Corruption and Color — The Gambia

The Gambia reminds me of Albania 25 years ago.  Street life looks very much the same (although the dress is more colorful) and the cops are just as corrupt.  We hired a cab for the day.  As we were leaving a beach resort where I had a beer a traffic cop stopped the oncoming traffic and nodded at our driver who made his left turn out of the resort.  She immediately started yelling at him and told him to pull over.  She had nodded but not waved and this was the driver’s violation.  She took his registration and it looked like we may have to go to the police station.  The argument was in mixed English and Mandinka so I could understand a good part of it.  The driver told the woman that, of course she was right but we were very important people on a cruise ship and we had to get back before it sailed.  Having been in these types of negotiations in the past I realized this could have been a big mistake because he was carrying high value passengers and it was more worth his while to pay to get us out of the situation.  I did my part by looking very important and taking particular interest in the cop, staring at her badge number.  Gambian cops aren’t made of the same stuff as 1990s Albanian cops.  We waited her out and she tossed the registration into the car and went back too unsnarling the traffic that has snarled while she was trying to shake us down.  Our driver said that he lived in this neighborhood and he was sure she would try to get him on the way home if she was still on duty.

Going into the port the cop at the gate also tried a shakedown.  He was not going to let us in.  From the gate we could have walked to the ship.  But the port does not want us walking with moving container cranes.  Again, there was some argument, holding up the tour buses trying to come in behind us.  It was clear our driver was not going to pay so we finally got in.  I tipped the driver a little extra just in case he has trouble with the same cops on the way home but I hope he holds fast.  That’s the only way to stop corruption.

Here are some pics from our drive through Banjul, the capital, the city of Serakunda and some rural areas.  Also there are pics at the beach and some of the musicians and market people at the pier as we got on the ship.

To learn about our approach to Banjul click here.

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