There is growing fatalism and cynicism around President Barrow’s ability to fight corruption. It is so embedded. It is like a drug that has been administered to just about everyone. The economy appears so laced with the drug that many fears the country would collapse if we started doing business based on integrity, ability and hard work.
Corruption is one of the most formidable challenges to good governance, development and poverty reduction in Africa as has been captured in the latest report of Transparency International Report. The report further states that, ‘corruption in Africa is like an advanced cancer or tumor that cannot be treated. Like cancer, corruption has tragically devastated African societies and made millions of people very poor’. From the Gambia to Madagascar, the tentacles of corruption reach everywhere. Corruption has no boundaries.
From the offices of presidents and cabinet ministers to the smallest administration unit of government corruption is everywhere. Corruption is an addiction and the gangrene of the people. According to the Africa Union (AU) around $148 billion are stolen from the continent by its leaders and civil servants every year. The recent Forbes’ list of most corrupt nations had 9 out of the first 16 countries coming from Africa’
The Gambia, of course, does not have a monopoly on corruption but being ranked 130 out of 175 in the Transparency International Index tells its own story. The Gambia has continually been ranked among those corrupt countries in the world. What a shame that a few thousand people are damaging the name of our great nation.
To all Gambians, especially those in positions of influence, speak up and demand that President Adama Barrow declare corruption a national disaster. Artists, musicians, traditional communicators, talk show hosts, religious leaders and civil society groups must step up and use your influence on the president urging him and the National Assembly members enact laws to begin the fight against corruption in the country.
Just like American celebrities are using their influence to fight institutionalized racism, our celebrities can use their voice to take a stand against corruption. The artists; you are the keepers of memory. Do all the art-for-art’s sake you can that keeps your muse afire. Only remember, it’s your sacred duty to re-member society. You must do so by uncompromisingly taking sides with truth – however sharp its edges, however bitter its taste, however rancid its odor – and placing it in present memory through story and song and dance and strokes of the brush. Keep memory breathing out loud so others may re-member and not die. To forget is to wither.
Professor of law Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba holds the view that corruption must be treated as a crime against humanity because the vice has killed more people in Africa than all the civil wars combined. We feel there are no better-placed citizens on the continent to share this view than the people of the Gambia.
Today we share the view of Professor Lumumba because Gambian have been victims of crimes against humanity imposed by corruption and our lives are constantly in danger because of the role we have chosen to play in the fight against bad governance.
There are certain individuals in government who take their children to expensive schools in the country and abroad using money that was corruptly acquired. They live in mansions that were corruptly acquired and drive luxury SUVs bought from proceeds of crime. When you attempt to stand in the way of this rampant corruption, they are going to kill you. They will ensure that you are neutralized. These are people that Gambians should be fighting against. These criminal elements in government care about nothing but their own enrichment. Their conscience is dead. They will do anything on earth to eliminate anyone who dares closes the lid on corruption.
Our politicians have wealth which a normal hardworking man cannot amass under their occupation even if they lived a thousand years on Earth, but impunity is alive and thriving in our country. We the electorate are in the business of celebrating thieves. We camouflage theft by giving it fancy names like gifts, money laundering, fraud, embezzlement, and all other kinds of fancy terminologies that make theft look so glamorous.
Let us call these men and women by their right names when they steal from the public coffers. They are thieves, stealing on an industrial scale. They are murderers. Once we begin to call them by their appropriate names and they have the theft tag on their forehead, the stigma will haunt them. Unfortunately, right now corruption is very attractive in country because thieves are celebrated. They are treated like heroes.
“Without a doubt, corruption must be treated as a crime against humanity. Sometimes you must raise issues to the highest appropriate level. You must think about what corruption does to a country. The crisis in neighboring Congo DR started with the rampant theft by Mobutu Sese Seko’s regime. To date, the former Zaire has never recovered. People had no medicines in hospitals and deaths among the underprivileged became unprecedented,” says Professor Lumumba.
Indeed, it is happening in our own country. Millions of dollars meant for our education sector, health care sector and treatment drugs are being taken away from the poor, the few that are given out are expired. How many people die on our roads because of potholes, just because the line minister took away money that should have been used to make proper standard roads? How are these not crimes against humanity? They are, and the punishment must be of the highest degree possible.
Gambian shouldn’t be foolish enough to be justifying theft with fancy interpretations in the name of strengthening economic ties. The truth is that the country’s’ biggest import is corruption. Sadly, the corrupt are our celebrities, we call them Honorable and Excellences. In China, embezzling disaster relief funds or refusing to hand over illicit funds, attracts a death penalty, but in the Gambia, we are importing corruption from China on an industrial scale.
President Barrow and his colleagues in the African Union already committed to wage war against graft in Mauritania during the African Union Summit on Corruption. But actions should match with words. Every public servant must declare their assets and liabilities, those suspected of corruption must not enjoy the trappings of power. People with questionable pasts should not be appointed heads in parastatals or serve as cabinet ministers. Assets and liabilities declarations are still under lock and key and no stolen assets or money has been recovered from corrupt individuals since President Adam Barrow was elected.
The war against corruption should not be tribalized or be reduced to political gimmicks. This is one issue all supporters from all political parties should come together to demand zero tolerance on corruption.
The Gambia need emergency rescue from the jaws of the animal in man. This unprecedented corruption cannot continue to be a song for social media. The people of the Gambia need to stand up and preserve this land for future generations.
What our artists, celebrities, talk show hosts, civil society and the media must do is to recruit and educate the population. When the public has been enlightened enough to understand, in the simplest terms, that corruption has killed more people that Malaria, HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis put together; that will be the beginning of success in the battle against the thieves in government.