The display of photo ops with the former Vice President of the brutal Jammeh regime Isatou Njie-Saidy and his runaway remnants with huge smiles on their faces is a disservice to the bitter fight that ended impunity in the Gambia. At best it can be described as insensitive and insulting to hundreds of innocent victims who are still struggling to come to terms with what happened to them and their love ones. Barely 30 days after his dramatic take over of power championed by the Gambian people, President Barrow’s photo obsession with members of the former regime who reigned terror on the Gambian people has left a lot to be desired. In fact from the time he won the elections and before even taking office, President-elect Barrow and his team did not manage the stage well. Granted they are green to the public stage, they should have been very sensitive to who they associate with especially knowing the kinds of mayhem and betrayals the Gambian society went through.
The pictures today with the new Vice President Aja Fatoumata Tambang side by side with Isatou Njie- Saidy blew a lot of well wishers’ minds and genuinely angered people. It is evidence that this new regime enjoys overwhelming support from the Gambian people especially the Diaspora. However, it is expected that these leaders who can show bruises from the fight against dictatorship so soon be insensitive to the brutal fight that brought them to power. There are hundreds if not thousands of Gambians who have fresh physical wounds and memories of carnage that was reigned on them by the Jammeh regime. Some are still searching for their love ones to no trace!
Former VP Isatou Njie-Saidy who was supposed to be the mother; the aunt, the sister and God-mother of Gambians was there for 20 years not only witnessing crimes against Gambians, but was the biggest defender and advocate for violence against the Gambian people. She was in charge when 14 unarmed students were massacred in 2000. She sanctioned the execution in cold blood of mile II 9 prisoners including a woman and openly defended the illegal executions. Isatou-Njie-Saidy was the chief Adviser to President Jammeh when Solo Sandeng, Solo Nkrumah were arrested and tortured to death. She remained muted when Fatoumatta Jawara and Nogoi Njai were brutally abused and allegedly raped by drunk NIA officials. VP Njie-Saidy was not only an accomplish to Yahya Jammeh, but she was the evil woman who failed the people of the Gambia to protect a paycheck at the expense of a generation. How dare she has the audacity to face the Gambian people again with a straight face in a photo opt duped as handing over. Handing over what, her hand written orders for crimes against Gambians to be carried out? Her signature firing elderly Gambians and civil servants from their jobs? Her ill advice to President Jammeh to isolate Gambia from the rest of the International community? What has Isatou Njie-Saidy got to offer young people of the Gambia when she orchestrated mass migration through the back way for Gambian youths to perish in the Atlantic Ocean?
The responsibility in this case of reminding Gambians of their two decades of brutality squarely lies on the new leadership in the Gambia. It is quite obvious that VP Aja Fatoumata Tambajang has no tolerance for these brutes as she once called for their arrest and prosecution. So to orchestrate or ill advice the new government to have a massive display of solidarity with people who have destroyed the nation and were willing to set it on fire to protect a tyrant is beyond comprehension and a slap on the face of Jammeh’s victims. This action was ill advised probably from the opportunistic two weeks outgoing secretary General Pa Musa Jallow.
To cozy with these disciples of tyranny who have shown so much disregard to the freedom, dignity and human rights of the Gambian people is outrageously disrespectful and insensitive to victims of political oppression. How would you face the widow and children of Solo Sandeng and explain to them why Isatou Njie-Saidy should be treated in any other way than being put under house arrest while her crimes are being investigated? How can you explain to the family of Chief Ebrima Manneh; Deyda Hydra, Daba Marenah and co, and several hundred Gambians killed by the former regime and tell them reconciliation with people who have blood of their families on their hands should take precedence over an apology and immediate investigation of crimes against citizens? Where is the compassion and genuine efforts to meet with victims of decades of torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings? Who said there can be reconciliation without acknowledgement of injustice and the pursue of lasting justice for all?
Today, the new Barrow government lost a lot of respect from many Gambians and human rights organizations. No one is calling for revenge or witch hunt after former government officials. In fact, we defend their rights to protection of the law that they deliberately denied the Gambian people. What we are demanding is for this government to be sensitive to the change that Gambians went through. Citizens are still trying to deal with the reality of their situation and the kinds of terror that was unleashed on them by their own government. At the very least those heads of institutions who have evidently abused their powers, maltreated citizens and committed crimes of negligence of duty should have immediately been relieved of their duties and put on paid leave. How can this government justify retaining CDS Ousman Badjie, NIA Director Yankuba Badjie, Commissioner of Prisons David Colley in their positions knowing fully well these were perpetrators of Jammeh’s crimes? How can the government be so naive to leave these folks in their positions to destroy evidence of their crimes?
The Gambian people did not fight against dictatorship for the sake of changing personnel and party labels. They did not sacrifice limbs, lives and their freedoms to change one set of citizens for the other. The Gambian people fought for freedom and justice for all Gambians. They fought to end impunity and suppression of justice and due process for the Gambian people. There is no room for the new government to go on a honeymoon photo ops while victims of crimes against humanity are still fresh on people’s minds. The government must immediately seize this celebrity behavior of photo ops and get to work. A government that has taken power with so much on its plate and so much trust and confidence to restore between the government and the governed must be wary even photos can be used as PR propaganda to discredit the government as just another status quo. To say that Gambians are not disappointed by the show of solidarity and photo display with Isatou Njie-Saidy and Jammeh’s symbols of tyranny is to be less than truthful. Gainako join the overwhelming condemnation of the photo ops on social media and the airways for this insensitive act of mockery. We hope that the new administration will use this as another feedback and to immediately launch a commission to investigate crimes committed during Jammeh’s last two decades of oppression and reassure Gambians that justice will be served and those responsible will be held to account. Failure to live up to that, the Barrow government is rest assured of citizen challenge against maintaining the status quo. You will either hold them accountable or the Gambian people will hold you accountable. We must have real change in Gambian not change of personnel.