Q | But why so? You are increasingly accused of human rights violations, being homophobic, and executing political opponents and journalists. We hear more about these things, not about potable water and the electrification of rural Gambia. We know bad news sells, but how do you react to such strong sentiments?
Nobody is saying anything about the Gambian people who were murdered by the murderers we executed. Now if they have abolished the death penalty [in the West], that doesn’t mean that they should impose it on The Gambia or the developing world. They hanged people right here in Africa during the colonial era.
Do you know that you will never read any history of Africa where the kings ordered somebody to be hanged. The idea of the death penalty by hanging was brought to Africa by the colonialists.
Before colonialism, offenders paid in kind, there wasn’t anything like policing. The only time somebody was killed was when different kingdoms fought against each other. The idea of policing and prison was non-existent here in Africa.
Now the colonialists who brought the harsh prison regimes want to lecture us about human rights.
What could be more cruel than capturing Africans, packing them like sardines in a boat, like cargo, and taking them for auctioning in America, and then letting them live like dogs while working under harsh conditions for the white man, for hundreds of years! And at the end of it all, Africa does not get as much as an apology for the inhumanity and suffering and the sheer trauma imposed on us by the USA and the European slaving nations. After looting the whole continent and killing so many people [they] still fail to give any apology whatsoever! How can they be teachers of democracy and human rights to Africa?
But they will argue that, that was a long time ago. It was their ancestors who did it, not the current generation.
Q | Looking ahead, in the next five years, what can Gambians expect, as there is still a lot to do and achieve in terms of development in this country?
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.
Q | That is monumental for a country that is not so rich in natural resources. In fact, some media reports say The Gambia’s success actually depends on foreign aid, how do you react to that?
Those who say The Gambia has been built on foreign aid, let them show you one infrastructure here that was built with foreign aid. They have never given me a respite, they have been attacking me all the time because of my stance on important issues, which will never change, and then they go ahead and report that The Gambia’s success story is due to foreign aid. Foreign aid from which Western country?
We are not dependent on foreign aid, and I don’t think if we were dependent on foreign aid for our livelihood I would be taking the decisions I take. I wouldn’t be able to follow this position of complete independence. I am fighting for the dignity of the African wherever he or she is, and defending my religious belief. If we are dependent on foreign aid, to be where we are, let them tell the whole world who gave us that aid. Because the West is shamelessly brave about taking credit for other people’s efforts, let them tell us what they built for us in The Gambia for all those years that they were here.