By Yero Jallow
“On my part I support every legal action taken or to be taken aim at weakening Jammeh’s apparatus and machinery in that country. The only caution I have for powers that be in Banjul is that in pursuit of such actions they must act in accordance with the law in order to jealously safeguard good governance and democracy we campaigned and fought for as a nation,” (Saihou Saidyly aka “Honest Gambian” UK. Facebook. June 2017 ).
Another of the many reasons mentioned by the recent protesters in Kanilai is the occupation by ECOMIG, which is operating under ECOWAS, backed by United Nation. First, let us not forget so soon the historical accident that got us into the political mess. I am sure every peace loving Gambian would have wished for the seat of power to be passed through democratic means, without another organ to interfere. That failed due to Jammeh’s dictatorship, which came with its heavy burden and line of systematic enablers, capable of camouflaging in different forms. As recent as few weeks ago, we have seen some of the political BornAgains, the political toad metamorphosis, and the new grand style of praise-singing, reminding us to be fully on alert. While Jammeh is gone, some of his stooges and enablers are yet to be cleansed from the new system, at least not clear from some of the remnants within certain key positions. Again, the only way is not “selective amnesia” and nepotistic clearance of our friends and family members off crimes. That should be the job of a competent Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
I agree with Halifa Sallah on his submission about the Kanilai protest. Let us agree that these protesters were not armed, as such, any threat that they posed, wasn’t treasonable, and rather this is purely civil disobedience. The Gov’t’s exaggeration and mishandling of the whole matter shows poor leadership experience as well as some outburst to score political points and show its arm’s muscle to citizens. The tone at which the Gov’t and some of the acclaimed supporters responded wasn’t necessary, and coming from dictatorship recently, we are too familiar with beating of citizens through mockery and provocation. As a political leader, Gambians actually hired you, and you live from tax payer’s money. You ask you self, if that is the type of employees you desire. It was simply ill-advised and poor performance.
On the side of the residents of Kanilai, they alleged that ECOMIG forces in the area interfere with their daily routines. Their children and women who utilize the bushes for rearing animals and fetching firewood are subjected to maltreatments, unnecessary questioning, and being delayed in their activities and mobility. Occupation also constitutes some form of fear and control, which could be of much inconvenience. Whether true or not, a responsible Gov’t will investigate such matters in good faith, without ill-will and/or subjecting Citizens into further displacement and fear, and come up with lasting solutions.
What is clear, the internal matter, should be handled by the Police Intervention, which according to Halifa, should be well trained, empowered, and given enough protective mechanism to handle such situations through de-escalation techniques and employment of the law, to possibly arrest and try anyone in a competent court of law. Gambia’s army and ECOMIG should be the last to interfere in that forceful manner, hence the shooting of Haruna Jatta, remains a matter that needs to be condemned, investigated fully, and for the law to be employed on any violator. It is equally wrong to target residents of Kanilai and/or Foni on the basis that Jammeh is from there. It is a known fact that those who served Jammeh are from all geographical areas of the Gambia. It is just disappointing and shameful that we will get so low to see the Gambia and Gambians as Foninkas and Non-Foninkas. That nomenclature is both lame and lacking merit, and the very force behind it is divisive. The mockery itself should be discouraged for any that is interested in promoting peace and stability. Others that wish to wallow in it, they might as well continue at their own divisiveness. Where torture, maltreatment, unfairness, and marginalization have been claimed, one lesson we have learnt over the years is neither to ignore nor downplay its severity. That is too insensitive and a divisive tactic geared on blind support, which doesn’t support the long time fabric of societal bonds, which must be protected, if we must live as a nation of one family.
Senegalese forces in the area have some conflict of interest. We all know Senegal and Cassamance have been on each other’s neck for a while. There is no doubt as well, as argued by many, including Eden Sharp’s recent brilliant submission, “Halifa Got It Wrong,” that Jammeh might have equipped the rebels in Cassamance, as a way of divide and conquer in the region. To Mr. Sharp’s credit, he argued on very good points security wise, but that might not be very applicable to a small country like the Gambia and the type of geography we have; that is more for larger countries, with higher level operations and military engagements. In this matter, it is dealing with civilians with potential “rebels” rightfully so who might have lurked in the background, information of which there is no evidence. Conclusively, I lean heavily on Halifa’s submission on this matter, both as a political expert, and one very familiar with the local politics, with his area of scholarly as well, the very mindset of the people. It is good to see no re-grouping of those armed by Jammeh to destabilize the Gambia; it is equally not fair for Senegal to settle scores with Cassamance, using ECOMIC as a cover. Or better put even, Gambia using ECOMIG and/or its Army to use force on its citizens in that forceful manner and nature. It is unacceptable. Freedom of assembly and the courts are within the constitutional rights for citizens to resort to where they felt they have been wronged. For a long time, most of Africa’s military brutalize citizens more than they protected them, and in fact at times of need to defend country and its territorial integrity, most of them (Africa’s military) will be nowhere to be seen, in fact the very pariah force for our suffering and stunted growth.
One thing that must not be ignored, we must not and cannot put a cross-section of our citizens under the radar of hate and target for revenge/retribution, just because a criminal leader is from the area. The State Power he reigned Gambia with for 22 years is not only Foni’s, rather it Gambia’s. You bet that is common knowledge. Deny the fact who can! We must not ignore the fact that in case of break out of fighting, between Cassamance rebels and Senegalese, one Gambian region must not be in the center of such battles, except in a way of conflict resolution. We cannot afford being in such cross-fires and guerrilla fights. That requires a lot of responsibility from Gov’t and its citizens. If Gov’t through its power excess or citizens through their defiance makes the country ungovernable, that is a recipe for division, poor development, and exposes the Gambia to further troubles, even on their international report card.
On one end, one may argue that the Senegalese forces knows the Senegambia region, therefore they are the right people to be stationed in Foni Kanilai. On the other end, one may argue due to the conflict of interest and their long time fighting with Cassamance, it is good to see Gambians and other ECOMIG forces there, just to avoid power excesses. While Jammeh is from Kanilai, once the region is disarmed, more intelligence work and less military occupation would have been a better strategy. That is just the truth. And moreover, ECOMIG visibility must be evenly seen, otherwise it makes it obvious on the type of anger and wish for revenge, which should not be a way for any responsible Gov’t.Whatever it is, the people of the Gambia, more so Foni has had enough of some of the political traitors and exploiters, either from the Jammeh breed or the new breed. Keep your political interest and hate to yourself and spare Gambians on fear monger and putting citizens in further jeopardy. Either way, it is hoped that the Gambia will quickly take charge of its destiny, by having its own army and police, who knows its people, and who would serve as they swore to defend its citizens against external and internal threats, and never ever to side with anything wrong, be it Gov’t and/or its citizens.
Some of the solutions would be to stop marginalization of citizens, stop being divisive (Divide and control) and using untruthful mockery of fellow citizens; that is something that any responsible Gov’t should not even tolerate, more so its responsible citizens. This is not colonialism and Foni is not seeking any old or new colonizers. As far as this author is aware, this is not a scramble to colonize Foni. You bet that you are wrong. Another solution is engaging the people in a respectful way and going by the law. Stop exaggeration and lies to score points!!! The more you fabricate, lie, and/or employ divisive tactics, the more the mudslide gets you buried. There is nothing worst than a Gov’t lying about its citizens, when you at the higher level as supposed “servant of the people” have the state power to your disposal, and if a Gov’t can lie about the little things, they will lie more about the big things. That really makes it sad enough, especially there is precedence with the Jammeh regime, and one would have thought some valid lessons will be drawn. No. Being power drunk is a problem. It takes very little to expose the Cupboard skeletal nibs. ECOMIG must stay to execute their mandate and they must do so with professionalism and discipline. The Gov’t and Citizens must work with ECOMIG to quickly stabilize the country using good leadership skills and show of responsibility. ECOMIG’s stay in the Gambia is costly, it as well comes with some psychological impact, the whole idea that we (Gambians) couldn’t unite and tolerate each other that some outside (regional) force had to intervene is shameful enough, and their continued stay, may somewhat even be seen as a look down on possible Gambia’s military, who can be trained and equipped to take the country to the next level. With the new setup, some recycling of the old guards, poses even more problems, better described as “old liquor in a new bottle.” That jealousy about nationalism must not be ignored. There is no one who won’t value the role of ECOWAS in the recent intervention, except Jammeh and his cronies, who held Gambians hostage. While valuing that, the Gambia and its citizens must learn to grow, to nurture tolerance and acceptance, to stop hate and divisiveness, and to pride country first instead of the ugly partisanship which poses hindrance to national unity and development. Gov’t and all citizens whether from earth, Jupiter, and/or mass, are advised to be both law abiding and careful of anything that will destabilize our country. That is everyone’s responsibility. Any violators of the law, whether leaders or subjects, must be held accountable on the basis of our supreme law without fear or favor. I encourage Gov’t and the citizens to fully utilize the law without exercise of power excess, arrogance, and use of unnecessary force. Those APRC supporters lurking in the background must accept the fact that their criminal master is gone. That is a whole chapter closed, Alhamdoullilah! Jammeh and anyone that committed crime, must willing accept justice, that if Jammeh believes he didn’t do any criminal activity, come to the courts to face justice, and justice must take place, to provide closure and move the nation to the next level. This same rule is extended to the new leadership. If you can’t serve honorably or without nepotism, corruption and criminality, please excuse youself before it is too late, as the Gambia is here to stay. All citizens are created equal and there is no better citizen except by demonstration of better deed.
Long Live the Gambia, Long Live Foni!
Part 4 will focus on the beneficiaries of Jammeh . From there, we might lean on a conclusive closure on Part 5. Stay tuned …