Magazine article New African

Overview by Momodou Sabally

Magazine article New African

Overview by Momodou Sabally

Article excerpt

With an epileptic power supply, a lack of access to adequate basic education, not to mention not having a university, Gambians trailed behind the world's poor and were deprived in many ways, as a septuagenarian leader slumbered on with what was then called the Singaporean Dream for national development.

The dream was to imitate Singapore's development trajectory but instead of emulating that great success story, our then government committed the sin of fatalism and thereby widened the gap between rich and poor; sin-gap-poor is what we got instead

It is against this background that the Editor of the New African magazine Baffour Ankomah, on a visit to our country in 1991, would write in his popular column Baffour's Beefs, the article Stranger in Banjul, in which he referred to the erstwhile airport terminal as resembling an old restaurant shack, among other unflattering adjectives he used to describe The Gambia then.

A country on the brink of socio-economic and infrastructural collapse was jolted into enforced wakefulness on 22 July 1994 when Lieutenant Yahya AJJ Jammeh led a team of junior military men and overthrew President Dawda Jawara, who had been in power for 30 years. In some circles, they jeered and sneered against the 29-year old Jammeh and his Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC), with the British Government leading by quickly issuing a travel advice for their citizens to stay away from The Gambia, with the intention of hurting the domestic tourism industry. This was followed by the withholding of aid by many other countries and other development partners. The takeover also ignited antagonism from the Commonwealth.

International propaganda aimed at bringing Sir Jawara back to a country that had known only one leader for 30 years, went into overdrive. Rumours and fears burgeoned as the people were made to believe that without support from development partners including the World Bank and the IMF the new government would not be able to pay salaries, and would collapse within months. Even days, some enthused.

But with steely determination and unalloyed faith, President Jammeh led our country through unprecedented socio-economic development that reached fever pitch in the ensuing immediate two years that were regarded as a transition to democratic civilian rule. He built hospitals, schools, roads, a modern airport terminal complex and earned an emphatic victory in the 1996 elections. Therefore, as the country clocks 20 years of the 22 July Revolution, there are scores of reasons to celebrate.

A country that had no university at the advent of this revolution, now boasts thousands of home-trained graduates in all fields including medicine, with all parts of The Gambia--no matter how remote--now having access to excellent medical care, with referral hospitals in major provincial towns, as opposed to only one referral hospital from the colonial era to the end of the first republic. …

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