Roll up, roll up, it’s Set Settal! That is Gambia’s National Clean-Up Day.
On the last Saturday of every month President Jammeh calls on his people to sweep their compounds, collect their rubbish and flush their drains.
It is rather like an obligatory day of household chores on a municipal level. But you can get away with asking for that sort of thing if you are His Excellency President Professor Alhaji Dr AJJ Jammeh.
The aim of Set Settal is to bring environmental sanitation through popular participation, explained Mr Dawda Jones, Public Relations Officer for Banjul City Council. Other benefits include removing mosquito breeding grounds and promoting good environmental practice within communities.
And everybody is in on the act.
From Banjul City Councillors turning out to lend a hand in their wards, to the President of the Senegalese Community in Gambia eager to demonstrate SeneGambian unity. And if you are really lucky and work on the President’s farm the workers come together to sing songs in praise of the President’s munificence as they work.
Set Settal is a giant charade of obeisance to the President.
However, rising sea levels are an immediate concern in Gambia. Banjul, the capital, lies between 80cm and 150cm above sea level. If or when sea levels rise the city will be lost. Its tired colonial drainage system is no longer up to the job and high tides bring a flow of sewage, rubbish and dead animals back into the city’s drains.
All the more need for Set Settal then.
But how firm a hand is required? There are signs that Gambians are not happy about being browbeaten into clearing up their municipal areas once a month. A recent memo from the Mayor to his councillors lamented the low turnouts at last month’s Set Settal.
Perhaps it is democracy that needs to be cultivated in Gambia before Gambians can be prevailed upon to wilfully participate in a national campaign of environmental sanitation.
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