Many have asked what were Gambian civil society and various individuals doing during the Dictatorship.
Well, from my files I wish to share two portions from a risk assessment study I did for ECOWAS in 2011 about the Gambia. Between 2006 and 2014 I used to submit weekly early warning reports to the Early Warning Department of ECOWAS on the social, economic and political situation in the Gambia as well as preparing occasional assessment reports. This particular assessment, commissioned by the Early Warning Department of ECOWAS was meant to understand the situation in member states and determine appropriate actions.
When I now see what is happening in Gunjur, Faraba, Taneneh, Manjai and many other areas involving land, I can only say this was a déjà vu as I had concluded then that land will undoubtedly be one of the eruption points for the Gambia in the near future. Read for yourself and tell me your views.
This first paragraph is from a subsection to highlight potential conflict issues and the second paragraph is an excerpt from the conclusion.
“Emerging Conflict and Conflict Management”
The issue of land grabbing and tribalism must be given serious consideration. The economic policy of the regime rests on liberalization with very little regulation or incredible concessions. Either way, it allows for the control and ownership of prime lands by either very rich Gambians or non-Gambians or both to the total exclusion of indigenes.
Furthermore it raises the cost of land thus making it difficult to access by Gambians especially women. This does not augur well for peace and stability as already several land cases have been taken to court, and sporadic clashes have also taken place in some communities over the issue. The proliferation of estate developers therefore poses a threat to communities and citizens to own land.
Even the national housing agency [SSHFC] offers little solution to this issue as its houses and land resources remain high above the means of the average Gambian worker who are supposed to be their beneficiaries in the first place. There have also been instances when certain people in some communities, in their desire to have political recognition and patronage, have given to the President vast array of fertile lands belonging to some other clans without their permission or consent. This has brought disharmony and hatred in these communities, and serves as a flashpoint for communal violence or conflict.”
The Gambia bears all the hallmark of a failed state. There is only one joint holding the nation together and that is the Executive. Not because it is a unifying and democratic factor, but because it has alienated and overshadowed all other structures and organizations, albeit violently. Evidently the Executive, in this case the President lacks the capacity to hold everything together without the use of force and violent, for long. This is all the more reason why the collapse of the Gambia will be hard and painful unless an urgent intervention is taken to awaken the Executive to its untenable stance and make an urgent reverse.
ECOWAS and the international community must not satisfy themselves with the semblance of peace and multiparty democracy prevailing at the moment. Under the façade of this seemingly democratic dispensation lies a deeply rotten and disintegrating socioeconomic and political system whose destruction will have far-reaching consequences for the sub-region at a time when ECOWAS, AU and the UN are already fatigued with on-going conflict and post-conflict states.
A conflagration in the Gambia does not only affect directly and immediately the Senegambia-Guinea Bissau enclave, but also will lead to major destabilizations in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Ghana, Ivory Coast and faraway and mighty Nigeria as well.
The reason for this is the presence of a large and well-established populations from these countries in the Gambia, coupled with the intrigues that the Gambian regime has had with most governments and situations in the region, a violent conflict will not only be wild but difficult to contain given the level of injustice and anger harboured silently by the people.”
This was part of my report to ECOWAS in 2011 under an anonymous name!
I urge President Barrow to therefore pay particular attention to land issues within the wider social, economic and cultural rights of Gambians if we are to keep our republic in tact in peace and harmony.