By Musa Bah
According to the Universal Declaration of Human rights of the United Nations ‘Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international cooperation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.’ (Article 22)
It is clear from the above that every individual has a right, subject to the availability of the means to certain basic rights. Of these is the right to water, electricity, health, education and other means of attainment of a fulfilled life.
The right to water has also been established and it is the responsibility of every government to make necessary arrangements for the provision of these, especially water. Without water, no one can realize a fulfilled life. In short, water is life.
As citizenship is equally shared, it is important that the government endeavors to treat citizens with fairness and endeavor to see that the resources of the State are share equitably. The same goes to the provision of electricity and other basic amenities.
However, it seems that some parts of the Gambia are not enjoying the same level of attention as the others when it comes to the provision of these amenities. The case of some villages in the Lower Niumi District of the North Bank Region is worth noting.
In some villages in that district, an acute shortage of water is making life very difficult indeed. This is not only water but electricity as well. In the past, the electricity supply from the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) only served the villages of Barra, Essau and a few others and later there was an agreement between NAWEC and the Senegalese electricity company which gave the Gambia some electricity supply as well.
The electricity came from the Senegalese town of Karang, came through Amdalai and Fass Njaga Choi and then skipped to Kanuma. From Kerr Jatta, Sinchu Mutel, Welingara, Lewna, Njogon and Mbollet Ba no one is enjoying either electricity or water.
After the addition of the electricity supply from Senegal, the villages of Kanuma, Buniadu and Berending were connected but the rest remain without either water or electricity.
It is not clear what criteria was used to distribute the electricity and water in these villages and leave the others out, but the need is certainly acute as in all these villages listed, the struggle is very hard. Water is life and without it, it is very difficult to survive.
Citizens contribute, each according to his/her means, to the development of the country. All citizens in all villages and towns in the Gambia pay taxes and rates and contribute in other ways to the coffers of the State. The villages that are listed above play a leading role in agricultural production which is the backbone of the Gambian economy.
Government should therefore ensure that the luxuries (bare minimum as it is) enjoyed by one village or town, is enjoyed by all others as far as possible. Perception is very important in politics and the current government must work hard to ensure that a perception of favoritism does not prevail in the minds of citizens.
Many people I spoke to in these villages seem to think that they are being treated unfairly as they see other villages enjoying these facilities and they are not. An official of NAWEC told me that it is a problem of logistics when I put it to him that I could not understand how the electricity that is coming from Karang can skip about five or six villages on the same highway and land in Kanuma and then branch off from Essau and head to Buniadu and Berending. He said it is an issue of logistics.
As a layman, I cannot wrap my head around that. How is it easier to take the electricity from Karang all the way to Essau and then Buniadu and towards Kerewan than connecting Fass, Kerr Jatta, Sinchu Mutel, Mbollet and others?
These type of abnormalities are what creates a sense of favoritism in the minds of the people whether that is true or not. To dispel these, if it is indeed a question of logistics, the National Water and Electricity Company should have endeavored to explain these complex issues to the people of that region so that they all understand. If the status quo persists, it will be to the detriment of the government as these people will not vote for the incumbent if they are aggrieved.
So, it is as much to the benefit of the Barrow led Government as it is to the people of Lower Niumi to have a supply of water and electricity. I have been to these villages and have seen how they suffer to get water, especially the women. In the past, people relied on wells to obtain water but health considerations have now made that unviable. This should be looked at by NAWEC and the Government to ensure that the problems of these people are solved.