July 22, 1994, was a day greeted with mixed reactions in The Gambia. While some expressed joy and hope for a “New Gambia”, many were apprehensive and fearful of the historical legacies that military coups have left in Africa. Though consensus recognized that change was necessary in The Gambia, the feeling of apprehension was justified, as few examples can be cited where military coups have led to a stable and sustainable democracy anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, The Gambia is no exception.
Over the past 19 years, the hope many had for a “New Gambia” has vanished, and the rate of decline in The Gambia has increased exponentially. Suffering from extraordinarily high levels of grandiosity and paranoia, Jammeh has fostered a cult of personality, in which the masses are fed propaganda to the extent of declaring him divinely appointed. Yahya Jammeh has replaced any semblance of democracy and constitutionality in the Gambia, with a government of “whim”, where legally established and widely respected procedures have been relegated. The rules of governance and political practice mean very little as they are subject to change without notice and vary at the impulse of one man who wields unlimited power over Gambian society. The so-called “constitution” is a façade that is not worth the paper which it is written on. It does not impose the rule of law; and does not effectively limit governmental power. No form of dissent is tolerated in the country. The government repeatedly punished individuals accused of dissent by coercing them into silence and submission by threats of bodily harm, confiscation of property, imprisonment, exile, or death. Consequently, Gambian citizens have been deprived of the most basic rights of citizenship.
Culpability does not fall on Jammeh alone, as certain individuals and groups within the society have enjoyed special privileges and favors granted by the government and have been active components in enabling Jammeh to perpetuate crimes against Gambians. Jammeh’s history has proven that these privileges and favors are not legally guaranteed and protected rights, since they are subject to the caprices of our delusional president. The day of reckoning is fast approaching, and those who have empowered Jammeh and have been complicit in the gross violations against Gambians will suffer the same consequences as Jammeh.
While the degradation of Gambia’s political, social and economic landscape has been disappointing; the indifference of Gambians has been the most disappointing aspect of this regime. Suppression of dissent is the game dictators play, and Jammeh is winning! The Gambian citizens have betrayed the most basic principles of humanity. The majority of Gambians have chosen to be conformists by allowing themselves to be forced to submit or disregard Jammeh’s brutal and intolerant regime. Many chose to close their eyes to what is happening in The Gambia in hopes that it will either fix itself, or the West or Senegal will come to our rescue. Those who are independent thinkers and who have taken personal responsibility for the plight of our nation have been forced to flee repression or suffer severe consequences, not only at a great cost to themselves, but also their families and associates. Few will argue that Jammeh has proven to be psychotic, unstable and a sociopath. Unfortunately, his actions have not been enough to arouse an equivalent and collective response among Gambians. We need to reclaim our national pride, sense of responsibility and civic duty to preserve the human rights, and restore the dignity that has been slowly chipped away in the past 2 decades.
In spite of all the Jammeh’s failures, it’s about time Gambians unite and act like educated sons and daughters of a hopeful nation. The time for indifference and inaction has long passed. We should realize that silence and indifference does not protect us from persecution, detention and tyranny. It is only when we are joined in a common goal, without hope of position, or attributing our own political agenda will we be free from tyranny. While the fear for ourselves and our families in the Gambia is neither imagined, nor unfounded, we need to move past those fears and free our nations from the clutches of tyranny. To prevent further injustice and suffering, there needs to be a collective recognition and response to the atrocities in the Gambia. Recent history showed that dissenting voices that are loud enough can never be silenced. Indifference is a betrayal not only to our country, but to humanity. It is incumbent upon every Gambian to ask on July 22, “How many more of our children and citizens will have to die? “When will we say ENOUGH?”, and most importantly, “What can I do?” The sooner Gambians look at freedom as an inherent human right that is a prerequisite for any society to progress, and not as a “gift” to be given to only to the deserving, the sooner we will face this challenge as one nation UNITED in the destruction on tyranny! Oppression cannot stand forever, and it shall be replaced with freedom.
Issued by the Democratic Union of Gambian Activists (DUGA)
P.O.BOX 4507, NE· Washington, DC 20017
Phone: (202) 590-4318 (301) 254-9983