By Latirr Carr
Once upon a time, I wrote an essay hailing the efforts of the Kairaba Police Station and their professionalism in dealing with a couple of cases in my presence. Years later however, I have come to the realisation that an institution is only as honest or as corrupt as its leader.
There are so many headlining issues to look at these days. I mean, our country is overwhelmed with breaking stories every other day from the Amadou Samba debacle to the upper age limit for the presidency. Since I last published an essay, the Bakoteh dumpsite was open, closed and then reopened. Since then, I have also avoided a number of potential highway tussles with taxi drivers, judged the Sen P’tit Galle preliminaries in The Gambia courtesy of Ms Haddy Faye, watched another Blaque Magique production at the beautiful Ebunjang Theatre and attended the launch of the Mamos Photography brand. It sure feels like ten years already!
It is no secret that journalism and policing are two professions that work hand in glove. In The Gambia, the two have a love affair that can only be described as infantile and immature. It is either that or there is such laziness in investigative journalism that has allowed the corruption within the service to go unnoticed. This is New Gambia…no?
Months ago, in a bid to expand our investments, my wife and I entered into an agreement with a Malian national for the supply of an item of value. The agreement which we were smart enough to have on paper received a number of shocks and barricades along the way courtesy of our Malian friend. My wife being the entrepreneur that she is could sense some foul play was at work and took matters forward even though the issues could have been dealt with differently…the Gambian way. It would have been easy to talk to a number of youths, send in some threats of “do you know who I am?” and I am sure we would have gotten our investment back.
However, the naïve fools that we are decided it was best to visit the custodians of law enforcement. Following my positive experiences with the Kairaba Police Station, she had visited the station and filed a report. In the beginning, perhaps in anticipation of a huge compensation, the officers in charge took the matter very seriously. After a few encounters with our Malian friend however, the narrative began to change. Soon enough, my wife was given the run around by the very people who she expected would be there to protect the investments of its people.
When the matter reached a dead-end, I was forced to intervene – an action which should not have happened in the first place. Together we referred the matter to the police headquarters in Banjul where an impressive OC Jaiteh explained the procedures and processes necessary to proceed with the case and showed such professionalism that can only be explained by his MPA achieved in Ghana. That would be a beginning to the solution. That day, we got to see the other side of the law which most people do not get to see in Jollof. The system at the headquarters proved professional and apt.
Within 24 hours, my wife retrieved a percentage of the money owed and the police at the headquarters continue to be instrumental in sorting this issue out. It was clear by this time that the police at the Kairaba Police Station under the supervision of their new SO, for reasons that can only be termed corrupt had decided to leave us hanging for the benefit of their pockets. We however continue to walk the legal route hoping that the light we saw that day at the Police Headquarters is worth our trust.
This is however a scary but true depiction of the state of affairs in the smiling coast. This state of affairs has gone unchecked for so long that it has infiltrated the law enforcement system so much that disregard for the law is a normal occurrence. That our journalists continue to ignore these realities only further deepen the problem and put business people and the average Gambian at serious risk. Where I was educated enough to understand that there were alternatives to the Kairaba Police Station debacle, most of our uneducated or unexposed people do not have a choice but to undergo the stress and trauma attached to reporting cases to the police.
As a nation, since Independence in 1965, it is clear that one of our biggest stumbling blocks to economic growth and stability is the corruption which is embraced not only by the leaders of our institutions but the people that are supposed to protect and uphold the dictates of our constitution. The corruption in the smiling coast is so deep-rooted and widely accepted that to not become a part of that corrupt system is seen as a taboo. People that frown upon this are considered outcasts and hateful venom is spewed around and on them just to ensure that their efforts do not gain ground.
Before the turn of our political situation, arguments from the many Gambians who fought for change centred on the corruption of the former government under the leadership of the former President. The honest young voices lamented the continuous involvement of the former president in private sector business and how much it affected investment and entrepreneurship in The Gambia. It is clear now that many young people fought a fight believing in the ideals of a true democracy and the need to correct many wrongs. It is however a sad betrayal that barely six months into a new administration, many financiers of this change are standing in line, hands stretched out awaiting compensation for their not so grande contributions.
The sadness is that most of these dealings are public knowledge. We talk about these things in our offices, at restaurants, at our meetings…basically everywhere. How much should our country compensate people that claim to have supported a New Gambia because of their love for country. How much do they feel President Adama Barrow owes them for their patronage? Today more than ever before, there is such blatant disregard for financial processes that are necessary to keep our economy afloat.
Democracy and anti-corruption is not a process that fixes itself. Countries that pride themselves in their democracy ensure that their democracy is not a whisper in the wind that one must struggle to hear. To fight corruption, there must be active systems at play that ensure that checks and balances are in order. There must be systems that penalize corruption and those that reward honesty.
I discussed this issue with a number of people and most of them keep using the same phrase…”ah its just for a time rek…everything will be ok”. Well I hate to burst your bubble but everything will NOT be ok. Our country has changed and it will never be the same again. Over the last twelve months, our country has gone through so much that for us as a people to watch the many suffer for the few to smile is a road not to be taken…every again. It is as if the hyenas and the alligators of our economy have been lying in wait for us to be in a state of shock for them to reap dividends. This is not a problem of Muhammed Bazzi or Amadou Samba. Behind the curtains of Internet blogs, Facebook and Twitter, their lies a very selfish bloc of business people and businesses who would sacrifice our country to make a buck extra…and all in the name of democracy.
As I browse through my Facebook timeline daily, I see a lot of people who depend solely on online publications to form an opinion on things. These people as informed as they think they are rely entirely on the trust they have for journalism (formal or informal) in our country to see the direction we are going. They do not hear of the daily corrupt practices from our corridors of power. They do not hear of the police at Kairaba Police Station dumping a case because some Malian “tycoon” decided to grease a few palms. They do not get to hear of the flouting of procurement regulations by heads of institutions just to make themselves richer. They do not get to hear of the many people who so many young people believe in and who claim to stand for change but continue to break the rules of engagement and the laws of our lands in the name of “justice”.
Sunj deka bi defa ndaww torop. Dara nobu wut fii. Ku fokk neh chi lendem nga wayru dina behtu
The scenarios have played themselves out in so many African countries. A revolution of the people disappointingly turns out more often than not to be to the benefit of another set of selfish individuals who only desire to replace the wealthy few who previously stood at the top…wai Ya’Allah duye nelaw.
It is time for the leeches and parasites of our nation to realise that the clock is ticking and our nation’s youth are a ticking time bomb who are tired of waiting for their time. How long have we heard the whole future leaders’ speech only for our nation’s development to be held at ransom by corrupt and capitalist minds that continue to play games with the masses? Our nation’s dollar millionaires for the future are surely not aged fifty or sixty. That space is saved for our young and driven people who deserve to have a seat at the table to clean up this mess of corruption that is ingrained in the fabric of the old and tired public service and private sector. The people are not asleep…there is nothing scarier than a youth population that awakes from a long slumber.
As scary as this realization is, it is essential that the government of the day acknowledges that we are not a special people and that lessons learnt from other African countries must be applicable here. We must clean up our act! We cannot wait for tomorrow to do this. We must stop rewarding corruption and realize that we owe our country a lot. Even I must be held accountable for the “truths” I spread. We are not bush people fighting over bush meat…even though in truth that is how we appear.
Nenj andaa dal. Nenj ligueye sunj dekka. Nenj buga sunj guneh yi. Denj wara nangu neh mutunj nyu dehlu chi Ya’Allah teh settal sunj hol-yi. Deka bi barri na tapaleh ak kanyaan. Deka bi barri na fen ak fitna. Sunj deka bi barri na sohorr ak rambaaj. Ku wakh lii wakh lehleh. Man bilai jormi naa..jakhleh naa..sorna naa. Wai lii ku kor mun!!!???