GAMBIA’S POLITICAL WHORE
Y.BOJANG-A CONVICTED DIPLOMAT
My fellow Gambians,
A lot has been written and said in the aftermath of the conviction of the “gang of Gambian diplomats”. Many blamed the convicts themselves; some, the Gambia government, principally Yahya Jammeh; others, mostly pacifist, attempted to place a veil on our vision by coming up with conspiracy theories, to the extent of casting aspersions on the British government. These pacifists charged that the convictions were the results of the British government’s reaction following Yahya Jammeh’s withdrawal of The Gambia from the Commonwealth. What an absurd and irresponsible theory.
Yahya Jammeh’s government approved Ambassador Elizabeth Harding’s conspiracy against her former colleagues and wittingly endorsed her participation in selectively prosecuting the former diplomats through “prosecutorial” discretion and bargaining. Yahya Jammeh’s government lifted the diplomats’ diplomatic immunity and gave permission to proceed to prosecute. Elizabeth Harding was the star and principal witness, the position she traded to avoid being equally prosecuted by the British authorities. Therefore, an alleged conspiracy of the sort above is way further from the truth. Now, what could Yahya Jammeh’s government have done? Yahya Jammeh’s government should have first negotiated with the British Foreign Office – I am conscious that the dictator is crude and lack etiquette. Where negotiations with the British government failed, recall the diplomats and prosecute them in The Gambia. Let us remember here: Gambia government possesses and enjoys certain diplomatic privileges as enshrined in the Geneva Convention. In addition, in stretching my argument — I agree tax crime and other pecuniary matters are very serious as far as Western democracies are concerned.
Equally, there can be overriding powers, considerations, or leverages, when it comes to issues relating to protecting and preserving certain provisions of the Geneva Convention vis-à-vis diplomacy. Some of the provisions of the Convention with respect to immunity are sacrosanct. However, when criminality is alleged, in as much as withdrawal of immunity can be applied, under-the-table negotiations are also explored in some instances. The case of the Indian diplomat who was indicted in the United States earlier this year comes to mind. The United States requested India to lift the diplomat’s immunity so that she could be prosecuted. The Indian government refused, thus the Indian diplomat left the U.S. There were tit-for-tat reprisals, but relations between the U.S and India continue. Let us also recall, though remotely relevant to the current issue, Baba Jobe’s indictment by the United Nations Security Council following the blood diamond issue. Baba Jobe was placed among Interpol’s fugitives. Did Yahya Jammeh hand Baba Jobe over? No. Yahya Jammeh knew his own hands were not clean, and went on to murder Jobe.
Therefore, in summary, deputy ambassador Bojang and his fellow “gang” are victims of Yahya Jammeh’s divisive and ethnic hegemony. These diplomats were appointed based on ethnic and tribal sentiments; not merit. Period. Moreover, I say this for the following reasons: Fellow Gambians, at the dawn of the second republic, The Gambia’s civil service was rated among the best in Africa. Many African countries, especially Botswana, which is Africa’s success story at the moment when it comes to good governance and democracy, were sending their professionals through technical assistance by the World Bank and IMF to study The Gambian civil service model. The Gambian model was highly rated for quality and service delivery. The civil service then was the envy of many in the sub-region. The quality of personnel was exceptional, considering Gambia had no higher institute of learning. Those professionals were the golden generation of civil servants bequeathed by the Jawara government to our brutal dictator.
It is undeniably visible through the current resources young Gambians are being fed online through social media by eminent former civil servants, especially Seedy Sanneh. Seedy’s analysis and blog on Gambian issues are so popular and authoritative. Mr. Sanneh’s blog is an institution of learning to many young Gambians, who are beginning to appreciate the functioning institutions Jawara’s regime left in place. Seedy was among the many acolytes/cum technocrats of Jawara’s regime, and they became the golden generation that our brutal dictator inherited and destroyed. In summary, what went wrong with our civil service is a simple answer: YAHYA JAMMEH.
From 1994 to date, many of our talented professionals have been given three options:
- To stay put in The Gambia and serve the dictator, compromising all professional principles and ethics, to the extent of reducing themselves to servitude. Did we not witness professional civil servants with no knowledge of a traditional farming hoe, weeding at Jammeh’s numerous farms? In addition, worst of all, Mile 2 has become many their Hilton or Grand Hyatt Hotel through bogus charges. What a pity.
- The second option given to our then golden generation was to leave the country and search for greener pastures. This is self-evident in the popularity of many Gambian expatriates in the international job market post-94; and the huge amount of professional Diaspora Gambians doing fantastically well and feeding their families both abroad and back home. Evidently, sixty-five percent of our highly trained and experience professionals live outside The Gambia. Our country is rated third highest in the number of professionals’ per capita living outside their countries among African states by the World Bank. Our country has lost so many talents; one imagines if a serious government had pooled all these resources, Jawara’s Singaporean dream will not be far-fetched today.
- The third and saddest option was exiling our fellow kith and kin for daring to be professional, principle; Jammeh’s actions once again detrimental to our nation state. Of prominent exiles, recently, the sad case of the late Honourable Bubacarr Baldeh comes to mind. Honourable Baldeh’s late father fought for The Gambia; the son, Buba, followed suit. Honourable Baldeh’s last rites were denied by our ruthless dictator, who threw our decent tradition, culture and the non-negotiable principle of respect for the death by wickedly refusing to accept Buba’s last wish: to be buried in his father’s village. Buba’s fate awaits many in the Diaspora, who are currently the economic engine of their loved ones in The Gambia, and the national economy. These Diaspora remittances are what is holding the economic wellbeing of our people. The Diaspora contribution is clear demonstration of patriotism on their part and it goes to demonstrate how caring Gambians abroad are towards their various families. However, the brutal dictator continues to lie and propaganda that Diaspora Gambians are the enemy, when he is the actual nemesis to our country’s progress. Therefore, my fellow Gambians, the time is up; let us act in unison and send this dictator to where he deserves to be prosecuted and sent to his own Mile 2 Hotel.
My fellow citizens and women, one appreciates the fact that highlighting the ills/problems in our current political and socio-economic situation is very sensitive when it comes to addressing the ethnocentric, or loosely put, the tribal tendencies of the brutal dictator. This dictator is ethnically biased and highly tribalised. Gambians have lately come to realize Yahya Jammeh has failed attempts to divide our country on ethnic and tribal lines. The “superior class” Jammeh is seeking to plant in our socio-economic and political life will never see the light of day. Moreover, lest I clarify, by “superior class”, this term is a pejorative for Jammeh’s ethnic and tribal politics. The ethnic politics is the elevation of undeserving and incompetent officials from his Jola ethnic group to senior or key government positions; for example, the current deputy chief of defence staff, Sulayman Badgie aka Karafa Bojang, who, it is alleged, joined the Gambia Army through a false and forged high school certificate. All experienced commissioned officers have either been killed, jailed, forced into exile or prematurely retired.
The KMC mayor, Yankuba Colley; central bank governor, Abdou Colley, promoted over competent officers; Gibba parachuted to Gambia Ports Authority and Social Security; Susan Waffa-Ogoo, from a librarian to minister; Ben Jammeh, director of many agencies; Pa Harry Jammeh, elevated to Solicitor General with barely three years of post-call to the Gambian Bar; Essa Jesus Badgie, an unrefined amateur and criminal in police uniform, parachuted to IGP; Jammeh of Civil Aviation; the current NAWEC director; GAMTEL; former absconding boss of AMRC; Fatim Badjie, a young trainee, called upon to head one of the most important ministries; the Harry Sambous; the Kujabis; Ansumana Jammeh as an ambassador; the dictator’s mother occupying the front seat of a state function: where is the separation of state and family; young Jolas being favoured for scholarships; and the many other middle and junior level cadres recruited to key positions all courtesy of their Jola ethnicity.
Sadly, during the past few days for many Gambians in the United Kingdom, the current classic example is the case of former deputy high commissioner, now certified criminal, Bojang, elevated from a bottler and delivery agent at Gambega/Julbrew to the acme of Gambia’s diplomatic and Foreign Service. Bojang, with no diplomatic qualification or transferable skills in international relations whatsoever, had the audacity to believe that the actual ambassador and his former boss, Elizabeth Harding, was just warming the seat as it was a matter of time before the criminal dictator and his Jola mafias elevated him to the seat all because he was the Jola. One wonders what we have done to deserve such cruelty from that fateful “July 22ndsaint” that came to redeem our nation.
After 50 years of post-independence, how can we reconcile or accept the fact that the responsibility of steering our ship of state is placed in the hands of such inept personnel? These personnel, together with many other appointees from the dictator’s ethnic group, and other ethnicities, lack the skill, aptitude, or experience to run a proper government institution. Clearly, everything is crumbling out here in Gambia. Nothing works, and 50 years on, we are told to keep on dreaming to become a city-state. Let me clarify lest I be accused of fanning division, but enough of burying our heads in the sand, pretending this is not an issue. Yahya Jammeh’s ethnic bias is a cancer, and has to be tackled and cured for posterity.
This brutal dictator mastered his Machiavellian doctrine on our people. I agree that Jammeh created puppets within other social classes and ethnicities, which classes or groups are as predictable as Pavlovian dogs. Like his fellow Jolas, he elevated some of these inept and incompetent non-Jola Gambians to senior government positions to masquerade his brutal dictatorial charade. The Isatou Njie-Saidys, Saballys and the Mass Axi Gais are examples. However, all the incompetent and inept non-Jola elevations and appointments should not be compared to the rate of appointments of the dictator’s own Jola ethnicity. Ousman Bojang, former National Intelligence Agency director of analysis, recently validated on Freedom Radio what most of us knew that 80 percent of our national army is from the Jola tribe. What is startling is the quota allocated to the dictator’s mother, and some other influential Jola personalities. Such practices honestly maintains and heightens the conscious Gambian’s rage. It is a recipe for disaster, and if allowed to continue, Gambia will be in a very regrettable position.
Readers would also be puzzled to know that in 2008, fourteen of the eighteen Gambian ambassadors were Jola. Both civil service and parastatal recruitment have always been dominated by Jola. The government, amid private mumbling, have refused to provide statistics. What is the percentage of Jola population to warrant such discriminatory action? No justification whatsoever. Appointment should be based on merit, and done in the most transparent manner. The claimed 16 percent of the Jola population does not justify this unreasonable representation of the dictator’s tribe in the national workforce. The service should be broad and reflect the diversity of our country. If one further audits our civil service and parastatals, one sees a systemic, sickening, and audacious machinery employed by our brutal thug and his cohorts to position his Jola tribesmen and women in key positions. What we were told in 1994 was appointment on merit, drawn from the hymn song: Accountability, Transparency and Probity.
Accountability, Transparency, and Probity were fanciful watchwords then. Gambians understandably caved into this criminal dictator’s bait, and today we are paying the price. We have seen year after year, many of our loved ones in the civil service, the parastatals, and even in the private sector, being shown the exit door simply due to their association with other sacked personnel, political leanings, ethnic composition, and many others. I do not want to mention names for fear of the emotive nature of how such will be handled. But the thrust of my case is, had the civil service upheld its ethos, monitored by a competent oversight body being the Public Service Commission, freed from political bondage, and staff allowed to serve their country, the current criminal debacle of the gang of diplomats and many others rotting at Mile 2 would have been avoided.
From the tribal front, we have witnessed or heard in the past of the civil service “barbecue vous” being Njogu Bah, Mamburay Njie, Tangara, Alhagi Ceesay and others. Sad, indeed, to learn of Njogu’s current predicament, and Mamburay’s situation. Gambians should heed these lessons now, or never. Our “Gambian pen’s” clique: Youth Minister Jammeh Tenengba and others were also in their tribal and elitist group. Sabally’s own friend took the stand against him in his trial the other day; and who better to remind Sabally of the common adage: “For evil to prevail, it takes good men to do nothing.” Next time when given the opportunity, put humanity before position, Mr. Sabally; professionalism before selfishness; and country before self. Had you and the Njogus, the Mamburays cleansed that judiciary of its putrid condition; you would not have been persecuted today. However, as the Wolof say, “You make your bed and indeed you shall lie on it.” The Diaspora will nonetheless keep fighting for your rights, and hope you will join them in future to build a better Gambia.
My fellow Gambians, as we observe and continue to hope for the restoration of democracy in our beloved country, let all and sundry – including my fellow Jola compatriots and women – condemn ethnic and tribal politics. Let us equally condemn this dictator’s attempt to establish a corrosive Jola hegemony in our small country. Let us aptly condemn the dictator’s attempt at social engineering to create hegemony in our beloved country. Let us speak out and be counted and say: “NOT IN MY NAME”.
Let us show the dictator that Gambians have cohabited for many centuries, and will continue to do so. If we do not act now, the wounds will fester, amplify and degenerate our society to a calamitous situation like Rwanda. Let us remember Martin Luther King’s words: “In the end, what we will remember is not the actions of the enemy, but the silence of our friends.”
God bless The Gambia and the resistance.