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Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, & Mauritania

Dear West Africa,

I just seek a conversation with five of your beautiful shores. I hope you’ll let me go ahead, won’t you? Trust it, I’ll neither be derisive, nor vulgar with them. It is but a missive from the bowels of conscience that I thought could be charioted in chaste language. Only that I can’t promise others won’t discern a jeremiad in its literature. I begin from the dales of Futa Djallon to the dunes of Nouakchott. And from the musical swash of Goree island’s waves, to the strips of sylvan Gambia, a son says peace!

Millitary coups and their corollary instability have been Africa’s worst enemy than poverty. In fact, Africa isn’t that dry a clime seared of fecundity irrespective of this almost becoming an axiom in Western media. This article whispers a cue which, if heeded, might solve a malignant conundrum. Unless instability bids us adieu, Africa will remain behind.

Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania, and the two Guineas can chart a military alliance. Strings to that synergy should, and most peremptorily, pronounce a two-term limit for every president. Now, as exigent as a continuous flow of oxygen to a gasping lung, another provision should sculpture in the constitutions of participating countries that any coup in any of the five nations seriously provokes a high voltage military intervention by a coalition army.

Further, any reigning president in any of the above countries that has ruled for over eight years has to step down right now. Gambia and Senegal can start this. But how many Guineans and Mauritanians live in either country? A lot, right? One thing disturbing about man is his apathy to useful cooperation. And as soon as the results of that cooperation by others glitters to accretion, he seeks to savor the ensuing jamboree.

All of you remember what’s called ‘Army Chief of Staff’, especially in The Gambia, right? The military in these five countries will be headed by one chief. Turns will be taken, say, every three years. So, the army chief can come from Senegal for three years and hands over to another from Mauritania, Gambia, Conakry, or Bissau at the end of his term.

Perhaps some of you presuppose, “But why not include other West African countries?” See, man is a very contentious creature. Otherwise, O.A.U [Organization of African Unity] would have unified Africa. I dread begging more nations to the utopia yet. Their iconoclastic propensity would, I’m sure, deign to accept an invitation. So, let’s start with only five. Believe me, brothers and sisters, we’ll become the envy of the sub-region. A name like EWA (Examples of West Africa) may come later for ease of nomenclature. Ask why few selected countries in Asia are called “The Four Tigers”. And one of them has been a financial rivulet for our Gambia.

See, I don’t know about you; but I’ve broken a wont votive of a sabbatical. I’ve remained aloof of Gambia’s writing precinct for over a decade now. The most I’ve done was to throw few stanzas of poetry under readers’ comments. Quite a few times did I add my two cents to a discourse of common bearing at JollofNews, Kibaaro, and Hellogambia. And quite a number of readers, as bellicose as they were, asked me to pick a political stance, reveal my real name, and hurl curses of febrile indignation at villains they supplicate against.  To those same folks, I say the same. I’ll not reveal my identity. Why? Because what I write isn’t about me. It’s about an orb seeking honest intellection; an orb which, if accorded proportionate investment of thought and action will turn those donkey drivers in the streets of Serrekunda or Brikama into assets of this age of service economy. Also, I don’t bask in vainglory. I instead dodge the rays of recognition. And I’m not an intellectual. I can barely spell my own name! I was going to write this with the keenest avoidance of the first person narrative technique – but alack!

Back to the orb—those squirrels jumping on boughs lying high or low somewhere in North Carolina can vaunt that a dim-wit army officer can never seize power in the United States. Gosh! How I wished I could change this sentence to “Those leaders in Africa abusing providence and scorning reason can trumpet that a coup d’état can never occur in their nations.” Some African nations enjoyed decades of stability only to witness an ignorant army officer stain that national transcript with a coup. This means not even Senegal or Ghana can say they’re naturally immune to the insanity of few dastardly-situated military officers.  Did any of us bother to ask Dadis Camara of Guinea Conakry why he seized power? What about Robert Guey of Ivory Coast, just to recall a few?

When you ask an average African “What will bring peace and stability to their homeland?” They quickly retort, “Democracy, Rule of Law, Human Rights, blah! Blah! blah!” While this is correct, such democracy needs a protection. That protection has remained quite elusive to the bulk of West Africa. This is why I suggest a military alliance. If soldiers in a given African nation know that seizing power invokes a sub-regional wrath as well as a powerful coalition force against them, trust me, they won’t think of overthrowing democratically-elected governments.

Why is stability a leitmotif in this piece? A university business professor engaged me in a discourse at a banquet some time ago. And I’ve never met him before. I was the only black male at the banquet, looking somewhat foreign in the middle of Tea-Party America. After whizzing the usual questions of curiosity at me, it was my turn to quiz him. And my one and only question was, “Why don’t you Americans invest in Africa much?” He responded most succinctly with only a word, “Instability.” That breviloquence, glibly unleashed, goaded my poise to an imposing acquiescence.

Guys, you think AT&T will plant its fiber optics in Abuko or somewhere in Cassamance knowing that a smooth transfer of political power is never guaranteed there? Or will Walmart open a store in Serrekunda with the same thoughts in mind? And for those that don’t know, Walmart throws away food enough to feed the entire Gambia! And because our telecoms companies aren’t among the leviathans yet, a call from USA to Gambia for fifteen minutes costs more than a meal at McDonalds. Those of you thinking that America or England will go solve our African problems for us, keep hallucinating. Our underdevelopment and poverty helps them a lot. They’ll never ask our dictators to quit power as long as we don’t have a lot of oil.

And readers, I do see people bickering without offering practicable solutions to our problems. Talk is very cheap, folks. Let’s not just argue for the heck of it. Add recommendations! I’ve brought forth mine. What are yours? Curse the Dickens out of me if you don’t like the few points I’ve raised. But for oxygen’s sake, do propound your own solutions to some of the problems I mentioned. I hardly have time for a philippic.

Let’s first put in place a guarantor for stability. Next we can work on economy building. A day of chaos undoes twenty-five years of nation building when bullets and bombs drop. Remember, Gambia didn’t register a military coup until 1994. Before this, she was dubbed Africa’s doyen of democracy and stability. When doyens soil what crowned them most, what’s left of myrmidons but anything savage! Mark! O ye men of the land of Kunta Kinteh! Prithee hark!

AUTHOR: Gambiano