As humans, we often reach certain heights in our lives when it seems everyone adores us beyond comprehension. Some will burst into uncontrollable tears at the mere sight of us while others fight fiercely in our defence irrespective whether we are right or wrong. For them, we are the embodiment of their dreams. Whatever we say or do shape their lives and how they perceive everything else. For instance, the way we dress, talk, walk and relate with others mark indelible imprints in their hearts and minds. If we let drown in the glossy ecstasy of that cosmetic fame and power, we often tend to act God and lose our human values. Instead of reciprocating the love and care showered on us by our admirers and followers, we treat them as lesser beings. We humiliate, insult, snob and trample them yet they come back to us forgivingly with open arms. Well, God sometimes test us to measure our faith and humility with wealth, power, beauty, fame and children. Those who failed abysmally, God sends them crashing down from the peak of their grace to an amazing bottomless disgrace.
On the other hand, those who despite all their fame, power, wealth, beauty and children remain humble, loving, caring and God-fearing constantly use their rare gifts to pursue the pleasure of Allah. They become acutely mindful of the rights of others especially those in dire need of help. Their desires are nothing but fulfilling the commands of their creator. Such people will not hurt others consciously. Can we honestly see President Jammeh as part of these humble and God-fearing people? President Jammeh ungraciously conducts himself over Gambians as his artefacts collection and people not worthy of his respect. Here I am reminded by what my late grandma narrated about insanity; she divulged that there are three kinds of insanity: a wealthy who suddenly becomes a church mouse, one who comes from the gutters and wakes up as a king and the natural insane. Perhaps the first two fittingly punctuate President Jammeh. The question I really love to ask him is “Mr President, do you realize that you are beating the uncharted drums of civil unrest?”
President Jammeh be prompted civil unrest is usually condensed by a mishmash of factors before it precipitates into mayhem. No one will query that Gambians are generally a very tolerating, loving and easy-going people. However, whatever has a beginning so it must taste an end. For twenty years you have subjected Gambians to systematic forms of menacing muzzling and oppression. Furthermore, all the children of the parents you have killed, unlawfully detained, banished and humiliated are growing up. Do you for once pause to think that one day this group of Gambians will not avenge the wrongs meted on their parent? It is an undisputed fact of life that what goes around surely comes around. Although, you surround yourself with “a formidable security network”, there will emerge a lapse that will lead to your imminent catastrophic fall. In fact, some of those pretending to protect you loathe your guts but are just waiting for that split second to strike.
Let us for a moment, President Jammeh, take a look at Liberia and Sierra Leone to draw some lessons on the factors which culminated to their bloody civil wars and contrast it with the current situation in the Gambia under your watch. It is pertinent to state, though, that I will not divulge into detail historical comparative of the two countries I draw references from but identify the causes of their civil wars and underscore their Gambian relevance and demonstrate how we are trekking the path they journeyed to ruin. Empirical study of both civil unrests concluded they resulted due to corruption, collapse and destruction of national institutions, marginalised youth, political muzzling, vendetta, tribalism, the formation of external resistant movements and external assistance.
Corruption is a viral cancer which aggressively destroys the vital organs of national institutions and eventually derails it to tear-jacking obliteration. It creates lifelong insecurity and destruction for both state and the individual. Like Liberia and Sierra Leone, Gambia under President Jammeh is embedded in a cancerous corruption web which spreads from the presidency down to the cleaner on the government pay roll. Lamentably, most Gambians particularly those with itchy fingers at the high echelon of the civil service, perceived stealing from the national coffers as being a “ndinkeng ndo”. Consequently, all the negative anecdotes associated with it have been watered down to give it a new look of glory. For example, on the 22nd of July 1994, President Jammeh had less than a dalasi in his name. Sadly today, he is richer that the Gambian government. Alarming, isn’t it? Loans and grants obtained in the name of the Gambia and payable by Gambian taxpayers are diverted into the pockets of the President and a handful of others. As a result, cost of living sky rockets daily. Basic essentials such as clean water, electricity, rice, sugar and bread become inaccessible for majority of Gambians. Suffice it to re-echo that such living hardship hardens the heart and soils the mind. A society ridden with terminal corruption loses its ethical and moral values. Its people become insensitive to the rights of others and transcend into humans with predatory animals instincts and feelings.
Another factor closely following corruption is the collapse and destruction of national institutions. Every country’s functionality is anchored on its legislative, judicial and executive institutions. In the Gambia, under the seamanship of Jammeh is an exclusive one man governance. He just has to decree his wish and it becomes a law. Owing to his embodiment of the three arms of government, he has successfully eroded their constitutional functions and authority. The legislative house which is tasked with enacting and protecting the laws of the Gambia has become a law producing factory for endorsing his decrees into laws. Similarly, the judiciary is so much prostituted by him that it dishes out selective justice as directed by him. Gambians have lost confidence and trust in the judiciary so much so that most Gambians now prefer to settle their cases out of court. The executive isn’t any better either. Today in the Gambia for one to get quick and immediate service from any civil servant or security officer be it junior or senior one just have to pretend to be associated with Oga or the order is from him. Isn’t that not beating the uncharted drums of civil unrest?
Marginalised youths can equally bring about civil unrest in any society. It is an open secret that Gambian youths are distressingly marginalised by the APRC regime. Gambia is now experiencing alarming school dropout rate which is chasing a mounting youth unemployment saga. Most of them are not only dissatisfied with the type of education they receive at school but cannot find it as a catalyst for employment or personal development. Subsequently, they opt to risk their lives by daring the turbulent and devouring seas for greener pastures in Europe and other viable African countries. What is that suggesting Mr President?
The most devastating of all are the political annihilation and press muzzling. I remember shortly before the 1994 takeover, Halifa Sallah either asked or said something to Jawara who took offence and demanded Halifa to apologize. Halifa, believing in what he said stood his ground and refused to offer an apology and that was it. He was neither arrested nor persecuted for failing to apologize to the President. Are you that tolerant Mr Jammeh? You know more than anyone else were democratic process fails to effect a political change, force will eventually usher it in. When a people are suppressed and oppressed for a while, they will become rebellious and fight to regain their alienated rights by any means necessary. Gambians have lost the taste and feel of freedom 20 years ago. We live in relentless fear, poverty and harassment. Thus, you are compelling Gambians to take up arms and rise against your brutal regime. Elections became a sham characterized by disquieting voter registration rigging, monopoly of state instruments and resources your incumbent government and political thuggery.
Most importantly, when the web that holds and unifies society is dismembered, vendetta becomes its defining force. Where jungle law reigns, its inhabitants become callous and barbaric; love, care, sympathy and justice flies away in shame. However, this becomes even more dangerous when its leader believes and has a chip of vendetta on his shoulder. That is precisely what President Jammeh tasked himself to do. He nurtured a concept that he is a society’s misfit. He, therefore, concluded it is Gambians who are responsible for his unpleasant childhood memories. Accordingly, he will make sure Gambians pay for every moment of his horrible years.
Finally, Gambians in the diaspora decided that enough is enough. They came together to form groups and organizations that will champion the restoration of democracy and rule of law in the Gambia. Efforts are directed at soliciting both funds and political pressure to effect political change in the Gambia. Honestly, no option is ruled out.
Mr President, I will conclude with a cautionary metaphor summed by Jaliba Kuyateh, “jusoo la kandi watoo aa nyaboo mu kukolen mbaati”.
Sulayman Jeng, Birmingham, UK