The Gambia, (land of the smiling coast) and known as one of the smallest countries in West Africa, which gained its independence from the British in 1965. The story of the Gambia can be very sad when it comes to its development, from independent in 1965 to 2018 the country has only three Presidents. This is the result of presidents overstaying in power for far too long and sometimes forgot that they are leading a country not a family business. This problem is not only unique to the Gambia but most countries in Africa.
The current president came to power through election after defeating Africa’s most brutal dictator called Yahya Jammeh, this man came to power through a coup (military takeover) in 1994 as a young lieutenant in the Gambian Army, at a time it seems a good idea to many Gambians as the previous president was in power for thirty years and people wanted a change. As years go by the “darling of the Nation” turn to be a monster dictator who not only killed his people but also terrorize every living soul in that country. The Gambia has a population of 2 million people and an area of around 10,000 square miles, however, it's surrounded on three sides by Senegal.
The Gambia has seven ethnic groups with rich cultural backgrounds, this ethnicity enjoys a cordial relationship among themselves as they intermarriage and settle side by side with each other without a problem, this could be because they all share the same religion and to their religion supersede culture or tribe. Over nighty percent (90%) of the Gambian population are Muslims and the remaining ten percent are believed to be Christians, however, Gambia is known for its religious tolerance and people can choose whichever religion they want to practice.
The Gambia was once declared an Islamic State verbally by former dictator Jammeh, but this did not last long as soon as he was voted out of office the country went back to its normal republic. The Gambia is on its third Presidency as mentioned before, the hopes and aspiration of this new Gambia lie in the hands of the new president. However, 19 months into his presidency is surrounded by lots of controversies, corruptions and financial indiscipline among the officials.
After 22years of dictatorship, one would expect the new government to come up with sound polices and reform the broken institution they inherit, but the president’s focus is diverted from development process to ways of how he will cement his position as a president be young his 3/5 years mandate depends on which camp you belong to. Now there is a power struggle in Banjul as the president came to power on the back of 8 Political Parties coming together to form a coalition which contested election against dictator Jammeh. An agreement was reached between them for the coalition flag bearer if elected as a president will save for only three years instead of the five years and call a fresh election, however, the Gambian constitution says the president is elected for a period of 5 years.
The Gambia is like a new country now, the dictatorship is gone, the media are free to do their job and the security personnel are not harassing citizens as they speak their mind. Democracy is the most talked about word in Gambia today, as if we need democracy more than anything, but I think attitudinal change is what the Gambia need more than anything. People’s attitude towards workplaces, government institutions, financial institutions should change if we are relying this new-found democracy we all fought for.
Written by: Assan Jaiteh, studies International Relations and Peace studies in Leeds.