Paper delivered by Mr. Fafa E. M'bai to the Gambia Bar Association conference at the Kairaba Beach Hotel on Friday 29th January 2010
Feb 10, 2010, 12:41 PM
Anecdotal evidence is suggesting more and more that petty theft is on the increase in The Gambia.
This is bad enough for those people who live here, but it is a calamity for the tourist industry.
Very often now, when you speak to a friend or colleague, they will recount a tale of woe with regard to a theft in their area or one they have suffered themselves.
This situation must be nipped in the bud, and nipped quickly.
We are a tight knit community in The Gambia, and it is a rare thing for something to happen in an area without somebody having knowledge of who the perpetrator is.
Of course, the police have a role to play in this situation, but we must not depend too heavily on them.
We, as a community, should come together to help each other and drive this scourge into the pages of the history books.
Of course, it is very important when tackling this subject to ask why this is happening.
Some people are obviously so desperate, bored, hungry or all three that they feel they are justified in stealing from others.
This brings us back to the old issue of unemployment. When young men are idle they get bored, and maybe become tempted into bad practice by a sinister element either in their circle of friends or from outside the neighbourhood.
This is not a justification for theft, but if we wish to tackle the problem then we must address the root causes.
Of course, tourists and volunteers are a favourite target for thieves. It seems that some young men in this country do not see foreign guests as human beings, but merely as sacks of money that they can take from when they find themselves short.
This kind of thing is doing untold damage to our international reputation. If word begins to spread that The Gambia is rife with thieves and vicious robbers, people simply will not visit.
Tourists and visitors should not be told that they need to hire a guide for protection when they visit this country.
They should not be told that they should only take the green tourist taxis, as the other drivers won’t return items they leave in their cars.
All these things are reportedly happening; are negatively affecting our tourism industry, and must be addressed.
If they are not addressed, then the thieves will end up slaying the goose that lays the golden egg. If this does happen, it will negatively affect the entire nation.
So it is in the interests of all of us to do all in our power to address this menace.
The government took a proactive stance when it came to the issue of bumsters and, while that has not proved 100% effective and could be improved upon, it has curtailed the problem of pestering to a certain extent.
In tandem with this action, the government must do more to address the issue of theft, and robbery.
It is important that the government is supported in this by every Gambian. We must be our brother’s keeper and watch what is happening in our own communities.
We certainly are not advocating the dispensing of summary justice in the form of merciless beating for a thief, but if information about theft or robbery is known it should be relayed to the police.
Security is beyond the means of many of us; so we must act as each other’s security guard and make sure that neither residents nor tourists have to live any longer with the fear of being robbed, not to talk of being murdered.
“The only thing worth stealing is a kiss from a sleeping child.”