Yaya Sillah

Thoughts on marriage and society


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The tragedy at Faraba

 

The loss of life in Faraba is indeed very tragic and regrettable. I am mourning with my fellow citizens; and I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to grieving families and friends, including those who sustained injuries and are currently receiving medical treatment at Banjul hospital. I wish them a speedy recovery and I pray that the three departed souls will rest in peace.

In our smiling coast of Africa, it’s rather unfortunate yet again to witness the Police Intervention Unit opening fire on un-armed civilians, who were merely exercising their constitutional rights. While I struggled to digest such awful news, I echo my fellow Gambians who call on the authorities to ensure that this incident is investigated thoroughly and whoever is found wanting is brought before the law. Justice should prevail. The authorities have made it unequivocally clear that they gave no instruction to PIU officers to open fire on protestors. I add my voice to those calling for calm and restraint.

Additionally, I would remind my fellow Gambians that the relationship between police and the youth is not always cordial. For example, ‘stop and search’ in the UK has proved to be very controversial. And in the Unite States of America, police officers often discharge their firearms against innocent people in order to effect an arrest. Tragically, our republic is not immune to such a security lapse. Nevertheless we ought to recognise that the majority of the men and women in uniform are professional and they are law abiding citizens. However, maintaining security and peace in the country might occasionally be challenging for them. Hence, there is a small chance for a minority of them to be led astray.

With democracy comes huge responsibility: from December 2016 the Gambia embarked on a long journey to pursue democracy and good governance. Since then, despite the best efforts of the government, the country continues to have some visible social and economic challenges which cause major uncertainty. Consequently, the slow pace of economic recovery often means the virtue of freedom of expression and freedom of speech is lost. As a result, the most anticipated land, environmental, political, economical, social, and institutional reforms require a huge amount of patience and an atmosphere of uninterrupted social cohesion. In a fragile democracy, no matter which club I belong to, whether it is a rights group, a political group or a pressure group, I would be very reluctant to exercise my rights in the street until I have exhausted all other means of expression.

However, it is encouraging to see that the government officials, religious leaders and members of the National Assembly come together as one force and show solidarity to the communities in Faraba. In conclusion, I am appealing to my fellow Gambians – let us stop politicizing this incident and let us not spread fake news on social media.
One Gambia, one people


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Alternative to foreign aid

Recently, our dear mother -land continues to makes headlines throughout the world, particularly when it was announcedthat The Gambia is to gain at least 1.45 billion Euros from her donors. This developing story sparks debate both off and online whichcontinues dominating most political discussions not only in the country but in the sub region. In my last article, I echoed the opinion expressed by those who raised concern: is foreign aid truly makinga difference in terms of economic growth and good governance in Africa? Though everyone isat liberty to reachtheir own conclusion, in supportof my argument, let me highlight the following:

First of all, let me make it absolutely clear;ifsomeone actually asks me,does The Gambia really need foreign aid? My answer will be YES, the countryreally needs aid in order to boost her fragile economy which is essential infixing its broken institutions as well as paying off its foreign debts but of courseat the expense of our independence andsovereignty. Apparently, what the disciples of foreign aid fail to realise is this; there are always strings attached to it,which means any country dependent on foreign aid might be sleep walking back into the colonial era. Don’t you recognise thatbasically, the majorityof civiclaws guiding morality inthird world countries – including rules and regulations dictating poor economies- wereoften designed to serve thedollar givers?

My fellow citizens let’s be honest with ourselves;our dependency on foreign aid won’t do much to improve our economy, particularlytackling poverty and illiteracy. The Gambia’s economybelongs to the categories which I often describe as a “transit base economy“ meaning that the significant proportion of our GDP,together with dollarsaid, are going back into the pockets of foreigners who control 90% of the import and export business in the country.A common proverb comes to mind – do not feed the animal, because by feedingthem, they would lack ability to hunt for themselves!Equally, African dependency on aid is killing her spirit of self- reliance which is hampering creative thinking in the continent.

One alternative to foreign aid can include these measures : creationof social entrepreneurship in order to empower people with skills and talent; and in addition to that, government ought to financially support small businesses and profoundly prioritise health sectors as well as subsidising farmers in agriculture to ensure that food security is guaranteed for all Gambians. Furthermore, the current education system in the country is not fit for purpose. Most children leaving school lack the ability to read or write.Consequently, educational reforms which will establish institutions providing quality education for childrenallowing them to harness their intelligence and self-esteem are urgently needed.Quality education would subsequently enable children to be more work ethic conscious and be more creative thinkers which are crucial for economicself-reliance and financialindependence. In my opinion, these will dramatically reduce the number of Africans, especially youths in The Gambia, aiming to reach Europe using the BACK WAY, hoping for greener pastures. Equippingfuture generations with quality education would approximately cut 90% of our future dependence on foreign aid.


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Gambia and foreign aid

Gambia and Foreign Aid,
Though some Gambians like me are not huge fans of encouraging foreign aid, the majority of our fellow citizens from all walks of life are. People were excited about the outcome of the EU donor conference recently held in Brussels. According to media sources, this conference was jointly organized by the Gambian government in collaboration with its main development partner, the EU. A total of 1.45 billion Euros was pledged by the international community at the conference, which will boost the Gambian economy in the next three years. The EU promised it would inject an additional 140 million Euros, on top of the 225 million Euros which it had already committed, boosting our country’s ailing economy. There is no doubt that Gambians are really grateful with the assistance rendered to the country by the EU since we gained independence in 1965. The EU gets a MASSIVE THANKS from me.
However, here is my question: can we celebrate this achievement or should we do some soul-searching?
Firstly, I think it’s essential to acknowledge the efforts made by President Barrow and the government because since they took office back in 2017, he is using every means possible to encourage foreign investors to come and invest in the Gambia, in order to create jobs and improve the country’s economy. Furthermore, President Barrow and his entourage use the commercial flight from Banjul to Brussels to attend the above mentioned donor conference. He has demonstrated that fiscal discipline is profoundly crucial to him and his administration, which is indeed a very encouraging sign.

Conversely, it’s very disappointing after 53 years of self-determination that a significant proportion of our GDP is still entirely dependent on foreign aid. Where did things go wrong? Despite the abundance of human capital which is in our possession, in addition to the natural resources that we have in our disposal, fifty years down the line we are still relying on those who are supposed to be our equal partners in commerce and trade. We literally exist like beggars receiving aid in order to survive. If that is not a cause of national concern for patriotic citizens like me and you, then what else would be? In my opinion, we can do much better than this. Rather than celebrating a short term financial achievement, why can’t we do some soul-searching in order to determine why in many aspects the Gambia is still not economically and intellectually self -sufficient?!

I maintain that there is a need for Gambia to emulate the economic style of Botswana, particularly in the areas of how to explore a country’s natural resources, human development and job creation. The southern African country is a small land locked country but it managed to build a strong institution and became a middle income earning country without any foreign dependency whatsoever. To illustrate my point, according to Dambisa Moyo’s book, Dead Aid, Botswana ceased to receive foreign aid in the year 2002. Yet the country is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Their GDP is purely relying on its natural resources and human capital.
The Gambia a small country, similar in size to Botswana, and she is blessed with the river Gambia which links it to the Atlantic Ocean, a vast amount of agricultural land, and a youthful population. Imagine for second that if we utilised all these properly, foreign aid would be unnecessary.

Finally, though corruption is always a major concern in Africa, I am optimistic that President Barrow’s vision of the National Development Plan 2018-2021 will utilise all funds gained through foreign aid accordingly. With the prospect of more transparency and accountability from Barrow’s government, hopefully,financial embezzlement and misuse of public funds by public officials would soon be a thing of the past. I haven’t seen details regarding Barrow’s Plan, but I would assume that it will prioritise improving education, healthcare, energy supply and agriculture for people in rural areas to ensure that Gambia embarks on a journey of self-sufficiency in development before the next election.

Meanwhile, I will continue to pray that the EU will seriously consider giving amnesty to illegal migrants who move to Europe through using the Back Way. It’s worth remembering that in third world countries, where there is no reliable health infrastructure, or a genuine social security system, when government fails to deliver to the public, desperate families can only rely on help from their sons and daughters living in the Diaspora.
May God bless you and may he bless the Gambia.
Yaya Sillah


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The Gambia Gov…needs to do more

The Gambian government needs to do more to ensure that the human rights of its citizens in Libya and elsewhere are respected.

Right now, the international community is making a huge noise with regard to the upheaval of illegal migration which, according to some, is affecting the resources of major economies around the world.  However, in my opinion, criminals who continue to enslave African migrants in Libya ought to be the primary concern. In the past few days, I noticed that major news outlets and users of social media are distracting people from this important topic to other less significant political matters (such as the “fire and fury” concerning the psyche of Donald Trump and the recent scuffle between the supporters of different political parties in the Gambia).

According to IMO, the lives of thousands of migrants are currently at risk from gangs across Libya.  I am begging the international community to continue this discussion and strive to be more vocal to ensure that this immoral practise in Libya and elsewhere is immediately ceased.

In a civilised society, there should never be any correlation between Illegal migration and enslaving innocent people against their wills. Illegal migration is a major problem which profoundly requires its own discussions and its own solution. But enslaving human beings against their will is categorically wrong under any circumstances. Regardless of your culture, common sense would dictate that an ambitious youth who is both hopeless and desperate, trying to migrate elsewhere and hoping for a better future, does not deserve to be enslaved!

As I stated in my last article, the moral obligation to tackle and prevent such a heinous crime is not only confined to the EU and AU, but rather a moral obligation on each and every one of us.

Situations such as this often require both short-term and long-term solutions. I would suggest the following four steps:

  1. There is a moral obligation on families and friends to discourage their love ones from using the ‘back way’ through Libya or Morocco which are the main hubs for enslaving African migrants right now. And they ought to encourage family members who are stranded in these two countries to immediately return home at the first available chance.
  2. 2. There is a moral obligation on people like me to make sure that we continue the discussion concerning this matter every day until slavery is stopped.
  3. 3. There is a moral obligation on us to participate whenever there are public demonstrations to draw the attention of the international community and put extra pressure on authorities in order for them to do more, like the demonstrations we have witnessed in the streets of London, Paris, New York and in Africa.
  4. I understand that the Gambia’s government cannot use the migrant crisis in Libya and Europe as a bargaining chip to solicit more aid from the European Union. However, if the Gambia government hasn’t made any deal yet concerning the migrant crisis with the EU, as they claimed last week, then they have a moral duty to appeal to EU countries to grant temporary working visas for at least two years to Gambian migrants who went Europe through the ‘back way’ and are now illegally scattered across Europe, before enforcing any deportation.

    While suggesting these short- term solutions, I think it’s extremely important for me to also point out and emphasis that the EU, like any continent, has a moral obligation to respect the concerns of its citizens regarding issues surrounding migrants. In addition to that, they have the legal right to remove anyone from their country if they wish, particularly those who they see as illegal immigrants. We have to understand that whatever help the EU might offer African countries concerning this matter would purely be based on humanitarian grounds. They don’t have any legal obligation whatsoever to allow illegal migrants to stay.

As a migrant living in Europe, there is a moral obligation on all of us to recognise that allowing us to remain in mainland Europe is a privilege. It is not an entitlement or a God-given right. As a result, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we always maintain peace and tranquillity in European society.

Migrants who were lucky enough to make it to Europe, after escaping slavery in Libya should come forward and share their experience with the wider world in order to enlighten those who might be tempted to embark on such a reckless journey. Migrants should also acknowledge the generosity which is always accorded to them by Europeans. They rescue migrants from the peril of the open sea and show them love and kindness, which brings many a step closer to fulfilling a meaningful life in Europe. In my view, showing such appreciation would effectively ridicule the allegations and misconception of those who often claim that the EU is secretly collaborating with Arab gangs in Libya to enslave African migrants in the country.

After all, please remember that, we were all created equal. No man is a slave to another man.

 


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EU and AU have moral obligation to prevent slavery in Libya

The AU and EU have a moral obligation to prevent slavery in Libya

(the continuation of my discussion concerning modern day slavery around the world, particularly in Libya)

 

I wish all my readers, a very Happy New Year.

 

People around the world are celebrating the coming of 2018 with a high expectation that the New Year will be more prosperous than the last. I join the international community in hoping this is so. However, we should bear in mind that thousands of African migrants are still languishing in slavery at labour camps and detention centres across Libya. I am pleased to see that certain countries in Africa, like the Gambia, are repatriating their citizens from Libya and persuading other countries to follow their example. However, I hope that conversations about slavery will continue to make headlines around the world, in order to ensure that we put enough pressure on authorities to put an immediate end to slavery, wherever it is happening.

There is a growing suspicion that economic agreements signed between the EU and armed gangs in Libya are encouraging criminals to enslave African migrants who are trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea through Libya. Therefore desperate youths will be discouraged from taking such a dangerous journey, and Europe will then have fewer illegal immigrants. Even though this theory sounds genuine to some people, I don’t want believe such a wild claim is true. I don’t think, in the 21st century, the EU would sanction that kind of unimaginable human rights abuse of migrants. However, in ancient times, these methods were occasionally used by powerful states to ensure that law and order was effectively maintained in lawless countries like Libya.

I do understand that whenever a country is confronted by a migrant crisis, there is no easy solution. When I was recently visiting Australia, there was a huge public outcry concerning the status of refugees and economic migrants who are still held in the refugee camp at Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea, under the control of the Australian authorities. With many others, I signed a petition to put pressure on the Australian government to make sure they allow these refugees to settle in mainland Australian. The governments counter argument is that allowing them to settle in the country would mean victory for people traffickers who are making millions of dollars through such a lucrative business. In my opinion such an argument and returning the boats makes more sense than encouraging criminals and gangs to enslave migrants elsewhere.

On the other hand, the behaviour of some economic migrants who are now living in mainland Europe is not helping campaigners like me, who are tirelessly advocating on their behalf. For an example, last week, I was stunned when I saw two videos emerge on Facebook of Gambian migrants based in Germany, ranting in Mandinka and using a Boko Haram type of rhetoric, threating terror in the Gambia if they were deported back to Gambia. According to them, there was a rumour that the Gambian government had signed an agreement with Germany regarding the deportation of illegal Gambian migrants. I was extremely disappointed by the people who made such threatening videos, and by those who liked it on Facebook.

 

Discussion concerning economic migration and slavery, especially in Libya, has to be constructive, based on mutual respect, ethics and discipline. But threatening to unleash terror on innocent people will only make the situation for migrants in Europe worse, and those guilty of any wrong doing would have to face the ultimate consequences for their actions. Let’s continue our debate with maturity and discipline, not with violence and contempt.

It’s always important to remember that we were all created equal. No man is a slave to any other man.

 


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There is no room for slavery in modern societies.

Hi everyone. Today my discussion will purely focus on the inhumane treatment of black Africans at the hands of Arab Libyans. I have to admit that whenever I am dealing with subjects such as this, if I fail to echo Hon. Louis Farrakhan or Mr. Malcolm X surely I won’t be able to make any relevant points at all. However, even though I am extremely heartbroken by the abhorrent slavery in Libya, I will try not to be compulsive in my language, rather for now I will use diplomatic vocabulary. Like my comrades, I am equally horrified by the shocking pictures emerging from Libya that are circulating on social media concerning forceful slavery of African migrants in labour camps across the country. The evil behind such barbaric acts by North African Arabs does not surprise me because the culture of impunity is supreme in such puritanical societies.

I struggled for a while but I cannot find any better words than this: what puzzles me the most is the culture of silence by religious scholars in North Africa and the Middle East who often silently indorse immoral attitudes toward black people and minorities in the region. It is really shameful and disgraceful. In addition to this, in the pages of many books authored by scholars of Arabia and their intellectual commentators you will find distorted versions of religious texts written to justify such puritanical concepts which are the fruits of slavery and social segregation, are still profoundly deep rooted in the wider culture of Arab world.

Relatively recently, the OIC, Arab league, EU, AU, and other major international human rights organisations including the Gambia, were robust in their condemnation of a suspected Houthi insurgency missile attack from Yemen against the capital city of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh where there were no casualties. Although we all knew deep down in our souls that, in politics there are no ethical foreign policies by any nations but, by the virtues of humanity including our moral obligations. Apart from the Gambia, I believe the EU, AU, OIC, Arab league, and other international organisation were slow to acknowledge the serious abuses that have taken place in Libya since the overthrow of Gaddafi.

According to Anti-Slavery International, which is the oldest human rights organisation in the world,  more than 46 million people are still kept as slaves in one shape or form. Sadly, the majority of those caught up in these modern-day conditions are either African or people of a dark complexion. I ought to ask the following question, “why less than one hundred years since the evil of the holocaust  robust international intervention has effectively prevented another holocaust from happening to the Jewish people. But “shockingly” for more than two hundred years, since the horrors of trans-Atlantic slavery why are similar preventative measures still failing to protect black people from the repetition of slavery particularly in Arab countries?”

Of course, I know there are no easy solutions to tackling cultures of discrimination and segregation which are the main causes ofslavery, but in my opinion, robust international intervention would effectively reduce the suffering and inhumane treatment of people perceived to be inferior and minorities who are usually the victims of slavery.

I will suggest the following to African governments: you ought to protect your citizens from discrimination and segregation at any cost and empower them to realise their potential in their native countries.
And for now, my message for Africa’s youth: understand that, you are not inferior to anyone, and you are not a slave to anyone except God. Rise up to the challenges and be the Moses of your time to free your fellow brothers and sisters from slavery across the world. Use all the peaceful means necessary. Enough is enough!
It is the time to emulate the actions of our prophet Muhammed peace be upon him. He and his companions have emancipated more than 39,370 slaves during their lifetime in Arabia.

Please understand that, all men are created equal you are not inferior to anyone and you are not slaves to anybody. Period.
Yaya Sillah