This editorial was first published in 2015…
As the saying goes “time is the best teacher and judge” of events. Today marks 21 years since the West African State of the Gambia woke up to a new dawn of military take over from junior soldiers of the Gambia National Army. The reasons advanced by the military junta in overthrowing the PPP government of Dawda Jawara were that he stayed in power for too long, the PPP government was corrupt, flamboyant, nepotistic, caters to only the privilege few and has lost control of the economy. The military junta therefore had a cake walk to power without any form of resistance whatsoever.
The most vivid memories of the July 22nd illegal overthrow of the first republic were their vibrating jargons of “Soldiers with a difference, accountability, transparency and probity, we are not politicians, we will never introduce dictatorship in the country, 10 years in power is too long” among other empty promises. It turns out everything about July 22nd so called revolution were lies, deception, ignorance and worst of all devilish few who were out to take advantage of a society that has no structural resistance to an evil person wanting to take them on a ride.
Since July 22nd 1994 and during the two years of supposed transition Gambians had a rude awakening on November 11th, when soldiers suspected of disagreeing with the ill intentions of the military leaders were rounded up and summarily executed in cold blood. Gambians began to experience the true colors of an evil leader(s) who will not stop at anything to get their way. The peaceful Gambia that values human lives and dignity for all was no more. The respect for citizens’ rights to safety, security, privacy and individual liberty went off the door. Gambia has a new leader whose worldly ambitions and dark background will turn out to be the biggest curse in the nation’s history. Lt Yahya Jammeh an unknown soldier who quietly rose through the ranks of the military was to become the new leader of this tiny West African nation commonly known for its hospitality and respect for human rights across the world despite being the tiniest country in Africa with 1.5 million inhabitants. The positive image and humanity of this nation and its people were to change forever over the next two decades.
The Gambian people have accidentally embraced a leadership menace that it would regret forever. They were to pay dearly a huge price for accepting a regime whose brutality no adjectives can describe. Instead of being among lucky nations with a new generation of leadership, it turns out someone unprecedentedly disconnected from the humanity of the people was now in control of power. He began his crusade by going after former officials of the old government while drawing others closer to him to help him build himself before destroying them one after another. Five years into his presidency he unleashed on innocent students and ordered the killings of 14 innocent students including a red cross volunteer. He tested the moral aptitude of the nation in standing up for their own. It was a victory for him as he crushed a student demonstration and no one dare lift a finger. That open up the gate for him to do anything to anyone at will without any resistance politically, socially and religiously. The sky was the limit in what he can achieve.
President Jammeh then strengthened himself in power by employing divide and rule, intimidate and conquer any form of opposition that may emerge from any angle. His top security personnel and closest aids became his immediate victims and he manages to exile or silence any citizen or group of citizens who dare mount any form of resistance to his crusade. He seized land, imprisoned prominent citizens and killed or jailed consistently top security personnel to avoid any resistance to his power. Successful he became by managing to conquer an entire population through patronizing, intimidation and violence torture to permanently instill fear in the citizenry. Not a single citizen or political opposition would rise to challenge his unstoppable power grip.
The Gambian leader mastered the art of survival by systematically eliminating any form of threat within or outside. He would not stop at anything to get his way. He formed international political alliances base on his personal gains and alienated the nation, any institution or body that dare question his power or means of getting what he wants. He pitched women against men, husbands against wives, fathers against sons and daughters, brothers against sisters and most importantly peers and their colleagues in the civil service and security apparatus. This proof to be a winning formula for him for the next two plus decades. The more crimes he committed against his citizens the more brutal he became and no amount of reconciliation from his fellow citizens would make him change his ways. He became more emboldened and combatant from one incident to another. The more blood he has on his hands the angrier and more resentful he got against his citizens.
The Gambian leader defied all odds and continued to move in a direction that is against his own long term personal safety and security and the well being of his nation. He could care less and would become more defiant and agitated against everything and everybody. The tiny West African nation became isolated diplomatically against the rest of the world including its immediate neighbors. Yahya Jammeh continue to clinch on to power, he feels he is losing his power grip, scared of what could and would happen to him. He spends sleepless nights and became suspicious of everybody including his own spouse. Thus, what appears to be a firm grip on power feels like is sliding away from him by the day. He has become more insecure in his position than anytime during his 21+ years in power. A president in power couldn’t have been more miserable than anybody in such a position.
July 22nd, for over 20 years has brought nothing to Gambia but misery, insecurity, isolation, pain and degradation to its citizens. There have been more Gambians in jail today than at anytime in history. More Gambians have died some mysteriously in the hands of this regime than anytime in history. More citizens are in exile today than anytime in the history of this tiny nation. There is more corruption, nepotism and hiring/firing detention and torture without due process today than at anytime in history. There is more chaos and insecurity in the civil service, the judiciary, security apparatus, schools and other institutions today than at anytime in history. There is more economic, political and social hardship today than at anytime in history.
Time has therefore proven to be the best judge as there is more inflation, unemployment, low moral and religious chaos today than at anytime in the history of the Gambia. Evidently, there are more prostitution, drug trafficking, local crimes today than at anytime in the nation’s history. Gambia today is more economically, socially and morally bankrupt than at anytime in history. Today in Gambia, there is more political oppression, lack of free speech and media freedom than at anytime in the nation’s history. There is only one story and one story only – that of one man Yahya Jammeh whose revolution it was for him to not only control power but become the judge, the jury, the executive, the legislature, the business man, farmer and the only citizen who is not accountable to the law. July 22nd was and is therefore nothing but a one man revolution who thinks he has power but spend sleepless nights in fear of his life. July 22nd is nothing but a curse and the most degrading and wasteful celebration the nation has ever witnessed. Gambians would therefore have to decide whether to continue to live under such misery by one man or wake up and stand up for their freedom through civil resistance that will see a cowardly leader tuck his tail and run for his life. The time for freedom and dignity for all is now.
Celebrating July 22nd is the biggest national disgrace