Bensuda’s innocence is not so easy to sell on the campaign trail
It started with the defenestration of Alhaji Kurang from Janneh Commission. This followed allegations of conflict of interest and corruption against Amie Bensuda for buying properties of former president, Yahya Jammeh, whose financial misdeeds she was supposed to correct.
This bears chilling resemblance to the toxic relationship that existed between former president Jacob Zuma of South Africa and India-born Guptas.
The Gupta family is an affluent Indian-born South African family whose most renown members are the brothers Ajay, Atul, Rajesh "Tony" Gupta and Atul Gupta's nephews Varun,as well as US-based Ashish and Amol.
The Gupta family used to preside over a business empire ranging from computer equipment, media and mining, and attracted wide-spread scrutiny due to its close ties to Jacob Zuma during his Presidency.
So powerful was the Gupta family that they had influence on cabinet appointments and received contracts in corrupt fashion proceeds of which the South African government is now aiming to recover.
Through her private legal practice-which she had no problem rendering to former dictator Yahya Jammeh -and business interests; she has been able to educate her kids abroad whose business and professional interests encompass real estate, insurance ,law and more recently politics with the election of her son Ahmed Bensuda as mayor of the Kanifing Municipality.
After a rigorous period of electioneering, Talib Bensuda emerged triumphant when the final results were announced which was seen as a stepping stone in his seemingly inexorable ascent to the highest position in the land-the presidency.
Unlike the Guptas in South Africa, the Bensuda family have no problem taking a pay cut from the private sector to hold public office if it serves their strategic long-term plans for a power grab.
In the acclaimed Netflix series House of Cards, Frank J Underwood who who schemed his way from Vice President to the president after being initially passed over for promotion postulates:
“Power is a lot like real estate. It’s all about location, location, location. The closer you are to the source, the higher your property value.”
Like master chess players with strategic vision and fluency, Habib Drammeh who is their mother’s brother was tapped to serve as Secretary General which was calculated to give him a gullible president’s ear with considerable power. He was eventually fired.
Meanwhile, the savvy, wily and experienced power player, Amie Bensuda, sat on a commission that shockingly unraveled her own complicity in the misdeeds of the former regime.
Apart from being caught on a hot mic engaging in small talk about a married lady appearing before the commission, she watched with horror as documents surfaced of transactions in which she served as lawyer without qualms in exchange for hefty legal fees.
Calls for her removal were loud, but largely ignored because she knows people in high places in The Gambia’s corrupt and sorry excuse of a democratic experiment that’s gone horribly wrong.
Charges of conflict of interest and favoritism leveled by Alhaji Kurang carried with it the potential to set at naught everything the family has done to get to where they are on the Gambia’s political firmament.
In survivalist terms, Amie Bensuda was literally on death ground and she was smart enough to know a successful move against their state of political play would set a bad precedent, imperiling their long term goals.
Alhaji Kurang had to be dealt with devoid of mercy. And deal with him the Bensudas did. He was fired from his position as executive secretary of Janneh Commission for making “unsubstantiated” allegations against Amie Bensuda.
The Bensudas seemed to have won the battle at the time, but winning the war might be a harder lift as Talib Bensuda faces the state with its immense power and vast war chest.
Even when he lost with termination of his services, Alhaji Kurang seems to have won.
The perception of ‘state capture’ by the Bensudas has found purchase on the public mind. And that will come to be seen in the fullness of time. Which might be sooner than we think in an election season. The commission of enquiry, despite UDP bravado, presents elevated, unacceptable risks to Talib and the yellow party.
Sainey Darboe is a US-based Gambian journalist and writes from Washington.
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