When the New African magazine gave an exclusive interview to President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia who sought to mislead the world about the Gambia and himself, it was quite appropriate that Prof. Baba Galleh Jallow, a Gambian based in United States submitted a rejoinder to set the records straight. Since then the magazine has seen several letters in which the writers not only derided Professor Jallow for condemning President Jammeh, but many have gone further to support the president. In his letter Jallow attempted to fault the historical claims and development achievements of Jammeh as compared to colonialism. Many writers felt Jammeh was right in removing the Gambia from the Commonwealth and extoled him as one of those progressive leaders in Africa. I found this very unfortunate and sad as a Gambian who lives in the Gambia that you would have supposedly fellow Africans in this day and age of technology and enlightenment, who do not seem to know, even care about the state of affairs in any African country.
In the first place, Jallow was not seeking to celebrate colonialism, rather where you have an immoral tyrant whose only pre-occupation is to distort facts in order to deceive his people so that he can continue to entrench his misrule violently, it is therefore necessary to state the hard facts to expose his deception. Yahya Jammeh has spent the entire 20 years of his corrupt leadership on lambasting the former regime of President Dawda Jawara and colonialism, when all socio-economic and political indicators have shown that the Gambia is retrogressing since he took office. One may wish to check the facts from reports by ECOWAS, AU, UN, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and Mo Ibrahim Foundation on good governance, among others on the Gambia. The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights which sits in Banjul has made numerous decisions on the Gambia highlighting intimidation, harassment, torture and murder of human rights defenders, journalists, security personnel, and opposition members as well as raising concern on the constant violations of fundamentals rights and freedoms in the country for which the government disregards with impunity.
Gambians do not cherish colonialism, but we refuse to be misinformed about colonialism. For example the British never colonialized the Gambia for 400 years. The first Europeans to set foot on what is now called the Gambia was in 1455 from Portugal. Then with the ending of the America Revolutionary War in 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed in which the French crown guaranteed to British crown possession of the Gambia river area and Fort James, which is now called Kunta Kinteh Island. In 1807, the British said they abolished slave trading throughout their empire. They went on to claim the founding of Banjul Island in 1816, which they named St. Mary and called Banjul, Bathurst after Henry Bathurst, the Secretary of the Colonial Office. It was not until 1889, four years after the Berlin Conference that an agreement between Britain and France caused the Gambia’s present boundaries to be established. From then on, the Gambia became a British Protectorate in 1894, with the whole of the Gambia firmly under British colonialism in 1902 when they finally conquered the remaining resistant kings. In fact it was the Duchy of Courland and Semi Gallia of present day Lithuania and Poland, which first set up their first colony in Africa in Banjul in 1651, and not the British. Then how can anyone therefore claim that the British colonized the Gambia for 400 years?
Just because a government has built a university and a television station and hospitals is no justification for subjecting citizens to arbitrary arrests, detention, torture and enforced disappearance.