By Pata PJ
Every day, scores of lives perish in the deserts and the Mediterranean Sea. Hardly does a day go by that you do not read about Gambians dying trying to make it to Europe through the ‘Back Way’. It is devastating. However, none of what has been happening all these years but astronomically worsened in the past couple of years, happens in a vacuum. We’d all have to do something to decelerate it.
I have seen a lot of Gambians take to social media making “Say No To Back Way” videos, to sensitize and dissuade our brothers and sisters from venturing into these very dangerous and uncertain journeys that already claimed more than enough lives. These efforts are great, laudable and are spiraling. However, most came short of identifying and addressing the root causes of the unfortunate tragedy.
The ever growing statistics of the number of people dying at sea, those ‘lucky’ enough to have crossed to become illegal immigrants in Europe, are shockingly alarming. The Gambia, the smallest country in mainland Africa (population less than 2 million) with relative peace, dwarfs nations like Mali and Syrian that have been in turmoil and civil unrest for few years now. Gambia’s 1400 (134 minors) to Nigeria’s 800, arrived in Italy by Sea in the first quarter of 2015. Just last week alone, there were two boat accidents that had at least 750 and 300 lives unaccounted for, respectively. It’s a sad reality that our boys and girls are somewhere in that bottomless ocean and will never be buried.
While we’d all love to have our brothers and sisters stay at home to avoid a literally suicidal journey, we must also be realistic in recognizing that these kids are being forced by their circumstances to make a better living for themselves and their families. As foolish as we think it is for them to see some of us who have ‘escaped’ the struggle from abject poverty as ‘success stories’, it is an innate desire for a man to want to be a provider, especially when they are looked up to as the ‘Yakarr’ of the family. We cannot tell them to not go because is risky when there are no alternatives to the predicament. This is not to make an excuse for our able-bodied youth but is understandable.
Unemployment is the premier causative factor of the economic migration that continues to claim lives and in most cases, levy a hefty financial burden on the already struggling families who would give an arm and leg for a potentially enhanced livelihood, which most times is only promissory and in some cases elusive. The pasture isn’t always a guaranteed greener on the other side. Most of the people who set out on these journeys are poor, provincial kids who either graduated without jobs or dropped out of school and are unemployable. These people hail from families who have always paid their taxes but almost never get to benefit from their government; individually or as a community. So majority of them become Economic migrants, and a few Political refugees escaping shackles and political persecution from an oppressive regime.
So the buck stops at President Jammeh and his Government! In plain terms, Yaya Jammeh DOES NOT CARE if half of the country’s youth raced out of that country to never come back. As a matter of fact, that is lessening his burden of having to deal with an unemployed, ‘unproductive’ lot. Jammeh would have cared if this was anything that posed any sort of threat to his reign. We have seen how he does not hesitate to launch all these violently aggressive “Operations” in order to legitimize his use of force to cower and oppress Gambians further, to deter any potential resistance to his Authoritarianism.
In his characteristic fashion of abdicating responsibility as the country’s CEO, Yaya continues to deflect attention from significant priorities where he is found wanting, to play victim. In his UN address in 2014, Jammeh asked that “The U.N. must conduct a full and impartial investigation into this manmade sinking, capsizing of these boats carrying young Africans to Europe,” accusing European Nations of “racist and inhuman behavior of deliberately causing boats carrying black Africans to sink.”
Lest we forget, a year prior Jammeh in his 2013 Tobaski address to the Nation, shamelessly went off on a tangent to blame his ‘Mandingo Brothers and Sisters’, whom he said comprised the 98% of the youth taking the going to Europe, seeking asylum just to tarnish the image of the country since 1994. He thought that is not only an unpatriotic act but Unislamic and is punishable by Treason. Although this came on the heels of UDP asylum saga, when he’d used his erstwhile unwise Presidential Affairs Minister Momodou Sabally to accuse the US & UK, and insult a whole ethnic group for being tribalist, I believe Jammeh sees no urgency in mitigating the migration because it works in his favor since the troublesome, unpatriotic bunch are leaving the country to patriots. So he’d not lose a night’s sleep over their death.
This unnatural, schizophrenic by-product of mistaken birth, is a delusional hypocrite, divisive lunatic and a self-aggrandizing, deranged ‘thot’ of a president who never takes credit for his failures as the country’s Chief Executive. After claiming to have had evidence that these people claimed persecution for homosexuality and not on ethnic grounds, how dare he flipped that to make it about a particular tribe?
But here is a government that does not have the political will nor the ability to sustain or enhance any sector of the economy that creates jobs to employ 50 Gambian a year since 2001. A government with a leadership that believes he’s doing the country a favor by reigning over her people, giving them cash handouts, food rations and throwing ridiculously expensive festivals to party their pains away at a time the country is on her deathbed. Today, the largest sectors that employ graduating students or dropouts are the Armed/Security Services and Education (teaching). And even for these areas we have seen active soldiers, police officers and teachers abandoning their posts to take chance with the risky high seas.
We may never be able to stop the Back Way venture for ambitious, unemployed youth would always pursue opportunity somewhere whatever the risk. But had we had a capable, effective and responsible government they would have:
- Put mechanisms in place to mitigate it by not only going on TV to boast about opening schools but not able to get graduates absorbed in the workforce.
- Be able to open skill centers to train the youth and have careers.
- Liberalize the economy, support and encourage small scale businesses by giving tax breaks and/or subsidize them to be able to flourish and create employment.
- Let the president cease competing with the State and private businessmen as the conflict of interest and competitive advantage is killing the already struggling Gambians.
- Let’s mechanize our Agriculture with adequate focus by revitalizing Jahali Pacharr and other places it instead of Yaya grabbing all arable lands and have the whole country work on his farms.
- Bring back our one-time Tourist Mecca that he’d killed off with his weekly distasteful international headlines that instills fear and erode confidence for tourists.
Evidently, these are not things that President Jammeh and his administration are capable of doing. That leaves us with one remedy for the hand that we’re dealt: CHANGE OF REGIME! Yaya Jammeh and the APRC administration are a bad omen for our nation and they’d have to GO for us to make any significant headway!
Lets continue to sensitize and dissuade our brothers the best we could. The Gambian Artist Bro K has a very messageful song on the ‘Back Way‘.
Good Morning And Peace To The Planet!