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Sunday, June 16, 2024

The unexpected challenges brought by democracy

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By Musa Bah

Since independence in 1965, we have struggled – as a nation – with poverty and want. Our people live in abject poverty and lack of adequate healthcare delivery, low quality education, poor service delivery and all the other poor this or that.
As a result of these, some of our folk who were lucky – either born with silver spoons or other strokes of luck – escaped the shackles of poverty and went to the West to study or work. Some of them came back to bravely face the difficult life here and made something by the dint of hard work.

Many others decided to remain in the West where everything was cosy and they could live luxurious lives and make something for themselves and their families back home. So, the country was spared the frustration of these people.
Later, we lost that seemingly stable democracy because, it was minus food self-sufficiency and other amenities, all it had was peace and stability and a semblance of democracy.
We had a dictatorship which gagged our people and denied them the chance to air their views. It denied them the ability to be the best they can be. It strangled innovation and entrepreneurship. To make matters worse, it jailed and tortured people. Sometimes, it killed citizens (as has been shown in the sittings of the TRRC).

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Thus, an exodus again took place as many ran from poverty, others ran from persecution and imprisonment. Yet, others simply ran for their lives and scattered all over the world – particularly in Western Europe.
The western nations – being democracies – were obliged to accept them and give them asylum. They studied and worked, sent remittances to their families and lived comfortable lives.

On 1st December 2016 we went to the polls and voted in a new government which promised to usher in a genuine democracy. As was its wont, the previous government made frantic and frenetic efforts to frustrate the will of the people and stall the inauguration of the new regime.
The world did not leave us in the lurch, they stood by us (by ‘us’ I mean the Gambian citizens as opposed to the government). They gave us all the support in establishing a democracy. Thus, they gave us moral, financial and political support to ensure that we stood on our feet.

Now that that nascent democracy is growing stronger gradually, and that the Rule of Law, respect and protection of Human Rights are taking root, the Western nations are being pressured by their citizens to do something about migration. It is for this reason that they are now seeking ways to deport Gambians who have been living there illegally for years.
It is said that Gambians form the third largest group of illegal refugees in Germany with some fourteen thousand five hundred of them roaming the streets of Berlin and other cities. Considering the small size of The Gambia, this figure alone says a lot about the woes at home.

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The issue now is: can we blame Germany or any other nation for wanting their country back?
Remember, they also have their own problems. They have to provide jobs for their people, create opportunities and make the lives of their people better.
Our government should acknowledge that there is a problem and seek to engage the European nations and seek their assistance to allow our people to remain there or better still, regularise their stay there.

They should make it known to the European partners that the influx of returnees at this material time can derail the gains and progress of democracy in the country. This is because although there is peace and stability, a huge number of Gambians returning home without jobs or skills can fracture the fragile peace we have started to enjoy.
In the long-term though, government should start thinking of job creation. They should create avenues by which the young people of the country can have opportunities to succeed in their own country.

This can be done by massively investing in education and revamping the current system which puts premium only on passing exams – causing rote learning. With that no young person will need to risk his/her life in the high seas knowing that those same opportunities they are chasing are right here at home. This is the way forward.
But as the saying goes ‘no risk no reward’. This will not be easy. It will be tough to implement but with all hands on deck, we can achieve this and make our people realize the treasure they have – can harness – in this country. We can build this nation and make it a place to be proud of.

There is a lot of knowledge and expertise here which can be put to good use and develop our country such that we will be proud to remain here and succeed. For, there is no place like home.
Would that I could find listeners!

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