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Sunday, September 27, 2020

The New Gambia – Designing a new paradigm

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When Bill Clinton took office in early 1993, he appointed his vice president Al Gore to head an ambitious project he called Re-Inventing Government. This is an enormous undertaking considering the US government is a large public organization that has three million employees, and spends trillions of dollars a year. Today, in the professional Accounting/Finance arena in the US, there is a specialised area with certification called Business Process Engineering (BPE) that teaches exactly what Clinton pioneered in 1993. The aim of BPE is simple: help an organisation (private, or public) realize its full potential and thus attain its objectives by identifying and eliminating non-value adding activities through the judicious use of its resources, harnessing synergies where available, and taking advantage of opportunities while simultaneously PREVENTING or minimising the occurrence of waste and fraud. Note the emphasis on the prevention of waste and fraud. The hallmark of good management isn’t only efficient resource utilization, controlling or safeguarding the organisation’s assets is just as important.

If the Barrow administration is serious about changing Gambia for the better, there is no alternative to re-jigging the mess Jammeh left. After all, it is Albert Einstein who said, “you can’t solve a problem with the same mentality that created it.” This is why some of us are shocked by certain key appointments in both the civil and security services. Anyhow, the question is how to re-jig things.

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While I don’t care much for the artificially created 100 days’ mark, three months into the new dispensation, some things are becoming clearer. There is the wonderful, the not-so-good, and the worrying.

The wonderful thing is, Gambians are back to Jawara-era freedom! Thank God or Allahu Akbar! People can say whatever they want anywhere, and go anywhere they want.  Young Gambians under thirty have no idea this is how Gambia USED to be. Another wonderful thing is the distractive National Assembly elections are finally out of the way. My ONLY surprise is PDOIS’ lack of traction. I followed the nominations and nominees on GRTS, and quite frankly, I was disappointed some of the PDOIS’ candidates around the country didn’t win. A couple of the PDOIS candidates that lost are head over shoulder above their competition. As for the AFPRC parties, (APRC and GDC,) I expected them to win 10 seats in a best-case scenario, they won 10. Those who were touting the so-called GDC as the next Big Thing, need to study the Gambian socio-political scene closer. The GDC is a con operation and even illiterates know it. Like its mother – the APRC, it is a criminal organisation dominated by members of the vermin gang formerly known as July 22nd Movement that Yahya Jammeh and the late Baba Jobe unleashed on poor defenceless Gambians in the late 1990s. Their leader, Mamma Kandeh is more dangerous than Yahya Jammeh. The main difference being Kandeh is better looking and smoother than Jammeh. Otherwise, from womanising to yo-yo mysterious wealth splashing, to wheeling-dealing, to ethnic-baiting, Kandeh is textbook Jammeh! EVERYTHING Yahya Jammeh says openly in terms of divisive ethnic politics, Kandeh does so privately based on location. This is what blew up in his face in my native Jarra West where his initial rented Mandinka supporter-canvassers bolted once they caught onto his type of politics. As the saying goes: once bitten, twice shy. The rest of The Gambian people can keep playing ostrich.  And here is something I know: unless the UDP folks continue to behave like the Democratic Party in the US, GDC will only drop seats going forward. That because I also know for a fact that UDP carelessness in allowing cross-border voters from Senegal to come in was what gave the GDC the Central Jarra seat. That gaping loophole should be easy enough to close by next National Assembly elections.

Anyway, the National Assembly elections has confirmed the position taken by the combined opposition delegates primary that elected Adama Barrow of UDP as coalition candidate for the presidential poll last year. The overwhelming dominance of UDP shows it’s the choice of the Gambian majority for what it’s worth. Those that continue to disparage or deny this reality are being disrespectful not just to the UDP, but of the choice of the Gambian people. Unlike the past two decades, the results of these last two elections are as transparent as can be. Those of us who have been calling or fighting for democracy need to SHOW RESPECT for democracy even when our choice candidates lose. Adama Barrow was not my choice for president either, but he won a fair contest. And truth be told, his conduct has simply been EXEMPLARY despite the obvious attempt by some to undermine him at every turn. Some of us never learn at all. This time last year, this man was “Adama Who?” Today, he is president ahead of seasoned politicians and better-educated seniors. Why not chill and let the man be? But what do I know?

The not-so-good is the arduous task of building Gambia goes beyond the physical like I opined some time ago. The country needs to go through a psychological catharsis because of the trauma it’s been subjected to by Yahya Jammeh and his fellow criminals like the body call NIA, most of who are still walking free among Gambians.  The physical building of Gambia is yet to begin in any substantive way at all after fifty-two years of political independence. Let me put this in perspective: for The Gambia to become a modern livable country, it needs nothing less than ten to fifteen thousand miles of macadamised or tarred roads (inter and intra town and village from Banjul to Koina); thousands of miles of independent water, sewer, and drainage systems; at least 1,000 megawatts of electric power supply; at least a dozen bridges across the River Gambia; a referral hospital in EVERY region of the country that can handle most kinds of trauma cases; reliable emergency relief services; international standard schools nationwide, and an agricultural sector that can feed the population. Not to mention comparable professional services.

These are lofty goals that won’t be achieved in a single administration or presidency. But it is crucial that Gambian leaders and their policymakers have these targets or similar ones in mind when they mull the decisions they must make to move the country forward. With determined leadership, The Gambia could accomplish these in thirty to forty years.

The worrying aspect is at present, our two most important political leaders’ attitude seem to project either weakness, naiveté or a lack of sense of urgency of the mess they have inherited. We’ve heard severally from both President Barrow and UDP party leader Darbo of how desperate our situation is financially. Government has three limbs: Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs.)  Yet, three months after taking office, President Barrow has ONLY been able to staff his cabinet ministers. When it comes to the real functionaries that make the government work, which are departments and agencies, the heads and key personnel of almost all these organizations are still Yahya Jammeh appointees! And the new government expects many of these people to be loyal to it? And I don’t understand the need for the self-delusion because Jammeh was never subtle about his determination to decimate the civil service as is known in normal countries. He fired most of the competent Gambians and replaced them with neophytes. I can’t think of any reason why Gambians should continue to waste money on such people.

Particularly troubling are agencies like GRA, GPA, Central Bank of The Gambia, Nawec, Gamtel, and SSHFC, etc. In all these places, some of the higher-ups that facilitated the primitive looting of Gambian public resources that took place over the Jammeh years are still in their positions. At the very least, the delay in not moving these people aside allows them to cover their tracks. This is mind-boggling.

We shall expound on the vision noted and ideas on how to pursue something similar by segment in subsequent posts…

Saul Saidykhan is a Gambian resident in the US. He has written articles for several pan-African outlets over the years: Africa Week Magazine, Sahara Reporters, and Premium Times in addition to many Gambian media houses. He has just published a new book The Pen Vs The Tyrant: A Gambian Writer’s Two Decade War Against An Autocrat And His Enablers. You can read more of Mr Saidykhan’s works at his blog www.mantankara.com.

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