My name is Ebrima Manneh. I am a retired Service member of the United States Army of Gambian origin. 18 February 2023 marked the 58th anniversary since Gambia attained independence. The occasion was celebrated with mixed feelings from the population, some viewing the commemoration as not worth celebrating due to the current state of affairs in the country, especially the trends in governance, with critics lamenting rampant corruption, state-orchestrated tribal feuding due to the impartial dispensation in allocating resources and opportunities with some ethnic groups and loyalists of the current regime favored over others.
Despite these observations and concerns, independence and attaining self-rule, and the tremendous democratic foundations laid by the founding fathers led by Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, putting what was once considered “an improbable nation” on a progressive path with a diverse people is worth celebrating and commemorating. The small gains, the peace, progress, and prosperity that the people once enjoyed were interrupted by 22 years of dictatorship in which almost all Gambians and stakeholders were victimized. The ordeal was long, painful, and brutal but was eventually brought to an end by the resolve of the people, the international partners, and other stakeholders.
The end of the dictatorship undoubtedly ushered in celebration and hope of new freedom with an enduring democracy. However, the democratic gains, in the views of many, were short-lived, demonstrated by the failure of the current regime to “overcome the legacies of dictatorship.” Moreover, the disintegration and sacking of coalition partners replaced by participants and active members of the former dictatorship holding prominent positions in the current government marked a setback to the democratic gains and a breach of trust of the victims, citizens, and partners who sacrificed to end the dictatorship.
Just like the Gambian citizens previously reached out to us to engage our members of Congress, elected officials, and other governing bodies to plead the case of the Gambia, similar assistance is being sought regarding the current affairs. The announcement of the current regime to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate local government agencies may be legal, yet it met with mixed feelings. The indication is the resurgence of the old dictatorial tendencies using the government systems, mainly the judiciary and security forces to target opponents.
I want to utilize this opportunity as a stakeholder to express the concerns and distress of the Gambian citizens who feel that the groups targeted by the commission are effectively working and serving the interests of the people. The citizens consider the moves by the government unfair and a mere witch hunt. The citizens further express that the government of the Gambia remained silent on many allegations of corruption, including accusations of malpractices of the President’s office interfering in the $20.56 million Banjul Port project bidding, and malpractices involving some cabinet members, which have all been swept under the rug.
The Gambians and stakeholders request your intervention to prevent this and other poor governance practices from derailing democratization and stability in the sub-region and Africa. After ending the 22 years of brutality and dictatorship, the people deserve to live under the rule of law instead of returning to a “rule by law,” which promotes injustice, derails diversity, and is a setback to warranted reconciliation after the dictatorship. Thank you for your time. I appreciate your continued support for the welfare of the people and for promoting the development, peace, and safety of the region and the world.
US Army, SGM (Retired)