Dr. Saine's Keynote Speech at a Detroit event celebrating the Gambia's 40th independence anniversary.

The Role of Education in the Gambian Diaspora and Its Potential Impact in Restoring Democracy and Economic Development in the Motherland
(Remarks on The Gambia’s 40th Independence Anniversary Celebration, Detroit, Michigan, USA, March 26, 2005)

Good Evening:
Fellow Gambians, Friends of The Gambia, Ladies and gentleman. I have been asked to discuss with you briefly the role of education in a changing and globalizing world and its implications for The Gambia, but before I do, allow me, first, to thank Modou Jah, Modou Jatta, Ramou Ceesay-Gaye, specifically, and the Gambian community in Michigan for their kind invitation, and hospitality. My wife, Paula and I are honored and extremely delighted to be here and appreciate greatly the opportunity to be present at this celebration marking The Gambia’s independence from Britain on February 18, 1965. Secondly, allow me to thank Gambians in Michigan on behalf of all Gambians at home for the generous financial support you render your families and loved ones in The Gambia and elsewhere. This is support often times rendered under challenging financial and economic circumstances. It is a sacrifice that our families and all Gambians appreciate. In the aftermath of the groundnut industry’s collapse and mounting inflation, Gambians by and large depend on remittances from abroad. In fact, The Gambia Central Bank estimates that Gambians abroad, who number from 70,000 to 80,000, send home approximately $25 million annually. This official figure, however, does not include remittances conducted through unofficial and informal channels. In fact, the total unofficial cash flow from Gambians abroad to The Gambia could be as high as $50 million a year. If Gambians abroad were to stop sending money to their families for a few months, the APRC regime could not survive politically, perhaps economically for long. It is also estimated that 75 to 80 percent of pilgrims to the annual Hajj in Mecca are sponsored by Gambians abroad. The Gambia and your families love and appreciate you for all that you do.

By setting aside this evening to celebrate forty years since the end of British colonial rule in The Gambia, you also help celebrate The Gambia’s rich and diverse cultural heritage maintain, sustain, and at the same time renew the ties that bind all Gambians in the Diaspora to this tiny but beautiful country, and its peoples. In celebrating The Gambia, and its peoples you recognize, and highlight the significance and contributions of The Gambia to a world of economic interconnectedness and interrelated cultures. In setting aside this evening to celebrate The Gambia, Gambians in Michigan showcase to the larger community, The Gambia in all its beauty, majesty and, yes, its contradictions. And contrary to the presumption that globalization has the inevitable effect of undermining many non-Western cultures, this evening in Detroit, Michigan reaffirms the historic resilience and changing nature of Gambian culture and its peoples.

This enduring, yet changing nature of Gambian culture in particular, has to do in part, with The Gambia’s geographic and cultural location, which lies at the confluence of three major cultural civilizations- African, Islamic, and European. These civilizations have together shaped and continue to shape Gambian culture. Thus, ours is a mixed one with the African and Islamic strands being the most dominant. In other words, we live in a world where cultures are not static but open, and permeable. Trade, technology, information, travel, and ideas such as democracy and human rights integrate the world. And while we are all aware of the potential negative effects of globalization, as Gambians in the Diaspora, we must position ourselves and likewise embrace the opportunities that globalization offers rather than retreat from them.

An assured way to position and harness the opportunities that globalization affords us is to acquire a good education for ourselves and our children. A good education is no longer a luxury reserved for the wealthy- it is a necessity for upward mobility in the U.S. and all other societies for that matter in this age of globalization. Yet by education, I do not mean formal education alone. Living in a post-industrial democracy such as the U.S.A. gives us the opportunity to participate both formally and informally in a democratic society. I, therefore, commend my Gambian brothers and sisters who work at factories, gas stations, restaurants as bus-boys, hotels as maids, and nursing and private homes as nurse’s assistants, because in their stay in the U.S.A., these Gambians have developed or are developing valuable skills and a strong work and service ethic that could greatly benefit The Gambia in the future. I applaud you, and likewise, encourage you to enroll in school. Enrolling in school would, however, require making difficult choices, but choices well worth it in the end. I also applaud and encourage Gambians already in school to pursue their educational goals to the highest degree. Though sometimes difficult, it is ultimately a very rewarding path. Most importantly, I also encourage our mature women folk, younger women and girls to be especially relentless in pursuing an education because as the saying goes, “when you educate a man, you educate a person, and when you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” All Gambians in the Diaspora and especially those that live in the U.S. Europe and other democratic societies must continue to develop and embrace the democratic values of debate and tolerance of different points of view. We must also learn to disagree without being necessarily disagreeable. These are democratic values we will all need to rebuild once many return to The Gambia.

However, education just for the sake of education or education without social responsibility has little or no redeeming value. Therefore, we must be humbled by our education to enable us to use it for the improvement not only of ourselves and our families, but our communities, our country of origin and humanity as a whole. This also means that as sojourners we must remain engaged in the societies we live in as well as in The Gambia. Gambians abroad and those in the great state of Michigan in particular, are engaged in all kinds of fruitful ventures to improve themselves, Michigan, the U.S.A., and The Gambia. In particular, your effort to raise funds to help in purchasing a community center to empower the Gambian community and others is admirable. Also, in Atlanta, Georgia and other states in this great union, Europe and elsewhere, Gambians are contributing needed funds to a non-profit, tax-exempt, non-governmental international organization to support the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in The Gambia. This organization is none other than “Save The Gambia Democracy Project.” Please contribute generously to this worthy cause through Jim Gaye who is the coordinator of Save The Gambia Democracy Project in Michigan. For those of a different political persuasion, Atlanta is also home to a pro-APRC organization. Support them generously as well, even if I personally disagree with them and the APRC regime they support. This is all part of building a future democratic culture based on tolerance for political difference. Because in the end, the education and other skills that we have or hope to acquire in the U.S. and other countries would be of little use if The Gambia continues to be ruled by a military dictatorship under a democratic veneer where the human rights of Gambians are consistently violated.

As the Burmese political activist, and Nobel laureate, Aug San Suu Kyi argued so eloquently, “the national culture can become a bizarre graft of carefully selected and distorted social values intended to justify the politics and actions of those in power.” This is the state of affairs in our homeland as we speak. To avoid this, Aug San Suu Kyi contends that it is possible to conceive of rights “which place human worth above power and liberation over control.” I urge all of you to get engaged in the current political discourse in The Gambia, engage others in debate and discussion over modalities of establishing a true democracy in The Gambia in order to end military tyranny.

This evening’s celebration of The Gambia’s 40th independence anniversary in Detroit, Michigan is reaffirmation that this tiny country whose viability at independence forty years ago was in question has survived in spite of the odds. Yet survival alone is not enough. We must, together, rebuild a country in which we, as well as future generations of Gambians can take pride in and be inspired to serve. That we in the U.S.A. and Michigan, specifically, joining hands with women and men in The Gambia must work toward a day when true freedom and democracy reign in our motherland. Too much is at risk when we are indifferent and/ or complacent to what is going on in The Gambia.

In conclusion, I commend the Gambian community of Michigan, their friends, and neighbors and implore you to work together in gaining good educational and technical skills for the restoration of democracy and the reconstruction of our beloved country which lies ahead. After a decade of misrule, corruption and countless deaths, the task is indeed a daunting one. The point is that all of us count- by voting, writing and/ or signing petitions, demonstrating, joining issue-oriented groups, donating money, and if possible our time to the party of your choice. The reality is that few individual actions are dramatic, and by themselves few significantly would change politics in The Gambia, but the sum of many small actions can and does make a difference. Do not consider politics a spectator sport. It is more important than that. It is not too presumptuous to argue, therefore, that we have arrived at a crucial crossroads in the paths by which we organize and conduct politics in The Gambia.

Contemplation of that junction brings to mind Robert Frost and his famous poem, The Road not Taken. It is time to take that political path. Finally, I wish to share with you words of the late Senator Benjamin Hill Jr. who said: “Who saves his country saves himself, saves all things, and all things saved do bless him. Who lets his country die, lets all things die, dies himself ignobly, and all things dying curse him. (1893).

In closing allow me to bring to your attention a newly published book I co-authored with two colleagues called Not Yet Democracy: West Africa’s Slow Farewell to Authoritarianism. Should you be interested in looking at it, please talk to me after my remarks.
Publisher: Carolina Academic Press, (700 Kent Street, Durham, NC 27701); www.cap-press.com; Email:cap@cap-press.com; Tel: 919-489-7486.

Thank you.
Abdoulaye Saine
Oxford, OH 45056
USA

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It is a start

The cultural night organized by Gambians in Michigan to commemorate the Gambia's 40th independence anniversary is a mixed bag as far as organisation and substance are concerned. The organizers are to be commended for their ingenious fund raising tactics.Running out of food before all of the guest ate is the low point. As usual a great many of the attendees (Gambians) decided to show up an hour after the activities are supposed to start. Pushing the whole program out of sync. To make matters worst some of the female organizers decided to put in some much needed social functions that has nothing to do with the event.Dr. Saine's speech was the epitome of the whole event for me and the political junkies in the room. Suffice to say that our master of ceremony tried his best to box the professor's speech towards his liking. He spoke at lenght about the economic and political situation in the nation. I will post the speech in it's entirety once I receive a copy from him. Dr. Saine also put in a plug for his most recent published book. You can purchase it here

I am juggling to many things, today been the begining of the work week. I will try and post more comprehensively when time permits.

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What Conservatives can do for Africa?

Notwithstanding the raw emotion been emitted in the Terri schiavo case by the conservative movement in this country (USA), I wonder what the American right can do for Africa. Throw a dart at a map of Sub-Saharan Africa. Assuming you don’t hit a remote wilderness, you will doubtless hit an area of the world where: deadly diseases are rampant, extreme hunger prevalent, corruption endemic, animal species endangered. Africa is a mess. It is a mess by any measure of human progress. If you do not think so, you are plagued by a paternalistic notion of what progress is.

In nation after nation, warlords and rebel generals harass and murder by the thousands — motivated by no discernible ideology except clannish ambition, cruelty, and greed. There has been a holocaust rolling across Africa for decades, and nobody cares. In Sierra Leone, children have had their arms lopped off by rebels. These mass amputations took place while the United States bombed Kosovo to save the kosovars. Is it a case of animal farm paradox… that all animals are equal but some are more equal than others? or am I being cynical and in experience in the workings of real-politik?

Conservatives have been enjoying a healthy debate for the last few years on something called "American Greatness." The idea is a fairly fluid notion that America should do big things to fulfill its destiny, and conservatives should not shy from the idea that government must do these big things. Iraq is a case in point. The sacrifice in blood and wealth it took to invade Iraq will probably change the whole continent of Africa. Unfortunately, the greatness conservatives seem reluctant to experiment their ideas in the part of the world that could use it the most. One need only look to the area on this planet where it appears time is moving in the wrong direction. The average African is indisputably worse off today than he was thirty or forty years ago. Of what other place can you say such a thing?

I know America is supposed to be a "reluctant Empire"; Americans don’t want to rule the world. That’s a good thing. But throwing around "soft power" isn’t very effective in a continent with medieval poverty and totalitarian politics. Telling a one-armed orphaned kid (in sierra Leone) with a protruded belly and flies on his eyes to embrace the implicit messages in some USAID video about democracy and freedom isn’t just stupid; it’s criminal and perhaps evil.

The American Left talks about helping Africa, but what they invariably propose is transferring American wealth to the corrupt kleptocrats they meet at symposiums. The attitude of some Black diasporans in this has little to be desired. Here is a people who should know what been stripped of your humanity means defending murderous African dictators in the capitals of western countries. Whenever someone proposes something that would either hold kleptocrats accountable or foster real development through markets, some so- called pan-africanist screams about racism or colonialism. Meanwhile, the Right just doesn’t talk about helping Africa much at all.

I think it’s time the American right focus their attention on the plight of millions of Africans. I don’t mean setting tribes against one another and paying off corrupt "leaders" to keep down unrest. I mean going in guns blazing if necessary — for truth and justice. I am quite serious about this… if the right thinks it is good for Iraq. Why not Africans? The conservatives should mount a serious effort to bring the rule of law to Africa…after all they control all branches of power in Washington. It is time they back up their rhetoric with action as they are doing to save Terri in the defense of millions of Africans. This would seem imperial, but being imperial is not necessarily a bad thing, especially to save life… is it? The British Empire decided unilaterally that the global practice of slavery was a crime against God and man, and they set out to stop it. They didn’t care about the "sovereignty" of other nations when it came to an evil institution. They didn’t care about the "rule of international law," they made law with the barrel of a cannon. The power behind this British action was in fact those men and women in the abolitionist movement. They nudge the government to do the right thing. Will the American right do the same to save a continent for posterity?

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Fear

This past week, I’ve been feeling discouraged about politics, our government, by current events. Perhaps it has something to do with all the articles I’ve been reading about the events taking place in the Gambia, Or all the postings that I read on Gambian forums, each pointing to different ways in which Shrub and his cronies are screwing our country.

During this period, I came to the conclusion that, my relationship to my country is NOT one where I am the child, ever rebellious, needing to be told what to do, needing to be “put in my place.” I look at my relationship to my country as though I am the parent, overseeing my child/responsibility (my country). I look at the way the government has been run the past few years and I am sorely disappointed. I expect better from my leaders, from my nation, from my government. I expect more than the condescending interview given by our head of state in which he is more interested in sowing seeds of tribal animosity than talk about substantive issues that are affecting our nation. There are so many variables, so many differences on so many levels. It is absolutely ridiculous and utterly simplistic to paint every one opposed to his government as un-patriotic or tribalist. How absurd! How immature! How childish! How stupid! I said to myself.

Then I wonder – why do Yaya and his cronies work so hard to maintain this tribal posture? An answer pops into my head. FEAR. His entire presidency (elected or not) has been based on the policy of ruling by fear. If you keep the people so afraid all the time, afraid of their own shadows, then they won’t mind handing over their most basic civil rights. They won’t mind the government intruding in their privacy; they may even say “Thank you, Sir!” They won’t mind it when you order the military to murder their children in broad daylight. They will run away and seek exile in foreign lands when you murder their family members serving your government. After all there is no judicial recourse.

Yaya doesn’t mind spending millions and millions of dollars buying dilapidated military equipment that will supposedly keep us “safe.” When in reality it is a show of force to instill more fear. He doesn’t care that his government is racking up more debt than anyone can ever imagine, in less time than anyone thought possible; That thousands of his fellow citizens are out of work and thousands and thousands are dying at the hands of un-qualified Cuban doctors while he flew his family to health facilities in the united states. To top off his fear campaign he started operation no compromise. The victims of which are those he think are not bowing down fast enough. What else will you call it? He is one of the poorest people in the nation a decade ago… now he is the richest man. I will like to know the jackpot he won.

Fear is the order of the day. Fear is what rules us. Allowing ourselves to be manipulated by fear is leading us to the very place that scares us most… Anarchy. And guess who is the Pied Piper, who is holding the door? Yaya Jammeh, of course.

Time is of the essence to curb this slide. NADD need to get their act together and start sensitizing the people they want to lead. Sensitize them to say no to FEAR; no to Yaya’s simplistic arguments and take back our country and free its people of tyranny. This in essence is my relationship to my country. This is my patriotism.



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Cultural Night...

Thirty seven days after the Gambia celebrates her independence, Gambians in Michigan are not to be out done. An event dubed cultural night is been organize to commemorate the event. I will be making my comments after the event taking into account the benefits accrued by the Gambian association if any.

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Rest My case

Members of the National Assembly Tuesday lamented the poor and sometimes non -signals of The Gambia Radio and Television Services, (GRTS) in the rural part of the country and their refusal to air the activities of the opposition parties.

This is one of the reasons why the government has no business running public television/radio. The operations are inept.If these are run by private for profit entities the outcome will be different. But while we are at it.. that is this notion of privatization, why not add NAWEC, GPTC and other cash draining parastals to the list. Even those parastals (like Gamtel) that make some profits will be better off in private hands. Gamtel's customers will be better serve if competition is allowed in the market. There is little to be desired of Gamtel's mobile service...drop signals in the middle of conversations provided you get connected at all.

Privatizing all of these parastals will go a long way in increasing employment and the tax revenue of the state. The days of state enterprises are long gone and until our governments learn that lesson, they will continue to starve vital sectors like health and education while subsiding entities that will function effectively in a laissez-faire economic environment.

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Give it to the bushes

Link:

A former U.S. Marine who participated in capturing ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said the public version of his capture was fabricated.

Ex-Sgt. Nadim Abou Rabeh, of Lebanese descent, was quoted in the Saudi daily al-Medina Wednesday as saying Saddam was actually captured Friday, Dec. 12, 2003, and not the day after, as announced by the U.S. Army.

"I was among the 20-man unit, including eight of Arab descent, who searched for Saddam for three days in the area of Dour near Tikrit, and we found him in a modest home in a small village and not in a hole as announced," Abou Rabeh said.

"We captured him after fierce resistance during which a Marine of Sudanese origin was killed," he said.

I have no idea what to make of that... just flabbergasted.

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Mad at Abe?

Get Over it. That's been one of the favorite phrases of the mouth breathing conservative crowd since the 2000 election.

Apparently, Lindsey Graham and, according to him, the state of South Carolina still haven't "gotten over" that whole freeing of the slaves thing.

The part I find most offensive about this is that I imagine a significant part of South Carolina's population has indeed "gotten over" Lincoln. About 30% of South Carolina's population is African-American, and I'd imagine all of them have "gotten over" Lincoln.


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Privatize GRTS

Public television is a dubious idea especially if the only purpose it serves is to disseminate Yaya Jammeh’s irrational attacks on certain portions of the Gambian population thereby sowing seeds of tribal animosity in the country. During his recent independent anniversary interview carry on taxpayer paid television, he castigated the majority tribe for not participating in cultural performances and in the process implying that they are boycotting the independence celebrations. Albeit a sizable amount of the attendees are members of that tribe.

I am not suggesting that GRTS should be privatize because of Jammeh’s irrationality, even though that left un-check could be catastrophic for the country, but the capitalist in me always wonder why government should subsidize the production and distribution of entertainment and, even worse, journalism?

With thousands of Gambian homes adorn with satellite dish churning in European television programming, why should the taxpayers of that nation foot the bill of an outfit that is draining resources. Gambia, the proponents of GRTS will argue needs its own public television station…neighboring Senegal has one they will point out. But when public television is akin to the body politics appendix as is the case in most African countries, it becomes vestigial, purposeless and occasionally troublesome.

GRTS draining millions of dalasis from government coffers, with no remaining rationale, but to feature Yaya Jammeh weeding on his Kanilai farm or because Senegal has one should fill students of government with awe and wonderment.

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Yaya on the Press

If you heard Yaya Jammeh speak without setting foot in Gambia, you will think that his government is engaged in one of the greatest revitalization efforts ever undertaken in Africa. And the only detriment to this progress is the private press.

At first I took it as yet another cynical, politically motivated, ploy to regain the support of the Gambian electorate, who ten years ago placed so much faith in Yaya as the kind of new, young blood that the country’s entrenched, Machiavellian and ultimately self-defeating political system needed. He has a lot of explaining to do to them, and so far has been a farcical failure at it.

Yaya’s idea of development is like the 1960’s Brazilian experiment in the poor parts of Rio called City of God. Construction was never completed, the city failed to provide even the most basic services, young crime lords took over, and it soon became so vile and violent a place that even cops balked at going there. This is the scenario we have in Yaya Jammeh’s Gambia. White elephant projects with no economic viability are the order of the day. The crime seems to be committed by those members of the press who point this out. They are branded as un-patriotic and that famous phrase “what has Jawara’s government done” is bandied around as if that is the answer in of itself. Violent crime is on the rise in a place once prevalent with Gambia no problem garbs. I guess the government can put that as well on reporters.

Gambia, as our inept, disappointing, self-reverential president apparently would like us to believe is doing just fine but for the rantings of those good for nothing journalist who dare question the policies he instituted. But the question he needs to be asking himself is why the Gambia he is governing, is one that echoes the slums of Rio with their violence, corruption and official neglect, places where lights don’t light, trash and filth cover the streets, and undereducated, underserved children in shocking numbers wonder the streets hungry. All this, while their powerful, moneyed neighbors and representatives pretend either that such a world doesn’t exist on the other side of their backyard fence, or that it doesn’t affect them if it does. The president in all likelihood doesn’t understand that it doesn’t take a reporters notebook to see this happening across the Gambia. The most dangerous thing about all of this is that Yaya Jammeh has come to believe in the words of the sycophants that surrounds him that all is well in the country and that he is the best thing that ever happen to that nation. And that the press is just another element of the opposition who don’t want to see any thing positive happen…this is an entrenched notion in his psyche and it is deadly

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