Members of Coalition 2016 treated Gambia as ‘war booty’

July 14, 2021

The Gambia is not make any progress development wise, because members of the political parties that formed the Opposition Coalition that defeated Yahya Jammeh in the 2016 Presidential Elections treated the country as ‘war booty’.

Gambia Coalition 2016, a coalition of seven Gambian political parties, civil society groups and one independent candidate, was created to field and support a single, unity candidate for the Gambian opposition to mount a strong challenge to Jammeh in the election.

The Coalition government was supposed to come and correct the wrongs of the Jammeh regime, by way of putting the right structures in place and effecting institutional reforms. This was supposed to be achieved through appointing technocrats, not politicians to head key sectors of the economy.

After the Coalition flag-bearer, Adama Barrow, won the election and took power, key members of the Coalition except PDOIS, in reward fashion, got ministerial appointments. Many erstwhile opposition politicians were also given appointments in the dipölomatic service and other areas.

And then they more or less descended on the country’s resources, acting as if Gambia is booty captured from an enemy in war.

The most annoying part is that many of these erstwhile opposition politicians believe they deserve plum appointments because they suffered and sacrificed for the country in putting their lives on the line by opposing Jammeh and worked to bring an end to his regime. And so the resources they are supposed to use to improve the lives of the people is what they are now using to reward themselves.

The change of Government in The Gambia was the collective effort of concerned citizens of this country. It was Gambia that decided, not just politicians. They tend to forget that it was the ballot box that ousted Jammeh. And who casted the votes into the ballot box? It was Gambians who collectively decided it was time for change. Gambians decided they have had enough of tyranny. If Gambians did not come out to vote, there will be no way those who are thumping their chests today that they liberated this country would have come to power.

Opposition politicians were not the only people persecuted during the Jammeh regime. They were not the only ones that stood up to the dictator and got arrested, imprisoned, tortured, exiled or killed. Activists like Scattred Janneh, religious leaders like Baba Leigh were jailed and tortured by the regime. Students at the prime of life were hacked down by bullets from the rifles of Jammeh’s henchmen.

Journalists, who Jammeh called “illegitimate sons of Africa” were also at the receiving end of the regime. Over 140 incidents of arrests involving journalists were recorded under the dictatorship. These arrests involved over 60 journalists who were either tortured or illegally detained. In a period of 22 years, Gambia recorded 15 incidents of arbitrary closure of media houses. A notable senior journalist like Deyda Hydara was killed by the regime, while Chief Ebrima Manneh disappeared.

To sum it up, what is going on in The Gambia now is a replication of what happened in South Africa after the end of apartheid and the exit of Nelson Mandela from the political stage, as succinctly captured in a media report by the Conversation: “One of the shameful achievements of the African National Congress (ANC) in … governing post-apartheid South Africa is that it’s living up to the political stereotype of what is wrong with post-colonial Africa… – unethical and corrupt African leaders who exercise power through patronage. The widespread corruption in post-apartheid South Africa is epitomised by what is now referred to as “state capture”. Democratic South Africa appears to have morphed into a fully fledged predatory state.

Characteristics include using public office and resources to promote the private interests of ANC politicians and those connected to them. It is a politics that is characterised by lack of ethics, morals, and logic. A dysfunctional political system that rewards sycophants, con artists, thugs, greed, and antisocial attributes. The development of this patronage network is the product of the ANC’s cadre deployment policy. This values party membership over ability and probity…” This sad state of affairs will continue, only Gambian politicians change their mindset.

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