The Grass That Never Grows 

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By: Pa Alhagie Musa Kassama 

The Gambia is one of the smallest countries found west of the Prime Meridian and north of the equator. It has a population that is relatively less than three (3) million, with a huge youthful population whose potentials remain untapped since it regained her political independence from Great Britain in February 18, 1965. Following independence with the ascension of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara to the throne of presidency, the hopes and aspirations of many Gambians raised exponentially in spite of being labelled as an “improbable nation” because of its limited resources and poor economy. However, Jawara and high ranking officials of his newly born government stood their ground very firmly and proven beyond the imagination of the global community that ensuring a functioning administration is not only determined by the size of the country but by the demonstrated commitment and vision of its leadership. This was evident during the early days of his government when many had already remained uncertain about the prospects of a new global south nation called Gambia.

Clearly, after ruling the country for almost three decades, Jawara in his blessed memory made a name for himself on the global stage. Several international awards and recognitions for his tremendous contributions and commitment to the protection and preservation of peace and human rights were acknowledged and appreciated by the international community. According to the elders who lived during the first republic, food was in abundance through the intervention and support of the government to farmers to increase domestic production of rice as the staple food of the country. Cost of living was thrice or so less than it is today. People lived a happy and contented life under a man whom many described as peaceful and selfless that ultimately earned him “Kairaba” which means abundance of peace; such that the announcement of his resignation from being the president of the republic was greeted with strong resistance and mixed feelings from the local people. He ruled the country under the guiding principles of democracy, rule of law, and good governance even though some insignificant cases of corruption involving senior members of his administration were reported.

In July 1994, after an abortive putsch of 1981 led by Kukoi Samba Sanyang which left many elderly people with stack memories, a military junta forcibly overthrew a democratically elected government of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara. Prompted by massive corruption and poor conditions of service, the junta promised to change the status quo and never to return to the barracks despite the constant international pressure for the immediate restoration of constitutional order. From 1994 to December 2016, Gambians were leaving under the iron-fist leadership of a brutal dictator. Extrajudicial killings, forced disappearance, and unlawful arrest and detention took in different shapes in the Gambian politics. To the blinded supporters and sympathizers of the brutal regime, these were misguided allegations to put the reputation of the tyrannical rule under disrepute. It is not lost on me that one must appreciate and acknowledge the whiteness of the teeth of a dog with all its associated undesirable behavior. Under Jammeh, the Gambia arguably witnessed unprecedented infrastructural development, especially the establishment of the University of the Gambia in 1999. Roads, health centers, and schools were built to improve the quality of service delivery. Public security was strengthened, civil and public servants became more disciplined and considerate of the ethics and standard procedural manuals of the workforce.

However, with instilled fear in many Gambians, a once hardworking young man turned himself into a beast with the unapologetic use of state resources and its security apparatus against his own people. The economy became crumbled as a result of centralized corruption—-living on the sweats of poor suffering Gambians. The seed of the grass that was sown by the preceded government stopped growing. Anger, frustration, and public outcries all fell on deaf ears as we yearned for a transition from the dictatorship to a more liberal society. The lives of vocal and prominent Gambians were under threat forcing many to flee to seek international protection elsewhere. The accumulated experiences of Gambians under a brutal dictator gave impetus to the formation of a coalition of seven registered political parties as the ultimate political strategy to remove Jammeh from power.

Fast forward on December 1 2016, Gambians of all backgrounds spoke the same language and went to the polls to decide their own fate. Amma Darko is right in her novel” Faceless” that “No seed grows into harvest joys without the planter’s diligent labor and love.” The seed of change was sown on December 01st and we were waiting to see it grows on the following day Friday, 02nd December, 2016. Gambians, both home and abroad, became anxious to know the outcome of the elections, so was the international community as Jammeh was a hard nut to crack by the Europeans throughout his 22 years of dictatorial rule. No sooner the winner of the hotly contested presidential election was declared than Gambians flooded the streets of the country in jubilant mood. Initially, he conceded defeat to Adama Barrow in a recorded telephone conversation but as if revelation came to him few days later, he changed his words and announced on sate TV that the results were manipulated; therefore, rejected in totality until we go back to the polls. This unexpected announcement was made in a threatening voice that threw many into a state of despair and confusion. This marked the beginning of ‘political impasse’ in the country which significant number of indigenes returning to their origins after years of lost identity. Some foreign nationals lost their lives, while seeking refuge with their families in overloaded vehicles. This is not something to be celebrated but to be remembered in the political revolution of the country.

With three-year term campaign promised, Adama Barrow was entrusted with the remarkable responsibility of running the affairs of Gambians, majority of whom were immersed in renewed hope. However, these hopes for new Gambia, for new constitution, and blooming economy, and gainful employment for the youth were dashed. Today, with massive reported cases of corruption, misappropriation of public funds, insecurity, the use of our foreign service as a dumping ground for rejected and unwanted politicians, galloping inflation, daily rising costs of living, etc. has rendered many Gambians despondent.

Under the watchful eyes of Barrow, impunity is seen as a normal thing, our institutions turned into profitable family enterprises, leaving the poor at the mercy of God. The Gambia with its small population is ranked one of the highest indebted countries with an under-reported external debt standing at over D99.09 billion, and a significant drop in remittance flow. What could have been the factor other than run-away corruption and mismanagement of public resources? The young and the old have a responsibility to rescue this country from sinking further deep in the coming 2026 presidential election. If nothing is done, the grass will remain stunted and we will only continue languishing in our own misfotunes and complaining to a government that has eyes but cannot see, ears but cannot hear and conscience if any that cannot prick.

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