BY SEEDY CEESAY
Fellow Gambians, Thursday, the 24th of April 2014, will mark 44 years of the Republic of The Gambia. It was on this day in 1970 that men and women of this beloved country exercised our right to sovereignty in a referendum which gave us a Republic.
During the era of the First Republic, little was done to educate us about our political and civic duties. The significance of April 24th is that it was on this day that the power shifted to us as a democratic Republic, taking us away from the monarchical governing system. Powers derive from the people, and it was the duty of us, as citizens, to take total charge of the affairs of the state. But due to little civic education about our newly-found rights, we weren’t informed about them. We, the citizens of The Republic of The Gambia, never learned that we’re the commanders of our own political destinies and that power is derived from us, and NOT our leaders. In a democratic political system we are to elect our leaders who are to be mere servants and caretakers of the affairs of the state.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the mishaps of the past government and the failure of the First Republic’s political leadership, which in a way gave us the recipe for the mess and the failed state we’re finding ourselves in now. On the 22nd of July in 1994, armed military bandits under the misguided leadership of Lt. Yahya Jammeh overthrew the regime of Sir Dawda Jawara. Jammeh and his military men morphed themselves into so-called leaders of our country who falsely appeared to have cared for the needs and aspirations of the people of The Gambia.
Since then, Yahya Jammeh has shaped our beloved country into his personal playground. Like a bully in school, by maiming people all around him who he considers oppositional, or at least not submissive to him, he has strengthened his personal power through his greed and cunning. Fear-mongering has become the Name of the Game in The Gambia since Jammeh stole our power from us.
Imam Baba Leigh, Imam Bakawsu Fofana, Amadou Sanneh, the late Deyda Hydara, Chief Ebrima Manneh, Kanyiba Kanyi, Pa Omar Barrow, and many other victims, men, women and children alike, have suffered under his bullying. Don’t ever forget those teenagers at school who were machine-gunned to death during their peaceful demonstration in support of Ebrima Barry back in the year 2000.
Sooner rather than later, it became clear that Lt. Jammeh had a hidden agenda and a total disregard of the welfare of the citizens of The Gambia. Jammeh was very cunning how he used the kindness, the willingness, and our aspirations when we wanted a change after 30 years of Jawara rule. Jammeh cleverly used our political will to prepare the ground for consolidating himself to his own selfish purposes. He used the disgruntled feelings of dis-satisfied people, who for some reason had lost trust in the political process of the First Republic. Jammeh manipulated this restless undercurrent to his own advantage. We jumped on the bandwagon offered to us by Jammeh and his men who, at that time, were speaking the words of the people, like chameleons, speaking the same words of the people who wanted change.
As soon as Jammeh mastered the craft of political hypocrisy, he gradually eliminated his so-called allies and pursued his never-ending greedy quest for wealth and power. After Jammeh successfully transformed himself from an Army man into a so-called politician, he then strategized ways and means of holding onto power, by any means, to the detriment of the country. Jammeh cleverly knew that in order to keep his selfish grip on power he must put in place Draconian laws to keep us locked in a fear mode. He needed to muscle us by instilling a deeply ingrained fear which restricts our democratic rights in order to cultivate his self-interests.
Being desperate to utilize his powers over us while he stays in office, he’s been spreading his tentacles into successful Gambian businesses and competing with the locals. This isn’t only import and export businesses, as Jammeh’s into every business sector: energy, telecommunications, agriculture, forex, fishing, mining, petty trade, animal husbandry, clothing, housing, hospitality, transportation, etc. These are the pieces to the economic development puzzle of any country and are supposed to give the government its tax base. These are the sectors that privately-owned businesses work in to contribute jobs and taxes to our economy. Not anymore. Not in the Gambia.
The President is taking over, overtly and covertly, with every successful business in The Gambia and chasing out the competition. If we have one man doing all that, using the powers of his presidential office, how on earth can anyone maintain a business in our country? Here are 19 years of Jammeh’s criminal rule, his racketeering, that have left our economy in shreds: massive unemployment, health sector crumbling, sky-high illiteracy, food and commodity prices rising daily, and freedom of speech and the rule of law non-existent. How can this continue? What kind of future do we want for our children?
A lot of talking’s been done by us but little’s been achieved in salvaging our country from Jammeh’s total disregard and neglect which has clearly ruined us. How can we possibly compete in the world economy with this state that we’re in?
It’s actually mind-boggling that the vast majority of our young men in their 20’s are uneducated and unemployed and therefore, not able to have a stable life. They choose risky adventures, such as travelling over land to Europe, risking their young lives, instead of settling down in The Gambia. But what would they settle down for? There’s no future for them at home. No jobs. They find themselves hopeless and sad. It’s a depressing state of affairs.
The opposition politicians, local opinion leaders, religious leaders, leaders of the trade and youth organizations, have all been reduced to dysfunctional non-entities through no fault of their own. Their hands are tied. Jammeh has used his fear machine to wipe out all hopes for us and our good futures. He’s used the courts and his security forces to daily incarcerate and traumatize his opponents and people of divergent views. Just a few of us courageously speak up against the current state of affairs but the huge majority of us are afraid of the consequences. We live in total fear.
Then, on the other hand, there’re the political and economic opportunists, residing both inside our country and around the world, who want to keep things just the way they are. They’ve become his great enablers. In the short term this servitude to the status quo may make sense to these enablers who want to keep things the same for their own selfish interests but, in the long term, the country will be paralyzed. It’s already paralyzed.
With all these powers that Jammeh has around him, successfully putting that much fear into us and reducing the economic base of the country, making The Gambia his personal food bank and giving crumbs to the people by reducing them to abject, endless poverty, then the Million Dalasi question is: How can we change this failed state? How can we take our country, where Jammeh muscles the political process by wresting from us our God given rights, to a state that can give us our heartfelt wishes and aspirations for a better future?
And then what about the human rights abuses that have taken place in Jammeh’s Gambia? There’re lists with many people’s names who’ve suffered death, torture, unlawful detention, and being subjected to a system of justice that’s a mockery of The Rule of Law. Over the years there’ve been endless disappearances of people without trace, the killing of innocent students protesting peacefully in the streets, the never-ceasing torture of political opponents, and the cold-blooded assassination of Deyda Hydara. It is endless. The dictator has been playing us for fools.
This is unsustainable. This is unacceptable. In a civilized society, in the 21st century, how can one man hold a country hostage? We’re in a concentration camp where there’s no democracy, no freedoms. How do we survive? Under such an environment, as if we’re in a pressure cooker, we’re subjected to all of this by Jammeh. So how can we expect our future to be hopeful? Are we to sit around and wait for civil anarchy? Are we going to leave our children this hellhole to inherit from us? How can we expect our children’s lives to be any better than this? Truth be told, the future will be worse if Jammeh stays in office. EVERY MINUTE COUNTS NOW.
The average man and woman now are unemployed. We pass the time during our idle days by drinking attaya and watching football and Nigerian movies on a friend’s television. There are only a few houses where sugar, nana and tea are available because they’re lucky enough to have a relative living abroad sending money home (and those living in the Diaspora are lovingly thought of as necessary Cash Cows.)
The political process, by changing the government by the ballot, has become an impossibility. Due to Jammeh’s craft in fear-mongering, he’s weakened the political opposition by political patronage, intimidation, harassment, and having total control over the Independent Electoral Commission. He’s not leaving the private and public media to propagate divergent views so proper institutions for democracy are gone. Democracy and the Rule of Law have become alien to our society. Non-existent. And no one’s talking about it. We’re too scared.
The media’s even censoring itself so they don’t get arrested. JAMMEH IS CHOKING OPPOSITION AND STRANGLING THE LIVELIHOODS OF THE GAMBIAN PEOPLE.
Since this is all happening in our country right now, the world’s sitting around looking at us like we’re in a fish tank. They’re watching the big bully fish chase around the little fish in an aquarium and wondering when it’ll stop. We’re becoming a laughingstock, if anyone’s paying attention to us at all.
IT IS NOW TIME TO BE COUNTED. As citizens and friends of The Gambia, it is the duty of every one of us to take our country back from this barbaric ruler/killer called Yahya Jammeh.
WE, THE REPUBLICAN GROUP, HEREBY CALL UPON ALL GAMBIANS TO A PEACEFUL, SIT-DOWN PROTEST ON THURSDAY, APRIL 24TH, IN A PLACE TO BE DETERMINED LATER AND ANNOUNCED VIA OUR NEW FACEBOOK PAGE CALLED “apriltwentyfourth1970”.
THE DEMONSTRATION WILL BE DEDICATED TO EBRIMA BARRY AND THE 14 STUDENTS KILLED BY JAMMEH AND HIS ARMED BANDITS ON APRIL 10TH AND 11TH, 2000.
Yours in service,
The Republican Group
Contact via Facebook: apriltwentyfourth1970
A Luta Continua