By Aisha Jallow
It is time to wake up and change what needs to be changed in The Gambia! No more time for procrastination, it is about time to force everyone to action. The Gambia seems to be covered by a wet blanket. If you are not familiar with that expression, it can be interpreted in two ways. First of all – a blanket that is wet gets very heavy and is perfect to use to put out a fire. It covers the fire and no oxygen can come under it to make new flames. In modern days this expression, a wet blanket, is used for telling someone that they are a killjoy. So where is the joy in The Gambia? What do you still have that gives you a reason to rejoice? I would love to get a long list of reasons, but there seems to be a problem in the connection between the long lost intentions the current government had, and the reality.
The president seems happy enough. His ministers, those who remain in his grace, are happy as long as the president is happy and they make sure to keep him happy so they can gain a lot from this happiness. It doesn’t bother either the president or the ministers that the citizens of The Gambia are unhappy. ”These people always complain on this and that, no matter what we do for them. ”
I’m sure that this is what they think, maybe feel a sting of bad conscience for a split of a second, and then forget it completely.
The APRC are happy as long as they are able to keep the president happy, because in their mental delusion they believe that soon their Lord and Master Jammeh will come back to rule the country. The APRC make sure to whisper the right things in the president’s ear, not too loud if he still is a bit drowsy after his last nap. No sense in making the president upset, no, tread carefully and he will be your best buddy forever.
The ”wet blanket” is killing all the joy in The Gambia. It is heavy, smells bad and gives you a sense of discomfort. What is there to rejoice? What is there to laugh about? Perhaps the stupidity of all the officials who believe that they will get away with all their corruption forever. There are not enough tears to spill over all the wrongs you hear of every day. Finally you laugh instead because you are tired of crying. The sun is shining, you prayed in the morning and asked God to forgive your sins. Those who sin against you – do you think they ask God to forgive them? If they do – are they forgiven? Our conscience- the voice of God in our souls – is keeping us on the right path. Those who wrong you – are they listening to that voice?
It is not easy to stay on the right path when it is covered by sharp stones. You stumble and fall, manage to take one step forward and suddenly you find yourself two steps back. No wonder you fool someone here and lie a little there, it is a matter of survival. When the silly toubabs come to The Gambia with their pockets filled with money – no wonder you want you fair share of it. The bumsters, who have had a hard time for so long now, will be desperate enough to entertain even the most disgusting toubab for some dalasi.
The tour operators will fight for customers and try to attract the tourists with the lowest prices, even if that means that they will earn nothing at all. Hopefully the tourists will give them some tip money, but there is no guarantee for that. You see; most tourists don’t understand how poor you are. They actually believe that you have a reasonable salary so you can support you and your family. They don’t understand that the little money they give you extra is the difference between eating that day or not.
I know what it feels to go hungry day after day. I know how it feels to watch others eat, the food smells so good, but you are not invited to the table. I know how it feels to not be seen, to work from early morning to late night for nothing. I know how it feels to be fooled, to be tricked, to be laughing stock for someone who believes to be so much better than I. I know how it feels to not have a home of my own, to move from place to place hoping that the new place will be better than the old one. I know how it feels to hear that I don’t belong, that I must leave, that I am nothing but trouble. Oppression can have many faces, and even if I have never had to fear for my life, I have seen too many of these faces.
If you, who have been following my column for a while, ever wonder why I keep on writing my articles week after week – for nothing. Here is the answer: I keep on doing it because I have felt your pain in my own body. I managed to come out on the other side of a long and dark tunnel, and I managed to do that with my sanity intact. I keep on writing because I want you to see that there is so much you can do to change your situation for the better. What you must do is to work together in solidarity. The movement of solidarity built up Sweden to a strong country. It took time, had many setbacks, but the people never gave up.
We have been where you are now. At the end of 1800 and the beginning of 1900, Sweden was a poor country. People starved, they were oppressed and many fled the country. They took refuge in America, sold their belongings and sailed over the ocean. Many didn’t survive, but a lot of people did. Those who managed to earn some money did the same as Gambians in the diaspora – sent money home to help the family. You see; our lives are not that different, the difference is that in Sweden we speak about the past and in The Gambia we speak about the present.
You must begin to believe in your own strength, use your creativity to change things. Imagination doesn’t cost you a butut but can take you far. Electricity, telephones, cars, bicycles, aircrafts – all this and so much more was invented because some people had a strong imagination and allowed nothing to stop them. No obstacles were too big, no setbacks were too hard for those who truly believed in themselves and their capacity. What is your capacity? What is your strength? What are your dreams? What can you do for yourself, your family, your society and/or your country? Why are you waiting for someone else to give you the opportunities? Create them yourself! Don’t expect the government to help you, they are napping together with Barrow. Get together and raise your voices. Make them know that it is time to wake up now!