The Gambia at 56: how far have gone?

It has exactly been two scores and sixteen years since the Union Jack was lowered, and the Red-White-Blue-Green Flag hoisted, indicating the unfaltering independence of our beloved motherland, The Gambia. On the eve of 18th February, 1965, patriots, united in diversities, were engulfed by the joy of the birth of a new lip tattooing perth; this day, exactly fifty-six years ago, patriots wallowed in an inestimable elation, as they believed to have seen themselves enter the “Dreamt Land”: a land they believed to be fertile for democracy, a land they believed to have borne the seeds of education for all, a land within which they hoped to get topnotch medical attention, a land whose economy they hoped to see flourish, a land they hoped to see anchor voluptuous infrastructure, and a land they hoped to see subsist on its own harvest.

Today, these hopes remain tattooed more markedly in the Land’s Books ever than they were fifty-six years ago, but are they not, in practice, shattered and tattered? To some, the hopes are tarred, tattered, and shattered. But still, there remains a faction in whose hands the flags of hope fly high. Do we brand the hopes as shattered and tattered? Or do we allow the flags of hope to fly high in our hands? Well, it is not my objective to provide a direct answer to any of the preceding questions; my objective is, instead, to assess how far The Gambia has gone since independence.

Having had a firsthand experience of the British heavy-handed administration, many Gambians desired independence, because to them, the key to a better administration was the Gambians being at the helm of affairs. This, unfortunately, seems to receive no concrete support from history. Starting with the post-independence PPP, although Sir D. K. Jawara had received both national and international compliments for the advancement of democracy and human rights in the sub-region, his government had some rogues that played their part in nurturing the cultures of corruption and tribalism in the machinery of governance; this was more manifest in the security sector, where the treatment one received was determined by their tribe or the weight of their pocket. These unappealing lines of our history were emboldened in Jammeh’s era when corruption, tribalism, human right abuses, abuse of office, and the rule by became the wheels on which the country moved.

In 2016, however, The Gambian people, united in diversities just like they did in 1965, committed themselves to uprooting an autocrat— reviving the hopes many had in 1965. Not only was a regime changed in 2016, but democracy was also revivified. Since 2017, the lost hope in the justice dispensing mechanisms has been restored, the sacrosanct rights of the people protected, the press freed, and most importantly, the principle of separation of powers seems to be adhered to, as confirmed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Ya Kumba Jaiteh’s case. In addition, The Gambia’s burgeoning democracy is evidenced by the growing vibrancy of the civil society organisations , and the political climate oversaturated with political parties. Although all these are laudable advancements of our fragile democracy, I believe a lot more needs to be done.

Aside from that, The Gambia’s healthcare system continues to be steeped in decrepitude for more than half a century. Following the attainment of independence in 1965, many people hoped that the country’s healthcare system, which was (and still continues to be) in a coma, was going to be rescued, but that hope had been bumped off in broad daylight, unfortunately. During the thirty-two years of Sir D. K. Jawara’s reign, apart from the few scattered health centres and the two referral hospitals— the Royal Victoria and the Bansang hospitals—the PPP government did not take any eye-catching steps to top up the limited health facilities in the country in spite of the loud cries of the blue-collar Gambian families. The system, despite receiving enormous support during Jammeh’s era, continues to be in shambles and walk with clutches.

Since he assumed office in 2017, H. E President Barrow has been quite attentive to the piercing screech of the health sector, but this attention is ostensibly inadequate to stake our fragile health sector. This is confirmed by the fact that, preventable and treatable diseases (eg.Malaria, diarrheal disease, respiratory infections, and neonatal sepsis) continue to claim lives. In recent times, maternal mortality, stemming from the fragility of the healthcare system, has drawn the attention of all humane humans. Just recently, from 2019-2020, a number of Gambian mothers were reported to have lost their lives as result of maternal complications; but this, if given a deeper look, does not seem to be a new phenomenon, because according to an MICS survey, as of 2018, the maternal mortality rate stood at 433 per 100k live births. Does this not appear worrying? Was that what our independence heroes fought for? Was that the thing dreamt of by the happy-looking faces of the exhilarated atmosphere of the eve of 18th February, 1965?

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