By Simon Fenton
Well it’s all happening down here. As ever the media is making a meal of it and it’s certainly a very stressful period. But change is never smooth – especially in Africa – but I’m excited by both how people power and a west African consensus is on the verge bringing democracy to our neighbour Gambia.
Of course this will be good for us. Senegal is a democracy and has often been at odds with its autocratic neighbour. This paves the way for two modern democracies to coexist and collaborate. Borders will be easy to cross, a shared peace and prosperity possible between people and tribes whose roots date back thousands of years before Europeans drew some arbitrary lines.
So what’s going on? Following an initial jubilation and optimism when new president Adama Barrow was voted in in December, current leader Jammeh rescinded his offer conceding defeat and said he ain’t going nowhere. Rather than regurgitate what many have said, here is a summary.
I won’t go into the details of Yaya Jammeh’s reign until he’s well and truly gone – friend of the Little Baobab, Gambian kora star Pabobo, released this youtube video a few weeks ago criticising the regime and this lead to him fleeing the country with a $10000 bounty on his head:
On a positive note, he gave us a private performance in our bar last Saturday.
On a personal level it’s been frustrating with several cancellations at what is normally our busiest time of the year and the only time we really make money – money which sees us through the rest of the year. But I’m small fry and can handle it. The Gambia and to a certain extent this region of the Casamance relies on tourism brought in at Banjul airport and the mass evacuation of tourists yesterday will severely impact the tourist industry and pretty much every family – most have at least one member working at the coast and sending back money. Without wishing to add to the internet noise, much unconfirmed, the general consensus seems to be that it should all be over fairly quickly, no one wants a blood bath and that the Gambian army haven’t resisted as Senegalese troops entered the country at midnight last night.
Let me reassure everyone that there is no trouble here in Senegal and we’re all safe and sound. Aside from a large number of Gambian refugees arriving in the village, life goes on. We’re less than 90 minutes from Banjul’s airport and most of our guests arrive and leave there, so we’re hoping for a swift conclusion so that the Gambia can finally get back on its feet after years of tyranny, that it can start developing properly. When that happens and the petty border issues that have plagued Senegal and Gambia are no more, the entire region will flourish and I can’t wait to be a part of it.