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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Mortgaging Gambia?

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If one decides to make a survey among Gambians both within the borders of our beautiful country and those living outside about the regime of Yahya Jammeh, everyone would have a unique story to tell. Due to the numerous stories every Gambian had to tell, I decided to excuse you on counting the merits of sending Jammeh packing. The one singular story among Gambians home and abroad is the attainment of freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association, Freedom! Perhaps, Yahya Jammeh, wherever he is today, on his pillow during his numerous long nights would be full of regrets; regrets from his heinous crimes and his last chance to relinquish power. Undoubtedly hardly a man can live to his age without having some regrets but Jammeh has no equivalent in our land. This is why I believe that wise people should always learn from the mistakes of others to become better men and women. And the story of Yahya Jammeh just confirms how ungrateful man can be. From the creator he ironically believes in to the ordinary Gambia who he served. Perhaps his biggest weapon was his ability to control the mindset of the people. He uses people, ‘paralyzed’ their careers and dumped them. The Oustaz will tell you it was part of Allah’s test to his creature-man.  If this is anything to go by, Babili Mansa scored an F9.  Yahya Jammeh, the man that rose from grass to grace and vice-versa.

Meanwhile, I had never felt so much pressure and anxiety about our country’s future than the days between January 15-20th 2017. On a daily basis, I go to bed very late and woke up early morning to check news from home. At one time I thought The Gambia would be another Liberia. Hell no! I would say to myself. Equally every Gambian around the world was worried. And as a hypersensitive person, sometimes I could hardly hold my tears. For a moment the world media was repeatedly on Gambia. And you know the deal, they love this kind of stories from Africa-‘Land of corrupt tyrants’. After the December 1st, 2016 elections, I receive so many congratulatory messages from friends around the world on our successful elections. I was feeling very proud among my friends. Even though Jammeh cut it short, some were still happy with the way the coalition government handled the matter. By all means it was a demonstration of high sense of maturity and leadership.

I will keep the rest of that for now; at least for this article. Meanwhile the story of Yahya Jammeh needs to be properly handled. In our new-found cherished freedom, we need to be very cautious not to repeat the Jammeh era. Hence we should try to cultivate the principles of democracy in our society. The new Gambia is the laboratory for our future democracy in our land. Now is the time to heal wounds, mend ties and lay the foundation for the future. Inasmuch as we want to see a better Gambia, we should always welcome constructive criticism and dialogue.

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Undoubtedly every government has false starts. Recently, it was reported in the papers that Gambia and Senegal have signed a fisheries agreement or whatever it is called. I was shocked when I first read the story.  However, all the newspapers don’t tend to have a good reporting on the issue. Besides the pronouncement of the agreement and training of Gambians in Senegal, the reporters left the readers wondering what the agreement is about. After all efforts to see the agreement proof futile, I decided to go ahead and accept what I got from an often ‘reliable’ source. One thing is clear, Senegal would never approach us in fisheries and other areas without their interest. This is why I am wondering why President Sall wants us to pay him with our fish for the invaluable service he rendered to us during the standoff. If anything that Macky Sall love to sign is, fisheries deals. Not long ago (I can’t remember when) he signed with EU fishing rights in Senegalese waters in exchange for the Euros. This prompted lots of condemnation and even protests in Senegal. I am just wondering why President Barrow mortgaged our fisheries resources to Senegal. As a former staff of the fisheries department, I knew there was an existing fishing rights agreement between Gambia and Senegal. However this agreement largely benefits Senegal. This is because most fishermen in Gambia don’t have the vessels that can go deep waters and reaching the Senegalese boundary. In addition for vessels registered in both countries in most cases dock in Senegal for many reasons; convenience, better service and facilities, to name a few. All these fishes caught in similar scenarios don’t count as fish caught in Gambian waters thus shrinking the yearly Gambian fish catch data. In addition there is still existence of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing around the world. Gambia isn’t immune to this phenomenon. Our fisheries resources are very important for our economy. It must be jealously guarded. I doubt if President Barrow had consulted the authorities of the Fisheries Department and seek their advice on this matter. The department has one of the most hardworking people in the country and they know their job very well. Unfortunately they were hit by the Jammeh tsunami and lost many staff. Although Gambia is blessed with lots of fish, the yearly catch continues to dwindle.  The ordinary Gambians benefit very little from it. Correct me if I am wrong, over 75% of the fishermen across the country are non-Gambians. Despite paying license and taxes, employing few Gambians including the women fish mongers and dryers, huge chunk of their money goes out of the country. Similar thing is true of the fish exporting companies.

You must agree all this is not the fault of stainless President Barrow. However this is the right time to fix things that aren’t right. Allowing Senegalese to come fish and dry up our fish will only make matters worse for us and future generations. During the campaign trail in your meeting in Tanji you promise the youth empowerment through job creation especially in the fisheries sector. The Senegalese fishermen besides outnumbering their Gambian counterparts, they have better fishing equipment. This undoubtedly means better catch for them. There are many young people who want to take up fishing, hence it would be wiser if the government provide them with good boats and fishing gears than a Gambian-Senegal fisheries collaboration. I plead to you don’t give foreigners license to drain our fish stock. We have enough of them in the landing centers. It’s time for our people. New Gambia, remember: Gambia first! I know you’re a good listener. However in as much you listen good, don’t always listen to your ‘dad’.

I don’t want people to see me as anti-Senegal and anti-foreign. I love Senegal. I respect them. I just want the new government to change the pendulum and inspire a generation of Gambians ‘making it at home’. In addition I hope that the shameful border problem will never happen be history forever. I am positive it won’t happen during the Barrow-Sall era. Now you two have the best chance to lay a solid and unshakeable foundation of mutual love and respect for Senegambia. As a country, we have a lot to learn from Senegal; their democracy, institutions, commerce among others. Another thing worries me is how we continue to lose our culture and identity to them. Let’s have our own unique identity. We continue to underpay our artist and always lavish money on their musicians. New Gambia, Lets support our own. People!

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Moreover some Gambians still have disturbing mindset. Recently it was reported that the GDC party leader, Mamma Kandeh has sponsored 25 boreholes and given financial assistance to schools and hospitals. I couldn’t believe why some people didn’t welcome the news. After all Gambians love to repeat the Kennedy quote “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. This development should be welcome by every Gambian including President Barrow. If most wealthy Gambians have been doing this, Over 90% of our population would have access to clean water. These boreholes, undoubtedly come with a political agenda, but their benefit overrides that. They will make a big impact in these communities. It will greatly improve their health and livelihood.  Perhaps they should go ask the women how difficult it is to draw water from a well. And beauty about it is, the next statistics on access to drinking water will see Gambia increase its percentage figure. The credit would definitely go to President Barrow and his government. We should be forward thinking people. In addition this would also reduce the burden on our hardworking but struggling NAWEC and water resources department. However I want to commend President Barrow for save guarding the freedom we all fought for. If this was in Babili’s era, the Alkalolu of this settlements and heads of institutions donated would be watching the ceilings at his ‘hotel’. Ajarama Barrow.

Finally come closer reader. I want to add something. The young people of our generation should desist in trying to bring alien attitudes in our country. Let’s do our politics, but let not be unmindful of how we act and conduct ourselves. We are one people. Our elders always advocated for peace, love, discipline, kindness, oneness, truth. These are some of the ideals of Gambianism. Let us jealously protect them.

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