I am a Gambian Civil Servant exercising my God given right to free speech expressing my disappointment and frustration at our plight as civil servants in The Gambia. Ironically, I exercise this right under disguise not out of cowardice but out of common sense considering the fact that in my little Gambia, Human Rights is only an illusion and proving macho in a land governed by the sword would be gross stupidity – which I know I am not.
I vividly remember the morning of 22nd July 1994. I had just received my not too good Grade 8 end of Year examination results from my village school and was dreading the wrath of my Dad when news of a coup started circulating around the school compound. Like many a Gambian, I was enthused and excited over a change of Government. During the ensuing days, weeks and months, I became an avid fan of the radio as I listened to the voices of the revolutionaries as they pelted out words I hardly knew the meaning of. The promises were plenty, and the visions too alluring. For me the whirlwind of positive change had come with the promise of “The Sky is the limit”.
The transition came to past and our hope became a “civilian” and Gambia once more became a secular Democratic country. I grew up with watching GTV/GRTS celebrating Gambia’s achievements not realizing that I was gradually brainwashed through propaganda. Next it was university and work in the Civil Service. Meanwhile the dream of Gambia becoming a Silicon Valley remained bright as I continued to listen to the perceived saviour giving us hope.
Allow me a little digression to mention a little into the things he said then:-
We will never introduce dictatorship- No leader should have their face on the Gambian currency- The world is three days – Yesterday, Today and tomorrow- Gambians will never go out to hustle- Etc. etc. etc.…… The promises are in-exhaustive. I joined the Gambia Civil Service ready to work hard to help realize the Vision 2020. But as time went by, I realized I was only a part of machinery built and being used by President Jammeh to establish himself as lord over all. The salary of the Gambian civil servant is one of the worst in the world with middle grade position holders earning less than D5000 ($100). Gambians are living from hand to mouth, working on a daily basis to feed the family. They are forced to engage in corrupt practices in order to get something to take home. Some are deep in debt from banks and shopkeepers and some take overdrafts from their banks every other month.
Besides the very meagre pay, our God given brains and potential as human beings remain unexploited as our work is being micromanaged from State House with “Directives from Office of The President” dictating you on how to go about everything even if you know it’s not what is best or is wrong. We are forced to shove our ideas down the drain as we receive instructions for everything we do. Our opinion is never sought and even where we justifiably question certain policies, we are fired if we are lucky or worse arrested and put on trial on some trumped up charges. In effect, we are only a tool meant to operate as he devises but not as humans with brains capable of discerning good from bad.
Furthermore, our dignity as humans is trampled upon as we are coerced into slavery on farms. Civil Servants are year in year out dragged to Kanilai and other farms around the country to labour for free for President Jammeh. Only God knows where the proceeds of these farms go. We endure this slavery quietly in this 21st Century yet many do not seem to realize it. Most Gambian Civil servants do not have a property of their own and with the current pay grade, are unlikely to own one. One works an entire lifetime and won’t be able to earn enough to purchase a piece of land talk less build a house. The cost of rent is so high that more than 50% of your salary goes into it. Your account is just a salary account as you don’t earn enough to be able to save for retirement. Little surprise why people don’t want to go on retirement, but instead beg to be taken on contracts even after 40 years of service, the pension is just laughable.
Gambian Civil Servants have become beggars. It’s now common place for people to walk from office begging for money to buy food to eat or for fares to go home. Our pride and dignity is washed down the drain as we are compelled to beg for rides (lifts) to get to and from work. We troop around vehicle owners in our neighbourhood to be taken to work because we cannot afford the daily fares. It has been several years since there was any salary increment and despite our sacrifice and suffering, we have been told in a most impolite manner, that if we are dissatisfied with the pay, we should quit.
A lot of the Gambia youths who have ventured through the back way are Government employees who have lost hope for a better future and filled with the desire to achieve great things, risk death in the ocean in the hope of better lives in Europe. These are the cream of society who know deep down that they are made to achieve great things and won’t stay holed up in talent and potential suffocating Gambia. Why do you think despite the individual talents as a country we suck at almost everything: sports, music, dance, art etc? It is because we are not allowed to grow, our lives are remote controlled. It is a case of towing the Jammeh line or perish.
Our generation is the most unfortunate of Gambians. We grew up with our sights to sky as the limit, but matured with nothing to hope for. We have become either frustrates or pawns to be used, abused and refused at whim. We were nothing of the past nor are we of worth in the present and surely we are late for the future, we are the walk over generation of The Gambia.
However, all hope is not lost as we are once more presented the opportunity to correct a wrong to save our children from the decadence we are in. You have your vote, let it speak for you. You have the chance to make your voice heard, vent your frustration and anger by voting for change. Stop being naïve by thinking all is well while you suffer silently. The Gambia is sinking and it is your duty to save it. You matter, your vote is your voice let it speak for you. Do you want to realize your full potential and God given talent? Do you want to be happy at work? Do you want to be able to speak your mind without looking behind your shoulder? Do you want to do your work with a clear conscience? Do you want to look back at your life and feel proud that you have made Gambia great and not an individual? Do you want fair pay and appreciation for your work? Do you want a truly developed Gambia for your children? Then vote for change. Wake up and stop being fooled.
I conclude with a quote from Abraham Lincoln “You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.”