How DARE you insult Senegalese–on Senegalese soil–at Karang! In case you don’t know, whose Ambassador tabled a motion at the United Nations Security Council to condemn the Kaninilai Butcher/Dictator, when he disputed the results of the December 2016 elections and refused to stepdown? Senegal. Whose Ambassador used the cover of diplomatic privilege and smuggled Alhagie Momar Njie–the Father of New Gambia–to safety? Senegal. If Mr. Njie had buckled under pressure from the Kaninlai Butcher/Dictator and altered the results of the elections, you would not have been a Cabinet Secretary, today. Whose soldiers suppressed the 1981 coup of Kukoi Samba Sanyang? Senegal. It is very undiplomatic and unbecoming of you, as a Cabinet secretary, to insult 16 million Senegalese, on their soil. You cozied up to the Kaninlai Butcher/Dictator more than any other Gambian politician during the dictatorship. Refresh my memory, but I do not remember you spending time in jail, like O.J., Halifa, or Ousainou. Among the Gambian politicians, you were the most willing to collaborate with the Kaninlai Butcher/Dictator.
In case you have forgotten–the Gambian people are not collectively suffering from “Amnesia” and are appreciative of Senegal’s intervention. Senegal expended blood and treasure twice to save Gambian Democracy. What did the breakdown in relations between Sir Dawda and Abdou Joof bring upon Gambia? Twenty two years of dictatorship, mayhem, misery and despondency. We have witnessed emptiness, brashness, divisiveness, and stupidity masquerade as toughness, decisiveness, and bravery from the kaninlai Butcher/Dictator. The Gambian people have had enough of that movie and want no part of it, anymore. Our Tourism and Fishing industries, major sources of employment, can learn a lot from their counterparts in Thailand, a country you maligned in your speech. I am not calling for your resignation—that is President Barrow’s call–to make; however, as a member of the Cabinet, your words carry a lot of weight; as a result, you should think before you speak.
Over 50% of Gambians have their roots in Senegal or have relatives in Senegal. Personally, my mother’s family is Serrer, from the Kaolack region of Senegal. I have uncles and aunts in the villages of Barria and Kularri; therefore, I take umbrage at your statement. You are from Saloum; most of Saloum lies in Senegal. I am from Nuimi/Jokadou, most of which lie in Senegal. Do you have any clue the irreparable damage your remarks could potentially have on our relations with Senegal? I am Tumbul Trawally–in case you do not remember–your General Science Teacher at Kaur Junior Secondary School. “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”! I posted the article below on my Facebook page on April 1st, 2017; therefore, I do not want to bore my friends who have already seen it. For those, please disregard! It is a reminder to Hamat Bah and his ilk of Senegal’s importance in maintaining Democracy in Gambia. It also gives a historical perspective of the danger, to Gambia, of a bad relationship between our two countries.
Collaboration with Senegal is an Existential/Survival issue for Gambia
Having a cordial and a close relation with Senegal is not only necessary–it is profoundly critical for Gambia’s survival. We are a very small nation–which can easily fall prey to a maniacal dictator like Yahya Jammeh. When Kukoi Samba Sanyang attempted to overthrow the democratically elected government of Sir Dawda Jawara, in 1981, it was President Abdou Joof of Senegal who came to his rescue, and with covert American and overt British support. On the day of the coup, Kukoi and his allies cut the international lines of communication; it was the American Embassy, located a block from the Police Headquarters, at the then GUC building that provided communication between the loyalist forces holed up at the police headquarters and Sir Dawda, in Senegal. The British trained forces at Farafenni came to reinforce the loyalist forces at the Police headquarters in Banjul. One of the heroes of the British trained forces was Sergeant Momodou Njie, brother of then Army Commander, Ndow Njie. Consequently, the loyalist forces at the Police Headquarters were able to hold off Kukoi, till the arrival of the Senegalese forces, to crush the rebellion. However, that was at the height of the Cold War between America and the former Soviet Union. Each super-power was vying to expand its sphere of influence, at the expense of the other.
Senegalese forces stayed after the suppression of the coup, to maintain the peace, similar to their current role. After the dust settled, a confederation of the two countries was formed; unfortunately, it collapsed because Sir Dawda was unable to sell it to a sceptical Gambian population. Sir Dawda’s job was made even more difficult, in 1984, when The Gambia hosted the Zone 2 sports, to commemorate the opening of the Independence Stadium. I fully remember getting off work at Standard Bank, not going home to eat lunch, but heading straight for the stadium. In the finals between Gambia and Senegal, the latter scored a lone winning goal in the waning minutes of the game. Every Gambian in the stadium was devastated. You could hear a pin drop! After the game, Senegalese forces descended on the stadium to protect the Senegalese players, which was viewed as an affront to Gambian sovereignty, by the Gambian spectators. The hostility towards Senegalese in Gambia ensued. All of a sudden, we viewed Senegalese forces as occupiers—not as liberators. This was just a mere 3 years after Senegal invested blood and treasure to liberate Gambia from Kukoi. Shortly after the game, the Senegalese Ambassador was declared persona non grata, and returned to Dakar. The relationship between the two countries started to fray–from then on. It reached its nadir when Abdou Joof pulled the Senegalese troops from Gambia, and the inevitable collapse of the confederation. Sir Dawda felt vulnerable after their departure; consequently, he pleaded to Babangida of Nigeria for a replacement force. Babangida sent in around 160 Nigerian troops to guard the president, and to act as a symbol of latent force, to discourage a repeat of a Kukoi type revolt within the military.
In June 1993, Nigeria held a general election, which was clearly won by Chief Masood Abiola, a Yoruba. Babangida, a Hausa, from northern Nigeria, did not want a Yoruba as his successor, therefore, denying Abiola the throne. There were wide spread demonstrations all over Nigeria when the peoples’ verdict in electing Chief Abiola was subverted. In August 1993, two months after the election, Babangida stepped down and an Interim National government was formed. During that chaos–came Sani Abacha in November 1993. In July 1994, Yahya Jammeh and his cohorts overthrew Sir Dawda. Unlike Kukoi’s coup in 1981, the Cold War between America and the former Soviet Union had ended, 3 years earlier, in 1991. America was the winner and the sole super-power in the world. There was no need for fighting with Russia over influence in the world. America would have intervened on Sir Dawda’s behalf if Yahya’s putsch had been during the Cold war. Remember, it was an American ship that Sir Dawda sought refuge in and dropped him off in Dakar. Further, America was in no mood to intervene in foreign disputes. American soldiers were mutilated and dragged on the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993, a year before the coup. Senegalese President Abdou Joof was still smarting over the breakup of the confederation; as a result, he ignored Jawara when he was dropped off in Dakar. Meanwhile, Abacha–No Friend of Democracy–was in-charge in Nigeria.
It was as if all the stars were misaligned against Gambia; the coup could not have taken place at a worse time for Sir Dawda and Gambians. In came Yahya Jammeh and 22 years of Mayhem! He killed or maimed countless Gambians, sent hundreds into involuntary exile, plundered the Treasury, and injected Tribalism into every facet of life, the likes of which we had never seen. The suffering that the Gambians endured under Yahya Jammeh cannot be expressed in words; I do not think words would do it any justice. When I mentioned in the title “the importance of collaboration with Senegal as an existential/survival issue”, it was a euphemism for the difficult journey we went through. An example was the story of a 12 year old Gambian boy, who returned to Gambia after failing to cross the Mediterranean, being interviewed about his ordeal. He could not even understand a basic question in English. I could tell he was severely traumatised and his level of education was well below his age. A twelve year-old boy should be in school or working alongside his parents–anywhere in the world. These are the future of our country! That is the legacy the Butcher/Dictator left us.
With the Cold War in the rear view mirror, only Senegal can guarantee our democracy. Humans are fallible and can sometimes be very myopic. Barely three years after Senegalese troops rescued us from Kukoi, we were calling for their expulsion, after the Zone 2 finals, in 1984. I will confess: I was one of those calling for their expulsion. Some bloggers have already started calling Adama Barrow Macky Sallah’s poodle or lackey. Macky Sallah has genuine love for Adama Barrow. It could be due to their common Fullah heritage (Barrow’s mother being Fullah). If that is the source of their closeness and friendship, so be it! One thing I can say for certain: their relationship is more cordial and genuine than the relationship between Sir Dawda and Abdou Joof. Let us not also forget that it was Macky Sallah’s Ambassador to the United Nations–who tabled a motion for the condemnation of the Butcher/Dictator. Our Treasury does not pay the salary of the Senegalese Ambassador to the United Nations.
We cannot afford a repeat of another Horrendous Kaninlai Butcher/Dictator like Yahya Jammeh. If it replicates, we may not exist as a country. Imagine who would have been left in Gambia–if there were no Visa restrictions during the Butcher/Dictator’s rein. Very few! At the bare minimum, there should be cooperation between our armies and the educational systems. I learned French at high school, but I think French should be taught in all schools, starting at the primary level, alongside English. That does not mean we should give up our sovereignty and become another region of Senegal, or English cease to be our official language; but commonality of language breaks barriers between peoples (which reminds me of the common Fullah language between Adama Barrow and Mackey Sallah). Senegalese primary schools should start teaching English, which will benefit them, too, because English is the official language of the world. Take it from the Europeans! The French dialect spoken in Normandy is slightly different from the one spoken in southern France, but they both understand standard French spoken in the Paris region, the lingua franca of the country. Likewise, the Spanish dialect spoken in the Catalonia or Basque regions of northern Spain is slightly different from the one spoken in Andalusia, but they both understand standard Spanish.
On the economic front, I stated in a previous posting (Job Creation in The Gambia) ways to integrate our economy with Senegal’s. I mentioned building a bridge at Banbatenda and between Barra and Banjul. The former will ease transportation between Casamance and Senegal; the latter will spur growth in the Nuimis and Badibous and increase commerce between our two countries. In 2001, the African Union formed the “New Partnership for Africa’s Development” (NEPAD) at the Heads of State meeting in Lusaka, Zambia. It was an economic development programme adopted by the AU. The champions of NEPAD were Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, and Abdoulie Wade of Senegal. One of the Organisation’s goals was to form a barrier to the southward encroachment of the Sahara desert. Trees would have been planted from the Atlantic Ocean in the west (northern Senegal), to the Indian Ocean in the east (Somalia). The project required billions of dollars, so I think it has been shelved. However, Gambia and Senegal can collaborate on planting trees on Senegal’s northern border. This should not be hard because the Senegalese river (source of water) happens to be near the northern border of Senegal. If Senegal stops the southward spread of the Sahara desert, The Gambia will be protected from drought. Within the Gambia itself, the Forestry ministry should plant trees and begin to wean us from charcoal and firewood, for cooking. Once again, as I mentioned in a previous posting, damming the river Gambia will enable us generate enough electricity. If we generate hydro-electric power, the need for charcoal and firewood will diminish, forests will develop, and rainfall will increase. It is not a coincidence that the Gambia’s heaviest rainfalls are usually recorded around Nyambai forest, in Brikama.
As we saw after the Zone 2 finals in 1984, people can be very passionate about sports, especially the young. Look at the damage it did to our relations with Senegal! And that was during Jawara’s time! The Kaninlai Butcher/Dictator exploited that passion, for his selfish interests, to a whole new level. Last but not least, Gambia should no longer be a sanctuary for the Casamance rebels. The Kaninlai Butcher/Dictator’s sick mind always harboured forming a majority Jola nation; therefore, he became the biggest benefactor of the Casamance rebels, to achieve his perverted and demented wish. I think the Casamance civil war will come to an end, now that their financier is in exile. The rebels will be more open to negotiations, and Senegal will be able to reallocate the war resources to other areas of development. These are the same rebels who raided Gambian villages along the southern border for food, livestock, and other valuables. Their presence in Gambia will complicate our relations with Senegal. Gambia will not fully be at peace—if Senegal is at war; she surrounds us on all sides–but one.