Suntou Touray (A Recent trip to Senegal In Januray)
Politics is working in Senegal, and the Gambia, power struggles and empty penmanship leads the way..
After a 3 years absent from the shores of Africa. I took a plunge last month for a near three weeks holiday and fact finding in Senegambia. The trip I will admit brought to light the realisation of how globally inter-connected we are now. In Senegal where I spend a considerable time, things are working, people are always on the move. Whilst the Gambia, the stark reality of dictatorship and fear infect the elites much more than the ordinary people.
There's hardly anything to compare the Gambia with Senegal with in 2013, nearly nothing can be liken to the other. To understand Africa, as an African living nearly permanently in Europe or America, you have to be one of the people as soon you land in Africa. Sadly, through my observations, you encounter, Americanised Gambians and Europeanised Senegalise and Gambians likewise. They cannot just put the façade away and be one the people.
The Gambia is commercially dying, I mean dying. Consumers don't have disposable income and the means to generating wealth is all strangled by either state regulations or high cost of basic food and necessities. The ferry crossing into Barra is danger zone waiting to erupt. The Ferry it is said is old and should be disuse. It took from 7 hours for a car to cross from Banjul to Barra in a Sunday normal crossing. Vehicles wait at the Ferry terminal from 6am in the morning, just to cross in 5 hours time.
The Ferry regularly encounter breakdown in the middle of the sea. It is unbelievable the impact such disruption has on business and passengers. The Gambia is a disaster politically, economically and socially.
Gambians have learn the best they could how to survive in the very hostile environment. People now demands payments for things we all use take for granted as either family members or friends. People will hardly offer kindnesses for free this days. A young man who spent eight months holiday in the Gambia made this phenomenon glaringly clear when I meet him in Casablanca Muhammed the IV Airport. At the Moroccan Airport, the young man explain to how educated he has become in the Gambia for the eight months he spent there.
The joblessness in Spain is driving many Gambians to return home. These young men have risked it all at high cost to journey to Europe, and now Europe is jobless, they are returning home with the little they have save to farm and be with their wives. However, on their return, these young men are struck with demands and disappointments.
The young man explain how much people want things without working for it. Anyway, the quirk-mere that ensues in the country is reaching melting point. The positive appearance we can garner is the fact that, people are losing the fear that once gripped the nation.
Gambians are now bored of their own self-inflicted fear. They have realised that, Europe neither America will hoist Yahya Jammeh and his criminal gang out of power. People have commence open discussion of issues happening. They have started saying, he cannot jail all of us. Let us hope that, spirit continues.
Senegal: I am very impress with the level of political maturity in Senegal. I visited many places and spoke to different people with my basic Wollof. The impression overall is that, the people cannot be politically enslaved by anyone. Even the Maky Sall government is ongoing some intense scrutiny during his first year in office. From Taxi drivers to grey old men, politics, the economy etc is the bread and butter discussion.
People in Senegal in general are self-dependent and trade oriented than Gambians. I attended the Radho sponsored media conference in Dakar, where Sedat Jobe spoke eloquently in French. The even was well attended by Gambian dissidents. I was told, political meetings like that in the past would have been less well attended.
The views of Senegalese politicians is simply that “Gambians cannot keep talking on the media and writing on the newspapers without wanting to confront Yahya Jammeh on the street”. One politicians further made it clear that, 'Senegal don't see the Gambian problem as a priority'. They are in effect saying, we Gambians want to 'eat our cake and still have it'.
I was sadden by the opinions of the Senegalese about Gambians. In fact, Senegalese are baffled at our cowardice and lack of courage in tackling a little man who pumped himself to be what he is not.
A lady street vendor selling beans and bread opined to us whilst we were speaking about Yahya Jammeh. She blunlt told us, 'you Gambians are very funny', in peach sleek Wollof. She went further to say, can Yahya Jammeh kill the whole country if you stand together? We looked at each other and said no. She said, then what have Gambians been waiting for in uniting against the sadistic regime?
We couldn't answer, because Senegalese embrace each other not that, they don't have underlying tension in either religious sectarianism or ethnic power struggles, but they understood one thing. A divided nation cannot take charge over the direction of a nation.
The opposition against Abdoulie Wade brought that to light. The politicians never hesitate to back Maky Sall since his party got the larger vote share in the contest against Wade. Yet, 200 kilometre to the border, the Gambians opposition don't want to embrace such a system. What could be the causes of this phenomenon?
Senegalese political culture is working because the elite's hatred of each other is at a controllable level whilst that of the peanuts colony Gambia, the reality is different. Smaller political parties in Senegal have no qualms in recognising the strengths of rival parties. A young activist told me “we backed Maky Sall because, all we want is for Wade to leave”(Gaye)
The activist further mention that, the demonstrations against Abdoulie Wade left some lasting causalities some died and other badly injured.
Abdoulie Wade have left and Senegal is a steady course of change. Yet Abdoulie Wade has transform Senegal with multiple new roads, opening up and connecting the country between Dakar and Cassamance and other regions. Wade has built new suburbs in Dakar, solving the housing crisis. Wade has brought some equality between the religious brotherhoods in Senegal. Where the previous governments left the major Tariqas (Mourids, Nyassens, Sey, Kunta, Taal) to benefit from state sponsorship and patronage, Abdoulie Wade reached out to the Janhanka, Mandinka and Fula religious brotherhoods in Cassamance region, thus elevating those religious households, creating some pride in those regions. The economy wasn't doing badly either under Wade. Above all, Abdoulie Wade wasn't a serial human right abuser. He allowed the law to takes it course and due process seen to be leading the way. Yet, the opposition against him became unanimous and solid.
In essence, with all of Abdoulie Wade's achievements, the Senegalese people wanted change more than one man at the helm of their country for over ten years. The opposition united against Wade, because they understood that, change is always positive, no matter it chaotic nature sometimes.
Gambian oppositions all refused to rally behind the bigger opposition party in the last elections, to the Senegalese, nothing can be enough excuse for such a behavior If there are other reasons more compelling than, seeing the back of Yahya Jammeh and his oppression, then the lesser opposition parties in the Gambia don't come to that realisation yet.
How many cruel things have happen since the re-election of Yahya Jammeh in November 2011? For starters, 9 people were executed, Imam Bakwsu Fofana tortured and exiled, Imam Baba Leigh still in detention, many more people still remain in prison, many unlawful murders remain unanswered, the land seizure and usurpation of private properties continues, three media outlets closed, the cost of living sky rocketing, now what could be the reason why, the smaller opposition parties refused to rally and form a Coalition with a bigger and larger opposition party? Could it be ethnicity, could it be power ambition on the side of the smaller party leaders etc? Whatever it is, the Senegalese sees us collectively as failures to our country and future, and they cannot be the catalyst to solve our own hatred of each other. Because, no amount of reservations within the opposition rank should be more urgent than, seeing the back of President Jammeh. After all, change is always positive in a collective landscape, even where the impression seems otherwise. People will always learn to grow from a change position. The blame for Gambia's pain lies on every single Gambian, but the burden is on the shoulder of the smaller opposition party leaders.
I will provide my own narrative for the bigger Gambian opposition party on my next contribution. Meanwhile, I just hope someone remind the opinionated opposition politicians writing letters to Jammeh and the Inspector General that, that has never work yesterday and will hardly ever work today. Masterminding disunity is the cause of our state of affairs today. Whatever Jammeh does, he knows some opposition politicians see others as more urgent priorities than him. That is Yahya Jammeh's saving grace, not his intimidation and harassment.