A SOLDIER IN FEAR – MY ENCOUTER

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A soldier with Saikou Jammeh at statehouse

By Saikou Jammeh

It was, after all, going to be an easy ride to State House. Anyone who doubted this did not see what Yaya Jammeh saw. Senegal-led Ecowas troops arrived at the gates of the palaces after taking command of key military barracks and security installations across the country. The troops started entering the Gambia from multiple border points, combing the streets with armoured vehicles.

The head of the presidential guard, Ansumana Tamba, was nowhere to be found, but his men put up a barricade in what appeared to be a standoff that lasted more than six hours. No guns were fired. Just talks. And about half an hour before midnight, the heavy gates of the presidential palaces were opened. Dozens of soldiers, behind four armoured vehicles, walked in.

In the past twenty-two years, many men had attempted to forcefully enter this fortified palaces to remove Jammeh. The latest and most daring was two years ago. All failed. In the process, many lives were lost.

Now, though, those that were in command are under someone’s command. The foreign troops were received well by the people of Banjul, who poured out in huge numbers to pose for photos, cheer and served them tea and coffee.

For the Gambian soldiers at gates, this was a long evening duty. Visibly defeated and subdued, they were booed by their very own people for not standing up to Jammeh in time of need. Until that day, it’s beyond any stretch of imagination that a day would come when some Gambians would go near gates of the palaces to protest. On this night, some young Gambians unleashed years of anger. The story of two of them was quite sad. Their fathers were soldiers. Both killed. Not in war. By who? They let the soldiers on duty know about it and told them they were coming after them.

From a distance, I saw anger in the eyes of those Gambian solders. I approached one of them for a chat. ‘Here, we want just peace,’ he told me. He asked for my name and I told him. When I asked for his name, he felt unsure whether to tell me his last name. Badjie, he whispered. There was no confidence in his tone. He’s apparently a Jola. I looked at him closely. Then I realised that what I thought to be anger was actually fear.

The Gambia has a new government. New political and economic players are in charge. Generally, the change has brought about joy and huge prospects of better Gambia. But there’s also fear of the unknown, fear of being excluded.

So, when I was bidding farewell to this brother soldier of mine, I shook his hand affectionately and told him, my brother, it will all be okay. In this New Gambia, our surnames won’t matter anymore. Say it aloud, with confidence. I could have been a Jola, I share the same surname with ex-president. I could have been Serer because some of my relatives are. I could have been Mandinka because that’s what my dad and mom told me I am. But I choose to be a Gambian. As a journalist, I know that Gambians voted for the coalition because it represents unity. That’s the spirit of the New Gambia.

He smiled. Thank you, he told me. He was still waiving while I turned to leave. I hope messages and assurances like this are important, moving forward.


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4 Comments to “A SOLDIER IN FEAR – MY ENCOUTER”

  1. HAIRY says:

    Great article. I have always thought that our men and women in uniform and, particularly the leadership of the armed forces were the unsung heroes of the struggle to finally banish Jammeh from our shores. Being at the coal face, they their action (passive when that countered the most, but menacing when that worked to assure and placate a tyrant), was no easy feat when you are a solider , and it worked to pacify and assure a community who , finding themselves in the line of fire, and being afraid, were nevertheless aggressive towards the ECOMASs forces. Instead they made them tea and showered them with hugs, and gave them photo opportunities.

    What a great people, Gambians have always been even after 22 years of enduring the most let down rule! Nothing to do with Jolas of course, nothing what so ever! -Just a run of bad luck for everyone!

    • Samba says:

      Harry, you are not serious. The GAF are the worst cowards I have ever seen on planet earth. Why didnt they take out the rebel on the 19? Didnt they swear to defend the constitution without fear or favour? Didnt their CDS said Jammeh is paying his salary so he pay alligence to him? Is that not a big fat lie, is it not he Gambian taxpayers paying his salary? Why did he deploy so many armed GAF personnel in the streets to scare so many Gambians to flee the country? Didnt they say that they are not scared of any superpower? Why did they changed their stance when they saw those two Nigerian fighter jets hovering over Banjul? CDS said he loves his men but that is a lie. All he loves is his life, his salary, drugs and alcohol. You cannot tell me that the CDSS’s of the Ecomic contributors hate their men.
      STOP praising and defending the cowards.

      • Omar says:

        Samba, can you defined coward? there is no way you can predict how the Army should act in this matter…taking him out by the Gambia Armed forces would have been a blood bath don’t you know that the GAF is divided ever since jammeh decided to hold on to power….but with the help of the Ecowas Troops and there Gambian counter parts in the GAF they stand far far stronger than the Jammeh Loyalist within the Army and it will be stupid of them trying to act now knowing they are out numbered. For peace to prevail which is better for every wise Gambian the GAF did a wonderful Job to maintain the peace of ou dear mother land the Gambia. (Being a solder is much more than fighting…it’s about standing up for what is right…which war is not one of them)

        • Samba says:

          Omar, a coward is someone who threatens unarmed civilians in the streets with guns and sand bags but when he sees his fellow armed men from other countries he runs away; a coward is someone who will avoid bloodbath when his own blood is on the line but if it is someone else blood he does not care; a coward is someone who will say that his salary is paid by Jammeh when in fact it is paid by the taxpayers; a coward is someone who will arrest an unarmed 19year old boy for insulting his mum instead of filing a verbal assault case with the police; a coward is someone who will threaten unarmed civilians in the streets but when he sees another armed man he will start doing pressure for him and then give him flower and prepare him cofee; a coward is someone who will dishonor his uniform by putting on all kinds of jujus around his neck for protection instead of relying on his abilities and capabilities; a coward is someone who will resort to alcohol and drugs to calm his nerves as a result of excessive fear; a coward is someone…… do I need to continue or you now understand who a coward is?