By Saul Saidykhan
I just finished reading a shocking article on Facebook in which the author seems to indirectly blame everyone but the true culprits for the violence that happened in Foni three days ago: the uncouth and parochial-minded followers of Yahya Jammeh in his native village of Kanilai. To begin with, the protest wasn’t spontaneous. It was planned by ethnic militants for a while, and they made no secret of their intention to be confrontational, as some of their videos in response to the Asset Forfeiture Order against Yahya Jammeh suggested. The choice of Kanilai isn’t surprising either, because during the Jammeh tyranny, Kanilai was Foni writ large in terms of undue influence and out-sized unearned privileges in The Gambia. Kanilai was Foni and Foni was Kanilai. And all manner of lies was used to try to justify or rationalize the disadvantaging of other parts of the country. I wrote severally on this subject many years ago.
The one thing that has stunned me throughout the Jammeh madness is the utter lack of courage of the Foni intelligentsia (forget the politicians, the late Shingle Nyassi did an honorable job politically, but that’s about it) because of its failure to stand up to Jammeh WHEN IT MATTERED and let the world know he doesn’t speak for Foni. This did NOT happen! Instead, what we saw is a general embrace of a murderous kleptocrat by the people of Foni. That he was embraced by all ethnicities within Foni, or had company and enablers among all those groups does not make this failure any less shameful or egregious. It also stands in sharp contrast to his predecessor’s era. This is precisely why I find it a little too convenient that anyone would now play up this unnecessary tragedy as if it’s a case of innocent Foni victims against a marauding government. That narrative is far from the reality. Some of the agitators have been posting both audio and video messages on different fora inciting a rebellion for a couple of months now. Yet the legitimacy of this government is not in doubt.
Given what Yahya Jammeh has put our country through, it is simply stunning to see or hear some of the callous things many of his people say about those glad to see his back. Even the images we keep seeing from outside the court house in Banjul with his supporters cheering on accused cold-blooded murderers, and mocking the relatives of their victims is jarring enough. How much more insensitive and uncivilized can anyone be? I hear the clamor for Reconciliation, but how does one reconcile with someone who has not only unjustly wronged you, but sees nothing amiss about what they did or given the opportunity, will do so again? What kind of ridiculous Reconciliation game are we engaged in here?
It’s time to draw a line in the sand for the crazy followers of Yahya Jammeh! They need to understand a few things: The days of silly hedonism at Gambian public expense for one SPECIAL part of our country is gone for good. As is lawlessness, and infantile projection of ethnic-chauvinism. More importantly, they need to stop pushing their luck!
The Barrow administration needs to buckle up, and get serious on all fronts! It needs to slow down on this Reconciliation chimera, and go on the offensive against Jammeh’s allies who are still in important positions in the military, judiciary, and the Civil Service, as well as Business. As long as such elements continue to wield influence in The Gambia, this government will continue to be frustrated and sabotaged at each turn in the pursuit of its goals. (Take a page from the experience of the ANC government in SA in its Land Reform agenda: the very people publicly praising the government for being reconciliatory, are the ones privately sponsoring Land Reform opponents to frustrate government in every conceivable way. Over 25 years after Apartheid ended, less than 20% of land has been transferred to the targeted communities. Conveniently, the same people, in tandem with their international allies, blame ANC government corruption and incompetence for the slow progress of the Land Reform agenda, not the devious machinations they engage in secretly.) The Barrow administration need to be cognizant of being undermined in a similar fashion which will inevitably, lead to it losing credibility.
The government needs to move quickly to pursue justice in ALL cases beginning with the November 11th, 1994 Yundum Camp murders. Internationally, the government has some options on Jammeh himself. It could petition the New York State Attorney General or the Manhattan District Attorney to UNSHIELD the indictment in the case of the former Guinea Bissau naval Commander Bubo Na Tchuto who is currently in prison in New York. This man is known to be a major partner of Yahya Jammeh in the international drug trafficking ring in our region during his time in office. Countless Gambian military and NIA officers can testify to this. As can the CIA. Plus, the Guinean himself is believed to have mentioned Jammeh during his interrogation by American authorities which was the main reason they sealed the indictment at the time (Jammeh being a sitting president.) The Barrow administration now has the opportunity to learn the truth. Also, the government can invite British Investigators who discovered $2 Billion worth of drugs in Bonto several years ago back in the country to conduct a more thorough investigation as to the Who’s Who in that case. One of these two planks would at the very least knock some sense into Jammeh to call off his goons, and who knows, if we send someone with balls to make our case, he could spill the beans on the Codes to the Panama loot. By the way, everything I’ve heard suggests, the Panama stash wasn’t his idea at all. It is in the best interest of Gambians for the Barrow government to get Jammeh to talk. But first, it needs to put the screws on him.
In terms of securing the territorial integrity of the country, if left with no other option, it should use whatever force is necessary to enforce its mandate ALL OVER THE COUNTRY