By kebba Samateh (Former Immigration Officer)
Mr. Editor, kindly give me some space in your widely read online newspaper to share this with your wide readership and Gambians as a whole. This is an open letter to The President of my country His Excellency Sheik Professor Dr. Alhagie Yahya AJJ Jammeh Babili Mansa.
Your Excellency Mr. President Sir, I must confess how shocked and very saddened I am when I read on the SMBC news what looked like a confirmation of the torturing to death of Ebrima Solo Sandeng the National Organising Secretary of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) who was under state custody after his arrest in April for leading a peaceful protest demanding electoral reforms. Sir what I read on that newspaper said to have come from you in an interview with a French newspaper called Jeune Afrique in which you are alleged to have said that death in custody is not unusual in Africa and as a result you refusing to heed to calls by the UN and Amnesty international to investigate reported deaths of protesters, one of which is confirmed to be Mr. Sandeng. It said on that newspaper that you said and I coate: “I do not see the point. People die in custody or during interrogations. It is really common and “I will not investigate.” Ban Ki-Moon and Amnesty International can all go to hell” “No one can tell you what to do in your country”. Mr President why? This if true, is the greatest insult on Africa and Gambians in particular especially some of us who once held you in very high esteem. Sir this was not what you keep vowing before us in the Gambia that you would die defending us. So sir what has changed?
Mr President I am confused because just last year I was listening to you while addressing a rally talking about the number of Gambians and African that keep dying at the Mediterranean sea saying you suspected foul play. Sir I have heard you saying that sea route had been one of the safest route the West took to come to Africa and we’ve never heard of such massive deaths and you went on to request an investigations into the deaths of Africans and Gambians in particular and you even gave warning that if anymore ship or boat should capsize and Gambians die, you would retaliate. Mr. President hearing you said those words made some of your supporters respect and adored your stance for the welfare of Gambians but now it is like clearer that despite you said those things and gave those warnings, Gambian lives doesn’t matter to you at al. Your latest statement almost gave me a heart attack because I am still struggling to belief you really made them. Sir the death of Gambians who were under state custody is a total violation of our constitution even when such deaths are as a result of mistakes much more when they allegedly happened as a result of torture which we all knew is against our constitution. So why would you refuse to investigate them at the same time asking European countries to investigate the alleged deaths at the Mediterranean Sea? You mean to tell me it is ok for Gambians to die while under state custody but it’s a crime for them to die at the Mediterranean Sea while running away from economic hardship, state persecutions, torture and intimidations of state security? Mr. President death is death so if death of Gambians at the Mediterranean sea should be investigated, I belief deaths that happened under your very own feet should be even more investigated to set as example of how Gambian life matters to you in all fairness.
Mr President like in most cases of alleged deaths while under state custody, like I have observed in most civilised nations like ours, swift investigations are launched to establish the cause of death. Or like I thought you would have remained quiet in this case as you’ve done many times but this particular case of Solo Sandeng seems dragging you along because your this particular statement does not only confirm Solo Sandeng’s death but many other deaths that had remained unsolved for decades and now you did not only confirm Solo Sandeng’s death but reiterated your lack of care and concern for lives of your political opponents whose security you took an oath to protect as president of the entire country. Mr President when someone dies in state custody thorough and expeditious investigations should be launched by state to establish cause of death to either rule out or ascertain any foul play. Do you mean to tell me all the unsolved disappearances are infact confirming the families’ worst fears that they were summarily executed and buried without any convictions of a crime? If so then the Gambia is finished. Mr President when state failed to publicly or partly admit death of a prisoner under its custody and the same time refuse handing over dead body to grieving families for a befitting burial, it brings a nation closer to hatred and driving towards civil chaos. This lack of empathy or remorse has proven all evidence of the level of respect your administration has for Gambians that do not subscribe to your style of leadership and that is indeed a very dangerous path in our beautiful country. No one should stay silent and watch our country being pushed into the brinks of a looming civil war.
I have been reading articles on what led to civil wars in other countries and what are happenings in the Gambia right now are the very same things that led many aggrieved citizens of so many countries to take laws in their own hands demanding justice for their loved ones. Many aggrieved Gambians today are sitting silently waiting for the smoke to rise and they would blow the wind to spread the fire. Who knows what that would do to our beautiful Gambia? It is time to speak out to avoid such to us because all Gambians are wonderful people regardless of their political, religious or ethnic origin. As Gambians we have always lived beyond these vices of tribe, religion and party politics but now we are slowing being divided along those dangerous lines of division and hatred against one another. Even if the president does not have any regards for any regional or international bodies or respect international protocols which Gambia is a signatory to, he should have regards for Gambians he rules even if they are opposition supporters. That is what our constitution empowers him to do otherwise he would have been only president of his supporters not the opposition. I am very confident that Mr President thinks the international community would not do anything serious about anything in the Gambia but sir you are making a grave mistake in my useless view. I say useless view because some might feel who am I to advice his Excellency but I tell those sceptics that I am one of those who held the president in very high esteem with lot of respect for his person and the high office he occupies. I am no hypocrite and that is why therefore cannot hide my frustrations and utter disappointment at the above alleged statements which is said to have come from the head of state of my country. Gambians are very interrelated and one’s sadness affects a whole lot of people emotionally. I am sure a lot of those following his Excellency today would start thinking sooner rather than later does it means when my relative in the opposition becomes a victim of such brutal torture and murder, the same would be the case as that of Solo Sandeng? You see this is why I don’t ever want to be President because I pity l them for always becoming the very solutions leading to their own downfall as a result of their own actions or inactions. Sanctions or travel ban of any kind may never worry you as I am confident you are indeed a wealthy man but what of your followers?
Sir when you came to power 22 years ago, your regime accused your predecessor of living a flamboyant lifestyle, allowing rampant corruption and overstaying in power. But today what some of the papers are writing about you, made me wonder why no government official came out to refute any of such allegations. Mr President from 1994 to date there are allegations from the Panama Papers where an amount of 900 million Dollars was said to have been taken from the Gambians and deposited in foreign accounts overseas or should I dare say stashed into offshore accounts. I am equally surprised to read from some papers and saw pictures of the first children your daughter and son all being born in the USA and not in the Gambia and I also saw a $3.5 MILLION dollar mansion in the USA said to be bought by you and your daughter Mariam also said to be attending a $82,000 a year school in the USA despite you continuous insults on the West, I mean what is going on? What happened to transparency, accountability and probity? Why Gambians are never told these things in the news inside the Gambia? I think your government was built on transparency, accountability and probity?
Mr President I don’t know what you are thinking but your critics are fast winning the war. The earlier you sit for a second and reflect from 1994 to date the better for you and your supporters. Investigate the death of Solo Sandeng without delay including all those alleged to have died while under state custody for that is the right thing to do. Remember in today’s world and with digital news, Gambian people would not remain in the dark forever but am sure you are realising that more than anyone. Sir failure to do so economic sanctions would not only affect average Gambians but yourself sooner rather than later. Remember your common saying yourself. The world is three days: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.
Sir I hope you closely listen to voice from afar.