By Joseph Sherman, Editor-in-Chief, Salone Monitor
As John Lydgate said “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. In Sierra Leone and most Sierra Leoneans abroad are criticizing the economy and the efforts of President Ernest Bai Koroma because they are forgetting to take into consideration the marvelous efforts he has done for Sierra Leone since he took power seven years ago. I am not justifying that there is no hardship in the country because we know ailing economy is not only in Sierra Leone but it is a world –wide phenomena and only the efforts of most of us that are privileged to be abroad that our families can able to meet make ends meet because of the support they get from us. However, if we look at the economies of other countries like Gambia which is less populated and has never gone through the difficulties that Sierra Leone has undergone for the past years we have to appreciate what President Koroma is doing for Sierra Leone in spite of the tremendous challenges the country faces. A country like Gambia which is a next door neighbor to Sierra Leone and should be a modern day paradise with a population of 1.5 million people is going through hardship and her citizens are finding ways to leave the country for greener pastures. However, for skeptics who feel that Sierra Leone is the worst country in the world should read the below report on Gambia:
With prime, West African coastal property on the Atlantic Ocean, a population of only 1.5 million people, tropical forests and beautiful sunshine The Gambia it should be a modern day paradise.
Instead, the mangoes (possibly the most beautiful in the world and a lucrative crop) fall to the ground and either rot or are eaten by goats.
As a result of a failing economy and a dwindling tourist market over the last three years, the people live on about one dollar a day. Literacy is at about 40%, life expectancy is only 53 years old and disease continues to go untreated.
The Gambia has a chequered past. Once a major route for the slave trade, it gained its independence from the British Commonwealth in 1965.
Then, with less than a generation of democratic rule, the country was once again plunged into confusion when in 1994 military coups led by the charismatic, Yahya Jammeh seized power.
This December will see their President attempt to go for another term. A prospect that hangs over the people with an uncomfortable silence.
Hope’s were raised earlier this year when it looked as though a united opposition by the NCP (National Convention Party) would form a unified alternative government for the December election.
However, those hopes are becoming less likely as the leaders that are most capable of standing in opposition to the current president seem unable to co-operate with one another.
As a result of government restrictions and internal corruption, the produce of local farmers – a mainstay of the economy – is often unable to cross the border into Senegal where there is freedom to trade.
The Gambian people are a politically moderate and principally a nation tolerant of religious freedom.
Bordered on all sides by Senegal, and the smallest mainland country in Africa, Gambians are also acutely aware of the need to maintain peace with their neighbours.
Though 99% Muslim, Gambians are well known for sharing meals and religious celebrations together.
Islamic families will prepare food for the Christians at Easter and Christmas, and Christian communities will come out and celebrate Tabaski with Muslims at the conclusion of Ramadan each year.
Like so much of Africa, they have all the resources they need to prosper and yet they remain impoverished and mostly lacking in basic daily needs.
Much of this has to do with the culture of greed that runs from top to bottom.
Desperation, as well as an influx of people from neighboring countries like Nigeria, has seen a steady increase in corruption, bribery and theft among the people.
In the last 20 years, Freetonians who had fled the Civil War in Sierra Leone along with Nigerians and Ghanaians have increased among the general population.
These newcomers, arriving with fake degrees and a sharp mind, have tended to get the jobs and outsmart the often naive rural farming communities.
Charities from the west that have gone in and seen the need have also found themselves at the hands of these unscrupulous immigrants. Posing as benevolent supporters of the work, they have worked their way into many Western charities only to run off with the money.
The corruption, coupled with the ongoing poverty, has created an even more significant problem for The Gambia.
Young Gambian men, eager to escape the poverty and hopeless cycle of corruption, are attempting to flee the country of a better life in Europe.
Known as the forgotten refugees, these growing numbers of young men risk their lives by leaving all behind. Heading out into the Western Sahara, they make their way up through Angola and Niger and eventually to Libya. There, they hope to catch a small vessel across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy.
Unfortunately, very few men make it. Many are captured and killed by Bandits who demand a ransom from people with no money to give. If they manage to evade the authorities or escape the bandits around 80% will die at sea.
With the social as well as the economic disadvantages that the country already faces, we can only hope that December will signal a time of change for The Gambian people