The Gambia is not peaceful, for peace does not necessarily means the mere absence of armed conflict or gunshot, said Madi Jobarteh, a human rights activist.
“For over 50 years, we have lived a life of violence, discrimination and injustice,” he said while speaking at American Corner in Bundung during a symposium in commemoration of International Peace Day, organised by the Peace Ambassadors – The Gambia.
“What is peaceful in The Gambia when families have to spend the night without electricity; when our mothers can die giving birth to another Gambian; when a Gambian child can die before the age of 5 years from preventable diseases; when we can have thousands of our young people without hope, that is no peace,” he said.
“There is no peace if people can finish grade 9 and do not have the means to go to senior secondary school or graduate from grade 12 and do not have the means to go to university, because their parents cannot afford it that is no peace; if young people can be in The Gambia and have no hope of finding a job, that is no peace.”
The human rights activist said poverty of any Gambian in The Gambia is injustice because “there is no reason for any single Gambian to be poor.” For him, there is every reason that every Gambian should be rich or at least be able to live a decent and quality life.
“The Gambia government cannot tell us that we do not have resources, because we have it; the wealth we have in The Gambia is enough to create the country as one of the most advanced countries in the world,” Mr Jobarteh said.
“The millions of dalasis and dollars that have emerged at the Commission are evidences. These are not loans or grants but monies generated inside The Gambia. If the D88 millions that has been used to buy tents (by the former government) had been distributed within 88 public schools in the country every classroom can be air conditioned, tiled and equipped with power point projectors and laptops, but then you go to public school classrooms and find the windows with no curtain and children sitting on cement blocks.”
“The Gambia Revenue Authority alone is collecting up to 10 billion dalasis per annum, not to mention the loans and grants that come to The Gambia, where is that money?”
He said in spite of the money collected, many police stations in the country do not have a vehicle or fuel, or even basic stationery. The same applies to the hospitals and markets.
“Good quality roads in the country after 50 years of independence are countable,” he said. Just from one source, the government is collecting billion yearly; how much do they collect for passports, ID cards, court files and municipalities?”
Jobarteh said it is pathetic that even with the loans and grants the government has been taking, The Gambia is getting poorer;“we need to ask what the money is used for.”
“We have seen the flamboyant lifestyle the past governments have lived – they can have airplanes, expensive cars and travel around the world, but did not build roads, hospitals or schools,” he said.
“Look at the rate of travel of senior government officials and ministers going to countries where Gambia has ambassadors; why can’t those ambassadors represent us at the meetings they are going to? What is so important that ministers are traveling linking city to city, following meeting upon meeting and in the meantime, Gambians are dying because of lack of electricity, water, terrible roads?
“The country belongs to us, citizens, and those in power are our servants, they are supposed to respect, serve, defend and protect us, because we pay them. When the president is afraid of the people we have democracy, but when people are afraid of the president we have dictatorship.”