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She moved to The Gambia in 1985: A chat with American-born Rashida Bah
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She moved to The Gambia in 1985: A chat with American-born Rashida Bah

Rashida Bah is one of the African-Americans, who are permanently living in The Gambia. Read our interview with the former journalist-cum-teacher:


What’s On-Gambia: When did you move to The Gambia?

Rashida: I came in October or November 1985. The longest I have been ever out is four years – to go and make money and do something (laughs).


Why The Gambia?

I was invited by Gambians. I went to university with Modou Musa, the Managing Director at FiBank. He was on a football scholarship at Sangamon State, now a part of the University of Illinois.


So it was Modou Musa that convinced you to settle in our country?

No. His wife, Ndey Jallow. She is a niece to MC Cham, former PPP minister.


And what happened later?

When I first came, Immigration gave me a difficult time. I was reporting weekly to them, while they investigated to see if I was suitably qualified to stay and live in The Gambia.

I was unable to work. I was even unable to volunteer.

Someone suggested that I should start teaching English Language and that was Hassan Jallow, the former Justice Minister.

I went to Muslim High School to apply. Mr. Joof was then principal. They assisted me in getting my immigration documents completed – even then it took a bit of time.

Two of my children were with me. They went to St. Augustine’s – both left later but one completed after leaving, then returning and graduating. When he returned to the USA, people didn’t want to accept his O’ levels being of the same academic caliber as their high schools. He sat GED, which is high school equivalency exam and made one of the highest scores in the Virgin Islands.



How did you get the surname BAH?

I married Mamadou Alieu Bah.


How and when did you meet?

We met in Guinea Bissau. We were both doing ‘bana bana’ between The Gambia and Guinea Bissau. We met in a taxi (laughs).

Mr. Bah died last October.


What was it that made you fall in love with The Gambia?

Freedom! I know if there is a real need for me to see the President, it is possible. Neither do I have to have a great, great need to be able to meet with ministers. Tell me any other country I can do that? It is not common globally. To me that is democracy and having input in the government.

I had access to the previous Government, and also with this Government. I was the only non-Gambian journalist allowed to interview the Head of State during his first press conference in 1994. That speaks volumes about this Country.


What were the questions you asked Jammeh?

I don’t remember those questions; but I remember I was answered – as were the others there!!


What are you engaged in now?

I live my life for God. I follow whatever God shows me to do. With the help of Christian friends in Europe and my church in the United States, I’m sponsoring school children, and one of them is planning to enter the University of The Gambia.


How many students are you currently sponsoring?

Six in Guinea Bissau and then eight in The Gambia. There are also three women that we’ve helped to start, re-start or grow their businesses.  I’ve also helped one tailor to get a machine with popular stitching that will increase his business; and I’m praying to go into a tailoring business with some Gambian friends – that will help young people learn tailoring as apprentices, then go out on their own.


What motivated you to get involved in charity projects?

God! To whom much is given, much is expected.

Since God has given me mercy and love then I am mandated to give back.


So you’re no longer active in the teaching field?

I don’t think you can ever stop being a teacher (laughs)..


What do you think are the most common grammatical errors that Gambians make?

Borrow and lend. Lend me your pen; it is not borrow me your pen.

‘I used to’ is past tense, but it is used here as present tense, rather than present continuous with “I am used to … and an “ing” verb ending.

The next one is not an error, but it is one of my pet peeves – and that is people saying SORRY. The word is from Sanskrit, a language from India. And SORRY means I have no value, I have no worth.

I think it is ugly to say SORRY. Why not just say ‘pardon me’, ‘excuse me’ or ‘I apologise’.

Sorry came to West Africa through the British after they were colonizers in India. When the servant there did something to offend the master, he said ‘sorry’ – which means I have no worth. He was trying to appease the master’s wrath. I don’t think this is what we are trying to do in The Gambia. It is just like the word nigger. You hear people using it loosely.

Hoes, bitches – these are all ugly words. We have to be careful of the words we use, where they come from and what they really mean.


So it is not okay to use nigger?

It is not ok. What does nigger mean? It is not black; it means someone that has no worth. Look it up in the dictionary. We’re using the words of the oppressors, colonizers and enslavers to call each other. Is this really what we want to do? Do we want to imitate the colonizers? If we want to be people of value and respect, we should use language of value and respect.

We have words in our local languages that we don’t use in the presence of adults, so why should we use words in other languages in front of our elders or people we are supposed to respect.

Why do people come and stay here for many years? Because The Gambia is a place of quality.


How Fula are you?

(Laughs) I am Fula by immersion. There are DNA tests.  I know a lot of people who’re taking them.  They are a couple of hundred dollars to do, but how can I do that for the purpose of curiosity when I can use that money to sponsor needy children or buy a few bags of rice or medicine for someone ill.

But every family and individual who has adopted and pulled me in, even before I came to The Gambia are Fulas. I acquired Fula so quickly. I don’t think that is coincidence. I know I have some Fula features. I identify strongly as Fula. I was Fulanised. I married a Fula. My regular taxi driver is a Fula. And it coincidence that you are a Fula interviewing me (laughs).



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