Against the backdrop of the terrorist attack that occurred on Friday January 15, 2016 in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, I have decided to change the sequence at which I was going to make a follow-up on my series tailored at sharing the thousand reasons I have for President Jammeh to be voted for in The Gambia’s 2016 general election.
My initial plan was to start with the huge investment made by the Gambian leader to improve the educational standard of his people since he assumed power compared to its regrettable state before and the tell tale progressive impact it has in the country’s development agenda rooted in freedom, equality and justice for all. However, one such fascinating programme in the president’s education policy deserving prompt acknowledgement came to my attention when I recently met a group of young Gambian medical students doing their internship in some of the most prestigious hospitals in New York City, namely Mount Sinai in Manhattan and Jacoby in the Bronx. It was few weeks ago when I met some of these students at the corner of 8th Avenue and West 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan on their way to the subway to catch their trains to work or training. I was stunned by not only their brilliance and pride to talk about who they were as Gambians but how they went on to explain the generosity and commitment of His Excellency President Jammeh in helping them improve their academic and professional careers with some of them fully sponsored through six years of university education. They also revealed how their group of over a dozen candidates was one out of numerous groups annually paid for by the president in similar programmes throughout the world for over a decade now.

Thinking out loud, I retorted with the question about why the programme was not always a frontline news in the country’s mainstream media; but with utter spontaneity, one of them, a female gynecology student said: “I don’t think the president does this for publicity. Like so many great things he does behind the scenes, this one is another one of his special gestures buttressing his steadfastness to help every Gambian having the potentiality to pursue higher education.” The young lady went on to confess how she wouldn’t have reached such a height in her education and vocational development if the Gambian President was not there for low-income-earning families like the one she came from.

What a refreshing feeling to further learnt that many more Gambian students of various professions and educational background were constantly being sponsored by the President in African, European and Asian institutions of higher learning. Statistically-and this is believed to be a conservative figure-experts monitoring the number of Gambian students known to have benefitted from the President’s programme since its implementation two decades ago, estimate the number of beneficiaries in excess of 250,000 Gambians. Amazing, right?

Illustrating more of such wonderful scheme in The Gambia’s educational achievements was my intended follow-up theme this week until I learnt about what happened in Burkina Faso last Friday night, January 15 2016, a terrible event indeed reminding us about the vulnerability of some seemingly-stable African nations to terrorist attacks, especially those recently enmeshed in political turmoil affecting their national security priorities. I have however said that my series on the thousand reasons for the Gambian President to be retain in power this year will be punctuated or blended with new events unfolding in the political theater of the world. What happened in Burkina Faso is one of such eminent events requiring us to look into our security position.

Thank God President Jammeh’s Gambia is not Iraq, Libya, Egypt or Burkina Faso. The Gambians living in the country and seeing the problems across the world caused by political instability are not stupid. Members of the armed forces are also conscious of the ever looming threat to their survival and that of the nation’s, posed by incompetent political leaders having no regards or respect to their lives and welfare. Of course, Gambians in general enjoying their beautiful country under a very caring leader know what is best for them in these difficult days of terrorism, banditry, arms trafficking and the like.

However, the attack at the Splendid Hotel and Café in Ouagadougou by members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that killed over 28 people, with 56 injured was the same group that in November 2015 attacked the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako Mali killing19 people. The group is now confirmed to be a roving armed jihadist force in the region trafficking humans and arms and in stiff competition against ISIS who are now increasingly getting stronger in their base at former Colonel Gadhafi’s home town of Sirte, in Libya. Anyhow like in Mali, the Burkina Faso security forces had to seek the assistance of French troops stationed in Bamako before they could have the situation under control.

Obviously French troops are now being spread thin in Sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal to Mali and now in Burkina Faso where their presence will continue to be indispensable for survival of the governments in power.

Remember how President Jammeh’s forces obliterated the gang of terrorists on December 30, 2014 when sponsored and armed by sociopaths bent on undermining The Gambia’s peace and tranquility they foolishly walked into a death trap, thanks to a well-coordinated intelligence network in the country? He doesn’t need any foreign forces to take care of The Gambia’s security concerns.

The Gambian President is one leader in the continent of Africa who doesn’t believe that the security of a nation should be hinged on the shoulders of foreign forces. To him contemporary policies of African governments in general and national security ones in particular are choices between adopting blind dependency on foreigners to dictate a country’s way of handling one’s affairs and the conscious adherence to a nation’s core values of genuine self-dependence and taking one’s destiny in one’s own hands. As a matter of fact being totally opposed to the idea of dependency on foreign forces was one of the captivating factors behind why he overthrew the PPP government that throughout its reign from 1965 to 1994 had always relied on foreign forces for the security of The Gambia.

However it is indeed apparent that the threat we face in Africa today from extremist terrorists is by all honesty compounded by both weak leadership and the greed of weapon manufacturers and traffickers. President Jammeh has on numerous occasions in and out of The Gambia raised his concern over the proliferation of firearms in the African continent whereas there are no weapon manufacturing plants in any of our states. Ironically, every time a bunch of these lunatic killers use their deadly weapons to kill the innocent and defenseless, the blame stops at associating the carnage to the perpetrator’s mental health, sectarian ambitions or fundamentalist aspirations with no blame apportioned to the manufacturers and traffickers of the weapons saturating our land for profits. We are quick to name the attackers, what they represent and the kind of groups they are affiliated to but will never hear about where the guns they used were manufactured from which are all traceable from the serial number and model of every firearm in the market.

I think it would be of great significance if the UN, or the AU comes up with enforceable resolutions requiring that terrorists captured or killed must not only be investigated for who or what they are about but must in the process include finding out the name(s) of the originating countries, the serial numbers and models of all firearms used by the attackers. The weapons will then be saved as evidence of exposing every manufacturer and distributor involved but with their firing pins destroyed to render them useless forever. Nations found guilty of supplying or selling the weapons to terrorists will be held fully or partially responsible for the death of every one killed by terrorists using their firearms. Monetary compensation will be demanded from the fat cats or CEOs of weapon industries in the ultimate damage caused. I seriously think it could be a good start in holding these profiteers accountable for the indisputable part they play in global terrorism now threatening human civilization and help bring about world peace.

To be continued!

Samsudeen Sarr

New York City.