Amnesty for a Despot

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By Foday Samateh

According to Senegalese news reports quoting the Senegalese Foreign Minister’s statement to the Senegalese National Assembly, “Yahya Jammeh could leave The Gambian power quietly, without being sued for his former exactions. The ECOWAS is in the process of negotiating an amnesty law for him, so that he cedes power to Adama Barrow in a peaceful way.” And on social media, individuals close to President-elect Barrow and his Coalition insinuated as much. They wish to assure the nation that actions are being taken behind the scene for a peaceful transfer of power as mandated by the Constitution, despite Yahya Jammeh’s rancorous protestations that the December election must be discarded for a do-over.

It stands to reason that if ECOWAS is undertaking such a task to stave off the looming political standoff, the Coalition would be in the know. They should clear the air by confirming or denying it. The remarks attributed to the Senegalese Foreign Minister should free the Coalition of any nondisclosure obligations regarding secret negotiations, or impel them to inform the nation they are voted to serve. At this stage, failing to be transparent on this matter cannot be sustained on any justifiable reason.

The prevailing plea since the election has been that the Coalition be given the space to plan the transition behind closed doors and be expected to act in good faith even in the absence of any public information about their decisions and deliberations. The long and short of it is, Trust the Coalition, but the Coalition is in no position to do the same. This argument needs to be retired. It flies in the face of the very purpose and spirit of political transition. But more importantly, it’s antithetical to democracy itself, especially for people seeking to banish a dictatorship.

That said, any effort to bring about peaceful transfer of power ought to be applauded. The benefits are too obvious and numerous to mention. And it’s a given that any peaceful handover would involve some form of negotiated settlement with the incorrigible despot lashing out from the State House. Barrow and his Coalition are dealt a bad hand. It’s an odious affair. Even the thought of giving Yahya Jammeh a pass on anything, more so after the dangerous stunt he’s pulling, is an affront to any idea and meaning of justice. But it may be necessary to avert military intervention. At the same time, the desire for a peaceful resolution shouldn’t obscure the consequences of peace at any cost.

The reality is — in spite of his delusional claims and acts of defiant bluster — the despot needs this conundrum of his own making to end in peace more than the Coalition. More and more, The Gambian public is turning their back on him. ECOWAS, the African Union, the UN Security Council, the United States and the European Union all have denounced him and pledged their support to Barrow. And it’s clear from his latest ranting on television that even The Gambia Armed Forces he’s counting on to do the fighting against ECOWAS military intervention are wavering. A despot has never been so deserted and lonely.

Therefore, any amnesty he might end up getting must impose onerous conditions that carry binding penalties in the event of a breach. The Coalition couldn’t be in a firmer position now to demand so. Among other things, these conditions must enjoin Yahya Jammeh to:
a) declare all the assets, properties, businesses, investments, and savings that are in his name, in the names of his wives and children and he owns through relatives, associates, partners or other fronts both in The Gambia and elsewhere.
b) surrender these wealth and properties for restitution to the state and those with rightful claims.
c) relinquish his claims on everything he has built in Kanilai except one house to be a residence for him and his family.
d) renounce politics; and cease and desist publicly and privately from engaging in politics or providing any form of support to any party or candidate for any office.
e) not commit any crime or corruption in the future
f) testify fully and faithfully before any commission of inquiry that may look into crimes and abuses of power committed on his orders, or with his approval or knowledge during his presidency.

If he refuses to consent to these terms and conditions, the use of force must be utilized to evict him in handcuffs from the State House. If he agrees in exchange for immunity from prosecution only to be later found violating or not compiling with any aspect of the terms and conditions, he must be hurled before a judge for all criminal wrongdoings he is responsible for during his time in office.

This is the only amnesty we can hold our nose to offer him. Anything more will be too grievous an injustice to his victims who are still living, and too grave a dishonor to the memory of those murdered.

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4 Comments

  1. I completely differ with the writer’s opinion. Why should we seem to bend the law to suit certain interests? The Gambians are not pleading with Jammeh to resign in exchange of amnesty. To set the record straight, they voted him out in broad daylight and brought in their preference, offsetting themselves from the political yoke. The voice of the people is the voice of God. Everything else should be left to the law to take it’s course. After all, can there be reconciliation without justice? There are no two ways about it and Jammeh’s futile attempt to prolong his tenure illegitimately is just a pie in the sky. Whereas I am confident that he has reached rock- bottom, Jammeh’s attempts to file a petition must in the first place meet the required constitutional threshold before it kicks off. No blood should be shed to reaffirm The Gambians’ stand. Happy 2017 comrades!

  2. I completely differ with the writer’s opinion. Why should we seem to bend the law to suit certain interests? The Gambians are not pleading with Jammeh to resign in exchange of amnesty. To set the record straight, they voted him out in broad daylight and brought in their preference, offsetting themselves from the political yoke. The voice of the people is the voice of God. Everything else should be left for the law to take it’s course. After all, can there be reconciliation without justice? There are no two ways about it and Jammeh’s futile attempt to prolong his tenure illegitimately is just a pie in the sky. Whereas I am confident that he has reached rock- bottom, Jammeh’s attempts to file a petition must in the first place meet the required constitutional threshold before it kicks off. No blood should be shed to reaffirm The Gambians’ stand. Happy 2017 comrades!

  3. But then the Americans can surely get Jammeh if not for drug trafficking, then may be for gun running, not to mention money laundering activities!

    Remember the presidential plane used for gun running to the Sudan? Whose plane was that, and the South American boatload of drugs abandoned off the Senegalese coast some years back?

    It would be Gambian that would be thrown to the wolves so to speak as a people not allowed to heal. Thus any rushed, or premature amnesty might just come to bite us later in the bum as we continue to battle the double whammed of having to live with the barbarity inflicted on our loved ones, if not us by an unfeeling and selfish dictator and being prevailed upon to forget our 9/11 after we have battle with our lives (its was dangerous for many merely to vote Jammeh out: as with other elections, such was the level of terror and intimidation, it was always much safer for our communities to have kept voting for Jammeh, so we did! – witness the forced self imposed exile of the EC Chief) ) to catch up with the tyrant after 22 years in order that he may be brought to justice.

    Indeed, it is conceivable that if the Coalition had hinted at any such thing as amnesty for Jammeh in its election manifesto, many more people would have gone ahead and voted for Jammeh anyway than did, simply out of disgust. Nobody is above the law remember and its would be disgusting to many including the author (A family member lost an eye to Jammeh’s security forces, an friend and sister lost the only family bread winner to the Jammeh violence and impunity regime. For these and a myriads of other reasons, I think it would be a damn shame and disgrace, yes even for the sake of peace, to even think about perpetuating a culture of impunity as Jammeh did for 22 years. Yes he should be prosecuted because that what the law is therefore, and not just to pay judges to imprison innocent people, or to protect security forces who open fire on innocent schoolies. Hey some of those kids could have been doctors, teachers lawyers, of civil engineers today: its been that long! So its about time someone goes to gallows for their untimely dead and if we doubt that an eye-for-an-eye, and a tooth-for-a-tooth is unIslam, all we have to do is look to Saudi Arabia where heads are chopped [merely] for drug trafficking – Jammeh’s preferred method for getting rich quickly, second only for his knack for raiding the treasury and central bank coffers each time he hears that aid money has flown in. In any case his colleague and best mate Charles Taylor is serving a 50 year jail term for broadly commensurate crimes, so why not Jammeh? The idea that Jammeh is a Gambian and an Ex, if brutal president and is thus somehow exempt from the rule of law is as offensive as it is preposterous. What peace? How annoying!!

  4. I agree. Jammeh should account for his crimes against innocent people. Why would anyone contemplate letting jammeh go free and with all the billions he stole from Gambian.s, He claims to have a hotel(Mile 2), he sent many innocent Gambians there, I think its time for him to be sent to the hotel.

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