Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


February 8, 2016

Uk-Gambia-Human - Rights - ProtestLondon, UK – UK Gambian activists will gather to hold public protests commemorating The Gambia’s 51st Independence anniversary at the Trafalgar Square in London.

Participants will converge at Trafalgar square by 12 mid-day and proceed to 10 Downing Street, where a petition will be delivered to the British Prime Minister’s office.

This is a call for all Gambians, sympathizers of the country and human rights organisations to turn out in their numbers to participate and keep the pressure on Yahya Jammeh’s APRC Regime. 2016 is an important year for all Gambians and a genuine opportunity for change with elections set to take place in December.

The petition will highlight cases of human rights violations orchestrated by Yahya Jammeh’s regime for the past twenty-one years and will boost past efforts to place sanctions against the Gambian government for its crimes of human rights and rule of law in The Gambia. Some of the key highlights include: • Jammeh’s unconstitutional announcement of The Gambia as an Islamic State in December which is a potential for escalation of terrorism        activities in the West African Sub Region

• Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission’s refusal to entertain Opposition parties and Civil Society concerns for a fair elections by    implementing meaningful electoral reforms

• Continuous and enforced disappearances of Gambian citizens, and the critical condition of Radio Journalist Alhagie Ceesay currently diagnosed with an enlarged liver in prison On Thursday 18th February, Independence Day, the petition will be issued to the Foreign Office of the British government, the European Union and other organisations such as the Commonwealth and Amnesty International. On Saturday, 20th February 2016:

• 12 midday meet up at Trafalgar Square

• 2pm march to 10 Downing Street

For more information please contact Salifu Joof on 07492 759911 or Yusef Taylor (Flex Dan).


February 4, 2016
Yahya Jammeh when he took power in 1994 and promised accountability, transparency and probity

Yahya Jammeh when he took power in 1994 and promised accountability, transparency and probity

By Concerned Gambian  Atlanta GA

The Gambian people endured horrific, barbaric experiences for two whole decades under an indecent human who projects himself as a God sent messiah, needless to say he is nothing but an ignorant, arrogant, bi-polar low esteem idol worshiper who capitalized on the power of the barrel to force his will on helpless peace loving people. The Gambia has since been fundamentally transformed in all circles; social, economic, politically. Individual freedom and independence has been striped where every word uttered is censored and can have consequences. Where peoples’ loyalty and support are bought with money, power, cheap popularity and most often through coercive means of torture, arrest and fear of massacre.

Against this backdrop coupled with massive economic hardship, one could say Jammeh finally did something good for Gambia; an easy decision making for the Gambian people to vote him out of office especially with several peaceful political changes in the sub-region. We Gambian should ask ourselves, are we better off today than 21 years ago and is this the model society/economic we want to leave for our kids and generations to come. 21 years ago opposition members of our community can freely rally to communicate their policies and compete fairly for the highest office of the land without fear of intimidation or arrest. Spouses and family members can sympathize opposing political views and parties, government employees, community leaders can openly express their views and there was a time when families and communities have strong bonds which are now all broken or extremely fragile because of the hypocritical double standard of the deranged despot. Yaya has abused our women, insult our parents, killed our brother, sisters, fathers, uncles, a number that no single Gambia can keep count of. He has stolen billions if not trillion from this impoverish nation, grabbed all our lands and resources for his personal enrichment.

I say all these to support my claim that decision making for Gambians in the upcoming election should be a no brainer and an easy one, VOTE THE DESPOT OUT OF OFFICE BEFORE HE THROW EVERYONE IN JAIL OR SHIP US OUT OF OUR BELOVED GAMBIA. When Gambians are paying unbearable prices for basic essentials, Jammeh, his family and his inner circle are lavishly spending the nation coffers. The state house is packed with the highest end custom made vehicles which even the world richest people and presidents do not have as part of their fleet. He is insane about grabbing land, real estate properties which I belief he have out listed himself. Entrepreneurship and small businesses are death, since the greedy leader wants all to himself, from sand mining, transportation, bakery, livestock, import & export, basically every business transaction is solely or partly owned by him, which has left our people with nothing to do because you cannot be in competition with him and this has created a vacuum which is filled with the back way syndrome and the highest level of dependency. If not for the remittance from diaspora Gambians, our country would have been in shambles, even though the shameless, selfish, insatiable jammeh failed to acknowledge and respect our contributions both to our families, communities and the national economy as a whole.

It is time for every Gambian to reflect and think about the future of our kids and grand kids and demand change to transform the Gambia into something we can all be proud of not a country that epitomizes economic and human right repressions. Jammeh’s actions and uttered words are so disgraceful to Gambia, a country blessed with talent and wisdom to be ruled by an ignorant fool with no sense of focus and direction but rule by trial and error since he think he is indispensable and above the advice of a professional human on policies and issues. Our worldly leaders can be and should be replaced if they no longer serve our interest. Yaya has not served the interest of Gambians and continues to forcefully cling to power and fueling volatility. I will conclude with some reminders about how jammeh have wrecked our country, drastically heightens the poverty ratio, stagnated remunerations with high cost of living and hopefully that will stimulate some reflections and to see how far worst we have skewed as a nation. The value of the Gambian Dalasi has dwindled so hideously and negatively impact purchasing power, a currency that was one time amongst the strongest in the sub region and in the blocks of developing countries. In 1995, US$1 exchanges for D9.546 and after 20 years of jammeh US$1 exchanges for D39-D42 depending on who you talk to. Let us ask ourselves how much we were paying for these items and services before jammeh and how much we are paying for them today; bag of rice, cup of sugar, kilo of meat, loaf of bread, bonga fish, litre of gasoline, transportation fares, hospital visit, electricity, water, etc etc. Every aspect of living has become unbearably expensive with an economy that is only serving the interest of the jammeh hegemony. Unemployment is up to the roof which is indiscriminately sending our people to their demise via the treacherous back way while jammeh copiously throw sex parties around the clock in Kanilai, gift out millions of dollars to foreign artists and personalities, sponsor his gold-digger wife’s weekly shopping spree in the west and endless acquisition of real estate around the globe all at the detriment of meager Gambia.

Let us joint hands to effect change and get our country back before it’s too late, the dictator tasted power and he is now consumed by it to a point he is blind and totally corrupted and as Lincoln stated about power and a man’s character, every Gambian now know all of jammeh’s character.


February 1, 2016
Dictrtor Jammeh walking towards a mounted guard of honour at Banjul International Air Port

Dictator Jammeh walking towards a mounted guard of honour at Banjul International Airport

Dictrtor Jammeh stepping out of the Plane at Banjul International Air Port

Dictator Jammeh stepping out of the Plane at Banjul International Airport

Our Kibaaro agents in the Gambia have reported that Gambia’s Dictator Yahya Jammeh arrived at the Banjul International Airport this Monday at about 5pm from the AU Summit in Ethiopia Addis Ababa. What became so surprising to many including our kibaaronews agents was General Saul Badgie’s unexplained behaviour at the Airport. After the Presidential jet landed at the Airport this evening, the so called General was seen going into the Plane and stayed there for a while as the Dictator remained inside the plane. After sometime, the fake General came out looking busy speaking on the phone alone without the President. Our sources said the fake general did the same thing going in and out of the Plane for almost six times and coming out alone while President Jammeh remained inside.

Some impatient welcoming crew began murmuring and asking questions as this is the first time such things happened. Though no one knew what was going on but what we at Kibaaronews can confirm was President Jammeh remained inside the plane while Saul Badgie goes in and out for what looks like almost 1 hour that was when General Badgie finally went inside the plane for the last time and came out together with the Dictator and after a quick guard of honour, they swiftly headed to State House in what looked like war contingent. But now that General Saul Badgie has resurfaced again after going off the radar for some time, many of the opinion that he might be working with the secret militia reported to have been recruited at the Dictator’s home village of Kanilai in the forest bordering Southern Senegalese region of Cassamance where both Dictator Jammeh’s Father was alleged to have come from. Earlier Kibaaro reported about General Badgie’s sighting with Junglers and sudden disappearance when we received the tip off from our sources because every information is important to us for we intend to save Gambian lives including that of the stupid General who still continue to be used by a man who eyes him with suspicion.

President Jammeh is no doubt a smart fellow but never comfortable as he is always under the Kibaaro radar who as servants of the people do not take any chances with information coming to our desk. In a real democracy this is where professional journalism comes to play with vetting certain information but such things constantly could be suicidal under a dictatorship especially under murderous minded tyrants who are hard to predict. Reports also had it that Dictator Jammeh had disapproved the sending of AU peace keeping troops to war turned Burundi where government controlled militia are accused of mass killing of unarmed civilians. President Jammeh supported by many fellow Dictators who also commits similar things in their own countries claiming that sending troops to Burundi would violate that nation’s sovereignty but some delegates with the President on condition of anonymity castigated President Jammeh calling it open hypocrisy and a betrayal of his so called pan Africanist ideas when the same President Jammeh they claimed has sent peace keeping forces to other parts of Africa where there are conflicts and even while he was speaking in Addis Ababa, Gambian peace keepers are in Darfur and Southern Sudan also sovereign nations.

Gambians rely mostly on rumour which is locally referred to as radio Kankang due to lack of free flow of information in the Gambia because the dictatorship had in place laws that made it almost impossible for freedom of the media to operate. Therefore many professional journalist have realised that , any piece of news coming from Africa’s North Korea should be treated with urgency for the international community should know about it otherwise sleeping on just a single piece of information could cost lost of lives. In a country where people disappear without trace, people killed and burnt while some shot in broad daylight without any investigations being ever carried out and mostly believed to be state sponsored criminality at play all the time. We hope and pray that whatever Dictator Jammeh and General Badgie intend to do, Gambia civilians would have God’s protection in the coming days and months.


January 26, 2016
Author: Pata PJ

Author: Pata PJ

By Pata PJ

I’d written this back in 2014 and with a little tweak to reflect our current situation in the election year, I thought I’d reproduce.I was sitting at home minding my business and thought I would grab my routine dose of Gambian News, so I went on reading the local Newspapers. I started with the Daily Observer and I saw a story about our ‘magnanimous’ president ‘negotiating’ the release from immigration detention and repatriation of Gambian Deportees from Angola. $10,000 USD forked out. As important as that story is, it was not as interesting to me as the next.

A January 16, 2014 Daily Observer headline “Ahead of March polls -Bissau authorities begin registration of 35,000 nationals. As I read on, I got to ‘The process that began earlier this week came against the backdrop of a series of sensitization programs by the Bissau-Guinean authorities in Banjul’ and I was already filled with sadness and anger, out of jealousy. ‘Really? Guinea Bissau!?’ I thought. This is not to be disrespectful to Bissau. I am cognizant of the fact that President Jammeh is not remotely close to anything democratic but in all fairness, we have a fairly stronger democratic establishments and/or ‘potential’ considering how the poor West African nation barely have any breathing space in-between their military coup d’états. Plus as ‘young’ as we consider our State to be, we attained independence almost a decade before Bissau. So that was the premise of my comparison. But let me get off that!

The 2007 Constitution of the Gambia: Chapter V (1)(1) clearly states that

“Every citizen of The Gambia being eighteen years or older and of sound mind shall have the right to vote for the purpose of elections of a President and members of the National Assembly, and shall be entitled to be registered as a voter in a National Assembly constituency for that purpose.”

I do not know what the constitutional stipulation on voter registration was in the first republic to be able to compare with what we have today; therefore, I am not able to have a take on that. What is a known fact though is that, Gambians in the Diaspora have been constitutionally enfranchised but deliberately marginalized on almost everything, by this regime since its inception. I have not seen any serious attempts by the Jammeh Administration to ever engage Gambians outside the country in any meaningful decision making or undertaking – especially politically. Proportionately (in the continent), the Gambia has one of largest per capita of academicians and professionals who studied and/or practiced their expertise outside its borders. And this is in all spheres or disciplines. Then how comes our Government is not keen on tapping in to the abundant resource pool to enrich our workforce or even entice some to come invest in their country of birth? Instead, we often see the leadership launching blanket attacks and threats, branding this particular constituency ‘failures and enemies’ of the Country.

To put the undisputed significance of the Diaspora Gambians in to perspective, I am going to try highlighting one thing here. From economic perspective, the financial prowess of Gambians abroad over the years has been too impacting that it’s felt in all aspects of the Gambian economy. Since many Gambian families depend on relatives outside the country for sustenance and sponsored projects, Gambians remit significant sums that make a substantive mark on the home economy.

In a West Coast radio interview with Director of Research at The Central bank of The Gambia (October 2013), it was revealed that ‘in the Gambia, remittance as a percentage of GDP, have grown significantly over the last decade from a mere 2.5% of GDP in the early 1990s to nearly 10% GDP around 2011’. That was some 3 years ago. In that interview, Gambians were told that the data compiled by the Central Bank had average remittances from Gambians abroad (through exchange bureaus) between 2008 and 2010 at about 54 million dollars. This number had increased to a whooping $85 million dollars in 2012, and a near 20% of our national GDP in 2014.

As significant as this block of Gambians is, the regime in Banjul has calculatedly disenfranchised diaspora Gambians and REFUSED to make any attempts to allow them have a say in any electoral process. The opposition Group of Six (G6) in their list of demands to the IEC, copied to the President, Attorney General and Speaker of the National Assembly, did include the registration of Gambians outside her borders to participate in the 2016 elections. These demands thus far have fallen on deaf ears. IEC would argue that they could not afford the finances and other logistics to conduct a voter registration of Gambians abroad but we are all aware of the allegations of voter fraud which IEC are an accomplice. Charges of voters transported in to the Gambia from Southern Senegal and have them planted in places recognized as opposition strongholds on election days. I bet the IEC would get funding, if they are keen on registering eligible Gambians in the Diaspora. Senegal, Bissau and many African countries have shown time and time again, the level of political maturity and all inclusiveness in working together as a people and nation in this area. WHY CAN’T GAMBIA? And it’s regrettable and frustrating that the Diaspora hadn’t really picked up this to vigorously incorporate in our local and international advocacy.

President Jammeh has no motivation or the slightest inclination to commit himself to favoring or strengthening democratic ideals that would diminish his status as a tyrant and weaken is powers as a brutish almighty. He’s been very comfortable taking advantage of the level of political and civic education of our illiterate majority and would never willingly allow Gambians who live outside and tasted any semblance of democracy that has been foreign to us for 22 years, be part of any mechanism that could boot him out. Remember the Information and Communication (Amendment) Act 2012 aka the Internet Laws? Considering the amount of opposition outside the country from Senegal to UK, France to America, any hopes of negotiation to have Gambians abroad participate in the 2016 Presidential Elections is next to nothing. If Bissau-Guinea are able to do this, Gambians must demand their right to vote and choose who represents them. We are a significant constituency and must use our leverage to compel the Jammeh administration recognize and respect us as such. Our pockets are our bargaining chips, so why can’t we use them? This is one of the many reasons that the Diaspora need to put their house in order and graduate from cyber activism and radio fights to claim our rightful position in our politics. We are equal stakeholders and all hands must be on deck


Pata PJ


January 22, 2016

elections-ballots“People get the government they deserve” Alexis de Tocqueville  

Since the restoration of multiparty politics in 1996, elections in The Gambia have been flawed by worryingly low voter turnout, especially among the youth. Although there is no data on the number of young people between the ages of 18-35 that voted or otherwise, one can argue that a great majority of young people in Gambia do not vote despite their demographic advantage. The issue could be linked to a lack of interest or seeming discontent with Gambian politics and as such, resisting the whole political establishment.

The figures in the previous presidential and parliamentary elections vividly describe this phenomenon. Presidential elections usually register higher voter turnout than parliamentary elections. For instance, during the Presidential election of 1996, the voter turnout was 80%. A 9.71% increase (89.71%) was recorded in 2001.

In 2006, this figure declined to 58.58% and in 2011, it rose again to 82.55%. In 2006, a percentage larger than those who voted for the incumbent APRC did not vote. The increased in 2011 elections could be attributed to the intensive nationwide youth voter education campaigns that were carried out by youth groups such as National Youth Parliament.

The parliamentary figures on the other hand are at an all-time low. The 1997, 2002, 2007 and 2012 turnouts were 73.2%, 56.38%, 41.70%, and 19.44% respectively.  The primary explanation for the low turnout in 2007 and 2012 could be attributed to electoral boycotts by the United Democratic Party (UDP). In 2011, apart from the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), all other parties boycotted the parliamentary and local government elections.

With yet another electoral cycle in the horizon, will the trend continue or will young people vote for change?

In 2011, I presented a paper Political Apathy Amongst Gambian Youth: Case Study of Youth in Serekunda at the Senior Student Research Colloquium organized by the School of Arts and Sciences, The University of The Gambia. The paper which surveyed a group of 100 youth between 18-35 years, was presented just a day before the 2011 Presidential election. The aim was to search for better answers to identify and understand the problem of youth political apathy in The Gambia and how it affects the country’s democratization process. The idea was informed by the fact that about 65% of The Gambia’s population is made up of young people between 18-35 years of age. Yet, the same group shows all signs of “lack of interest” in their own welfare, or so I thought and concluded.

While doing the research, I was also engaged in youth voter education as part of my American Corner Project (Young Gambian Leadership Program). Within a period of two months, the program, funded by the American Embassy, was able to organize several radio talk shows led by young people targeting their peers. At the same time also, the National Youth Parliament was engaged in an intensive voter education project targeting young people across the country. The outcome of all these efforts resulted in a higher voter turnout than the 2006 Presidential elections.

The outcome of the 2011 Presidential elections, in terms of voter turnout, showed a different picture to what I had observed in my paper that Gambian youth lack interest in politics. Today, I am revisiting the same phenomenon as we approach another election year. This time, with a wider perspective and a more critical outlook on Gambian youth and politics as informed by years of interaction both online and at home. As such, I posited that the low voter turnout is not as a result of lack of interest in politics, rather it is both a conscious and subconscious strategy by young people to protest against the political system in place.

With the current political climate in The Gambia that curtails certain fundamental rights, also forcing many into self-censorship, many young people do not see the need to vote. They do not even believe that their votes count. They are convinced that voting will not change the situation nor will it remove the APRC from power. They fear that Jammeh will not step down even if defeated.

This lack of trust in our political system was not just developed in a day; it grew from perceived irregularities in the entire political machinery from lack of press freedom, APRC usage of state resources, the lack of a solid alternative to Jammeh, a weak and divided opposition, a lack of trust in the Independent Electoral Commission, unlevelled playing field, low civic education, domination of politics by older generation, lack of opportunities for young people within political parties, to the notion of rigging of election results.

However, I am not very convinced that rigging of votes takes place in The Gambia. I observed the last elections and I have seen the way ballot boxes are arranged and votes counted afterwards. Equally, the presence of party representatives makes it less likely for such to happen. Elections in The Gambia are lost and won during the voter registration process. I will discuss this perhaps in my next blog.

Young people are faced with a dilemma of who to vote for. Most of the youth that I interacted with want to see a change of government, bringing in one that protects and respects their basic freedom, one that creates an enabling environment filled with dignified jobs, accessible and affordable tertiary education among many other things.  Above all they want to see a democratic Gambia. However, they are not convinced by all the politicians in place. In fact, none has a tangible plan for all these.  President Jammeh is not good enough but who to replace him with is the predicament.

For the longest, we have focused our attention on President Jammeh and his government, and ignored the opposition. The reason why many young people do not vote is not entirely dependent on Jammeh. See, Jammeh has been in power for about 22 years and all that time, he has the same people to compete against. Ousainou Darboe has been at the helm of United Democratic Party (UDP) for 22 years; likewise, Hamat Bah for National Reconciliation Party (NRP). Although, Halifa Sallah and Sidi Jatta have been “alternating” the leadership of People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) they have been in the game for far too long. Structurally, one can argue that PDOIS differ from all other parties.

However, the point here is that all political leaders have over stayed. Political parties in The Gambia are undemocratic, highly personalized and are properties of the leadership. About 90% of party finances come from party leaders. The one who foots the bill dictates the direction of the party.  Secondly, it seems like opposition parties do not understand what their role in the political process is. They can hardly initiate a program of their own; instead, they heavily depend on the blunders that Jammeh makes to eventually release simple statements of opposition. Some think the whole idea of an opposition is just to oppose anything the government does or says. That is not enough. We deserve more.

I would also like to highlight the failure of the opposition parties to unite and put forward a single candidate. Since 2001, young people both in The Gambia and the diaspora have been calling for such. An attempt was made in 2006, but failed just before nomination. Since then all we see from opposition parties is rhetoric and more of it. If the goal of contesting in election is to remove Jammeh, then a divided opposition will never succeed. I am not saying that any single candidate will remove Jammeh automatically, but I believe it will serve as a motivation factor and make life easier for the undecided youth voters.

All the points mentioned above and many other counts as deterrent factors to youth engagement in partisan politics especially during voting. I have received many questions from young people on why they should get a voters card and even vote. To me these young people do not lack interest. They are just not convinced that their votes will make a difference. I have not formulated a convincing answer yet, but I hope those that are thinking of not voting will reconsider. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “voting is the corner stone for political action.” If one wants a change of government, the only platform provided for you legitimately is election. Make it count.

We have been crying for far too long about the closed political space in The Gambia, the human rights violations, unemployment, illegal migration etc. December 1st  2016 should be decisive moment. It should show our concern as young people, or we can just not vote and allow the system to continue. Here is the catch. In 2006, the number of people that didn’t vote at all was way more than those that voted for Jammeh. Maybe if all the young people had voted, there could have been a change of government. 2006 is gone. 2016 is another opportunity to make changes. Not voting will keep Jammeh in power; voting and not voting for him will remove him.

The choice is yours to make. You may refuse to vote and the system continues, or choose to vote and bring about change. We can blame Jammeh all we want, we can point blame fingers to others for our own predicament. However, our destiny is in our own hands. What we should now know is that change doesn’t come on a silver platter. If we desire it, we must follow the democratic ways by voting, and voting for change. Remember “people get the government they deserve.”

Author: Sait Matty Jaw



January 20, 2016
Under my umbrella

Under my umbrella

By Momodou Ndow

In our daily lives, we use several different objects that perform certain functions to make life easier. We use a vehicle to drive to places, a phone to make calls, and a pen to write. What happens when a phone stops performing the function of making calls? Should we still consider it a phone or something else? What happens when a vehicle is now sitting on blocks in the middle of your compound and kids are using it for driving simulation? Should we still consider it a vehicle or a toy for the kids?

It’s been raining here and I’ve been using my umbrella to protect me from the rain. My umbrella performs the function of keeping me dry to a degree when the rain is pouring. When opened, the umbrella’s metal spokes forms an anchor for the waterproof material attached to them to protect me from the rain. In sum, my umbrella performs the function of protecting me from the rain.

But if the waterproof material is ripped off from my umbrella leaving the handle and frame, should I still call it an umbrella? If I open the spokes, put my umbrella over my head, walk into the rain, I will surely get drenched. Should I continue to call this object that can no longer protect me from the rain an umbrella?

Generally, we all do. We may say that the umbrella is broken, but we will still call it an umbrella even though it’s no longer performing the function of an umbrella. Granted it was once an umbrella, but it has now ceased to function as one. Then what is it now? It’s definitely something.

When Jammeh came to power through a coup in 1994, he claimed to be this “huge umbrella” that can stretch from one end of the sky to the other; promised to protect Gambians from the “rains” of corruption, abuse of power, and everything else that the former government was doing wrong. He called them rats, arrested them, and confiscated their properties. He assured Gambians that he was the “Umbrella” for them and they will never be drenched by corruption again.

But when the storms came, Gambians found themselves drenched in blood from the torture and killings, shaking like a leaf from fear, and getting washed away into the Atlantic Ocean by the flood waters. As it turned out, that “huge umbrella” covering the sky from one end to the other, never had a waterproof material attached to the spokes. It has been just the handle and naked spokes all the while. How come the majority never took a second to look up?

Fast forward to now, that umbrella is being collapsed on Gambians and the spokes are violently poking their skulls. Every aspect of their lives is being altered on a daily basis. Day has become night and right has become wrong. God has become man and religion has become a tool. Fundamentally, things are in reverse order. But it is forbidden to talk about it or attempt to address the issues. A functional umbrella is the doctor’s order, if Gambians want protection.



January 17, 2016
Author: Baba Galleh Jallow

Author: Baba Galleh Jallow

By Baba Galleh Jallow

Back in 2013 when he reduced the work week from five to four days, I wrote a piece in which I argued that contrary to fears in some quarters, imposing Sharia law was not an option for Mr. Jammeh. In the light of recent developments in The Gambia, I wish to share that piece with the public, unedited.

Around the middle of January, 2013, Gambia’s dictator Yahya Jammeh – who insists on being called His Excellency the President Sheikh Professor Alhajj Doctor Yahya AJJJ Jammeh – dropped yet another of his increasingly eccentric bombshells: he decreed – without any known consultation with the cabinet or legislature – that effective February 1, the country’s work week would be reduced from five to four working days. Instead of working Monday to Friday 8:00 – 4:00 pm, Gambians were now ordered to work Monday to Thursday, 8:00am – 6:00pm. Henceforth, Friday was to be reserved for prayer and agricultural work on the farms. A couple of weeks later, Jammeh argued publicly that if Christians had Sunday off for prayer, why should Muslims not have Friday off for prayer? In his usual unthinking totalitarianism, Jammeh did not expect anyone to question the wisdom of his latest imposition on the Gambian people.

Jammeh’s latest act of mindless eccentricity created a loud buzz within the international community. While only sighs of resignation and despair were perhaps mouthed inside the country for fear of arrest, torture or disappearance orchestrated by the ostensibly all-seeing police state, the protests of the Gambian Diaspora community hit listservs and online media with characteristic vehemence. The usual questions were raised about Jammeh’s sanity and just what useful purpose this reduction of the work week served. What were its potential consequences for the Gambian economy? Why does Jammeh turn the country and its people into mere toys to play with according to his fancy? Interestingly, hardly any member of the Gambian Diaspora expressed concern that the erratic dictator was about to turn the country into an Islamic state under sharia law. They knew their man better than that.

The international community, however, was visibly shaken. Many thought that Jammeh, who makes no secret of his hatred of the West and supposedly western concepts such as human rights, the rule of law and democracy, was about to turn the tiny secular country into a theocracy which will then serve as a haven for the dreaded Islamic fundamentalists now prowling the wastelands of Africa and wreaking havoc on already suffering nations and peoples. If Jammeh could claim to have found a cure for HIV/AIDS, if he could claim to have been born three months after independence because he did not want to be born under colonial rule, if he could repeatedly tell the west to go to hell, what would prevent him from doing or saying whatever caught his fancy, like imposing sharia law on the country?

It was with an effort to find out if Jammeh indeed wanted to turn The Gambia into an Islamic theocracy that the BBC called me for an interview on the four day week. When the news anchor asked what I thought might be the reason for Jammeh’s imposition of the four-day work week, she perhaps expected me to confirm what she and many others in the international community suspected: that he was edging towards imposing sharia law on the country. When I gave her my take on the issue – which I share below – her response was whether I did not think that was rather outlandish? Was it not perhaps because Jammeh was thinking of turning The Gambia into an Islamic state? Yes, it was outlandish; but outlandish is precisely one accurate way of describing Yahya Jammeh. And no, I did not think that Jammeh was about to turn The Gambia into an Islamic state. Here’s why.

While about 90 percent of Gambians are Muslims, they are not the type of Muslims that would tolerate being forced to wear the veil, grow a beard, or stop wearing shorts and other clothes of their choice. Jammeh knows that while some Gambian Muslims would perhaps out of fear comply with such an order, the majority would hate the idea of being forced to do so. Trying to impose the veil on Gambian women or banning the wearing of shorts or western clothing in The Gambia could ignite the tinder box that would eventually blow him and his power to pieces. Jammeh knows that only too well.

Moreover, about nine to ten percent of Gambians are either Christians or adherents of traditional religions. There is no way that these Gambians can be made to abide by Islamic sharia law and it would be an unbearable burden on state resources to determine who was Muslim or not Muslim on a daily basis in an attempt to enforce sharia law. If Jammeh attempts to impose sharia law in The Gambia, he would have to deal not only with large numbers of Muslims refusing to abide by the law, but will also have to contend with the sizeable number of Christians and traditional religionists – including many in the security forces – who will never accept sharia law.

I also told the BBC that Jammeh was not about to impose Sharia law in The Gambia because that would prevent him from enjoying some of his favorite pastimes. At his home village of Kanilai, Jammeh maintains an expensive palace where he enjoys watching half-naked female wrestlers juke it out to the accompaniment of much drumming, dancing and clapping that are evidently unIslamic. Another of his favorite pastimes is hosting performances by traditional dance troops, magicians and sorcerers who demonstrate their knowledge of the occult to his ultimate delight. Recently, one magician from Mali claimed to have transformed a young man in the audience into a likeness of the president. In the video footage of the event, Jammeh could be seen raising his hands and bragging “I am Yahya Jammeh!” amidst much clapping, shouting and drumming. If Jammeh imposes sharia law in The Gambia, he could not possibly continue enjoying these totally unIslamic hobbies.

My “outlandish” explanation for Jammeh’s reduction of the work week was that while it was totally impossible to prove the thesis, it was most likely that Jammeh had been warned by one of his sorcerers to avoid going to work on Fridays. It is common knowledge among Gambians that in spite of his pretense to Islamic piety by dressing like an Arab sultan and perpetually clutching a prayer bead and what looks like a copy of the Koran (people speculate that it is not in fact a Koran, but a box of fetishes), he is an ardent believer in the occult. He himself has boasted many a time that he is possessed of knowledge of the occult. So it is very plausible that having being warned by a sorcerer to avoid going to work on Fridays for fear of being ambushed and overthrown, and because he could not possibly stay home every Friday and expect everyone else to go to work as this might raise some unwanted questions, Jammeh decided to make everyone stay at home on Friday. He found a plausible excuse by claiming that Muslims needed a full day of their own for prayer and work on the farms. What discredits this notion is that Fridays were half days anyway in The Gambia. People got off from work at 12:30pm and went home in good time for the Friday prayers at 2:00pm or 3:00pm in some cases. Also, most of those who work on the farms are not salaried workers anyway and reside in the rural areas of the country. Neither office nor farm work had ever prevented those who wanted to attend the Friday prayers to do so.

While Yahya Jammeh habitually wears Muslim clothes and holds Muslim paraphernalia in his hands, many Gambians know that he is far from being a good Muslim or one seriously concerned about the teachings of Islam. His hobbies – outlined above – are patently unIslamic. And while he likes to invoke Allah’s name and swear by the Koran, his use of the religion is at best Machiavellian, at worst, outright hypocritical. His frequent verbal assaults on innocent people, the foul language he habitually uses, his frequent threats to murder his critics, his unceasing boasting and chest-pounding, and his well-known and frequent unjust punishment of innocent people – the arbitrary arrests, detentions, tortures, disappearances and killings of his critics and perceived enemies, including most recently the disappearance of the well-respected Imam Baba Leigh for calling his execution of nine persons by firing squad unIslamic – these are not the marks of a true Muslim. A true Muslim cannot tell a lie as big as that he chose to be born after independence because he did not want to be born under colonial rule or that he had found a herbal cure for HIV/AIDS that was revealed to him by his ancestors . A good Muslim cannot be consumed by the kind of hubris that consumes Yahya Jammeh.

Indeed, nothing in his demeanor suggests that Yahya Jammeh is a true Muslim. Rather, he is a fervent animist who, in pure Machiavellian fashion, has found in Islam a tool for the control, manipulation and subjugation of a largely unsophisticated and increasingly apathetic population.

There might, however, be one other plausible explanation for Jammeh’s decision to cut the work week that again, has nothing to do with Islam: he might be trying to please his patrons in the Arab world. Perhaps by declaring Friday a day of prayer, he hoped to elicit approving nods from some oil rich sultan who would be happy to give him the money he persistently begs for. Since he is getting increasingly isolated by Western donor nations and institutions, sucking up to the Arabs might be a form of guarantee against total bankruptcy for his government. Indeed, barely a week after the beginning of the four-day work week, he made a working visit to the Middle East. But as far as imposing sharia law in The Gambia is concerned, that is just not a feasible option for Mr. Jammeh.


First published in RIMA Occasional Papers, Volume 1 (2013), Number 5 (March 2013)

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