The Gambia: Reconciliation, no; indemnifying, hell no




By Mathew K Jallow

It does not come without huge costs. It’s an extremely traumatic experience, which robs citizens of their moral grounding by downgrading their humanity and elevating their materiality. And it poses an existential threat to the very fact of human existence. For a system that desensitizes citizens to devalue the very nature of humanity, no extreme is too far in debasing society. The catastrophic impact of the Gambia’s tyranny is undeniable, and characteristically showcases deep emotional scars far worst than any physical traumas sustained in an accident; it’s brutal and psychologically destructive. In a large number of homes throughout the moon-crater streets of metropolitan Sere-Kunda, innumerable wives lost husbands, and their kids lost fathers, to two decades of sustained state sanctioned murders, executions and political mayhem. In the Kombo Saint Mary’s, area, far too many mothers and fathers lost daughters, husbands, sons and wives; forever disappeared by the notorious National Intelligence Agency. Throughout the length and breadth of Senegambia, in deep dry wells and shallow graves; in unmarked tombs and animal desecrated corpse sites, in dense forests and the open sea, Gambian and non-Gambian families lost sons, daughters, fathers, uncles, friends and neighbors to the cold, cruel hands of a regime completely oblivious the pain and agony of a nation. And in the Gambia’s gulag prison system and secret detention centers, innocent citizens and non-citizens, alike, are warehoused to languish in dark, dingy cells where many have died behind steel doors and tall concrete walls far from public view. The Gambia is a country whose history, over the last twenty years, is written in the blood of its citizens and non-citizens by a regime whose primitive savagery continues to stun a civilized world. It is a history etched in stone; undeniable, unacceptable and unforgivable.

What is occurring in the Gambia since the military regime seized power in 1994 is a travesty that defies imagination and challenges the conscience of a nation; extra-judicial executions, murders, forced disappearances, and mass incarceration. The end result of twenty long years of pernicious human rights abuse is the unparalleled blight of scruples, aggravated by the collective reticence of citizens to challenge the state’s moral bankruptcy. This state terrorism and citizens’ aversion to standing up to authorized state ruthlessness has engendered a vicious tyranny that has robbed Gambians of their dignities. Even more striking still is the ability of an insignificant number of citizens to derogate the extreme savagery in Gambia as immaterial to the healing and redemption process, in a nation’s deeply scarred by abuse, neglect and mismanagement. The calls for political reconciliation in Gambia disparages the pain and exacerbates the suffering of citizens who lost loved ones to the diabolical depravity and ruthlessness of a hated regime, which long ago lost the moral authority to shape the course of a nation. In spite of the shocking disregard for human life demonstrated by a clueless regime, a few Gambians are driven by self-interest to advance a dubious reconciliation agenda that does not support accountability or penalize the perpetrators of Gambia’s crippling criminality over two decades. It is preposterous to think Gambia will just return to politics as usual, without adequately addressing the catastrophe and burdens of two decades of sanguinary human rights abuses. The rabidity, with which a few Gambians have pursued a deeply flawed reconciliation effort, completely negates altruism as the driving force behind the strategy, and validates the hypocritical superficiality of the exercise. On his own freewill, in 2011, Yahya Jammeh initiated, organized and funded a reconciliation attempt with the dissident diaspora movement, and sponsored the willing few to travel to Gambian for what was labelled the “diaspora summit.”

In the end, it was a complete failure that has since receded into obscurity and irrelevance. But what is scarier than attempts to reconcile with Yahya Jammeh, is what transpired in Gambia since that craven reconciliation endeavor in 2011. Before even the ink of reconciliation dried, Yahya Jammeh had fallen back into his old, familiar disregard for human life, resulting in the execution of twenty-six Mile Two Prison inmates, abduction and assassination of Foni brothers, Wuyeh Colley and Enor Colley, abduction of businessman, Saul Ndow and politician Mahawa Cham, and the abduction and disappearance of two US citizens of Gambian descent. It comes as no surprise that nearly fifty more Gambians and non-Gambians have since been executed, fled the country, are languishing in prison, or abducted and disappeared from the face of the earth. In exhibiting an uncommon level of cruelty, Yahya Jammeh has eviscerated his diabolical character, which makes it absolutely impossible to give weight to his words or rely on his goodwill. The strident anti-reconciliation blowback is less of a reflection on Gambian’s incapacity to forgive, than on Yahya Jammeh’s homicidal misanthropy and untrustworthiness. Reconciliation, in any way it is looked at it, is throwing in the towel and recapitulating to a monster that lacks the ability to rationalize. It is inconsiderate to the pain Gambians feel, but more detrimental, it surrenders justice to a character of international disrepute; Yahya Jammeh. Gambian are about delivering justice for all the dead, the disappeared and those languishing in prison; not ego stroking. Maybe, if Yahya Jammeh resigns, frees every political prisoner unconditionally, and returns his looted wealth, Gambians will consider sparing his life, but even that is a decision only citizens can make; not a random person purely motivated by self-interest. Until then, Gambians maintain no reconciliation or indemnifying the regime


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