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Mamadou Bah, Independent presidential aspirant

Mamadou Bah, Independent presidential aspirant

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You hailed from Sareh Birom in the Upper Niumi, can you tell us more about your background and early childhood?

I was born in Sareh Birom in 1982. I attended Albreda Junior Secondary School from 1998 to 2001. I then proceeded to Ming-daw Senior Secondary School and completed in 2004. In 2009, I registered for a French Course at the Alliance Franco-Gambienne Centre and obtained the Basic User Level 2 before moving on to the UTG in 2015 for my bachelor’s degree in history. I also did my masters in African History there. In 2017, I went for another master’s programme which I completed in 2019. Presently, I am accepted to do a PhD programme at a university in India. I am married. I have a wife and four kids.

You were a radio journalist at Taranga FM at the height of the Jammeh regime. What did you learn? 

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It was a very difficult time. That’s why I am saying journalists should be celebrated today because when it was difficult, we were in the field. I remember those days when I was going to Taranga FM, I would give some money to my wife and would ask her to keep it and use it in case I am not back. The 2016 change was possible because of journalists. But the profession has always been a difficult field for many Gambians since independence to date.

Why did you study African history at the university? 

When I was doing my master’s research, it was based on the Manjagos of the 19th century Niumi. We have a lot of information in this country that are not documented. I read a book which claimed Africans have no history. But Africa has history. History began in Africa. This is why I decided to study history so that I can give the information to young people, guide them so that they understand their culture as young people and as Africans.

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You were a schoolteacher, why do you think the teaching has field become less attractive to many Gambians and what should be done to reverse the trend?

The issue is you cannot be sacrificing your life everyday for low pay. You cannot sacrifice every day without getting anything for your family. You cannot be a teacher for 100 years and cannot own a car or even a motorcycle. All the motorcycles that the teachers are using were given to them as loan from the credit union. You work for 20 years and cannot afford a D30,000 motorcycle.  Government needs to revisit the salary system and pay the teachers well. The sacrifice of no benefits must end.

What inspired you to join politics?

I have been monitoring Gambian politics for a long time and nothing has been talked about regarding the young people. When campaign starts, we are important, but after campaign, we are not important. I said I must go into politics so that I can change the narrative. How do I change the narrative? By giving young people the information. What information do they need? The young people need to know that they are important because according to studies, about 60 percent of the population are young people. What do we do as young people to benefit from the policies and programmes of our government? We must be part of the government. When the Libya issue started, I was sitting in my house one day and thought this is dangerous, I must go into politics and solve this issue. The root cause is lack of employment and inability to travel through the regular way. How do we reverse the trend? We must be part of politics. So, it was since 2009 that I decided that I am going into politics. Those who are saying he is new, no, I have been in politics for long. Young people are not reflected in our programmes and policies, and therefore I decided to enter politics.

Can you talk a little about some of the policy priorities of a Mamadou Bah government?

We are coming into government. On 19th January we are going to be inaugurated as the new government. Our programmes include how to salvage our young people who are the victims of drug abuse. The drugs are coming from Casamace into the country. We must stop it. These drugs coming into the country are being smuggled by young people. At the end of the day, they are taken to Mile 2 Prison, and some people celebrate that. That’s dangerous. We cannot celebrate that. It’s young people who are being arrested and we are saying they are the future leaders of this country. If all of them are arrested and taken to Mile 2, who will be the leaders then? We are saying we have a programme that can save young people. You must give them the skills that they need so that they can participate in nation-building. This is the programme that we have for young people.

If your desire in politics is not self-aggrandisement, why didn’t you join other political parties like the PDOIS or UDP? 

These are very successful political parties in the country. I respect them. I salute them! But they have their own programmes and we have our own. This is like a house. When the night comes, we all know where to sleep. They have their programmes I have my programme. If the programmes are not compatible, it’s difficult to work with them. My programme is women and young people in the country. For now, I believe I can do more by going as an independent.

You stunned the nation when you said you are going to build a wall between The Gambia and Senegal (Casamance). Where are you going to get the money?

The wall that we are going to put up at the Casamance-Gambia border will in three stages. The first stage, I am going to empower the people that are living in those areas. In my first 100 days in office, we are going to engage the communities to take responsibility of the border. Once these people are empowered and given a free toll number for them to report any activity they see around their environment, then that will help our security to pick information on time. That’s number one. If that fails, I am going to put up a fence from Darsilameh to Jarra Soma in my first five years so that anybody that is coming must go through a checkpoint. But the first stage, we must empower the people to see whether they can do their own security. If they fail, we bring the police and install CCTV systems along our borders to see if that will work. If that doesn’t work, then the next option is to put up a fence.

Where are you going to get the funds for such a project?

We are talking about employment. Putting up the fence will create employment…employment for young people. The young people are going to build the fence and have employment. That’s one way of creating employment. We have the resources. That is why in my statement, I said in consultation with the Senegalese government. The fence will not only be in The Gambia’s interest, it will be in the interest of  Gambia and Senegal.

Because of these comments, many critics say you are xenophobic. Is that a fair comment?

Yes. They have a right to their opinions, but what is important is to understand my programmes and policies. When people have their programmes, you have to try to understand them. If you don’t understand a statement that was made in an interview, reach back to me so that I can explain to you. I heard somebody on a radio saying in Wolof that my ideas are divisive and will bring hate between the two countries. It has nothing to do with that. The fence is between The Gambia and Senegal. This is why in my first 100 days, I am going to form a committee that is going to do a study on the possibility of having such a fence in case Options A and B fail. It will change nothing in our relations. Security is our interest. We cannot seek friendship with Senegal when our people are dying. According to data, 90 percent of drugs entering the country are coming from the Casamance area. So, we must do something about it. The only way to stop it is to put a fence. We cannot compromise the lives of our young people.

If you go ahead to build your wall, what do you think would become of the controversial so-called hot pursuit security agreement signed between the two countries?

That security deal is going to be history. It benefits only Senegal. I never heard of any of its benefits to The Gambia. Let me tell you, you cannot chase somebody from Senegal into The Gambia. That is a coup d’état. We have our security here. We even have Interpol to deal with cross-border issues. You cannot drive your pick-up from Senegal into The Gambia saying you are chasing somebody. That will be history when we take power. In fact, that will not even be part of their [the Senegalese] thinking. That is too much.

Are you open to alliances?   

I said it yesterday that I am open, I am open to any party that is ready to have a programme for us. The “backway” must be a thing of the past. We must arrest the drugs issue. These are the issues that interest us and must be on the agenda if we are to go into any form of an alliance with any other party.

You are a total unknown, politically, why should Gambians vote for you instead of more established candidates?

In the past, Gambians used to vote for parties, but now you can see the transformation. If you look at the last registration, people travelled from the Kombos to get their voter cards. Do you know why? It’s the maturity. It’s the political maturity. Going to the nomination with hundreds of people doesn’t make you the president. Gambians will vote for us because we have programmes for them. When the campaign starts, we are going to Gambians and we will sell our programmes to them. If they don’t buy, we don’t blame them. What is important is that we are here for them. 

The coming of Barrow was greeted with so much enthusiasm for change in The Gambia but it has faded. What happened?

It was a coup d’état. There was a coup d’état. The first coup d’état that happened was when they betrayed their 3-year transition promise after Uncle Darboe came out of prison and said three years was not good. The second coup d’état was the tactical alliance. Instead of having independent candidates in parliament, they introduced a tactical alliance. The third coup d’état was the 3 Years Jotna. We never gave this country to President Barrow; we gave the country to seven political parties and an independent candidate. But because they are all aged people, they came out to pursue their interests and forgot the national interest. This was the coup that happened. To make it simple, just like with the National Disaster Management Agency, before you manage a disaster, you prevent disaster. Therefore I am saying in our programmes, we will not have a national disaster management agency, instead we are going to have a national disaster prevention and management system in the country. We don’t want the disaster to come. So, you can see, there are a lot of mistakes in the system. Before you manage a disaster, don’t allow a disaster to come into the country.

Are you happy with the current IEC chairman?

Yesterday, when I went to submit my nomination papers, I was happy. Do you know why? I saw young people. If I see young people at any programme that I attend, I am happy. He is there and he is ageing, but he is being surrounded by young people. For us to have a peaceful election, we must respect and trust the IEC, the media, and the voters. If we neglect any of these, we will not have a peaceful election. I believe the IEC chairman, being surrounded by young people, can deliver in this election.

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