Gambia @ 53 Years; challenges, Successes, & Way forward

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By Hon Madi M.K.Ceesay

This write up summarises the three phase of Gambia’s rule by three Gambian political leaders. The first republic under the country’s eldest statesman and former president  Alhagie Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara of PPP whose rule was marked by democracy and respect of human rights from 1965 to 1994. This was followed by a 22 year of the APRC under former president Alhagie Dr. Yayha AJJ Jammehs’s dictatorship marked with killings and disappearances with lots disrespect for people’s human rights. The 22 years was brought to an end on December 1st 2016 when Gambians decided enough was enough. A new dawn began with a little over one year rule of Coalition government under   President Adama Barrow; so far so good there is some freedom and respect of human rights with no much infrastructural   developments yet. Read on

  The Gambia has just celebrated 53 years of nationhood as an independent country from British colonialism. The questions that remains to be answered are, are we really independent, what are our successes, challenges and way forward.

If the country is a human being one cannot say that she is a young lady or a young man and for that matter; but an old man  at age 53 now who if is a civil servant  is only seven years away from retirement. She could by now have its own big children with grandchildren. So the Gambia as a nation is today.

What have we earned ourselves in the past 53 years as a nation to be called successes? This is the    fundamental question every Gambian need to ask and find answers to. It is obvious that we are independent since we have our own government running the affairs of the country; but is that all about independenyt?

The Gambia has seen three presidents ruling us and if we may start by interrogating each of them that may help us arrive at a conclusion of our successes, challenges and way forward.

First at independence 18 February 1965 when the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara took the leadership of the   country as Prime Minister answerable to the Queen of Britain, and then five years later to a republican status and became the first President of Gambia.

He inherited a few road network as there existed   none if it were not traditional roads linking major towns and villages along the both sides of the River Gambia. As a young lad going to schools two years before independent could clearly remembers the roads in my immediate environment. The Kerewan Brikamaba road network and other villages in that part f the Gambia did not have any proper roads and t takes days and sometimes weeks to reach Banjul using only lorries as small cars were not many and hardly do they use the poor roads.

No University and schools were fewer and so are health centres what was available then was health post who have dispensers and dresser dispensers.  At the time the only hospital in the whole of provinces was Bansang hospital which was a colonial built hospital. And as for schools apart from the only High school at Jangjanbureh Island also built by the colonials initially for the children of Sayfolu/chiefs.

Now to try assess the success of the Jawara regime one has to use such baselines information. What has come after the above schools, health posts and roads for the time from 18 February 1965 to 22 July 1994?

The roads linking Banjul to Basse was first constructed with gravel; taking a good shape from the traditional roads linking major towns and    villages’ cress- crossing like a snake. And then later these road was tarred and np dust and from time to time it is maintained and in some places a total rehabilitations. From Basse to Fatoto was only developed from traditional form to gravel status where it remain to date.

The other side of the country also got some of its roads transformed from traditional to a gravel status, whiles the greater part still continues to go without a good road network to date. These is the success as after as roads are concern under the first republic under the first president Jawara.

During his regime former President Jawara’s PPP government was able to build a few major health centres across the length and breadth of Gambia with the objective of providing primary health care; this in my opinion was achieved. There also many health posts across the country but they did not succeed in building a single hospital as a government. Towards the end of his regime most of these health facilities remain with no or little medicines. The health workers then almost most of them have their private clinics where patient can buy prescribed     drugs. One wonders where those drugs were coming from as the government cannot have them but these private clinics and pharmacies do have. That trend remains the same to date; so what successes are we talking about?

For schools; the country was not fortunate to have many schools especially secondary schools. Only a few of them were available. In the whole of the up country where some people referred to as provinces Armitage was the only High school which was a colonial build schools and only privileged children ten (sons and daughters of chefs) attend that school. Yes few number of primary schools were built by the Jawara regime number (53) at the time of the Silver Jubilations of our independence. There lots of private schools and missionary schools built during the Jawara regime the likes of the three Ahmadiyya schools and several others of Christian’s schools. And up to 1994 several others private schools were erected by both Gambians and none Gambians one notable is the Ndown schools.

Human rights; during the first republic there were only   attempted coup which was led by late Kukoi Samba Sanyang in 1981. We have seen that lots of people were killed during the period of the struggle which lasted for a few days before the Senegalese forces came in to quell the coup. Apart from the period of the struggle no killing but there were detentions, screening and court cases.

During the Jawara regime to disappearances, no Jugglers who are undisclosed official killers and abductors. The SSS was never used for tortures and the world have respected the Gambia human right record and that is why host to African Centre for Human and People’s Rights and later the African Commission.

We will not go into others for now but considering that education, health and communications are among the basics for development we will almost limit our interventions around these sectors.

Let’s now move to Jammeh regime from 22 July 1994 to 1st December 2016. The December elections ending a 22 years of dictatorship.

However we will try to assess the 22 years of second regime under former president Alhagie Dr. Yahyah AJJ Jammeh Babil Mansa against the same baseline information, education, and health and road communications.

In the area road infrastructures Jammeh regime could be seen to have an edge over the PPP regime of Jawara. The Jammeh regime was able to build the Barra/ Laminkoto road from gravel to tarred road. That was a big achievements. The Sitting corner through traffic lights to turn table and Airport junction road connection. The Kombo roads were also among the road constructions.

The APRC under Jammeh was able to increase the number of hospitals by two; the Farafenni and the Buwiam hospitals were the additionals.  The colonialist built only one, whiles the second republic under Jawara build no single hospital. The problem of lack of drug in our hospitals remains a problem for both the first and second republic.

The APRC regime also did well in the area of access to education; they build the first ever University of the Gambia and more schools than the colonialists and the first republic under Sir Dawda. It reach a point where it does more harm than good. Some schools are so closed to one and other that there exist the problem of lack of children in schools.

Where the Jammeh government woefully failed the Gambia and the world is in the area of human rights. It is one of the worst regimes not only on the African continent but the world at large.

Under the Jammeh regime we have seen more than 25 attempted coups most of which were considered faked it was just one of his cruel ways of eliminating some people in the Army by extrajudicial killings.  We all have seen the broad daylight killing of late Amamo Manneh at the Albert market and how the first groups of soldiers were gruesomely murdered   at Yundum and the Bakau camp among the Lieutenant   Barrow on November 11 1995. The last soldiers who were eliminated included many such as regimental Alpha Bah, Captain Ndure Cham, and others that are not record.

The jugglers who were torturers and the killers under the command of a sitting president Jammeh is just unfortunate.

As for the Adama Barrow coalition government it’s only a little over an year; apart from respect for human rights and some constitutional reforms the people are yet to see and physical developments so Gambians at home and abroad are waiting to see.

So to conclude on the successes, challenges and way forward; I want to say as a nation our achievements are not many and we are faced with a lot challenges in energy sector, road connections and broadcast sector. The way forward is for the current government to focus on the energy sector and improve on it tremendously. The issue of supply of drugs in our hospitals and all health centres must be catered for. Above all Gambians are also looking forward to solutions to a vast unclassified roads connecting major towns and villages across the country. The hopes are high and we hope all if not good part be attained before the end of the first five years come 2021.

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