Kanilai Is Hungry Angry

By Captain Ebrima Cambi

The premises of the argument here is the fact that during his rule, Yahya Jammeh the former dictator of The Gambia, turned his formerly inaccessible bush home village of Kanilai into a 24/7 city with paved roads, an uninterrupted electric supply, good schools, health centre and a modern hospital nearby – and even a well-equipped fire station (not to mention the new modern homes of the soldiers at what was in effect a Military Barrack in the dictators Kanilai plantation).

Kanilai Got Everything Under Jammeh

  • Free FOOD (Rice, oil and other condiments) particularly in the month of Ramadan
  • Freelance employment at the various farms and facilities of the former tyrant of a president.
  • Free well-paid employment at Jammeh’s planned Kanilai Airport Park. Clearing the bush from Kafenda – Mayork towards Kanilai with primary intention of building an airport – Kanilai Airport Park (KAP) was a major source of income for the residents of Foni Kanilai​ in particular, at a rate of D1000.00 per day, per person ( every 10 days worked on the site = D10,000.00), therefore most of them totally abandoned farming for this lucrative venture.
  • Free tractors, given to the people of The Gambia by Japan, was given to the people of Kanilai for their charcoal and firewood businesses, became another source of lucrative income for the people of Kanilai.
  • Further, during Dictator Yahya Jammeh’s regular jamborees in Kanilai he dished out money and food to his adoring crowds (at times not just from Kanilai only but also people from all over The Gambia and even other countries in the sub-region).
  • Jammeh also made Kanilai a retreat for the Government of The Gambia. During Jammeh’s weekly presence in Kanilai, all roads in The Gambia led to Kanilai – enhancing the economy of the unreachable bush-village that had now become a city.
  • Even Gambia’s Five Star Hotel, The Kairaba which became the seat of government for a few months after Jammeh was deposed, built a lodge in Kanilai which was regularly patronised by the businessmen, “investors” and government officials who flocked to Kanilai for an audience with the Dictator. Sindola Lodge, as it was called, because a source of employment for the people of Kanilai.
  • The sons and daughters of Kanilai were also placed in high positions in government, and naturally from their massive incomes (earned or otherwise), these top officials in government invested in their home village. Even a Science Specialist High School for The Gambia was located in Kanilai.
  • Needing personal security to survive as a dictator, Yahya Jammeh built up a personal army and an “intelligence” terror group known as the NIA. Many people from Kanilai and the Fonis became part of Yahya Jammeh’s army and the NIA.
  • Jammeh also built a university and many people from Kanilai and his particular Jola tribe from the Fonis got an opportunity for further education. Scholarships from governments such as those of Taiwan, Venezuela, Cuba and Western Countries became available to people from Kanilai and the Fonis – at a far higher proportion than it was for the majority of Gambians (although it is fair to say that the members of the previous government overthrown by Jammeh also made sure that it was their family and relatives who got such scholarships).

Kanilai Lost The Above Privileges After Jammeh’s Ouster

All these came to an abrupt stop when Yahya Jammeh drove the international community into forcing him out militarly, because of his intransigence towards the verdict of The Gambian people who had elected a new government.

So today, Kanilai (and Foni) people face their toughest Ramadan in 22 years without Jammeh’s largesse to cushion the hardship that their fellow Gambians have faced, and continue to face, throughout the country. When Jammeh finally succumbed to the pressures both internally and externally, he sadly left his loyalists unprepared for a Gambia without Jammeh and his sectarian benevolence.
They had no seeds for farming, no food stored, and had never thought that a day would come when they could not access the properties and assets amassed by Jammeh during his 22 years Reign of Terror.

Food For Thought

The conclusion then must be that the real reason the Kanilai and Foni people want the ECOWAS and Gambian soldiers out of Jammeh’s vast properties in Kanilai is because the people desperately need those Jammeh resources for themselves – to stave off hunger.

Jammeh’s Ex-Mercenaries Return to Kanilai/Fonis

In the final days of his reign of terror Jammeh is said to have recruited loyalist young men as a well-armed private army to fight for him against the ECOWAS forces. It is said that these young men and their arms disappeared into the Gambian and neighbouring Cassamance bushes once the ECOWAS forces entered Gambia and Jammeh made a run for it. Clearly, these young Jammeh mercenaries feel unable to return to their homes while ECOWAS and Gambian soldiers occupy Kanilai. It could also be that the people of Kanilai want the soldiers out of Kanilai and the Fonis to enable these young men return to their families once again as bread winners and avert the hunger and suffering their families are experiencing.

In Conclusion

Clearly, the new Gambian government cannot allow any section of the community to hold the country to ransom. The Government must not set a bad precedence by letting these people go free in their quest for peace or to appease a fraction of Kanilai/Foninkas. In the same vein Kanilai is part of the Gambia and despite the senseless protest, H E Adama Barrow is their president and his Government has the responsibility to look into the food situation in the villages and assist where possible to avert a humanitarian crisis especially in this Holy month of Ramadan. This assistance could be channelled through charitable organisations such as the Gambia Red Cross Society.

Courtesy of KairoNews.