The leader of the Gambian Diaspora Civil Society groupings, Mr Banka Manneh, had on Wednesday, 18 March 2014, surrendered to the US authorities investigating the 30 December 2014 alleged coup attempt against Dictator Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia. Mr Manneh, who is a resident of Atlanta, Georgia, travelled to Minneapolis, Minnesota to give into the US FBI authorities investigating his role in the abortive coup.
In a conversation with Kibaaro News, before his planned trip to Minneapolis, Manneh explained that his surrender should not, in any shape or form, be taking to mean he is pleading guilty to the charges, which are being scavenged to be levelled against him. But purely to avert any possibility of his arrest by the same authorities. He maintained that he has done nothing wrong and that’s one of the reasons, why he wanted to face the investigating authorities, in order to assist them with their inquiries.
Manneh maintained his opinion on Yahya Jammeh, who he described as simply a tyrant, who is oppressing his people in the Gambia. He however refused to comment on the 30 December aborted coup, due to its legal implications to his ongoing legal matters with the US authorities.
Manneh’s surrender and possible arrest has nevertheless attracted much condemnation and outcry from Gambians on the Social media, as many described him a hero to his people of the tiny West African nation of 1.8 million people. In his last message to his Facebook page, Manneh consoled his many admirers to: “Keep the faith always, and NEVER give up!” Borrowing the slogan from President Barack Obama, he assured them that: “YES we can!”
Since his surrender to the US authorities on 18 March, Manneh is yet to be charged by the US authorities neither was he brought to any court of law. It is further yet to be confirmed whether he will be charged or not.
It could be recalled that 3 other Gambians, namely: Mr Papa Faal, Mr Cherno Njie, and Mr Alagie Barrow, are currently charged with offences under the Neutrality Act, by the US authorities, in connection with the 30 December aborted coup. All the defendants have been released on bail and awaiting trial for breach of the Neutrality Act.
The Neutrality Act states that: “Whoever, within the United States, knowingly begins or sets on foot or provides or prepares a means for or furnishes the money for, or takes part in, any military or naval expedition or enterprise to be carried on from thence against the territory or dominion of any foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district, or people with whom the United States is at peace, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”
The problem with this act is simply its interpretation and application. The US has, for many years, covertly supported overthrows of leaders around the world, whether friend or foe, paying oblivion to the Neutrality Act. It seems, therefore, that the Neutrality Act only applies when the US citizens failed in their endeavour to effect regime change in the supposedly friendly nation to the US. If, however, they succeed in that endeavour, then the Neutrality Act becomes neutral and pays oblivion to their actions.
In simple terms, had the 30 December freedom fighters succeeded, in their endeavour of liberating the Gambia from the claws of Yahya Jammeh’s bondage, the Neutrality Act would have remained dormant in the confines of the US constitutional library cupboards.