The road to hell

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Two damaged buses are pictured after they collided on a road in Gniby, Senegal, Sunday Jan. 8, 2023. At least 40 people were killed and dozens injured in this bus crash in central Senegal, the country's president Macky Sall said Sunday. (Elimane Fall via AP)
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With Aisha Jallow

The road to hell is paved with good intentions is a proverb. It is about the difference between what someone intends to do and what they actually do.

Looking at the proverb in a dictionary we find a possible meaning: ?1) People who believe they are doing good can end up doing bad (the law of unintended consequences). 2) There is no value in simply planning to do good if you don’t actually do it. The intention to engage in good acts often fails. It points up the principle that there is no merit in good intentions unless they are acted on.

I chose to wrap my thoughts around this proverb when I heard about the terrible and fatal accident between two buses in Senegal. It happened in the night between Saturday and Sunday. Two buses, with all 125 passengers collided. At first there were reports that 38 passengers lost their lives, the number has unfortunately increased and only God knows where it will end. A lot of passengers are injured and taken to nearby clinics. I really hope that these clinics are better equipped than the ones in The Gambia. When traveling in The Gambia it is best to be equipped with a first aid kit so you can take care of either your own wounds or someone elses.

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During the same day there was another accident involving a bus, this in Kenya. The driver lost control over the driving, 21 passengers died and 49 others were injured. They have a huge problem with the traffic in Kenya too, the vehicles are in bad condition and the drivers are reckless. Corruption seems to also be a factor. Journalist Richard Chacha, himself paralysed in a road accident 10 years ago, joins the news channel Africa Eye to expose rogue driving school employees who, for a fee, fix it for rookie drivers to get behind the wheel without ever having to take a driving test. Africa Eye also reveals how brokers take cash to beat the vehicle safety testing system, enabling taxis fit for the scrap heap to be driven on Kenya’s roads… and carry passengers.

Corruption is something we are very familiar with in The Gambia and many of us have heard about the knock on the back door where a fresh driver’s licence is exchanged for a pack of dalasis. If you know the ”right” people you will be able to solve most of your problems. The problem is that this so called solution many times is causing more problems, but why bother? We’ll cross that bridge when we reach it, right? Hopefully nothing bad happens, and at least not to us. Driving like a blind folded maniac in a vehicle that once looked like a car seems to be more a rule than an exception in The Gambia.

So why did I choose to use the proverb above? Because I read that president Macky Sall has declared a national mourning of three days, starting Monday (January 9). The head of the state on his Twitter account wrote: “Following today’s serious accident in Gniby, I have decided on a three-day national mourning from January 9.”

“An interministerial council will be held on the same date to take firm measures on road safety and public passenger transport,” he said.

“I am deeply saddened by this tragic road accident and I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and wish a speedy recovery to the injured,” Sall further added.

Isn’t that sweet? President Macky Sall’s intention is to, as he said: ”Take firm measures on road safety and public passenger transport.” Mr President, this is nothing new, the traffic in Senegal is just as crazy as in The Gambia, but because this recent fatal accident has reached international news you are suddenly pulling out your thumb from your ….. (Pardon my French, but this is making me furious!)

There are traffic accidents every day, but nothing has so far reached this dignity. Do we really have to wait until so many people have died before any improvements are done ? Are the loss of the lives of 40 passengers enough for you to react? Isn’t it enough with injuries that could possibly lead to fatalities? Must we wait until a certain number of people have died before anyone finds it about time to do something about it?

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, Mr Barrow. Yes, I will come for you too so don’t relax. When you were inaugurated, you spoke well and promised a lot. You had good intentions, but where have those lead The Gambia? Nothing has improved, the level of education is low, the level of unemployment is high. The wages are low but the prices are high. The level of service is low but the corruption is high. It is like going with a roller-coaster in an amusement park from hell. It goes up and down in a speed that is making us dizzy and nauseous.

Thanks to the mercy of God, we haven’t had a traffic accident like the one in Senegal, yet, but that might mainly depend on the fact that we don’t have that many large buses in The Gambia. The roads are in terrible condition and too many drivers are that too. Being a ruler of a country has nothing to do with your own level of importance, mr Barrow, because without your current position you are not much to write home about. You take yourself seriously, but you should focus on taking your duty seriously instead. The people of The Gambia are paying for your lush life, they have the right to get value for their money. They have the right to expect you and your Government to look after the citizen’s needs, but it seems like you have missed that tiny little detail.

It is not enough for the ones who have lost a loved one, or have become injured, to hear from any president that he is deeply saddened. It is his duty to say that, but does he care? Does Macky Sall care? Does Adama Barrow care? If they cared , they would have made sure that the safety of the roads in both Senegal and The Gambia had improved. They have had plenty of time to make a change for the better, Macky Sall has been president longer than Barrow. There are rules and regulations for how long a bus driver can be driving before he must take a break. There is a maximum of 4,5 hours of driving before the driver must rest for at least 15 minutes. The driver must come rested to work and be allowed to get 11 hours of unbroken rest before he is on duty again. It is a matter of safety, but this is yet another tiny little detail we don’t need to be bothered about in Africa as it seems.

It is not enough to mean good or to say that you wish to do good, your actions always speak louder than your words. Don’t promise anything if you don’t intend to keep it. Always consider the longterm consequences of your words and actions. If you have a position where you have some kind of influence; take it seriously and be humble. Your actions and decisions can cause other’s a living hell.