal Farm where some of those who were indicted were banned and others allowed to go on as if everything is fine.
On Tuesday, the 29th of October, I listened to one Pateh Gibba (perhaps the deputy PRO of the Gambia Fire and Rescue Services) when he was hosted on the Coffee with Peter Gomez show. He spoke with knowledge, experience and enthusiasm about the problems that are associated with fighting fires in this country. Listening to him, I was amazed that we have such highly qualified and knowledgeable people in our departments, yet their hands are tied due to lack of political will or bureaucracy to perform their functions up to expectation.
He spoke of the lack of proper and sufficient equipment to fight fires of such magnitude. He said that many of the fire engines that the department has are what he referred to as ‘dankodorong'(just so it is there) as they have a fifty-fifty chance of failing.
This is woeful in a country that is seeking to lure investors into the country. What will investors think when they find out that if there is ever a disaster like that, the department responsible to put out such fires does not have the right equipment to do its job?
Besides, he lamented the fact that in the earlier days, when buildings of such nature were to be constructed, the Department of Physical Planning and the Fire and Rescue Services had to be contacted to advise on safety measures. They put in place plans to ensure that in case of a fire outbreak, the firemen will have enough space to maneuver and fight the fire but now, no one consults them.
One wonders what our disaster preparedness looks like, if indeed there is any. No one prays for such to happen but hey, it’s life and therefore you cannot rule out anything. You have to make contingency plans so that if something goes south – something always does – there will be plans to minimize the damage if not prevent it completely.
Naturally, the governemnt may not be able to compensate everyone who loses his or her property satisfactorily (this should not discourage people like my good sister Fatou Touray of Kerr Fatou from seeking some form of compensation for the loss of her car) but let’s face it, our hospitals do not even have proper and enough resources to handle the cases that occur daily. This should perhaps galvanize the various departments responsible or who have a stake in this area to come together and act so as to prevent a recurrence of such disasters.
In the cause of the week also, we have seen and heard Mr Dinding Mansa, Mai Ahmad Fatty lash out that dictatorship has not been fully uprooted in the Gambia. One wonders where he was for the past three years! He was part and percel of government from the beginning with the exception of the short while that he was shown the red card by the Lion Slayer, but at the time he did not see that!
Thus, as expected, we saw the self-acclaimed defender, Mr … oops… Dr Henry Carrol respond to him just like he responded to Madi Jobarteh, Sam Sarr, Fatu and Musa Bah when we wrote that Barrow should reveal the name of the journalist he claimed had requested him to give him money so that he could write good things about him. Political gymnastics comes to mind here.
The Leader and Secretary General of the United Democratic Party Lawyer Ousainu Darboe was also quoted as saying that system change has still not occurred. My! This was Halifa Sallah’s beef when he was roasted on national television last year when the UDP (meaning Darboe) was in office.
So all in all, a productive month October has been!