The Gambia: Aren’t Our Own Hands Bloody (Or Aren’t We Culpable)?

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Burama Jammeh

Legally one doesn’t necessarily have to be the triggerman/woman and/or machete-wielder to be a killer/murderer.  Our words, money, demeanor, encouragement, head-nodding, expressed endorsement, (whatever) motivated men, women and even young school children to confront a-ready-and-loaded killer men/women of Yahya AJJ Jammeh for a supposed cause that we don’t seem to mean after all.  After 3 years in absolute control in Banjul and no such promised changes we ask why did we let these men/women/children confront certain death? This is no longer a philosophical question. Not only our national psychic has to process this reality but more importantly what do we do about it. No life should be wasted for no reason and especially on fraudulent pretext. We’re still determined to bring all perpetrators to justice some day and thoroughly investigate the culpability of everyone around these issues regardless of TRRC findings/conclusions. TRRC is most certainly below the standard of justice as per 1997 The Constitution and Laws of The Gambia. Life is a right!  National Assembly has no constitutional authority to decide that admitting to killing (or caused unlawful harm) suffice punishment/forgiveness.

For 22-years we launched a very unforgiving opposition to Yahya AJJ Jammeh. That costs us bloods, sweats, tears and fortunes. Some were exiled for more than two-and-a-half decades. Others seem to vaporized and/or mysteriously disappeared in thin air while some of our deaths were denied decent burial at their preferred homes. Our efforts had organizations, leaders and followers. Each of us should be responsible and account for our actions and/or lack there off. The GOAL, (told or not), (understood or not), (written or imaginary), etc. was to ‘To Make Gambia A Functioning Institutional Democracy’.

  1. That we can finally be in charge of our own affairs
  2. That our civil liberties/freedoms/human-rights are demonstrably guaranteed, protected and uncompromisingly defended
  3. That the full potentials of our homeland are unleashed to support our individual and/or group enterprises/endeavors to prosperity

Removing and replacing Yahya with whoever wasn’t THE GOAL. That was simply a mean to the end.  At the least that was what we were made to believe.  Three years has gone by since Yahya was deposed and we assumed power and complete control politically and administratively from Kartong to Koina. Even with a prior agreement (The Coalition 2016 Agreement) that clearly articulated our desired goals and needed actions, nothing changed except:

  1. Constitutional presidential/vice presidential age ceiling – removed
  2. Prohibitive election registration fees – dropped to within affordable amounts

Everything else still remained including provisions (or decrees) that protects Yahya and his clique from prosecution of crimes they might have commit while in office. Isn’t it amazing that is still law of the land?

THE LEFT-BEHIND IMPERIAL INFRASTRUCTURE CALLED GAMBIA GOVERNMENT STILL REMAINED INTACT IN BANJUL. IT’S THE SAME DAMNED INFRASTRUCTURE THAT SERVED THE INTERESTS OF QUEEN OF GREAT BRITAIN AS COLONIAL MASTER. FOR 54 YEARS AND COUNTING OUR OWN SONS/DAUGHTERS THINK SIMPLY THEY MANNING THE DIFFERENT FUNCTIONS AND COSMETIC NAME CHANGES SUFFICE TO MAKE IT DEMOCRATIC. They expanded its size, role and scope culminating at prohibitive costs that burn between 68 – 120% of national revenues annually. Such enlarged apparatus also has nothing useful to do other than intruding into private life of citizens from searches to seizures to involvement in domestic conversations/disputes, to agents running contraband and/or drug businesses with public resources used as protective cover, etc. The main feature of that government is central authority at The State House/President, contrary to functioning institutional democratic governance of 3 co-equal branches. Contrary to legislature serving as appropriators they simply rubber-stamp State House dictates. Rather than decentralized governing authorities, The State House micro-managed our Regions/Divisions, Districts and Villages with politically motivated appointments (appointees) and firings. Unfortunately, nobody seems to realize (or bother) that these are the root of our political problems and any solutions has to start with fundamental reorganization/restructuring of governance from Kartong to Koina.

Also, still law of the land is citizens living outside the borders of our territory (like me and so many of you out there) can’t contest election and/or vote – yet the fruits of our labor largely financed the Adama Barrow victory. Our words turned out votes of our families, relatives and friends.  Our remittance sustains many families and adds about 12% to GDP. But our votes as Yahya realized are threat to any unscrupulous politicians who want to continue to ride the backs of our people.

The notorious Public Order Act, one Ousainou Darbo, vehemently fought its constitutionality at court in the famous Kebba Fanta Comma case in Sami (think Manna is Niani and not Sami). It’s still the law and Ousainou’s administration is happy to now use it on opponents (perceived enemies) as Yahya did. It’s now handy tool to suppress/oppress dissent. Isn’t it?

They’re also firing/hiring Regional/Divisional Governors, District Chiefs and Village Alikalis as Yahya. Controlling the local hierarchy (so-called Local Government) is a life-line of assured political survival in The Gambia. Hence it serves the personal interest of one in Banjul to establish absolute control of this vital social-infrastructure with either (or both) intimidations and/or inducements. That local structure is synonymous to the individual Gambian (us all) – it marries us, christen our babies, circumcise us, establish our social status, bury our death, allocates vital production resources such as land, etc. None of us can escape its influence. That is why Jawara never let it go. Yahya promised in the original version of the 1997 Constitution but quickly rescind it. Barrow/Ousainou figured the same out too.

Police checkpoints still littered on average every2.2/ 2.0 miles of road length. On any given day one encounters nothing less than 10/11 such checkpoints between Brikama and Banjul – about 22 miles (35 Km) distance. They ask what’s in our pockets, under our vehicle hoods, inside our trunks, etc. I thought we demand independence from the Queen to be free (to be ourselves). What the hell they looking for? Why do they want to know where we are going? Or what’s in our pockets? For, who’s use/benefit? They hide behind national security. There are no national security issues in The Gambia except ones’ they (government) might create.

The draconian media laws are still laws of The Gambia.  Ebrima Sillah and his predecessor, Demba A Jawo, both distinguished members of media/journalism fraternity, are/were noticeably silent particularly over these laws that restrict freedom of expression/association and as well restrict independent journalism. These men are/were not only practicing journalists but recognized lieutenants of our struggle. They never like/want those laws when Yahya was president but now advisers to Barrow – silence ensued. That’s not the least principle! That’s opportunistic!

The numerous decrees in the constitution including Election Decree are all still applicable laws of our land. Amazing! We cried bad election administration for 22 years. Not anymore! The systemic flaws are now handy tools in their favor. Maybe is the turn of Mamma Kandeh and other oppositions (including dummy Fabakary Tombong Jatta – A(F)PRC Caretaker Leader) to cry foul now. Don’t mind them, any day they get to power – they won’t change a thing because then it becomes a vital tool to outpace opponents. Frankly, good people (Muslims and Christians) don’t behave as such. Good people have certain moral compass that inform their behavior whether someone is looking or not. Not in politics! Not in Banjul!

To date ordinary court sessions in Gambia, appear as changing of guards at the Greenline in Cyrus (The UN Buffer Zone Separating North Cyprus/Turkey-side and South/Greek-side) and/or some frontline call to stand-attention (ready for war) with PIU/GAF agents with guns drawn. Seriously, do anyone care we can do everyday business of society without been (or behave) so barbaric. What do we need war weapons at an ordinary court session in Gambia?

These were some of the cornerstones of our beef with Yahya.

Apparently, not anymore! Adama Barrow, Ousainou Darbo, Amat Bah, OmarJjallow/OJ, Mai Fatty, Isatou Touray, Fatoumata Tambajang Jallow, Hendry Gomez, etc.  are now ok to live with the status quo.

So, the question every Gambian ought to ask today ………

WHAT WAS THE TRUE PURPOSE(S) OF OUR OPPOSITION TO YAHYA?

1) Was it because Yahya is a Jola? Feels terrible for me to even ask that question

2) Was it because Yahya is not well educated as they do?  Neither Barrow nor Ousainou has proven better governor than Yahya so far for 3 years.

3) Was it because Yahya did not come from the chosen circle of society? But who’re the chosen?

4) What else…….?  Is it because he is a foreigner? Presumably his parents jumped the border from Casamance Region of Senegal to put up home on the Gambian side? Those are very real possibilities. That would be the result of reckless governance of Jawara and his crew (Alkali James Gaye to be mentioned in this case). If unaccounted entry of his parents would give PPP cheap vote – everything goes. I have no proof of this but I personally know people who came to Gambia from somewhere else and are today bona-fide citizens simply for being here that long. People should be able to become Gambians but through a legally established process approved by Gambians

The living paid comparatively smaller price – we’re still breathing!

Many others paid the ultimate price – life!

  • The Student Demonstrators – we lost 11/12 unfulfilled lives. I can’t speak to the motivation of the kids but we created the environment for such protests to confronts Yahya’s killer soldiers.
  • Denton Bridge Beatings – that was a UDP convoy to/from UDP event. Many never recover from their injuries.  Remember Seedia Sanyang
  • Solo Sandeng – death at demonstration promoting UDP interest
  • Basse Bridge Ambush – at least one dead. A(F)PRC thugs provoke that attack
  • The UDP 7 (Abdou Karamba Kassama, Sarjo Kunjang Sanneh, Solo Camara, Buba Samura, Fatou Camara, Femi Peters, Seedia Sanyang). All these are UDP members. All suffered to their death simply for supporting UDP.
  • Unknown numbers of young soldiers went missing (or killed) in all those reported coup attempts. Our fierce opposition must be the motivator for some of those kids to take that risk.

Three years ago, I would say these are steep prices but worthy for freedom. Today, am not sure! By now we hoped to be celebrating these lives in what was supposed to be a bona-fide free Gambia; document/teach their sacrifices in our history/literature classes and erect monuments on their behave. For instance, day after our declared election victory I see no reason we couldn’t erect the image of Sarjo kunjang Sanneh at the entrance of Brikama.  This is a woman who may not be expecting any personal gain because of her literacy level and age yet gave our struggle her all – prisoned, raped and eventually killed. I’m no longer convinced this government would have even afford her 1 of the Saudi Arabia Gambia allotted Mecca tickets that they used to go to Mecca in their 1st year in office. More importantly though, why did we let her die? Nothing she fought for has changed 3 years and counting!

Amazingly, we’re not even seeking justice for these people. Instead, we organized an evening national TV entertainment with crocodile-tears of supposed witnesses at TRRC. Some these so-called witnesses are alleged criminals who should have being investigated and have their day at a properly constituted law of The Gambia. This is truly the ultimate miscarriage of justice. Edward Singhateh (and all the others for that matter) should be investigated for his supposed role in the death of Mr. Ousman Koro Ceesay and as well for overthrow our government. No individual or group has any right to overthrow people’s government because you hold certain grudges and/or possess some powerful guns. Is an unforgiven social sin. All of them should be tried for those crimes – no statute of limitation. Allowing it go unpunished is to encourage others and a serious source of chaos.

Yahya victimized us with impunity because of none existence of functioning democratic institutions and basic apparatus of rule of laws. The current Barrow administration is on that same path. It’s plausable to imagine future administration(s) would also abuse us. That status quo can only be change by us (The People) by fundamentally changing our relation with those we gave public trust.

We supported Ousainou Darbo’s leadership with the hope that he’s that change agent. Although Mr. Darbo was never the president he had all the cards of power at January 19, 2017, but immediately misappropriated all to a point he was fired with an unbelievable ease. Played it rights would ensure appreciable reforms by this time but also made Mr. Darbo undisputed favorite for next president of Gambia. Right now, though, his chances are no better than whopping 1:2-million (estimated Gambian population).

Instead of coaching the team (The Coalition 2016) to stay steadfast on The Coalition Agreement – he essentially annulled The Fundamental Provision of that Agreement. Every step of his since seems politically worse than the previous.

Instead of cleaning up government Ousainou became a major practitioner of PPP-like cronyism/nepotism. Publicly-charged fleets of vehicles running his and family’s errands. Mr. Darbo’s son secured Custom Excise appointment. He may be qualified but is he the most qualified? Do other qualified Gambians given the same opportunity to try their luck?  He appoints some Gambians with dual-citizenship and refused others on that exact same reason. He filled Foreign Affairs and other areas of government with his UDP henchmen/women and directed public projects to Bansang (just like Yahya made the rest of us pay Foni’s utility bills), etc. The Foreign Affairs Ministry budget jumped from about D0.2b (D200m) to D0.75b(D750m) during his tenure. These are carbon-copy repeat of yesteryear’s ills.

Instead of championing causes he fought hard against such as notorious Public Order Act and the Denial of Permit Issuance by Police – Mr. Darbo has happily used the same tools when they became handy. As stated he wasn’t the president but Barrow fired chiefs at Gunjur and Foni Bondali and replaced them with his hand pick men. The government also denied Electricity Demonstrators permit. They deplored armed security agents at Gunjur, Sibanor, Kanilai, Faraba Banta and West Field resulting to fatalities at Kanilai and Faraba Banta. We’ve cried together for 22 years that these should not happen and spent countless hours at court. We didn’t hear a word from Mr. Darbo this time around. Justifying their occurrence today is pathetic but very Gambian-ly.

Instead of focus on the goals/objectives of General Olusegun Obasanjo led Inter-party Dialogue Agreement or those of June 2015 Opposition Parties Declaration and Demand for Constitutional and Electoral Reforms or even NADD MoU, at the least during this supposed transition period, Ousainou was busy (at times with open hypocrisies/mediocre), consolidating UDP. Surprisingly that build-up is up to date house of playing cards – they couldn’t safe Mr. Darbo (supposed veteran) from the wraths of amateur Barrow.

These failures beg questions, if we can’t (or refused) to even attempt the promised democratic/governance reforms aren’t we/they/he culpable in above mentioned deaths on fraudulent pretext?  Equally, why should we allow Barrow a day after 3 years if he can’t even made basic mends to 1997 The Constitution?

For The Gambia Ever True

Burama FL Jammeh

Economist/Financial Analyst

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