When the Coalition government was faced with a litmus test in its disaster preparedness, response and management by circumstances in Niani, what we saw was a shocking lack of rapidly coordinated programs and structures required to provide emergency relief aid to citizens in dire situations. The administration or organ of government responsible helplessly stymied and embarrassingly faltered to timely intervene and/or meet the most basic necessities of folks afflicted with natural disaster. I am grateful to the outpouring of support, well wishes and vital contributions rendered by fellow Gambians to help ease the burden of distress on these poor farming communities.
Bureaucratic red tapes are symptomatic of government activities world over. They hinder efficiency, stall service delivery and mostly applied when needs of ordinary citizens are at stake. Laid down procedures designed to ensure transparency and effectiveness are routinely flouted by some public officials when benefiting from corruption but they would be quick to invoke foot-dragging, redundant procedures when dealing with matters of urgent public importance. I will not rule them out as part of factors responsible for the frustrating snail-paced approach taken by the government to help the people of Niani. Government should quickly revisit its emergency response protocol with a view to getting rid of red tapes and ensure that all necessary measures are in place to deal with unforeseen situations at anytime and anywhere in the country.
But amidst all of it, another interesting picture emerged. Besides this administration’s apparent failure to initially provide strategic leadership, presence and guidance in Niani at every step from Central government down to local level including the area council, we have also seen an opposition party that is relentlessly at the forefront in playing politics with tragedy, traumatic experience and misery of our fellow citizens. Mamma Kandeh’s timely intervention as a Gambian citizen to help the people of Niani was a commendable move but for such a gesture to be pugnaciously seized upon by GDC supporters as political bragging point underscores the sad reality of politics of patronage, which, in times like this, should take the back seat.
From our experience in global tragic events, nations, communities and people come together in difficult times, set aside politics and focus on real challenges. The Hurricane Harvey that struck Texas has the entire United States stand in solidarity to help fellow Americans through the devastation. We have seen on televisions and heard on radios individual and collective acts of heroism that saved lives in Houston and other affected areas. They did so not as Democrats or Republicans or Independents but as Americans. Niani disaster is one such moment in The Gambia when unity of purpose, solidarity and patriotism must guide our actions.
Where our fellow citizens’ lives are in peril, fanning the flame of partisanship is absolutely insensitive and unnecessary as is defending the government’s unacceptable slow response just because your party is part of the coalition government.
Zakaria Kemo Konteh