Banjul – December 30, 2017 Three years have now passed since the early morning of December 30th 2014, when a group of Gambian patriots attempted with purpose and principle to overthrow the illegitimate, tyrannical regime of Yahya Jammeh. We paid a heavy price in the loss of three of our compatriots: Colonel Lamin Sanneh, Captain Njaga Jagne, and Alhagi Jaja Nyass. We are home today to our beloved homeland to pay tribute to these valiant men. We return to commiserate with their families, and their loved ones. We return to pay our respects to all those who, before and after that day, fought for an end to the 22 years of Jammeh’s rule. We return to offer condolences to the families of those Gambians who, since 1994, have lost their lives during the struggle for freedom. We return to sympathize with the many victims left in the wake of that odious regime.
We return home as but ordinary Gambians. There is nothing special about us. Our imprisonment, the momentary loss of our freedom, in the United States was but a small price to pay to add our efforts to the long quest to halt the misdeeds of tyrannical power in the Gambia. We recognized evil and, together, we made our own attempt to cast it from our homeland. Many before us tried to stop the despotic rule of Jammeh and his clique. A number paid the ultimate price—Basiru Barrow, Dot Faal, Ndure Cham, Saul Ndow, Deyda Hydara, Solo Sendeng, and countless others, many without name. May their souls rest in peace—they are not forgotten. The Jammeh regime imprisoned, tortured, maimed, and traumatized many; the list of victims, including Shyngle Nyassi, is tragically long. So, let it be known that these, the victims, are, in truth, the real heroes. It is they who struggled against evil, fought towards good. A brutal state machinery had trapped them, yet each had the unwavering courage to stand, saying no to dictatorship.
The testimonies before the Janneh Commission have revealed that the depth of the damage inflicted upon the nation extends far beyond the brutality of state violence and the horrible misconduct of the security forces. We are speaking of the theft of public funds in staggering amounts, so much so as to undermine the economic viability of the nation, imperiling the future of its young people. We are all, as a whole, the victims of Yahya Jammeh. But Jammeh did not emerge out of a vacuum —he was in some ways both a product, and a symptom, of our present society. He was enabled time and time again. We cannot pretend to indict him and, at the same time, absolve ourselves of our ruinous mistakes. We meant to suggest that citizenship naturally makes certain demands of us, chief among them are personal responsibility and the duty to hold each other accountable. So as we reunite with our families and fellow citizens after Jammeh, we must reexamine the makeup of the Gambian character in order to better see our mistakes. Tyranny, after acquiring the tools of violence, capitalized upon our fear and apathy; we, in other words, permitted evil to solidify its power, allowed evil to get a better grip upon our bodies. This must not happen again—or, to put it better, we must not let it happen.
In this spirit, we return also to contribute to the difficult process of rebuilding our lives after Jammeh. We will meet with a broad section of the Gambian community, to listen and learn, and to discuss the new direction of the Gambia, of its democracy, and of the challenges and opportunities we face. We are hopeful of working with the government and civil society groups to ensure that no one will ever have to make the decisions we made to free our country. We are hopeful for recuperating after the damage done by 22 years of misrule. We are hopeful for rebuilding a nation rid of such violent tragedy. We are hopeful for a country that is safe for our children, who do not have to fight such battles down the road. We feel that we have, in any case, no other choice.
Cherno M. Njie
Alhagi Saidy Barrow