Monday, July 22, 2024

SIMULATING THE FIRST 100 DAYS OF PRESIDENT MAMA KANDEH-GOVERNMENT

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After his party’s surprise landslide victory in the recent December polls – we sample the first 100 days of the Mama Kandeh-led government as excitement still grips Africa’s smallest state, The Gambia. In rapturous scenes not seen since the heydays of independence, Gambians are still embroiled in wild celebrations as the country finally turned a page after two decades of dictatorship. Across the capital, Banjul, cars roll displaying the country’s flag blazing out loud songs across independence drive right into Albert market, where women inadvertently break into songs of national pride banishing prejudice. Similar jubilatory scenes are witnessed in major towns and cities across the country from Serekunda, Brikama, Kaur right into Basse chanting slogans of ‘Down with the Dictator’.

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On a crystal clear day amidst low-tide, tourists could be seen strolling nonchalantly indulging in retail-therapy and delights Banjul has to offer. Across the seafront as the town of Barra came into view brand new Chinese-made ferries hurried businesses and commuters alike; hence the once deserted seaport has sprung into life with large container ships criss-cross into the bay. In an effort to recapture and surpass her former glory, the country has embarked on a flurry of activities with extraordinary projects in a rush to transform the island nation into a residential paradise, a major financial hub, an agricultural forest, and a centre for academic excellence.

 

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In his inaugural speech addressing the nation attended by a cross-section of the public, members of the Diplomatic Corp, Civil society groups, Foreign leaders, amongst others, the young statesman stressed that the dark days of the APRC regime are well and truly behind and that never again will Gambians be held hostage by an entrenched dictatorship. He further assured the country that the tide of brutal regimes all across Africa which had held the continent back are in tremendous decline and soon to be phased-out, and that legislation is doing the rounds in parliament enhancing human rights laws that protect all, and generations to come.

 

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The president further challenged diaspora Gambians to return home and invest their resources and talent as the country began a dramatic ascent as a model for democracy and development excellence within the Sub-region. He further urged citizens of this blessed land to see one-another as one people united, taking ownership of the country. The Gambia, he continued, ‘’belongs to every citizen – black or white, rich and poor, and never again will tribalism play a part in our democratic dispensation or social lives for that matter.’’

 

 

PRISON REFORM: On his first day in office, President Kandeh has signed an executive order releasing all political detainees held at Mile Two from 1994 to date. The government, he said, is working to bulldoze the notorious jail and such detention facilities around the country, to be replaced with modern correctional facilities in LRD and NBD regions respectively. Pressed by human rights organisations such as DUGA and AMNESTY international, the government has agreed to establish JUVENILE and REHAB facilities catering to the young and those marginalised. In an audacious speech at the seat of Parliament, the President also declared the ‘’Abolition of Death Penalty’’, as unanimously approved in that chamber.

 

 

EDUCATION: With standard of education at an all-time low compounded by poor results exacerbated by moral & ethical bankruptcy, the Ministry of Education has ordered a top-down approach of the education system. It has introduced free early years nursery for every child. Grammar and literature modules are added to the school curriculum in countering the literacy gap. The Ministry is working with experts from the UK embedded around the country. Plans are also in place for the reintroduction of A’Level’s reverting to the old system when the Gambia excelled in academia. Liaising with the Interior ministry and UNICEF country office, the Education ministry has taken further steps in tackling teenage pregnancy, and child abuse. The President has also declared war on drugs and counterfeiting adhering to international standards. A bill has been tabled before Parliament forcing parents to educate their children to a minimum high school level tuition free. Discussions are at an advanced stage with GAMTEL in providing FREE Wifi internet access in all schools up and down the country.

 

 

HEALTH CARE: Tackling inequities in healthcare is one of the major challenges of our time. As such, aligning with the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ blueprint, the government is working in-partnership with the UN country office to design and build 5 brand new Hospitals spread across the country. A major referral hospital is earmarked for each of the five administrative regions, and never again will Gambians feel helpless, nor seek treatment abroad.

 

The president has further announced that primary healthcare facilities shall be provided locally in villages and towns so as to reduce waiting times and burden within the system. In an unprecedented move with telecoms providers, the country has adopted a three-code EMERGENCY Number for calling Ambulance or Police in situations of dire need.

 

 

DEMOCRACY + GOVERNANCE: With international observers and the media holding breathe as to the administration’s plans in regards to democracy, President Kandeh reaffirmed his party’s manifesto pledge to restore credible and accountable governance. He asserts that Parliament is on the verge of passing a signature legislation halting presidential life to maximum ‘TWO-TERMS’. No president will ever serve more than two terms provided he or she win re-election and this is SACROSANCT. The separation of powers was further enhanced with a strong parliament to impeach the executive in breaches of the constitution, and an independent judiciary staffed by GAMBIAN JUDGES appointed by an independent judicial panel on merit. Again, an Independent Civil service has been restored with neutrality at its heart serving the nation. The President cannot hire or fire any civil servant; nor does he have a say in the Army or Police.

 

 

THE ARMY AND POLICE: Since his election victory, no military personnel was seen on the streets, instead back to barracks. Major changes have taken place in areas of national security. The army has no right to arrest or interrogate anyone. That belong to the police, and no officer was to leave barracks with uniform. Their job is national defence, peacekeeping duties, and helping with natural disasters around the country. According to president Kandeh, internal security shall be run by the police from now on, sharing intelligence with neighbouring Senegal. Meanwhile, ‘’Cassamance rebels’’ fused into all levels of the security sector have been weeded out and handed to the Senegalese army. An adhoc UN panel of investigators was instituted over historical crimes committed by Yaya Jammeh and his Hench-men, most of whom are behind bars awaiting trial. In a press conference earlier, the minister of interior has urged all victims of the past twenty-two years especially rape victims to come forward seek redress, and that government is committed to compensate on the Ombudsman’s recommendations.

 

 

FOREIGN POLICY: In terms of Foreign Policy, the country has revamped its external agenda in an ethical diplomatic fashion based on national interest. The Gambia will be friendly to all nations, with Senegal our closest ally. A relationship of EQUALS based on respect and mutual interest. The President has intimated that no Gambian has claimed asylum, nor sojourn the back way route to Europe in the past 60 days from the numbers released by INTERPOL.

 

Meanwhile, Britain is considering visa-free travel for Gambian nationals as bilateral relations blossom. The country has further opened Embassies in Germany and Denmark to service Scandinavian countries, reciprocating diplomatic missions with Canada and New Zealand too. The progress continues in establishing credible governance flying the Gambian flag around the world representing the very best in us. The speech was well received in Dakar, with both the British and US ambassadors in the country endorsing a new dawn in Gambia’s relationship with the world.

 

 

OIL AND GAS: Although the price of crude oil has dropped significantly, drilling shall begin in earnest once the contracts are signed. The government has opened a special account at the central Bank of the Gambia for oil and gas revenues to be deposited. Pressed by Journalists on the secrecy of such accounts, President Kandeh maintained that parliament and the media will gain access to quarterly expenditure receipts so as to account for every butut spent. He also announced that the oil ministry has joint-partnership with a Qatari company in building a refinery plant upstream, easing supply worries for countries within the sub-region. The country’s GDP is also projected to surpass that of Liberia and Sierra Leone combined.

 

 

BUSINESS AND PRIVATE SECTOR: President Kandeh has assured the country that plans are in high gear for the Gambia to be food self-sufficient. Working with the UNDP and other development partners, certain communities in remote parts of the countryside may be relocated into brand new cities being built to secure further land for agricultural expansion. The country has intensified rice production, and a growing manufacturing sector seeking of being a mid-level exporter in the medium term. A cement and burnt brick factories respectively were commissioned last week, and the IMF has forecasted the country’s GDP to quadruple with employment numbers looking inspiring.

 

 

INFRASTRUCTURE: As foreign direct investment and infrastructural development accelerate the President has announced that Gambia Ports authority is to relocate from Banjul to Barra. He further stated that his government has secured investment and partnership from DANDONG, North-East CHINA to the tune of 50 million dollars. Barra is to be transformed into a Port-Hub as a leading sea-port freight serving Africa and world-wide. Analysts, including the Gambia Bureau of statistics anticipate the creation of ten thousand new jobs within the main port facility and sub-sectors to be developed in time. An ultra-modern highway linking Banjul to Kartong across from Denton bridge is taking shape, with Gambian and Chinese architects liaising with engineers for the proposed Banjul-Barra bridge.

 

As politicians within the ECOWAS bloc assemble on regional issues including monetary union – The World Bank and African Development bank have announced funding for a Train line linking Gambia and Senegal right into Bamako, MALI. Meanwhile, the ministry of infrastructure development has reached an agreement with a Chinese multi-national to construct a solar assembly plant in ESSAU. From 2018, the president has projected that all street-lights, traffic-lights, and real-estate developments to be fitted with solar-power reducing stress on the national supplier, NAWEC, and bills.

 

He further announced that plans are in the offing to construct a brand new capital between Gunjur and Sifoe, plus 5 new environmentally-friendly cities across the country ‘subject to parliamentary approval’. The country’s largest city, Serrekunda, will be knocked down and rebuilt with desirable homes of flowing rivers and recreational parks. Home owners in Banjul shall be compensated or provided with new housing, with Banjul transformed into an international paradise island. Reputable hotel brands are queuing up, and a financial sector to match. All banks in the country will be headquartered in the new financial district, as investors identify the country as a base spreading into the lucrative West-Africa market.

 

In recent days, the ministry of Informational and Technology has reached a deal with both GOOGLE and APPLE to build a TECHNOLOGY HUB; with YAHOO and other companies also seeking deals. The hub shall attract young entrepreneurs and graduates across West-Africa as the Mini-Silicon Valley to harness and harvest talent. The president has stressed that his government is onto an aggressive diplomatic push encouraging businesses to come an invest in destination Gambia with an educated-ready work-force to inherit. According to the Gambia Bureau of statistics, the country stands to register an unprecedented 10% GDP growth rates for the next 5 years, a figure confirmed by both the IMF and World Bank.

 

Disclaimer – Events depicted in this write-up are fictitious, although achievable with good leadership. A desire, yearning for a better Gambia we all so dearly love.

 

 

Mr Gibril Saine

University of Leeds (Sch. of Politics)

U.K.

 

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