Archive for the ‘News’ Category

“I HAVE NO MANDATE TO ISSUE A STATEMENT EACH TIME HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES ARE REPORTED IN ANY GIVEN COUNTRY” – SAYS ICC PROSECUTOR

June 23, 2016
Those urging me to issue a statement on Gambia are not more patriotic than me - ICC Prosecutor

Those urging me to issue a statement on Gambia are not more patriotic than me – ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bom Bensouda

In an interview aired on kibaaro radio and other sister Gambian online radios the ICC prosecutor Madam Fatou Bom Bensouda defended her position on why ICC has not issued a statement on Gambia. In the interview that was conducted by Tijan Masanneh ceesay the ICC prosecutor cited the Rome statute and deliberated on the mandate of ICC to clarify why she has not issued a statement on Gambia since the political upheaval started in April on events leading to the scheduled December 2016 presidential elections.  According to her the ICC is not a human rights body but a judicial body and she has no mandate to issue a statement each time human rights abuses are reported in any given country.

The ICC prosecutor who hails from Banjul, the Gambia has recently come under fire for remaining silent and not issuing statement on the political crises in the country like she did on Burundi, Nigeria, Sudan and Kenya.  Gambian activists have been mad with the prosecutor over her silence on Gambia accusing her of being a former enabler of the current dictatorship in the country. Madam Bensouda once served as minister of Justice under the leadership of the current Gambian government and was sacked from her ministerial position and later on secured the position of ICC prosecutor. Madam Prosecutor’s response to those Gambian activists urging her to issue a statement on Gambia is that they are not more patriotic than her and argues that when all conditions are met for her to issue a statement on Gambia she will issue a statement.  “That I’m a national of Gambia doesn’t permit me to fulfill my role in any differently than I would do in another situation” reiterated Madam Prosecutor.

According Madam Bom Bensouda the bases of the statements she issues as prosecutor is article 25 1,2 of the Rome statute as well as the specific references to the preventive mandate of the court in the preamble of the Rome statue which states as follows: – Determined to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes and thus to contribute to the prevention of such crimes. She pointed out that her  office is aware of the recent events in the Gambia and in particular they are aware of the death in custody of an opposition activist. “In fact as soon as I heard the media report I assigned my team to assess the situation. I did that because in every state party to the ICC when any of these events are happening on their territories we monitor closely and we try to assess what is going on” buttressed the prosecutor.

She further elaborated that  her professional obligation demand that she apply the Rome statute, the legal framework of the Rome statute and to apply it consistently, to apply it independently and to apply it impartially and that is how she conducts herself without exception.  She said that she do issue statements  but only in specific circumstances namely;  when her office sees that there is tangible risk of war crimes, crimes against humanity or other crimes that are committed on a large-scale they issue these statements.    “The situation in Gambia has not reached that point yet. If it was to be the case for instance further arrests were to result in further deaths in custody I would have robustly voiced  my concerned as I did in other situations when this was required “  Madam Prosecutor further emphasized.

Despite the death in custody of an opposition activist and the dangerous threat of ethnic cleansing issued by the president of the republic of the Gambia the ICC prosecutor  still believes the time is not yet right for her to issue a statement or warning to those at the helm of power in Gambia. The whole world is watching and history is recording.

HALIFA SALLAH ADVICES ATTORNEY GENERAL ON HOW TO AVERT MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE ON CASES ASSOCIATED WITH SOLO SANDENG

June 20, 2016
"No one who dies under custody should be buried without a coroner’s inquest to determine cause of death"- Halifa Sallah

“No one who dies under custody should be buried without a coroner’s inquest to determine cause of death”- Halifa Sallah

Attorney General

and Minister of Justice

Marina Parade

Banjul

REF: AG(1)/6/2016

Dear Madam,

SUBJECT:  YOUR ADVICE ON HOW TO AVERT MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE IN CONNECTION WITH CASES ASSOCIATED WITH EBRIMA SOLO SANDENG

According to Section 72 of the Constitution you are the principal legal adviser to the government and have right to audience in all courts in the Gambia.

The Constitution, the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code have given you constitutional and statutory powers aimed at preventing miscarriage of justice.

This is why certain charges could not be subjected to hearing before the court unless they receive the fiat of the Attorney General. In the same vein, you have a right to file nolle prosequi to  discontinue criminal proceedings and discharge and release accused persons.

Section 85 subsection (1) of the Constitution also adds that “The Director of Public Prosecutions shall have power in any case in which he or she considers it desirable to do so, and subject to the approval of the Attorney-General –

(a)    to initiate and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court for an offence against the law of The Gambia;

(b)    to take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that have been instituted by any other person or authority:

(c)    to discontinue at any stage before Judgment is delivered any criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by himself or herself or any other person or authority”

The only exception is in relation to matters subjected to public prosecutions.

Madam, with a conscience pricked by the wailing of family members, Ousainou Darboe told the journalists that he had every reason to believe that Solo Sandeng is dead under custody. He and elderly members of his executive took to the street in a peaceful march to demand to put their eyes on Ebrima Solo Sandeng, dead or alive.

Two months have  elapsed since the arrest of Ebrima Solo Sandeng. He is the principal protagonist in respect to the incidents of 14th April and 16th April.

He is yet to appear in any court proceedings.

The procrastination or hesitation in revealing the truth regarding Sandeng’s whereabouts has unsettling effect on the scale of justice ,threatening to tip the balance towards miscarriage.

Every court proceeding is shrouded by the mystery of Sandeng’s unexplained absence.

The mystery was further nurtured to full blown impunity by total silence regarding his whereabouts while conducting diligent prosecution of the UDP  executive members who believed  that he is dead and buried under suspicious circumstances.

Justice has its technical and substantive components.

Substantive justice must be done and be seen to be done.

If Sandeng were to be brought to court then the belief of the UDP leadership that he is dead would have been proven to be mistaken and the moral weight behind their action would have been lighter.

On the other hand if Sandeng is indeed dead and buried then the state would stand accused.

In short, no one who dies under custody should be buried without a coroner’s inquest to determine cause of death.

Section 6 subsection (1) of the Coroners Act states: “When a person dies while in the custody of the police or of a prison officer or in prison or when detained in any place under the provisions of the Lunatics’ (mentally ill)Detention Act, or of the Criminal Procedure Code, the police officer or prison officer or other person having the custody or charge of the deceased person at the time of his death shall immediately give notice of the death to the nearest Coroner and, except as otherwise provided by section 11, such Coroner shall hold an inquiry into the cause of such death in the manner hereinafter provided.”

A writ of habeas corpus has been filed for the state to bring him to court. It will be heard on 27th June.

If the state is to reveal that he is dead then it would amount to mockery of justice to have failed to take his body to the mortuary and cause a coroner’s inquest to be conducted.

If this is how matters stand miscarriage of justice would be minimised by ensuring that Ousainou Darboe and the UDP executive and members do not  stay one more day in prison.

You are therefore being requested to find out the facts before the court sits on 27th June. If the death and burial of Sandeng is admitted you should advise that a coroner be appointed to hold a coroner’s inquest to determine the cause of death. If the body is buried it should be exhumed under the dictate of Section 4 subsection (3) of the Coroners Act.

The state should be advised to ease frustrations by rolling back impunity and discharge and release all those linked to the incidents associated with Sandeng.

The nation should mourn the death and national consultation should begin to avert reoccurrence. Religious and civic leaders should also play their part in addressing the current challenges.

A people whose hearts do not beat in unison with the heartbeat of  fellow citizens facing challenges of justice, no matter who, at any given moment will always remain an insensitive, irresponsive and divided, weak and uncaring people.

We should all become concerned and without any desire to play to the gallery, speak and act according to the dictates of conscience and the national interest. This is the way to ensure that we have a state which serves as an instrument of protection instead of an instrument of coercion.

Yours in the Service of the Nation

Halifa Sallah

Secretary General

PDOIS

20th June 2016

BREAKING NEWS: YAHYA JAMMEH AND HIS ROGUE REGIME’S SECRET PLAN TO ASSASINATE UDP LEADER LAWYER OUSAINOU DARBOE OR SOME EXECUTIVE UDP LEADERS IN PRISON UNCOVERED!

June 15, 2016
PEACEFUL PROTESTERS

PEACEFUL PROTESTERS

 

APRC KILLER MACHINE

APRC KILLER MACHINE

The UDP Diaspora has confirmed from different credible security sources that specified plans were discussed on two different occasions in the last seven days on what to do with the UDP Leader, Lawyer Ousainou Darboe.

At least so far we have been able to establish from our credible security contacts that one of the plans agreed upon by the regime is to use imbedded hoodlums from President Jammeh’s Hit Squad (The Jungluers) who will be planted as inmates at Mile II Prisons to stage an attack on Mr Darboe. Another method which was discussed to harm Mr Darboe is to administer poison possibly on his food or water.

Using rudimentary poisoning from sources like acids from lead batteries to eliminate prisoners who are perceived enemies of the Gambian regime is not new. Several inmates who served their prison term in Mile II have confirmed this to be a routine measure used to eliminate people at the State Central Prison.

It could be recalled that some two months ago The Gambia government through the interior minister Ousman Sonko embarked on quest to acquire poison through illicit sources in Eastern Europe. The attempt to acquire the lethal poison was detected by some Western Intelligence which raised the alarm.

Lawyer Darboe and many other detainees are also denied food from family making the state the sole provider of everything they consume. On rare occasions when family members are allowed to bring in food from home, prison authorities acting on orders from President Yahya Jammeh, put in place every obstacle possible to prevent the detainees from eating the home made food.

We are serving notice that the government of The Gambia will bear full responsibility for Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and indeed all detainees under its custody. Lawyer Darboe was arrested healthy and sound. Should anything happen to him or any other person arrested in relation to the events of April and May 2016, The Gambia government will have to bear full responsibility of the consequences.

The UDP wants to make it categorically clear that it and the Gambian people will not tolerate any attempt to bring harm to the heroes illegally held in prison. We demand their full and unconditional release, a full accounting of all arrested personnel, and comprehensive reform.

To our compatriots in the fight for freedom, we urge you to redouble your efforts to see this seminal battle through. Let us remain united in purpose, focused on our common objectives and get the job done together.

 

“INNALILLAH WA INNA ELEIHI RAJIE OON” YOUNG MUSTAPHA BARROW DIED IN GERMANY

June 15, 2016
Late-young-Mustapha-Barrow

Late-young-Mustapha-Barrow

The Barrow Family and the Kinteh family of Jifarong in the Kiang West District, the Sanneh Family of Foni Kanlagi, the Sanneh Family of Foni Sintet regret to announce the sudden and unexpected death of their son, nephew, young Mustapha Barrow who died after a brief illness in Germany.

 

Young Mustapha is son to late Saikou Barrow from Jifarong and former chief driver of Senegambia Beach Hotel and Madam Borry Conateh from Foni Sintet.

The family is hereby appealing to all Gambians and any philanthropist to come to their aid to help repatriate late Mustapha Barrow to be buried in the Gambia.

Anyone who wish to donate can please do so into the account number below:

Mr Ebrima Kinteh

Account Number: 16089260

Sort Code: 309366

TSB Bank,

Thank you.

For further information, please contact Mr. Amadou Kinteh on Mobile number:+44) 7411898955

May his young soul rest in Jannah. Amen.x

GAMBIA – AN EMERGING NEW RWANDA?

June 12, 2016
Gambian dictator threatens a group of people with ethnic cleansing and death to political dissidents.

Gambia’s dictator threatens a group of people with ethnic cleansing and death to political dissidents.

By Torun Yamila Berg

President Jammeh in Gambia has made a plan to exterminate his political opponents. There is an alleged list containing   the names of 300 people in Gambia that are to be wiped out. The dictator wants these people to be simply liquidated or killed. In Gambia opposing the government may tantamount to  death.

Threats against opposition and mandinkas

This was confirmed in a speech at a political meeting held by President Jammeh in Talinding, Gambia on June 3rd, where he took his dictatorial  role to a new level. He declared ethnic cleansing to the country’s largest tribe, the mandinkas. A thing like that has never happened in The Gambia.

This time there will be no arrests by the police, he assured the crowd. Now it is the military, security forces and NIA (National Intelligence Agency) who would step in and would be instructed to shoot, torture, rape and abuse political opponents who are from the mandinka tribe. None of his opponents, be it in Gambia or in the diaspora, will go free. A massive international death threat there also. This is a classic dictator style we can quickly summarize, but not to underestimate. Since the first murder of his own finance minister, Koro Ceesay, in 1995, the list of those  killed, disappeared  or arrested have been awfully long. His going out public with such a threat to free speech and opposition politicians, is new, quite unique and very scary.

This has naturally led to great unrest and concern among all Gambians regardless of tribe. One hears constantly that Rwanda is mentioned and people are very anxious.
We already know that families who have politically active family members do not have jobs, are arrested and receive threats. While this was announced, there was an assassination attempt on the life of one of the December 30th 2014 statehouse attackers at his home in exile in Dakar, Senegal. This is a clear indication of the president’s intentions.

Gambians perish  in the Mediterranean

The week before: More than 700 refugees / migrants perish by drowning on the way from Libya to Europe. It is not clear how many are Gambians, but  people are  pointing at an estimated number of deaths of over one hundred and that is just within three days. Over the past five years there has been a marked increase in the repression of Jammeh. Meanwhile, there has been an increase in number of  people who leave the country and take what is called the “back way” through Libya and the Mediterranean. There are many families in Gambia  that are waiting for signs of life from their loved ones who have escaped. This number continues to increase by the days.

Amnesty International writes constantly new reports, so no one in the AU (African Union), Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States), the EU and the UN can say that they do not know what’s going on. This is thoroughly documented and informed.

EU has gone through reports including the one from Amnesty International and came up with a resolution  in May 2016 in which they criticize the regime in Gambia hard and gave room  for each country in the EU to impose its own sanctions.

What can  Norway  contribute to stop this madness perpetrated by the regime in Gambia?

How many will die in Gambia and in the Mediterranean before Norway react?

I’d like to hear Sylvi Lysthauges the immigration minister’s  thoughts on this?

What is the use of having political power if it is not used?
Author: Torun Yamila Berg

Author: Torun Yamila Berg

Torun Yamila Berg is a Norwegian citizen very much engaged in African Politics
Note: the original piece was written and published in Norwegian , it was translated to English by
assistance of Kibaaro’s L. Nyassi

“OUR CONVICTION IS PREARRANGED”. DARBOE TOLD MARCHINERY JUSTICE O.DADA INTHE STATE V OUSAINOU DARBOE AND 19 ORS

June 9, 2016
Mama Singhateh told to lock Ousainou and co at all cost

Mama Singhateh told to lock Ousainou and co at all cost

CHIEF JUSTICE EMMANUEL FANGBELE YAHYA JAMMEH'S TOOL TO VIOLATE THE RIGHTS OF GAMBIANS

CHIEF JUSTICE EMMANUEL FANGBELE YAHYA JAMMEH’S TOOL TO VIOLATE THE RIGHTS OF GAMBIANS

Here are the: Transcript of proceedings of 9th June 2016.

Before Justice Dada      Case called

 APPEARANCE

 THE STATE

SH BARKUM  – Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)

MB M. B. ABUBAKAR –         Deputy Director of Public Prosecution

B DRAMMEH – Bubacarr Drammeh

DPP: My Lord, this matter is for hearing. Subject to your convenience, we are ready to proceed.

 Court – Ruling

Since the Defence Counsels for the accused persons walked out of the court in yesterday’s proceedings. The accused persons are charged with offences to which the accused persons can defend themselves in the absence of their counsel. Therefore the case shall proceed.

 WITNESS SWORN ON THE QURAN IN ENGLISH

DPP What is your name?
WITNESS My names are Deputy Superintendent Musa Sanyang
DPP Where do you live?
WITNESS I live in Farato
DPP What is your occupation?
WITNESS I am a Police Officer.
DPP What is your rank in the Police?
WITNESS Deputy Superintendent of Police
DPP Which unit of the Police are you attached to?
WITNESS The Police Intervention Unit.
DPP: Do you have any particular or special designation in that unit?
WITNESS I am the Officer Commanding Operations.
DPP Can you tell the Court the nature of Police Intervention Unit? What do you do as officers of the PIU?
WITNESS: Our roles are many. One, we are responsible for public disrupt when it happens.
DPP Are you responsible for public order?
WITNESS Yes sir.
DPP What other things form part of your duties?
WITNESS Patrol duties and guarding the VIP and other security duties.
DPP Is there any other thing apart from what your mentioned?
WITNESS Sometimes we guard high-profiled cases to prevent violence.
DPP Do you know or recognise the accused persons?
WITNESS I know some of them.
DPP Who is the person you recognise?
WITNESS I recognise Ousainou Darboe.
DPP What do you say about the faces apart from Ousainou Darboe?
WITNESS Some others.
DPP Do you know the reason why they are in court?
WITNESS Yes I know the reason why they are in court.
DPP Cast your mind back to the 16th day of April 2016 and tell the Court what you can remember pertaining to this case?
WITNESS On the 16th April 2016, whilst at our base PIU Kanifing, we got an intelligence report that there were people violent at Kairaba Avenue and are planning to make a protest march. Therefore, a riot team of police officers were deployed along the Kairaba Avenue.
DPP Where were you when the team was sent to Kairaba Avenue?
WITNESS I was part of the team. We were to monitor the situation. We are on patrol and proceeded to Kairaba Avenue Police station and we were on stand-by there. Whilst on stand-by with my men, I received information that the people at Kairaba Avenue had moved on foot to a larger number protesting towards Westfield. There, I and my team quickly got on board our truck at Kairaba station and immediately followed the protesters along Kairaba Avenue up to somewhere around Comium Headquarters. We saw that the traffic was completely at halt- blocked and cannot pass through. And then we managed to take another route and overtook them up to a distance of 200 meters. We were in front of them and alighted from the truck and were formed up with our riot gears.
DPP What is a riot gear?
WITNESS That is our batons, assault gears, assault rifle. As they are coming about to reach to us. I first of all ask them if they have the permit.
DPP How did you do that?
WITNESS I did that by using a PA system.
DPP: What is a PA system?
WITNESS A big Mic. A public Addressing System. They failed to produce a permit and I quickly used the public proclamation words to them.
DPP What are the Public Proclamation words?
WITNESS In the name of the Islamic Republic of the Gambia, all persons assembled here are ordered to disperse peacefully and to go to their lawful business. Persons who did not disperse will be liable to disperse by force.
DPP So after the public proclamation words, what happened?
WITNESS After the public proclamation words were read to them, the protesters insist and still go ahead with the march of which the riot police did not give them the chance to go on with the march.
DPP So what happened?
WITNESS In that situation, the protesters started throwing big stones on us the riot police. There the riot police also responded and used minimum force on them by using our tear gases on the protesters. That was the time some of them started dispersing and running. But with all that we were able to arrest a number of them at the scene.
DPP Who were the protesters you arrested at the scene?
WITNESS I said earlier Ousainou Darboe was there.
DPP Why did you arrest them?
WITNESS Because as the unit responsible for maintaining public order at that point in time, the security and peace of the country was at stake. People were running. Businesses were closing their shops and the traffic was obstructed. And even the shops around that end or areas, most of the glasses were broken by the stones from the protesters. Also during the process of that protest, some of my officers sustained injuries. Some of them have seals. As a result of the stoning from the protesters. Because of our swift intervention, after arresting a good number of them, then they were calm down with the intervention of the police.
DPP Can you tell the Court the way and manner the accused were conducting themselves? How were they marching?
WITNESS They were in lining-up formula and holding each other’s hands.
DPP: What is lining-up formula?
WITNESS Meaning they were in lining-up formula holding each other’s hands tightly and matching.
DPP What other things happened or you can remember?
WITNESS Apart from what I said, I can’t remember anything.
DPP Who were the members of your team when all this happened?
WITNESS Some of them- Chief Inspector Sarjo Camara, Sub-Inspector Colley, Sub-Inspector Mustapha Sowe, Corporal Ousman Jammeh and others.
DPP That’s all for the witness, my Lord.
JUSTICE DADA Yes, cross- examination by the accused persons.
OUSAINOU DARBOE From the first day of my appearance with my colleagues in court, every human right, procedural right protection provided by the Constitution and other laws has been ignored. I appealed to the court to use your discretion judiciously and judicially. I have been a legal practitioner for 43 years and I should know when discretion is exercised judiciously and judicially.

 

When the case was called this morning and you ruled that since the defence counsels walked out of the court in the previous sitting, the accused person should represent themselves. The proper thing was for the court to have asked if the accused persons wish to hire the services of another counsel of their choice. The court should not have imposed on us to defend ourselves. That is a denial of our rights.

 

In view of this, my Lady, we will not take participate in this trial to legitimise our pre-arranged conviction.

 

JUSTICE DADA I want to ask you this question: Are you speaking the minds of the 19 accused persons?
OUSAINOU DARBOE This is political trial involving me and my people. Thus, we are not taking part in the case to legitimise our pre-arranged conviction.

 

JUSTICE DADA In light of the accused persons not cross-examining the witness, the witness is discharged.
DPP Since the 1st accused is not counsel, the court should ask each accused person about his position.
OUSAINOU DARBOE I am not counsel but I speak for my people.
CLERK ReadS the names of each accused persons and asked if they have anything to say.

 

All the accused persons remained silent after each accused person’s name was called by the Clerk of the Court.

DPP My lord, we apply for an adjournment for continuation of hearing.
COURT Case adjourned to 13th June 2016 for continuation.

THE GAMBIA: YAHYA JAMMEH’S DIVISIVE AND DEADLY TRIBAL BIGOTRY, AND THE NEED FOR POLITICAL CHANGE, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE

June 9, 2016
Yahya Jammeh with his normal angry actions

Gambia’s Tribalist Dictator Yahya Jammeh demarcating the lines to divide his people!

By Mathew K Jallow

It is a word pregnant with historical innuendos and carries a stigma that correlates to bitterness and suffering. The human devastation it has caused to Africa is unimaginable. In so many ways, it is perhaps the dirtiest word in Africa’s sociological lexicon; still used by political demagogues to resurrect ancient tribal feuds, and foment discord, but don’t tell that to the Gambia’s disreputable mafia capo, Yahya Jammeh. In his twenty-one years of tortures, killings and economic pillage, Yahya Jammeh has persistently used tribalism to create potent, but invisible divisions along lines of tribe, with reckless abandon. Yahya Jammeh’s tribalism is less than subtle; in fact, it is indiscreet, duplicitous and cruel, but also downright repugnant and counterproductive. Last week, when Yahya Jammeh’s blind tribal bigotry again burst out in familiar dramatics and usual antagonistic polemics, he betrayed more than just his loathe of  Mandinkas; he also exposed his spinelessness and veil attempts to pit the Mandinkas against Gambia’s other tribes. Yahya Jammeh’s mindless flaming of tribal bigotry is dangerous and cowardly, but most Gambians have by now overcome that pathetic chapter of history riddled with tribal wars and forced subjugation into slavery. On a campaign tour back in 2011, Yahya Jammeh first made his strongest, unprovoked tribe motivated attacks on Hon Ousainou Darboe, and on that occasion, like all the various other times he manifested profound fear of the Mandinkas, he again threatened to kill, in his effort to induce fear, stave off political dissent and remain in power in perpetuity. Yahya Jammeh truly exemplifies an unhealthy obsession with the Mandinkas, and his frequent anti-Mandinka outbursts, are not unlike his banal attacks on the west; in particular, Gambia’s historic partners and benefactors; the USA, UK. and the EU. The residue of inter-tribal quibbles that remains in Gambian society, do so within the parameters of the law, and have never escalated into violence, since the advent of colonialism centuries ago. But, Yahya Jammeh seeks to reverse that peaceful history by foisting acrimony and tensions on the Gambia’s various tribes. Yahya Jammeh’s ignorance is truly emblematic of tyrants, whose failures intersect with insatiable lust for power, compelling reaching back into history to revive old tribal orthodoxies based on conflict, war and slavery. This disgraceful politics is the bedrock of Yahya Jammeh political ideology; brutal, dangerous and unforgiving.

Yahya Jammeh’s deliberate stroking of inter-tribal rifts in the Gambia, in his determination to stay in power, is not new. The military regime he heads is ideologically premised on exercising the worst form of tribalism known to Africa; guaranteeing his Jola tribe, who barely consist seven percent of the Gambia’s total population, not only all the key positions in government, but over seventy-five percent of the senior positions in government and its ancillary agencies. Gambia long ago unwittingly became West Africa’s face of political embarrassment, but it wasn’t always like this. Two decades ago, only Senegal rivalled Gambia as an oasis of democracy and the rule of law, on a continent first mired in endless tribal strife, and later, subjected to harsh rule of military dictatorships. Today, Gambia is a shell of its former self; an unfolding dystopia still writing its own story, and a history still waiting to be written. The days of multi-tribal conformity to the same values may soon be over, and the romanticism that gave Gambia that name of endearment, which everyone proudly wears on their sleeves, would soon lose its magic. The smiling coast of West Africa, an effective marketing tool, which has attracted the hopeless romantics, beach lovers, nostalgic tourists, and Diaspora returning home to kiss the ground of the land they love, is slowly dissipating into obscurity. In the short space of two decades, the Gambia; that “smiling coast of West Africa,” has achieved notoriety as the last remaining hellhole in a sub-region slowly crawling out of the trenches of political catastrophe. In a sub-region once coursed by the prevalence of devastating tribal wars and military dictatorships, West Africa is gradually transforming itself into Africa’s epicentre of democracy and the rule of law; albeit reluctantly adapting to the changing dimensions of modern political theory. But, to a large degree, fear induced ambivalence still predominates in pockets of Africa, and no country exemplifies this quandary more than the Gambia. The degree of resistance to the emerging political paradigm sweeping across the African continent has left Yahya Jammeh mortally petrified, and ECOWAS leaders saddled with crippling moral dilemma. As Yahya Jammeh guiltlessly attempts to resurrect the Gambia’s ancient tribal animosities, ECOWAS remains stuck between a rock and a hard place; reluctant to confront Yahya Jammeh and help force change, on the hand, or passively watch Gambia unravel and descend into political anarchy, on the other. ECOWAS leaders’ awareness of Gambia’s political crisis and their disinclination to engage Yahya Jammeh is extremely perplexing in its total lack of objective reasoning.

The deafening silence of ECOWAS and the AU does not portend well for Gambians and ordinary ECOWAS and AU citizens. For, while the group of ECOWAS leaders was meeting in Dakar, Senegal, late last week, for the 49th Extra-Ordinary Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), across the border in Gambia, Yahya Jammeh was again threatening the Mandinkas with death, causing the deafening uproar of Gambians from across the globe. And as ECOWAS and other international institutions still remain focused on the fantasy of peaceful, free and fair elections, their total ignorance of the Gambia’s oppressive political system could not be starker. The unlawful rigging and denial of access to fair electoral process is entrenched in a recently promulgated law. Besides, the divisive tribal bigotry Yahya Jammeh is propagating, has further cemented the will of the Gambian people to deny him another term of mayhem and catastrophic disruptions; killings, forced disappearances, mass incarcerations, the perils of mass exodus, and continued cannibalization of Gambian society and economy. And recently, Yahya Jammeh, by simple proclamation, unilaterally raised the fees for aspiring presidential candidates by 10,000%, from $250 in 2011, to $25,000 in 2016, effectively pricing the opposition out of the democratic process and the electoral marketplace. But, fact based anecdotal evidence suggests that elections, for this year, are unacceptable, considering the atrocities and need for moral and economic repairing of a country ruined by greed and tribal bigotry. The demands for Yahya Jammeh to step down are pervasive everywhere Gambians reside, besides, most recently, apart from vowing to kill members of the majority tribe, Yahya Jammeh also threatened to ban all public protests, which are constitutionally guaranteed. Yahya Jammeh’s threats of the use of violence against Mandinkas in past instances were mostly clouded in ambiguity; but last week was different, explicit and downright scary, and further reaffirms Yahya Jammeh’s imperviousness to reason. It is not possible to overstate Yahya Jammeh’s ruination of Gambian society, and his dearth of human sensitivity is frighteningly familiar. With his recent assault on the Mandinkas, Gambians have reached the breaking point, and beneath the superficial tranquillity, the underbelly of Gambian society is a rumbling earthquake of rage and bitterness. And, the fact still remain that Gambia is a place where dabbling in politics is a dangerous enterprise, and even living in political neutrality is constantly like walking on egg shells; guaranteeing no insulation from state-sanctioned mental and physical harm. In the binary choice between living free and under a tyranny, Gambians will always choose freedom, and for now, the monotonous chorus of; no to the sham elections is growing ever louder and bolder, and the familiar refrain; “Yahya Jammeh Must Go”, is both pervasive and ubiquitous in Gambian online fora, public media and general population; from the serene shores of Karting, to the grassy hills of Sare Gainako and beyond.

 

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