CORDEG chief Dr. Abdoulaye Saine talks to
Maafanta.com publisher assigned me for an interview with Dr. Abdoulaye Saine, new chairman of CORDEG. Having heard of his name and read some of his scholarly work on African Politics and Democratization, as a student of International Relations and Conflict, I got inspired and excited for the opportunity. Dr Abdoulaye Saine is an inspirational figure with vast knowledge on African Leadership and Democratization and here is my conversation with him.I don't know the good doctor myself so I plugged his name into google and talked to him and his friends. I hope all the maafanta readers will enjoy it and get to interact with him in the future.And send him more questions! - Isatou Bittaye
Aisha: First of all, thank you very much for granting maafanta.com this interview and sharing your thoughts and experience with our readers. This interview intends to focus on your career as a political scientist/Professor, writer, experience as a human rights advocate, issues related to Gambian politics and Africa in general, and your recent election as the Chairman of Committee for the Restoration of Democracy in the Gambia (CORDEG) and any other matter that concerns human welfare and justice as a whole.Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Dr. Abdoulaye Saine: First, greetings to you and your readers, and for your kind invitation. I was born in Kaur, Central River Division, in the early 1950s, to the late Seman Saine and late the Aja Marget Sowe. I attended Kaur Primary School, Armitage High, and Yundum College, respectively, in the 1960s. And, before coming to the USA in the mid-1970s to further my education, I taught English and African Literature at Kerewan, and Crab Island Junior Secondary Schools.
Aisha Bittaye:Briefly tell us something about your academic career?
Dr. Abdoulaye Saine: My training is in Global/International Politics, Comparative Politics, and International Political Economy- with concentrations in African political-economy, the Global South and Critical Theory. I received graduate training at the University of Denver, Colorado, and Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada in the 1970s and 1980s. I am currently professor and former chair in the department of political science at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. I also taught at Colorado and Washington State Universities, in Fort Collins and Pullman, respectively before coming to Miami of Oho, some fifteen years ago.
Aisha Bittaye: I understand you have special interest in democratization and leadership in Africa, why the focus on area as research interest?
Dr. Abdoulaye Saine :My research interests have generally focused on “democracy,” “democratization,” and “leadership,” partly in response to the Third-Wave democratization processes that swept the entire African continent in the late 1980s, and early 1990s. Good leadership armed with thoughtful policies can make the difference even in resource-poor countries like The Gambia. Similarly, poor leadership in resource-rich countries could be a curse. So, the type of leadership a country has is crucial.
Aisha Bittaye: Also, I have seen some of your publications on military and military transitions in Africa; can you tell us something about that?
Dr. Abdoulaye Saine:Having earlier written on civil-military relations in Africa in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the 1994 coup in Gambia, “democratization,” “liberalization,” and “leadership,” are logical extensions of my research. I have, as a result, written widely on democratic transitions from military-rule to liberalization and democratic experiments in The Gambia and Africa. My earlier books, Not Yet Democracy, and The Paradox of Third-Wave Democratization in The Gambia 1994-2008, address the challenges countries like The Gambia continue to face in transitioning from autocratic rule to democracy.
Aisha: Can you provide an analysis of what some people define as “leadership crisis” in Africa?
Dr. Abdoulaye Saine:For many analysts, the term means poor and vision less “leadership,” characterized by ineptitude, greed and manipulation of the political process for personal, rather than national interests- a French scholar called it, “ politics of the belly,” others have also termed it “personalist” or “clientalist” rule, as we have in The Gambia.
Aisha Bittaye: With the current economic under performance and high cost of living in The Gambia coupled with monopoly of taxation. Can you dwell on these matters?
Dr. Abdoulaye Saine.Gambia’s economy under Yahya Jammeh has performed very poorly in the last two decades- even if some macroeconomic indicators suggest otherwise. Agriculture, which once was the backbone of the economy, is severely neglected. This has worsened Gambia’s dependence on high-cost imports and a food-bill that has remained high, historically. In an economy where little added-value production occurs, the state often preys on citizens and enterprises to extract high taxes for its budget and pay salaries. This often has a negative effect on overall economic performance.
Aisha Bittaye: Now moving to CORDEG, can you tell us something about it and its plans for restoring democracy in the Gambia?
Dr. Abdoulaye Siane: Committee for the Restoration of Democracy in The Gambia (CORDEG) is an independent, non-profit transnational democratic umbrella organization that is committed to peaceful, non-violent democratic change in The Gambia. It is home to political parties and groups in The Gambia, and its various Diasporas, and is the by-product of a two-day Unity Conference held in Raleigh, North Carolina on 17th to 19th May, 2013. And, following the convention and passage of the Raleigh Accord, a Steering Committee (SC) was set up- leading to nominations, and election of an Executive Committee (EC). I currently serve as CORDEG’s Chairperson, along with Ms. Sigga Jagne, as vice-chair, and Mr. Abdulai Jobe as Secretary-General. There are also eight sub-committees headed by Directors.
Aisha Bittaye: There is silence since its conception why?
Dr. Abdoulaye Saine: There has been and continues to be a lot of activity to spell out the vision of CORDEG, as well as craft documents that will help establish governance and other matters relating to our relationship with its constituent members. A website has just been completed along with a fundraising campaign that is soon to begin. We have also had several press conferences to inform Gambians, and friends of The Gambia about CORDEG. We have been busy setting up a rules-based organization democratically and this takes time- we are trying to model what we say we are.
Aisha Bittaye: Is your group representative of all Gambians?
Dr. Abdoulaye Saine:Yes, it is. Our partners include political-activist groups, a majority of political parties and their leaders, including the UDP, and PPP, and various groupings at home and the diaspora. Thus, CORDEG enjoys a wide mandate and legitimacy.
Aisha Bittaye: How did you come up with this team?
Dr. Abdoulaye Saine:In establishing CORDEG’s Steering Committee, which is a body that represents constituent geographic areas (Gambia, Senegal, Europe and the USA) structures to ensure free and fair elections were put in place. The team was duly elected following nominations to the different positions, which were openly contested irrespective of ethnicity, religious or regional affiliation.
Aisha Bittaye: Do you have a gender and youth policy in place? Or to rephrase the question, how does CORDEG intend to involve women and youth in its activities?
Dr. Abdoulaye Saine:CORDEG is committed to empowering women and youth in its current deliberations and in a post-Jammeh political entity, in order to address gender inequalities and centuries-old traditional practices, especially as they relate to education, health, domestic violence, and inheritance, to name a few. A Committee on Women and Youth already exists, and CORDEG will actively seek out youth, in particular, to help run the organization well into the future. In fact, once the organization is up and running, the objective is to leave it mostly in the hands of youth to run it.
Aisha Bittaye:How does CORDEG intend to engage academic scholars in its work?
Dr. Abdoulaye Saine: A Listserv for the Community of Gambianist Scholars that comprise Gambian scholars, and intellectuals, as well as non-Gambian scholars, graduate students and friends of The Gambia, has existed for the last four to five years. This is a forum that not only brings scholars together but technocrats, as well as politicians and activists to dialogue on issues pertaining to Gambia’s affairs- political, economic, social, environmental, etc. Specifically, we will encourage scholars to become members of specialized committees, so as to tap their expertise, as well as solicit their contributions- both moral and financial. We are hopeful that many scholars will avail to CORDEG their skills and expertise even if some may wish to remain in the background. The Listserv will in the near future will be a forum for scholars and CORDEG to dialogue.
Aisha Bittaye: Any last comments or message to Gambians?
Dr. Abdoulaye Saine:CORDEG appeals to all Gambians for their moral and financial support- only then can our vision of a free and democratic Gambia be realized and end a Yahya Jammeh’s cruel dictatorship. Gambians must, therefore, exercise their civic duties and participate fully in restoring democracy and the rule of law to The Gambia, as well as hold CORDEG’s leaders and the Jammeh Government, in particular, accountable.
Aisha Bittaye:Thank you Dr. Saine.