Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Yusupha Sanyang. I was born in Bakoteh in 1968. I first went to school in 1974 when I attended a nursery school run by Mrs Ndow who was the headmistress of Serekunda Primary School at the time. I then moved to Serekunda Primary School in 1976 and in 1982 I passed my Common Entrance Examination and went to Sukuta Secondary School. I was supposed to move to Muslim High School but due to a problem in my family I had to continue at Sukuta Secondary School. Due to my determination I struggled and successfully did private GCE O’Level. I went to the National Vocational Training Centre where I did welding and fabrication between 1985 and 1987. I also did a diploma in Law at GTTI between 1996 and 1998. From there I went to the University of The Gambia where I studied development with management as a minor. I then did a master’s degree with Columbiana University in the US where I obtained MSc in public administration.
How did you end up working with the Kanifing Municipal Council?
In 2002 as I was planning to leave for legal studies in the UK at West London College, the issue of a councillor cropped up after the local government reform which brought about the need for elections. The people of Bakoteh encouraged me to contest. I was confused whether to go for my studies in the UK or contest for the councillorship. I had to consult some of my friends. After consulting my friends both home and abroad, I was encouraged to take the opportunity. Luckily I went unopposed. Prior to the end of my term in 2007, I was encouraged to take up the position of deputy mayor but I was reluctant due to my studies at UTG which was very crucial as I was at year two then. I feared it may mar my progress at the university. I only served for two weeks then and my term ended. Then in 2008, the position came up again and I contested and went unopposed.
What have been your contributions to the development of Bakoteh and KMC?
I and my boss Yankuba Colley had a lot of ambition when we were contesting the elections to improve the lives of the people of this municipality. As a result, when we came in we built a lot of markets. By the time we assumed office, we had negotiated and finalised the purchase of 25 tractors which were brought to the council. We have hugely motivated staff through capacity building because KMC had human resource constraints but if you go there now many people have been given the opportunity and sponsored to acquire university education locally and abroad. I believe no nation can develop without human capital development. This was given a lot of prominence during my time and continues up to today. Our cleansing services were improved during my time with a lot of equipment bought for that unit. Staff were further motivated with better pay. We abolished grade one and two of the pay scale and the starting grade at KMC is grade 3. As a councilor in Bakoteh, I was able to get two community skills training centres, one of which was sponsored by the SoS Children’s village The Gambia in collaboration with SoS Kinderdorf International. When I came in with my ward development committee, we saw the need to provide something for the youth of our community that will keep them busy and give them skills for them to earn livelihood. We have another skills training centre sponsored by CSIP. The Bakoteh Fish Market was also part of the achievements we registered at the time. When the idea of building a fish market came, KMC was registered as a beneficiary and it took a long time before it could materialise. There were a lot of businesses that were operating on the proposed site. So it was very, very difficult for us to evacuate those businesses. But through the help of the director of planning at KMC, Modou Ndow, myself, the police and the alkalo of the community, we were successfully able to evacuate them to where they are today. We also brought in a water extension project on the other side of Bakoteh called Kasubato encompassing Mboyo Field sponsored by KMC to the tune D1.2 million.
Your rise at KMC was meteoric, and so precipitous was your fall. What accounts for this?
Like I said earlier, the position of deputy mayor is something that is contested. And God knows why but when we came back in 2013 I did not show any interest to be honest because I was also trying to avoid certain things. Giving chance to peace and sanity takes precedence over personal interests. That’s why I was not interested in the position of deputy mayor and let it go.
But how do you feel about being deputy mayor no longer with the attendant loss of perks of office like cars and allowances?
I am somebody who has disciplined and trained myself to such an extent that material things do not actually move me in any way. My childhood friends still remain my friends. In fact, when I took the position of deputy mayor I was so humble to the extent of even chatting with people younger than my age. I used to socially interact with them after work. I am happy that even when I had to lose all those luxuries I still remain the same person.
But KMC insiders reveal your loss of the deputy mayor position was not due to dearth of aspiration on your part. In the interest of disclosure, they say it was precipitated by friction with Mayor Yankuba Colley?
You see, normally, if people are together they are bound to have misunderstandings. I am not attributing my loss of deputy mayor position to that. Maybe…
You are ducking my question. Did you have problems with Mayor Colley?
I don’t think we have that much serious problem. We used to discuss, agree or disagree over issues and that is all.
But your time at KMC was not without allegations of financial misappropriation to the degree staff salaries were delayed?
I will not attribute salary delays to inefficiency .When we came in we were so ambitious at the beginning and embarked on a lot of projects and that had eaten well into our coffers and we were even operating at a deficit. That was the only thing that has affected us and now everything is going on fine. We do not have any financial problems and as I am talking to you, salaries have been paid today the 16th of September. Which institution does that in this country?
What is your assessment of twenty years of Jammeh’s rule?
When the July 22nd Revolution came, it turned out the people at the forefront of it were young and I believed then that they could bring a lot of development in this country. That was when I first voted.
Who did you vote for then?
I voted for President Jammeh.
Are you saying that because you want to be in his good books?
Hahahaha! Since then, a lot of progress has been registered. You and I attended university here which would not have been possible without Yahya Jammeh’s intervention to establish the first university in this country. That alones means everything to me because it is education that saves a country. We have seen hospitals and schools built in all parts of the country. The infrastructure and road network are much better than before. Water and electricity are supplied to people even though electricity still remains a problem. The human capital of this country has been developed so much that I have observed a lot of consultancies that used to go outside are now being awarded to Gambians here. This is a clear manifestation that there has been massive human capital development in this country.
Those are the positives of the revolution. Hand on heart, what are the negatives?
In anything there is a positive and a negative aspect of it but I do not see that with the APRC revolution. I can say we are yearning to get to a level we have not yet got to. I cannot say that is negative because with time I am certain that we will get there. Even if you ask the president he will tell you he wants to make every single Gambian proud. If he had his wish he would make sure every single road in The Gambia is tarred. We have not achieved that yet but we are on the verge of getting there.
Some people mention alleged human rights abuses and increasing economic hardship?
But how do you measure hardship? I studied development and I know there are lots of tools you use to measure poverty. But then what was the level of poverty before the revolution and now? Today poverty has reduced in this country. If we use the purchasing power parity I want to believe that people can buy more expensive things today than ever before. To me the living conditions of people in this country have improved.
What next for Yusupha Sanyang in politics?
I really want to contribute more as a technocrat but I will not continue my political career save for when God decrees it. Sometimes as a human being you will aspire; you may have your plan but it is only God who decides on the fate of the individual. If I had my wishes I will use the little knowledge I have to contribute in the public sector rather than being a politician. I am in my last term as a councilor and according to the Local government Act councilors should only serve three terms as a councilor. I am looking forward to ending my political career successfully so that I can move to the next level to serve the public better as a technocrat.]]>