Kanilai over the weekend was host to hundreds of people from different sectors of Gambian societies including civil servants of different categories and from all the three arms of government. Due to an inescapable directive from the office of the Secretary General and Head of Civil Service, most of us in the civil service had to close our offices last Thursday to join in weeding Jammeh’s numerous farms in and around his home village.
We were joined by other individuals and groups such as APRC political structures, Islamic groups, musicians and cultural groups in answering to the ‘call for help’ by the man at helm of Gambia’s affairs, who instead of acting humble as a servant of the people, poses himself as a master or demi-god who should be worshipped and praised at all times.
Days leading to the weekend’s extravaganza in Kanilai, the national television (GRTS), which Jammeh’s has since personalized ran an advert calling on Gambians and Non-Gambians alike to join the President in Kanilai to celebrate an award given to Gambia for “success in agriculture and fighting malnutrition”. The open invitation was voiced by his longest serving interpreter Alhaji Modou Joof, who himself has been on multiple times, a victim of Jammeh’s sheer egotism that he manifests in almost all his public appearances.
Yaya Jammeh has after inviting people failed to attend most of the activities lined up for the celebration. He was absent in the official ceremony despite the attendance of Heads of UN Agencies and was instead deputies by his Vice President Isatou Njie Saidy. Again, Jammeh failed to show up at the ‘bantaba’, an event held with farmers and stakeholders to discuss the Vision 2016.
However, in his pompous manner, the Kanilai boss appeared in the Saturday night musical and cultural jamboree despite the heavy rains. GRTS was ready and its transmission van, which they moved from its headquarters in Kanifing to Kanilai was visible on the ground ready to relay the fanfare live to the viewers. The event was however a complete failure due to the fact that the musical system could not be used as the rains refused to subside thus allowing for only cultural groups to entertain the President who has a special liking for pageantry and must find reason to organize event occasionally.
Known for his appetite to be surrounded by celebrities, Yahya Jammeh again wasted tax payer’s money by inviting and footing the bills of a group of Nigeria delegation led by actor Francis Duru to join the so call celebration of award. Shamelessly, our only television was on the ground at the Banjul international airport to cover for the news the arrival of Francis giving him an undeserved treatment and attention.
While in Kanilai, drama unfolded on the first night as so many individuals and groups that made the journey to the small village of Kanilai, located a few meters from Cassamance, the Southern part of Senegal were left stranded without rooms to sleep, neither food to eat. The reason being that the erratic President Jammeh, has given orders to soldiers to lock the Kanilai Festival Village which use to lodge several groups of people in dormitory-like facilities unless they pay for use the houses. In addition to paying for housing, some of these loose groups that didn’t come under any Municipal Council or government institution were expected to be feeding themselves by either visiting the local restaurant or go to ‘Sindola’ lodge and buy food
Funny as it sounds, the President who in this instance was the inviter has turned back and asked his invited guests to pay for housing for an amount D 300 = USD 8 per night as well as be buying plate of food for the 3 nights they expected to stay in those facilities. Unable to meet the new regulations imposed by Jammeh for the use of rooms in the festival village, people resorted to appealing to families in the village to host them. This caused a lot of dissatisfaction and anger but only discussed in corners due to fear.
Prior to the start of the weekend’s farming activity and celebrations, reports emerged that President Jammeh had requested gamcel to donate towards the event, a request that could not be honored due to the company’s ailing financial situation.
As a Gambian who has followed with skepticism the actions of President Jammeh, seeing the amount of money he spends on such events and comparing it with what I saw last weekend, I am compel to believe that indeed Yahya Jammeh is broke, the cooperate institutions that used to bankrolled his endless parties are getting red and the economy of the country is indeed in the verge of collapse.