Magazine article New African

Yayha Jammeh and the Colonial Legacy

Magazine article New African

Yayha Jammeh and the Colonial Legacy

Article excerpt

Once again, The Gambia President Yahya Jammeh has been shown riding his favourite horse, with his favourite whip in hand, whacking angrily away at colonialism and claiming that colonialism did not bring anything to The Gambia. In your interview conducted by your deputy editor, reGina Jane Jere (New African, November 2.or3), Jammeh fumes that Britain did not build more than one school and one hospital in the country over a period of 400 years of colonial rule. It is a known fact that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes a truth in your own mind. I say this because contrary to Jammeh's frequent ranting about 400 years of colonialism, British colonial rule in The Gambia lasted a mere 76 years.

While British and other Europeans had traded with Gambian merchants as early as the 158os, The Gambia became a British crown colony only in 1889, and attained her independence in 1965--exactly 76 years later. So his habitual reference to 400 years of colonial rule in The Gambia is a mere figment of Jammeh's imagination; an attempt, either deliberate or otherwise, to re-write history.

So it is absolutely not true that Gambia was colonised for 400 years as Mr Jammeh would have us believe. Furthermore, anyone with the slightest sense of history knows that colonialism was not in Africa to develop the continent but to serve the selfish interests of the colonisers. It was an inherently extractive and exploitative regime. So this is no news at all. Expecting development from colonialism is foolish and Mr Jammeh would be better advised to stop beating a dead horse and blaming colonialism for the mess that he and other so-called leaders of post-colonial Africa have created and continue to create for their hostage peoples.

Africans wanted independence; they got it. It is their responsibility to develop their countries and stop blaming the past.

But before we proceed, it might be well to remind Mr Jammeh that he does owe a lot to colonialism. For one thing, if he must reject all things colonial, he must start by refusing to speak or write the English language. He must then repudiate the territorial boundaries of The Gambia and draw new ones since these boundaries are totally a colonial creation. Then he must abandon the institutions and structures that make up the state he rules over--the Cabinet, the Legislature, and the Judiciary--as all of these are products of the colonial regime. He must then do away with the flag and the coat of arms, both of which are typically colonial inventions. He must abstain from his beloved practice of inspecting the so-called guard of honour, a very colonial spectacle that he loves so much that his face literally glows with contentment as he stiffly marches and surveys the troops at the airport and elsewhere. …

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