By Musa S. Sheriff
The Gambia is celebrating its 58th anniversary tomorrow amid the festivities for Independence Day on Saturday, many Gambians say the country’s promise is unfulfilled and too many of its people still live in poverty.
“The Gambia has gone backward 50 or more years,” says Ebrima Jaiteh, a 67-year old businessman resident of Ebo Town.
“We have had government after government, people coming in and going out of power, doing their things without consulting or satisfying the masses,” he told The Voice Editor-in-Chief on a dusty road leading to Ebo Town Badala (Riverside) on Thursday.
“We put governments in power so that in return they will meet some of our needs, but now the masses are suffering,” Jaiteh said, waiting for the vehicle to Serekunda. “Gambia should have been a better country if leaders had the country at heart. Money is here; but where is it going? Into the pockets of a few.”
Nearly six years after Gambians decided to put an end to one man’s rule of 22 years in 2016, Gambian youths are still looking for an opportunity to get jobs, he said.
Serekunda West National Assembly Member Hon. Madi Ceesay, in his views said the Gambia achieved independence on 18 February 1965, as a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth, with Elizabeth II as Queen of the Gambia, represented by the Governor-General stating that the country has not much to celebrate after decades of independence.
“Look at our roads, education system, what kind of product we produce, are they technically minded people to take us from where we are as a country or to be like other countries? The answer is no. So what are we celebrating? After five decades of independence we cannot feed ourselves so what are we celebrating?” he asked.
“Agriculture is dead, what has happened to the cotton project? What about our river transportation, is also dead,to be frank, The Gambia as a country has nothing to celebrate. Money should not be wasted on celebrating independence; it should only be one statement read by the President to end expenditure,” he added.
Majority of Gambians say Senegal over the past five years has influenced the country in the areas of transportation, security, business, and fishing, and our lawlessness is the main attitude that many accuse the Senegalese of.
With the prolonged trauma of the 22 years of ex-President YahyaJammeh, Gambians are following the failure of President Adama Barrow with his false promises.
A persistent problem has been corruption, which many say is largely responsible for the underdevelopment and poor economic growth of an otherwise resourceful country of fewer than 2 million people.
Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) leader Lawyer Ousainu NM Darboe in a recent interview said if belonging to the minority, and you raise your voice on any issue, it’s been considered as being politically motivated.
“We don’t care for anybody to think that what we say is politically motivated; we don’t care about that. What we care about is the interest of the Gambian people. We cannot allow the meager resources of this country to be plundered by a few selfish individuals and then for them to go scot-free. That we just keep quiet about it because if we speak against it, people will be against us; let them be against us! History will be supporting us and that is what our approach is and we’ll press for the prosecution of people who are recommended for prosecution. If the Government doesn’t do it, probably we’ll ask for legal advice on how to go about it but I hope that the Minister of Justice will not sit back and watch the recommendations of the Auditor-General to be collecting dust in the offices,” he said.
“Gambia’s ranking by Transparency International is shameful! I mean we should be having our heads down and I think really, we should be doing every effort even if the government thinks that that is wrong; there must be some element of truth in it if not one hundred percent. So President Barrow should just call up his people and say look, we cannot allow the good reputation of this country to be tarnished by people who hold office and make these offices their ground for making money, we cannot allow that,” he added.
President Adama Barrow has been accused of not living up to key campaign promises that he would fight corruption and ensure justice for victims of the country’s brutal human rights abuse under ex-President YahyaJammeh.
Midway into its fifth year, the Barrow government has so far failed to attract foreign direct investments. Youth unemployment is stubbornly high and public institutions are faced with enormous challenges. Healthcare is almost non-existent, as Barrow and officials come under frequent criticism for amassing wealth and building expensive properties.
Barrow denies the accusations, saying his government is delivering well on promises.
For all of Gambia’s problems, many say the nation has much to be proud of.
“It’s one of the countries in the world that is peaceful, a Gambian name withheld who came to Gambia to celebrate its independence. “The feeling of freedom is what I feel in Gambia. Gambia is a feeling that I don’t believe can be replicated anywhere in the world.”