20 YEARS AFTER A REVOLUTION IN WHICH THE
‘REVOLUTIONARIES’ SHOT THEMSELVES IN THE FEET
By Amat JENG
SWEDEN — On the 22nd of July 2014, our country – The Gambia – marks 20 years since our democracy and freedom were stolen from us by the consequence of what political animals will call a ‘revolution’. A revolution indeed, hence the current status quo!
Twenty years down the line, we are still grappling with the meaning and significances of this revolution, which was supposedly meant to put an abrupt end to timocracy, crony capitalism and political corruption.
It’s obvious that the ultimate purpose of a revolution is to empower the masses and creates a new society. However, the euphoria with which the July 22nd revolution was received has turned to a battery of disillusions: the revolutionaries shot each other’s feet, leading to imprisonment of the fortunate ones (Sana Sabally etc.), summary execution of the hapless ones ((Abdoulie Dot Faal etc.), exile of the wise ones (Alhagie Cham Joof – Sir Jackal etc.), and eventually plunging the country into more or less a powerful fiefdom within the spectrum of politics, akin to Machiavellianism.
Consequently, this is the recipe for a failed revolution; and these events went on to serve as preludes to our suffering as a nation and further helped construct an insane system in which every Gambian becomes a potential political victim (because Jammeh’s whip spares no one, even those who grease the wheels and keep the spares apart – Njogu, Sabally, Benedict etc.).
Understanding that one of the most important motives of a revolution is that the revolutionaries have become wary of the existing status quo, the July 22nd revolution could have been an anatomy of a successful one, given the nature of political nomadism during Jawara’s thirty-year rule: a section of the working class was marginalized and obviously influenced both by the bureaucracy leftover from the Jawara’s era and their de-politicization.
So, in other words, president Jammeh had had the opportunity to not only become a combination of prowess and firm leader through democratizing the country, but also a revolutionary inspiration to the world and a hero to the proletariats. But, as the saying goes: ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ So is the outcome in the case of mainland Africa’s smallest nation – The Gambia.
Few years after he had come to power, president Jammeh succeeded in jettisoning his enemies (so-called counter-revolutionaries), silencing his subjects and instituting a kind of a quasi-socialist system (remember he owns bakeries, tailoring shops, he sells sand, he sells rice, he sells meat etc.) that cripples the private sector so much that the government becomes the gateway to employment.
What happens next? This system turns citizens into political clients and intellectual prostitutes. And in the process of becoming clients of the state, we are being robbed of our customer rights. This is how the door becomes widely opened for Jammeh to view democracy but as a charade, to rob us of our meagre resources, and freedom.
I hold that it’s a baloney to talk about July 22nd revolution in abstract, without asking ‘July 22nd revolution for whose benefit’. It’s a common knowledge that every country, whose people have been politically and socially subjugated, does need a revolution. Not just a mere pseudo-revolution in the case of our country, but a revolution for the blue-collar workers (call it the working class or proletariats); a revolution that eventually brings about social and economic independence and introduces a representative democracy.
During a short stop at the Kastrups airport in Copenhagen, Denmark, I met a demographically young Gambian who came from an agrarian family, looking urgently for an answer to a question he posed me: “… I am not a politician, but when shall we be free”, he asked, as if I am one. Well!! I am not a politician too, but the answer to your question is: ‘whenever your father, back in your village is able to walk to the URR governor’s office with a placard that reads ‘where does my tax money go?’, I replied. He bade me farewell and disappeared in the crowd.
The thought that I am a utopian communist may had been pulling strings in his heart. However, his demand for a quick-fix answer to our national problems clearly exhibits how desperate Gambians are for a new revolution that will replace bellicose nationalist Yahya Jammeh and usher in a new government that will empower the popular masses to exercise their political rights as masters of state and society, and free them from all kind of social oppressions. This is not a utopia, but a reality than be achieved.
The question always arises: ‘How do we do this’? The answers can be very broad and therefore eludes my little political knowledge. However, I won’t hesitate to state that educating the masses, building strong organisations and harnessing our efforts are key components to start with. It’s important to note that the revolutionary overthrow of a government or the democratically changing of a tyrant government is but a baptism by fire.
Whilst we are creating strong networks, it is very prudent to avoid the crab mentality: if you put many crabs in a bucket and one of them happens to find the way out and embarks on crawling out of the bucket, the ones remaining inside will try to pull the crawling crab back. This action can set back the progress of our common struggle as a people.
However, I do have an involuntary commiseration to those who think the July 22nd revolution is worth celebrating. This day should instead serve as a food for thought, not only for the people whose freedom and democracy were stolen, but the people who stole them as well.
As a leader, it’s sagacious to think whether it’s worth the salt to be in the helm of a government for 20 years and not having created a room for one to remain in the country after that power is lost.
But then again, there are presidents who never learn their lessons even after the school’s bell is gone.
Happy ‘July 22nd’ to you, Mr President!!
Amat JENG is a Gambian journalist, blogger and social media activist, now based in Sweden. He can be reached by email: email@example.com