On the 1.45b Euros pledge
By every standard of measure, 1.45 billion Euros is a huge amount for a grant; money with a significant loan component that Gambia may never have to pay back. The EU may have broken the record here. But, be mindful that this is just a pledge; not money in the bag yet, certainly not in the bank. A pledge is simply a promise, and some countries are slow in fulfilling the pledges they made. Crucially, I don’t know if intergovernmental mechanisms exist to follow up and recoup the pledged amounts from the pledging donor countries.
Having said that, this earth-changing amount that can put Gambia in development advantage over most African countries. But, it is easier to screw things up than spend wisely, in order to lift our people out of poverty, because Africans are naturally predisposed to corruption. And this should scare us all. So much money in the hands of people who never had a cool $10,000.00 in a bank account is a tempting proposition. Remember the famous development world idiom. “If you want to get rich quick in Africa join politics.” I am not suggesting anything; just making a statement borne out of the African experience. Next week I’ll focus on how 1.45 billion Euros can catapult the Gambia from the back to the front of the developing world.
Gambia politico: Government versus local communities
There is an emerging trend of disputes or confrontations between local communities and the central government over use of local community lands in the country. In each case the government is almost certainly arguing development for the growth of the economy, whilst the local communities argue environmental dangers of such projects to their communities, which is in fact supposed to be bad for the country as well.
The two examples of these disputes are the Gunjur Golden Lead Factory dispute in Gunjur with the village youths, and the recent Faraba Banta Sand Mining dispute between government backed Julakay mining deal and the people of Kombo Faraba Banta!
My understanding is that the government has deployed Police Intervention Force to impose their will on the villagers – which sounds like a script from a Dictators play book – whilst the villagers are willing to sacrifice blood to prevent the Julakay deal going ahead – in other words rebellion!!
Each side believes they are right and the other is wrong and aggressive.
Each side expects us to judge in their favour or support or side with them, but our only significant debility is that we do not know all the facts and certainly not in a position to pass judgments. Leaving many to pay indifference to the issue, which we should not!
Hence, my question or observation regarding these disputes, why is none of the parties keen to resolve the disputes legally, through the courts, than keen to settle it through the medieval style of mortal combat or physical confrontation, which will only end in blood.
Why are the people of Faraba Banta less keener to bring a legal action at the High Court to stop the government and Julakay from committing the environmental havoc to their community, rather than bracing to engage the Police in a running street battle.
Could it be a lack of knowledge of such remedy through the courts or they lack confidence in the judicial system or they are deterred by the cost of litigation or they simply cannot be bothered. I just hope the latter is not the truth!
And more importantly, why is the government not keen to seek to resolve this matter through the court and ensure all parties including the people of Faraba are given the platform to have their complaints addressed, rather than resorting and deploying the tactics of dictatorship by imposing their will on their own people!
If they had resorted to court action then the truth will be established by the fact finding court and promises made by Julakay, if sincere, will become legal obligations, which if breached the local community of Faraba will be able to sue them or the government for adequate compensation.
The government needs to understand that the Principle of Rule of law, is not just for all to be subservient to the law, or all to abide by the law, but places a positive obligation on the government not just to provide us with the courts and judges, but to provide us with the means to access justice or enable us to bring our cases to court.
Hence, where the people of Gunjur and Faraba are not informed of their option to seek resolution of their grievances through the courts or lacked the means to afford legal representation, the government should be there to provide such for them. In this way, the disputes will be determined in courts and not in the streets or Facebook. And will increase our people’s confidence in our justice system and strengthen our rule of law.