As part of activities marking Gambia’s 50 years of nationhood, President Jammeh changed the country’s currency by introducing new notes with his face printed on all the new notes, to make matters worst, the D200 (two hundred dalasis) note was also introduced much to the consternation of many versed in economic matters, who raised the signal of impending economic crisis. Readers would recall that when Dictator Jammeh took over power through a coup in 1994, one of the first things he condemned as excessive was what he labelled as lavish lifestyle of ex President Jawara and his entourage and Jawara’s face on the country’s currency, saying that the country does not belong to President Jawara and it was thus arrogance and excessive.
Fast forward 20years later, dictator Jammeh and his wife’s excessive lifestyle is one of the most disgusting affronts to Gambia’s ailing economy, their daughter 14 year old Mariam attends an $80,000 per annum exclusive boarding school in Manhattan USA, this is in sharp contrast to ex President Jawara’s children who attended public schools in Gambia and could speak the local languages, unlike Mariam who can not speak any of Gambia’s local languages. Dictator Jammeh’s wife and children together with their entourage holiday at the most exclusive hotels and yachts around the world, wasting millions of tax payer monies on lavish shopping sprees and private planes to ferry them around. Dictator Jammeh’s abuse of the Gambia’s central bank, monetary and gifts meant for Gambians and private sector businesses for his personal gain is widely documented and has led to the country’s near collapsed economy. Thus observers see his move to change the currency of the country and have his face on all new bills as pure hypocrisy on Jammeh’s part and a complete departure from his original statements that ex President Jawara does not own the country and should not have his face on the country’s currency. “The question that begs to be asked is therefore, what has changed? Is Dictator Jammeh now entitled to have his face on the country’s money because he now feels he owns the Gambia as he declared during his 2014 Eid speech to muslim leaders at State House?, is he planning to become a monarch as widely rumored?”
Many observers further raised the alarm when the introduction of the new dalasis notes did not automatically follow the recalling of the old notes in circulation, meaning that the market was being flooded with both the old and new currencies. This situation was not helped with the President dictator Jammeh issuing an executive directive, appreciating the dalasis against all major currencies. Many saw this executive interference in the money market as a sign of a weak dalasis and a departure from free market policies which would signal doom for an already weak dalasis and Gambian economy. The IMF report in June also further signaled economic crisis with a strict warning to the Finance Ministry and Central Bank to adhere to prudent fiscal discipline and lift the executive order appreciating the dalasis against major currencies to restore confidence in the market. IMF also reported that the Central bank was printing new money, which would leave the dalasis vulnerable to inflation.
The situation above led many to be very concerned and raised alarm bells about the economic situation in terms of inflation and fraud, when they saw two different D20 notes in circulation in Gambia. The one D20 note is printed by the official money printers for central Bank of the Gambia De la Rue Company, while the other is reportedly printed in Nigeria. Many are saying that the different D20 notes are open to fraud and could led the weak dalasis to collapse especially as the security features on the second D20 is weak and could easily be reprinted. “The question many are asking is why introduce two different D20 notes? and is the D20 notes the reason IMF said that Central Bank is printing extra money without following the proper policies and economic protocols?” asked an observer. “This is really strange” said another we spoke to, “why still keep the older notes which the new notes have replaced also in circulation?”.
As observers cite economic pressures as one of the reasons dictator Jammeh released some prisoners as part of his 22nd July 2015 celebrations marking his 21st year in power, many continue to believe that the ailing Gambian economy would be a major determining factor on whether dictator Jammeh can continue to cling on to power or be forced out through sheer frustration from a Gambian populace fast losing patience with the status quo of economic mismanagement and dictatorship. Regional and International isolation especially with cries for term limits and President Obama calling on African leaders to give up power instead of believing they should be President for life has made dictator Jammeh even more isolated and his position more untenable. The question that begs to be asked is what stimulus the movement for change will add to keep up the pressure on Jammeh for reforms and an end to dictatorship in Gambia and what tricks dictator Jammeh has up his sleeve to appease a regional and international community as well as civil and rights organizations fast losing patience with impunity, lack of respect for basic human rights and rule of law in Gambia. The proverbial chess game continues…….