JAMMEH FEELS THE END OF HIS REGIME IS NIGH
By Kassumai Kepp in Banjul
Underneath the rhetoric and seemingly celebratory atmosphere at the Gambia’s Statehouse for the 19th anniversary of the military coup that brought Yahya Jammeh to power, lies a palpable state of anxiety and uncertainty. Since news broke out last week of the introduction of an Early Day Motion (EDM) at the British Parliament (House of Commons) calling for the freezing of assets and the imposition of travel bans on the government of Gambia’s schizophrenic, erratic, and despotic tyrant, the atmosphere at State House remains sombre and grim. A close confidante of the president told this reporter that Jammeh had confided in him that he feels the end of his regime is nigh.
It is the first tangible indication that the notoriously obnoxious and arrogant dictator of this once peaceful and democratic West African state is beginning to meditate upon his false sense of invincibility and of his mortality. Jammeh had told his close confidantes; ‘now that the British authorities are taking an active interest in my activities, it is only a matter of time before decisive action is taken to remove me from the equation; but I want you to know that I will not go without a fight’.
Yahya Jammeh’s worries are rightly placed, if the recent high powered EU delegation meeting with his officials is anything to go by. A senior EU official told me via email, that the composition and strength of the EU delegation is designed to send a strong and clear message to the Gambian dictator that the international community is resolved to end the impunity of his regime and the gross violations of human rights in what was once a beacon of hope for the protection of rights and freedoms in Africa.
As Gambians gather to end today’s Ramadan fast, Lamin Kujabi, a father of five, is found wondering the streets of Serrekunda, Gambia’s largest cosmopolitan city, begging for anything – scraps of food, a loose coin – anything at all that he can take home to his family. He tells me: “my family and I have been fasting for two days now, not out of choice or strong faith, but because we have nothing, nothing at all to eat. As we grow thinner and desperate, the president grows fatter and even plumper. This president is a curse to the people and to the land, and I pray to God that he leaves soon before it is too late for my family”.
Kujabi’s sentiments are not a needle in a haystack case. Across the country, thousands of people echo his despair and share his hope of a speedy end to Jammeh’s nineteen years of tyranny, murder, pillage, gluttony and a complete and utter disregard for human rights, the rule of law and respect for internationally agreed treaties and conventions.
A youth activist in the capital, Banjul, alluding to the recent mass movement of people power in Egypt, told me: “what Gambians need now is strong and clear reassurance from first, the Gambia National Army in particular, and then the international community, that when we go out on the streets to demand an end to this nightmare, they will not stand by and allow Jammeh and his thugs to massacre us”. This reassurance may prove difficult to get from the army, since Yahya Jammeh, has turned it from a once disciplined and respectful outfit, into a personal militia that is now the laughing stock of their counterparts in the sub-region, and certainly of their closest neighbours in Senegal.
Jammeh knows that the international community can drag its feet, especially while simultaneously faced with more pressing issues in the matter of the Syria conflict, the continuing violence in Egypt, the Israel-Palestinian question, Afghanistan, Darfur, Iraq, to name a few; but he is also acutely aware that once the radar is pointed at him, it will be difficult to shift the coordinates. The coming weeks and months will be testing, and the decisions, actions, and words of his administration will be under even more scrutiny.
Kassumai Kepp is a freelance journalist currently touring Senegambia.