The Gambia: Of gangster regime, mercenary judges, incorrigible judiciary and quirky justice

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WowoBy Mathew K. Jallow

It was less than flattering. Matter of fact; it was downright underwhelming. The Nigerian born “so-called” Chief Justice, who once served as a pizza deliverer to a Gambian IT wonk in Atlanta, Georgia, confirmed the reality of what the Gambia’s online media religiously pursued as a civil rights cause; the unethicality of the foreign dominated Gambian judiciary system. Last week, the shocking underhandedness and tragic disrepute of the wayward judiciary suddenly became the centerpiece of the broader political conversation, and exposed the cruel underbelly of the Gambia’s system of dispensing justice. The unpropitious so-called, Chief Justice, Joseph Wowo, and nauseatingly narcissistic, so-called, Justice Minister and Attorney General, Lamin Jobarteh, involuntarily put faces to the media’s relentless indictment and withering criticism of the ubiquitous corruption of Gambian justice. The staggeringly inept judiciary last week put on full public display the institution’s jaw-dropping lawlessness and sickening depravity; in the process demonstrating jarring insensitivity and extraordinary contempt for the laws of the land. The bribery solicitation video tape, which surfaced, directly implicated two of Gambia’s highest law enforcement personnel; the erstwhile Joseph Wowo and Lamin Jobarteh, and put to rest any lingering doubt about the pervasiveness of corruption and the mantra of justice for sale in the Gambia’s justice system. The still unfolding bribery scandal has asserted the enormous threats the judiciary poses to society and once again tarnished the reputation of a disenchanting justice system. 

Nonetheless, even the heightened melodrama implicating the Gambia’s most senior Justice Department duo, pales in comparison to all the wrongly condemned. Gambian judges and magistrates willingly exercised incessant cruelty that borders on absolute insensitivity, if not, outright sadism. The incredible intersection of money and the rule of law offer, more often than not, a cynical digression from the course of justice, veering instead into the dark depths of Neanderthal crassness. The fancy footwork, in which the unqualified Joseph Wowo attempts to spin and walk-back the damaging corruption video, reflects his poor legal grounding and the judiciary’s pervasive exercise of poor judgment. The blatant corruption of the justice system has reached the lowest bar, condemning innocent Gambians to die, others to life behind bars, many to long incarceration, and still others to incarceration without trial. It is a justice system wildly run amok and completely impervious to any sense of justice. Joseph Wowo and Lamin Joberteh’s bribery scandal is pivotal in reflecting the scope and lethality of corruption in the Gambia’s justice system during Yahya Jammeh’s long reign of terror. But, it is also a stark reminder of how both Joseph Wowo and Lamin Jobarteh and the entire justice system have in the exercise of the law, manipulated the entire justice process and perpetuated the tyranny of the Gambia’s deadly regime. By their universally condemned botched bribery scandal, Joseph Wowo and Lamin Jobarteh have both stooped low as instruments of ruin of Gambia’s justice system and the prolongation of an odious regime. But this unflattering portrayal of the corrupt justice system in Gambia is only a subtext of the iconic ignorance and intolerable arrogance of those dispensing justice at the judiciary and their heartless puppeteer; Yahya Jammeh. 

Undoubtedly, Yahya Jammeh use of the judiciary to project his power is a striking manipulation of the rule of law and obscures the defined boundaries of his authority. The Gambian judiciary, under the control of what Gambians characterize as unqualified Nigerian mercenary judges, has sunk into mindless inertia, morphed into an instrument fear, and turned into the resume padding grounds of unqualified Nigerians judges in Gambian law enforcement. In the decade and half since Nigerians took over complete control of Gambia’s judiciary, Gambia has witnessed the birth of tyranny that has challenged the African Union and the ECOWAS regional body into resisting the rebirth of dictatorship in an Africa wildly opposed to the return of the craven monocracies of the seventies. Even Nigeria, with which Gambia shares historical affinity has shown little interest in reining in Nigerian judges who, in submission to Yahya Jammeh, and in total disregard of the law, continually condemn innocent Gambians to die, to life behind bars, to long, harsh prison sentences, and to detention without trial beyond the legal stipulation. Today, due to an unholy collusion between Nigerian judiciary personnel and Yahya Jammeh, Gambia is buried deep in an apocalyptic justice dispensation system that makes total mockery of the Gambian constitution and the laws of the land. As of today, Nigeria is challenged to fulfill the wishes of Gambians’ by withdrawing the entire contingent of Nigerians working in legal practice in Gambia and to properly screen future judges and magistrates sent to Gambia under the current bilateral agreement. In an effort to help eviscerate the Gambia’s gangster regime, recall mercenary judges and help restore justice to an incorrigible judiciary and quirky justice system, Gambians invest their hope on Nigeria’s commitment to justice and the rule of law. Is that asking for too much?

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