Gambia speaking truth, Mr. Jones?

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Baba Galleh JallowBy Baba Galleh Jallow

It is sometimes hard to avoid reacting to the words of people who make statements not out of any particular knowledge beyond their narrow professional occupations, not out of reasonable familiarity with the situations they address, but simply as a consequence of their ideological positions and within their narrow political contexts. Moreover, the fight against injustice necessarily entails a corresponding fight against those who, wittingly or unwittingly, aid and abet injustice. The recent statement to the Iran-based Press TV by Bill Jones of the UK-based Executive Intelligence Review that Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh spoke “truth to power” in accusing the UK and US of plotting to overthrow his government smacks of the age-old condescension that Western experts betray when talking about Africa and African issues. Is it not ironic that Mr. Jones uses the same “imperialistic” language that Jammeh habitually rants against to defend Jammeh? How does Mr. Jones know that Jammeh was speaking the “truth” in accusing the UK and the U.S. of trying to overthrow his government? What evidence did Jammeh provide to convince Mr. Jones that he was not lying?

Does Mr. Jones know how Jammeh reacts to people speaking truth to his power? Does Mr. Jones know whether Jammeh is in fact a believer in the idea and legitimacy of speaking truth to power? Does Mr. Jones know how many people Jammeh has jailed, killed, exiled, caused to disappear without the due process of law? Is Mr. Jones suggesting that Jammeh has the legitimate right to be in power for twenty years? Would Mr. Jones support the practice of indefinite one man rule or sit-tight dictatorship in his own country? Would Mr. Jones support the practice of arrest and indefinite detention of citizens without charge or trial in his own country? Clearly, Mr. Jones’ answers to these questions have to be either “no” or “I don’t know.” Government practices that are unthinkable in countries like Mr. Jones’ are considered unproblematic in African countries. Does this not strongly suggest the kind of arrogant western exceptionalism that characterized the early colonial encounters and remains a key feature of Western perceptions of the other to this day? We Africans have serious issues with certain elements of Western society; but we defy anyone to treat Africa as if it is inhabited by savage races that have no right to the kinds of rights and freedoms enjoyed by Western citizens. We totally and absolutely condemn as utterly ignorant and totally reject the bogus notion that human rights, the rule of law and democracy are exclusive preserves of the West that cannot be “imposed” on the rest of us. Human beings are human beings to the extent that they recognize and respect the humanity of all other human beings. Men and women who  strut about with presumptions of their superiority over others simply because of their skin color are at best ignorant, at worst, inhuman. If dictatorship is unacceptable in the west, it is equally unacceptable in Africa. In which case Mr. Jones simply has no right to go about defending an African despot against other powers, however despotic those powers may be.

Jammeh accuses the UK and US of funding the November 11, 1994 revolt by Lt. Basiru Barrow and his colleagues. What specific evidence does Jammeh produce to back up his allegations? He accuses the UK and US of funding the UDP? What specific evidence does he produce to back up his allegations? He justifies these unsubstantiated allegations by claiming that these two Western countries are mad at him because they want to exploit Gambia’s oil and mineral resources. What oil? What mineral resources? Does Jammeh think that Gambians in this day and age will just swallow his words and take them for the truth? If he does, he must be kidding himself. Gambians will scrutinize and analyze every single syllable that falls from his mouth, even accidentally. They will peer beneath the surface and reveal the deceptive and unspoken motives for his words and his actions. And they will throw them right into the open and expose them for what they are.

Conspiracy theories like the ones Mr. Jammeh utters about Western plots to overthrow his government are manifestations of the political paranoia afflicting all dictators rather than any depictions of reality. Mr. Jones is right that Jammeh should be concerned, especially in the light of America’s clearly unreasonable demands in the document that he had published in the media. Why would the United States literally ask to have a totally free hand in operating within Gambian territory? Well, because the United States reserves the right to protect her national and security interests from those who would threaten it. If indeed that document is authentic, it is safe to suggest that there might be some evidence that Jammeh is aiding and abetting what America considers “terrorist groups” who are out to hurt the United States. At the very least, there might be “terrorists” operating in The Gambia, whether Jammeh is aware of their presence or not. The presence of “terrorists” in The Gambia is not an unlikely scenario given Jammeh’s unhidden hatred of the United States and his frequent but groundless protestations of Islamic piety. We have argued over and over again that Jammeh is not a Muslim in the first place principally because the uncouth words he utters, the evil acts he perpetrates against innocent people and the occult activities he engages in are contrary to the spirit of Islam. But of course, evil people do not know that they are evil. And since God does not tell anyone that they are evil, wrong or deluded, people like Jammeh could ceaselessly rant about being friends of Allah and even kill in the name of Allah. Just like Jammeh reserves the right to protect what he sees as his personal interests, so does the United States and any other nation and person for that matter reserve the right to protect their own interests. If indeed the Americans have credible evidence that Jammeh is supporting people out to harm the United States, well then, all’s well that ends well.

Indeed, the UK and the US would be doing the hostage Gambian nation a great favor if they were to help end Jammeh’s reign of terror over innocent Gambians. The Gambian nation is today held hostage by a tyrannical regime headed by a psychopath who believes that the country is his personal property to do with as he likes. Hostage taking, even of an individual, is a crime that deserves to be punished. It is high time that the world re-evaluates its concept of hostage taking to include holding entire nations hostage to the whims and caprices of a dictator whose primary motivation is power for power’s sake. And the likes of Mr. Jones should do their homework before opening their big mouths and compounding the problems of innocent millions suffering under the weight of selfish dictatorships.

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