Colonialism brought us nothing but poverty -President Jammeh tells New African Magazine
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
The president of the Republic, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Jammeh, has told the Pan-African magazine, New African, that the centuries-long imperialism and colonial hegemony “brought Africa nothing but poverty, backwardness, exploitation and slavery”.
In his marathon exclusive interview with New Africa’s deputy editor, Regina Jane Jere, at State House in Banjul, published on its November edition, President Jammeh did not mince words when he reiterated that under colonialism, “Gambians were not trained to be doctors or scientists” in sharp contrast to the current prevailing situation under his regime where the Medical School under the University of The Gambia continues to produce homegrown doctors
“Yes, a few years ago there was no university here. And that is part of the reasons why we have left the Commonwealth. The British were here in The Gambia for 400 years, and in that time they built only one high school,” the Gambian leader told the New Africa editor, who appeared to be dumb-founded by that revelation.
“Yes, in 400 years the British built only one high school; then there were 30 years of the so-called independence, with no university, no high school; [and] yes, the post-independence government never built a single high school, a single hospital, in the 30 years it was in power. Do you understand? Even the British-built high school, called Armitage High School (established by colonial governor Cecil Hamilton Armitage in 1927), was for the children of traditional rulers in order to appease them and that was the only high school they built in 400 years of occupation!
So let us do the mathematics; if one high school was built in 400 years, how many years would it have taken us to add a college or a university? Nearly a billion years?”, added the Gambian leader, whose interview also touched on The Gambia’s bold decision to withdraw its membership from the Commonwealth of nations.
“Therefore, when you listen to the tone of the BBC, saying we didn't tell anybody about our decision to withdraw from the Commonwealth, you wonder. What they are saying is that we should have taken permission from somebody, after informing them ahead of time, and they would have advised us whether or not to withdraw or not to leave the Commonwealth.
And it's not only about The Gambia. They want every African government or leader to do the same. Consult the West before we do anything. Well, that time is long past. We don't want to be anybody’s servant.
Now they are telling everyone how The Gambia was benefitting from the Commonwealth, though they won’t say by how much. But let me tell you the true story about how much The Gambia was putting into the Commonwealth annually, compared to what we got from the Commonwealth. It didn't balance.
If I have to give, say, $8M annually to an institution that belongs to both of us, and I get less than $1M back annually, who is benefitting and who is losing? Let them be. And from now on we shall do what is right according to our norms, culture and religion. And we shall leave them to practice what is right according to their norms, culture and religion,” he emphasised.
Quizzed on what Gambians can expect in terms of development in this country in the next five years, The Gambian leader was but unequivocal, telling Editor Jere that “five years is a long time”.
“In The Gambia we see changes, positive changes, every three months. So I will tell you that if you come back to The Gambia in one year’s time, you will see something different, you will see more advancement. In the next five years we want The Gambia to be one of the leading economies in the entire world, not only in Africa. Yes, in five years we want to see a Gambia where only the most extreme medical conditions are sent abroad for treatment, where the literacy rate has improved tremendously, where we have more university students, where education is free,” he reiterated.
When asked about his views on an institution like the International Criminal Court (headed by Gambia’s Fatou Bensouda as chief prosecutor), which has been the butt of criticisms from many Africans, including the African governments and the Africa Union, the Gambian leader was quite clear.
His words: “The ICC, as far as I am concerned, is not a colonialist institution; it came into being not long ago, maybe less than 10 years ago if my memory serves me right. However, as we do with many other international institutions, as we have done with the Commonwealth, we Africans are fond of jumping into these institutions very quickly. We become members at a stroke of a pen, ratify our allegiance first and then read the text later, and only then do we realise what we have got ourselves into. And usually, it’s too late.
I have warned my colleagues that we must be very careful about jumping onto the bandwagon after the other. We jump into every bus without knowing the destination. And then when the driver stops in hell and asks Africans to drop off, we find ourselves asking; why are we here? We have accepted everything created by the West without even questioning anything.
But coming back to the ICC, and speaking as an African, not just a Gambian and a Muslim, don’t forget that the African continent constitutes the largest bloc in the ICC and its on the back of this African bloc that the ICC rose to its feet very quickly. I made it very clear from the outset that before we accepted and made a resolution on the ICC, we have to understand what it was for, because we have burnt our fingers on several occasions before. But everybody said the work of the ICC was very clear.
Then came the indictment of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan. Some African leaders were for and others against the indictment of a sitting head of state without informing the AU. This was an insult.
And then they said the indictment came as a result of the UN Security Council to which Africa is not a permanent member. Beware that there are two ways of getting somebody to stand trial at the ICC; either by an individual country referring the accused, or the case may be filed by the Security Council. Now when I hear my colleagues complain about the ICC, I feel ashamed because, apart from the case of President Bashir, all the other cases before the ICC were referred by African governments themselves. Do you understand?
For example, the cases in Kenya, the case in Cote d’lvoire of former President Laurent Gbagbo who was not arrested by the ICC, but by his own people, their own government and handed over to the ICC. As far as I know, there is not a single case, apart from that of President Bashir, which an African government didn’t refer voluntarily to the ICC. Then we turn around and say the ICC is racist and is targeting only Africans. It is only Africans, no one else, referring cases to the ICC; we cannot blame that court for trying only Africans. If Africa does not want ICC to treat African cases, then don’t refer cases to the ICC.”
Further asked whether he agrees at all with the notion that the ICC targets Africans because Africans actively choose to refer cases to the ICC out of their own freewill, the Gambian leader replied: “I do not agree and I will never agree to it [that the ICC targets Africans].”
“ I have made it very clear that if we Africans have a problem among ourselves, in fact it is very shameful that, instead of being brave and putting it before the AU and letting our continental body sort it out, we want to use international institutions to solve our problems."
Responding to the question that The Gambian leader “must be very proud of what Mrs. Bensouda is doing at the ICC,” he said: “She is an international civil servant. I am proud not because she is a Gambian; I am proud because she is an African woman. This was a post that initially was not meant for Africans, but today if Africans head an institution I think we should work with the institution. I am not defending the ICC but I am defending the truth.”
Author: Daily Observer