. (Photo by Allan Muturi/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“The Gambia is a special case. Instead of us to deal with the response to COVID 19, strategizing, developing policies, we deal with allowances…. The Gambia is unique in the sense that the things that Ministers are not supposed to deal with just come to the bear and if you don’t deal with it there is disaster, so we end up dealing with it.”  

These were the words of the Minister of Health, Dr. Amadou Samateh before the National Assembly on Saturday, May 16 2020.  All people of good will are moved by truth when it is honestly and sincerely told. This is the feeling that I had listening to the Minister, speaking before an assembly that looked perplexed and mesmerized by his revelations.

From the Minister’s statement, it is as clear as crystal that whatever initial hope that we have as a nation in the fight against COVID 19 has turned out to be an expensive and exploitative morass that has emerged as a huge wastepipe designed and manufactured by a corruptive syndicate of cabals and charlatans to endlessly suck the finances and resources of our struggling nation into a bottomless pit.  

Corruption has become endemic in The Gambia.  There is no doubt that corruption has been with this country since the First Republic, but we must state that it was the callous Jammeh’s regime that institutionalised corruption in The Gambia. 

What is happening in The Gambia under the Barrow regime is very pathetic and unacceptable. Corruption has become an absolute way of life organised and orchestrated by our own brothers and sisters that we have placed in positions of responsibility, but who ended up betraying our trust; people who are quickly offered respect by our society because of their grandiose haftans and grandboubous, their designer made suits and ties,  putting up an appearance of affluence and conviviality, fed with religious bigotry but are sheer fake icons lacking truth, honesty and trustworthiness as they rape, ravage and plunder our public resources with reckless abandon for their own selfish interest.  

The outcry of Dr. Amadou Samateh at the National Assembly on Saturday is a clarion national call for a relentless, sustained and brutal battle against corruption in our country. 

The call is not only for the ears of our representatives in parliament but for every meaningful citizen to be battle ready for the clearing out of the misfits in our public institutions which requires a robust scrutiny of every sector and perhaps the first baby steps for the required and much needed “system change”.

Perhaps our greatest shortsightedness or even failure to put in place “The Gambia that we want” was our lackadaisical attitude and unnecessary benevolence to effectively weed out the hard core Jammeh enablers entirely out of the system. 

Surprisingly, we continued with business as usual and allowed these enablers to masquerade and falsely transform themselves into “reformers”. The enablers in the system have no reform agenda, all they have to offer is what they have done for their former master; loot, plunder and destroy. 

They have managed to build their own kingdoms and chiefdoms within the public service during the disastrous Jammeh years and had established an undignified convoy, a conveyor belt of looters that work in cohesion and pattern in every ministry ranging from ministers to permanent secretaries, to directors and project managers, messengers and drivers enriching and feeding themselves with the bread of sorrow.

Over the years the corruption syndicate in the public service have been able to spread their poisonous  tentacles to every sector and poke their noses to everything they can illegally gather, including land, medical equipment, vehicles, spare parts, fuel coupons, ghost workers,  manufacturing unbalanced balance sheets, false reports, inflated prices, fake price list. The list is infinitum.

The clarion call by the Minister against corruption cannot therefore be deflated or just brush under the velvet carpet; it should not also be allowed to fall on deaf ears. The time is NOW, for us to put in place a civil society defense force against corruption that will serve as a watchdog to scrutinize every government expenditure and guide against mismanagement and wastage.  

I will not hesitate to invite all human rights activists in the country and most especially my comrades in the media to be part of this defense force and to employ a more aggressive investigative journalism strategy that is aimed at exposing the corruption syndicate beyond redemption. 

On the other hand the government must quickly put in place an access to information legislature that guarantees maximum disclosure and empowers every citizen to have unlimited access to government documents that are held by the ministries on behalf of the citizenry.  

An access to information legislation is a crucial pillar in the fight against corruption as it enhances transparency, accountability, good governance and the rule of law.

As journalists and handlers of information we should be aware that the corruption cabal will never hesitate to use their front men in media circles or cyber warriors in defending their illicit acts. They will surely want to use the media for their own selfish course to discredit every accusation against the cabal; they will perpetrate lies against those who come out to stop them and design propaganda campaigns that aim to discredit the efforts of those who speak against them just as the minister had said. 

The corruption syndicate will try to sabotage every meaningful effort of any minister, parliamentarian or individual who reveals their illicit dealings. It is evident that fighting corruption everywhere is a Herculean task, as those involved are often among the “elite” in society and walk along the corridors of power.  

Noting that no individual no matter how intelligent and strong can fight corruption alone, Gambian civil society must therefore stand in solidarity with Dr. Amadou Samateh in this battle to show strength and perseverance under the most ruthless pressure.

We should not allow Dr. Samateh to be in this battle alone as this will only enlarge his frustration. The fight against corruption is a collective national responsibility that requires the participation of the masses. 

We cannot also allow Dr. Samateh to resign under pressure as this will signal an easy victory for the cabal. Civil society must come out and support Dr. Samateh and collectively take the battle to the doorsteps of the corruption syndicate. 

The Minister had already given government the information that it needs and President Barrow must act on this information by authorizing the police and intelligence unit to conduct a thorough investigation into the affairs of the Health ministry and arrest and prosecute everybody found wanting in the plundering and ravaging of state resources. No Commissions please.

Concerning the Ministry of Health, Government, especially President Barrow must demonstrate his unflinching support to Dr. Amadou Samateh and help the ministry to make an inventory in every sector. Every civil servant on the payroll of government at the ministry must be quickly verified through a biometric identification system and their salaries and benefits paid to their bank accounts. 

All unnecessary over the counter payments and the carrying of bulk cash in Toyota Pickups to the provinces  must come to a complete halt as this is the breeding ground for ghost workers. 

Secondly, all accounts at the Ministry of health including Project accounts that were opened without the knowledge and authorization of the Accountant General should be immediately frozen and all details and transactions submitted to the Accountant General for scrutiny.  

Furthermore all accounts of the ministry in every commercial bank in the country should be investigated with immediate effect. 

Unless this is done, we will remain to be seen as the “peaceful and beautiful country” where the ugliest things happen; a country where policy instability and unabated inconsistency is the order of the day; a country that has bowed down in disgrace to corruption and without hope for redemption; and a country with a broken compass and a damaged radio system at the high seas unknowingly sailing into the depths of the Bermuda Triangle.

It was Frantz Fannon who once said “Each generation must out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it. The future will have no pity for those men (and women), who possessing the exceptional privileges of being able to speak words of truth to their oppressors, have taken refuge in the attitude of passivity, of mute indifference and some of cold complicity”. 

We must come out as Gambians to condemn corruption in all its  ramifications because it is only through our collective efforts that it can be stamped out.  We must accept that a drastic disease requires a drastic surgery. If we must survive as a nation we must make a choice between breakthrough and breakdown.

I stand with Dr. Amadou Samateh. 

Pa Louis Thomasi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *