When will the rain stop beating us? 

Part 1

The Gambia needs a new caliber of political leadership at levels and pragmatic technocrats and public intellectuals with moral rectitude, a key to the Gambia’s success in combating the cankerworm of corruption. 

The nation needs competent and honest politicians, a new elite of professionals, technocrats, and administrators who remain disciplined and uphold the standards of integrity and moral rectitude, those who operate with ethics and who are not merely driven by vengeance, personal gain, or the desire to remain in office for life. 

These political leaders must be judged based on their capability, moral character, a genuine commitment to public service, and their ability to uplift the Gambian citizens’ aspirations and demands. 

It is a tremendous shame that just as it has been through the ages, greed, and self-interest has destroyed the country.

Since Independence, major corruptions and scandals have plagued the Gambia, with the perpetrators persistently evading punishment. 

This is despite the Special Criminal Bill that was passed in Parliament in 1979 during the administration of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara by his Attorney General, Mr. Mohammadou Lamin Saho; also the Evaluation of Assets and Prevention of Corrupt Practices Bill, shepherded in 1982 by another of President Jawara’s Attorney General Mr. Fafa M’bai to regain the public’s confidence in the government’s integrity, such Anti- Corruption laws and Asset Declaration and Liabilities Act in the Gambia must be formulated into law without fear or favour. 

Conflicts of interest or illicit enrichment must be criminalized to fight Corruption. Pragmatism is a dirty word to Gambian administrators, elite professionals, technocrats and public intellectuals, and political leaders.

The Gambian people have been repeatedly failed, as, over the fifty-five years since Independence, the country has been unable to combat corruption, making it a generational issue. 

Gambian political leaders born after Independence should enact laws that best work for the next fifty years, building and improving upon the democratic process by combating the cankerworms of corruption in the Gambia by entrenching the law on Public Officers’ Declaration of Assets, Liabilities, and Business Interests, and the Anti-Corruption Commission law. This piece of law laws is vital to accelerating Gambia’s growth and competitiveness.

It was in this climate of mass disaffection with the PPP government that Kukoi emerged in 1981, and in which Fafa M’bai, Attorney General in 1982, shepherded the Evaluation of Assets and Prevention of Corrupt Practices Bill, which on 31st December 1982 became Act No. 17 of that year. 

We know what happened to Fafa and his Act when the “rapacious mafia” went to work on him. It is not even persuasive to contend that the “society” perceived “the exercise as being manipulated and used as a political weapon targeted principally against the urban elite of a particular ethnic group.” 

Even the history of anti-corruption law itself is one exciting tale about the paradoxes girding the Gambia’s flawed anti-corruption system. The People’s Progressive Party ( PPP) under Sir Dawda Kairaba established the Special Criminal Bill that was passed in Parliament in 1979 by Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mr.Mohammadou Lamin Saho, as well as the Evaluation of Assets and Prevention of Corrupt Practices Bill, shepherded in 1982 Attorney General Mr.Fafa M’bai to regain the public’s confidence in the government’s integrity.

The legacy that most of our political leaders and eminent technocrats and public intellectuals have left is one of greed, selfishness, and impunity, along with a lack of any desire to develop the country or help the people they profess to serve. 

This is despicable enough, as it hinders the economic growth and development of the Gambia. However, it is more dreadful in that, instead of fighting corruption, these leaders are often deeply engaged in dishonesty and exploitation, unscrupulously using their power to entrench and extend their greed and continue to plunder the country. 

Despite the lack of legislation to combat corruption, the public’s perception is that corruption in the government has increased with impunity in many respects; after its Independence, the Gambia moved quickly to confront the problem of corruption. 

However, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) era was inseparable from widespread corruption that took such firm root in the country that ill-gotten gain was flaunted as the norm. 

When the Special Criminal Court Bill was tabled in Parliament in 1979, then-Attorney General M L Saho told Parliament: “It is not alarming to say that this country will be destroyed if this cancer of corruption is not arrested now.” 

He continued to remind that he made “no apologies for this Bill,” adding that “No stone would be left unturned in the fight to protect the interest of the public from the rapacious mafia within our society.” 

In 1980, the view was expressed by one Member of Parliament that “more stringent measures such as hand amputation ought to be introduced” to stem the tide of runaway corruption. 

According to the Gambia News Bulletin, a Parliamentary Secretary suggested that embezzlers should be punished by firing squad in an address to accounting personnel of the government in July 1980. 

It appears that institutions that are meant to safeguard the Gambia and be watchdogs against corruption (e.g., the judiciary, police, security services, and the rule of law) are failing the country, and instead are selectively serving the interests of the elite classes. 

This is the legacy that the Gambia had inherited from its colonial past when such institutions were more often subservient to the all-powerful colonial administrator or governor. 

Instead of changing colonial-era institutions, laws, and values for the better, Gambian ruling parties and leaders continue to entrench the deeply compromised governance systems that have held the country back and against which they fought so much, claiming and promising redemption from such chains. 

As such, over fifty years after its Independence, the Gambia is at a standstill, with greed and self-enriching politics rampant. A centralized political culture highly reminiscent of the colonial administration remains, and it is this refusal to serve the people that are destroying the country.

The Gambian people’s social contract should not only be limited to the electoral process, but existing politicians should also be accountable. They must transparently declare their assets and liabilities whenever they assume public office. 

The Gambian people are dying because money meant for healthcare, education, and agriculture is stolen. Hard-earned tax-payer money is misappropriated directly or indirectly by the custodians of our treasury. Rich or poor, male or female, all of us are affected by corruption, but it does not have to be this way. 

The Gambian people deserve to live in dignity and progress. We walk forward, not backward, and as such, we are growing as a nation.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

Leave a Reply

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