Women of Substance

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Black or White

By Momodou Ndow

Not a day goes by without hearing complaints from those residing in The Gambia about how desperate the situation is, there. They lament about flying inflation, lack of employment and opportunity, harassment, intimidation, abuse,  chronic corruption, fear, and all this is done through whispering because they think someone is listening. Sometimes they just sum it up as “Gambia easywut”. You hear these complaints from people from all walks of life. From high government officials, lawyers, doctors, artists, business owners, petty traders, fish sellers at the market, and of course, the unemployed. Basically, across the spectrum! I would not be surprised to hear Jammeh himself utter “Gambia easywut” a few times!


Folks are looking for every opportunity to flee and will risk their lives in doing so. A back way travel package sells like hot cake, especially around Christmas. I guess they are trying to escape the arrival of the “Semesters” and their swagger? The “Swagger parties” are on and in full swing as we speak. Groups are chipping in 20 or $50 each and throwing parties daily, while those struggling to afford “tapalapa” are enviously watching and wishing it was them. Amid all this, they also hear a panoply of stories about different adventures in the west from the semesters. At least for a couple of weeks, a semester is the envy of those they left behind as some make promises, most of which will never be delivered.  Is there glory in such? Is this success?


On one hand, semesters are flocking to the smiling coast whilst most in the smiling coast are frowning. They are buying up kabaa ndombo, ditah, solom solom, koni, gerrteh saaf, kobo bu laka, and all those other little things that are now almost a luxury for the locals; even Talapia (wass) has now become scarce and a semi-luxury item. Semesters are sponsoring  Benechini Penda Mbye festivals, attaya sessions, pejeh shawarma, and throwing VIP swagger parties. On the other hand, too many locals are looking for a way out by any means necessary, and the back way numbers is a testament to that. Gambia ranks on the top in the region percentage wise in back travel. The Atlantic Ocean has swallowed too many Gambian youths and their promises and talents washed to shore as corpses hardened by rigamortis.  Senegal has also become a cradle.


And the irony to me here is: While Gambians abroad flock for a life of temporary fantasy and party “semester style”, permanent residents are looking to escape their daily realities of crushing poverty, flying inflation, lack of employment and opportunity, harassment, intimidation, abuse, corruption and fear.


So this brings me to my question: Is Gambia black or white? Gray maybe? Howma sah!





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