Nyang Njie, in his article, Eulogy to Banjul, (nyangnjie.blogspot.com) beautifully captures the slow and painful demise of Banjul as this once political, economic and cultural capital of Gambia, in a beautiful, poetic, heart wrenching, yet nostalgic revelation.
Banjul is simply the victim of a deliberate, systematic and vindictive policy of neglect and abandonment, by an irresponsible and corrupt junta of Dictator Yaya Jammeh – plain and simple!! While Banjul crumbled, Kanilai was being built up as the parallel and lateral capital, in the middle of nowhere. Kanilai serves no economic, strategic, or cultural significance, and never will, to the development of Gambia. It is far flung and closer to Casamance, than to any place of significance in Gambia. It is not a riverine or coastal town, no access to any waterway, not directly lying on the Trans -Gambia highway, yet our meager resources are being disproportionately, and discriminately diverted towards building Dictator Yaya Jammeh’s home village?
Banjul still has all the qualities to become a regional economic, political and socio-cultural hub in West Africa, better positioned and suited than any other town. Banjul has, (can have) a deep sea port to attract global trade, as a transit point for re-export trade. Any future export based development program will have to start in Banjul! It connects the northern and southern part of Gambia and Senegal, and rest of West Africa. It has an airport ( 15km), to support revitalization of the tourism industry, and a road network to connect to the beaches. It has access to a pool of educated and talented work force, industrial areas and resources. With all of that in mind, why should Banjul be in the abysmal and advanced stage of neglect ad dilapidation, so bad that both the mayor and president do not spend their nights there!
Dictator Yaya Jammeh seized power with a grudge with a chip on his shoulder, to settle scores on perceived wrongs against him and his people, he said this himself, repeatedly To accomplish his agenda he had to destroy the established socio-political, economic and intellectual class, and rebuild one based on his agenda , image and view of the new Gambia. So inevitably, Banjul became an easy target, and his first victim. He destroyed the economic class, that way Banjul lost it patron sons and daughters. Banjul was the cultural capital because of its generous, endowed economic and intellectual class, and not just the political class, contrary to what he thought.
As the neglect deepened, and became more blatant, many Banjulians just quit and migrated to Kombos, once their children left for mostly Europe or the Americas. As more and more people left, government functions also moved to Kanilai, businesses followed them, or just closed up shop altogether, thus decreasing Banjul’s tax base. This demographic shift became a reality by 2000, precipitated by a vengeful regime in Kanilai, as many properties and family homes fell into disrepair. Today Yaya Jammeh has become the biggest property holder and hoarder in Banjul. Why? He is confiscating properties that belong to notable families for generations, owns the coastal open space that the writer grew up in, all the way to the bridge. To add salt to injury, Mayor Bah recently announced the banning ofZimba cultural events on city streets because it “affects” traffic. What affects traffic is the fact the streets have become impassable under the best of conditions, because Independence Drive has become off limits to the citizens who actually live there, restricting traffic a couple of thoroughfares, in and out. Zimba has been part of the cultural landscape and mystic lure of Banjul from the beginning, but the Mayor found a solution to a problem that does not exist, while failing at his first duty, which is to make sure the residents of Banjul have their rubbish collected and streets passable in the rainy season.
The question is: what are Banjulians willing and prepared to do about it to take back there city? The list below is not exhaustive, but it can be a starting point.
- Electing an independent, accountable and answerable (like Pa Sallah Jeng ) Mayor who lives in the city, and ready to work for it will be a good start. Removing the current Mayor Bah, who is semi-literate, and more subservient to Dictator Yaya Jammeh ( after being voted in as an independent) should be the first order of business to revive Banjul to its former glory.
- Registering the citizens of Banjul to vote in their own interest, turning the city into a formidable voting bloc.
- Demanding for Banjul to have its fair share of tax revenue, and make sure that the taxes are spent on restoring services and repairing the drainage system, or building one where necessary.
- Making sure that private businesses and properties pay taxes, including properties under the control of the Dictator.
Many short sighted folks cheered for the junta, prematurely, and danced in the streets, but today Banjul has become a case study of the criminal failure of Dictator Yaya Jammeh and the AFPRC junta. Twenty one years later, Banjul has no passable streets, still has bucket toilets and open air trash heaps that routinely mix with rain water that gets deposited into households, increasing the despair and sense of abandonment. It’s time for the people of Banjul to take their rightful place in this people’s revolution in taking back the whole country, from Banjul to Koina. Suffering in silence and praying is no longer enough or a solution, and accepting the current worsening situation will ensure the permanent death of Banjul. Thank you
This article is an improved version of the one posted on PPP Facebook page.