On Tuesday August 5th, Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh is expected to be in Washington for a summit of African and United States government officials. Gambians in the United States are preparing to give Mr. Jammeh the reception he deserves and we want to talk about why every Gambian ought to be out to meet him to show him and others how angry we are about his mis-leadership, his despotism and the government-by-stealing policy that he pursues.
President Jammeh has refused to have us overseas Gambians enfranchised even after the Commonwealth promised to fund the exercise. He has been many a time seen on state media castigating us overseas Gambians for daring to criticize him. He has let loose his thugs, both official and private, to torment and harass us at airports and border posts, to monitor our telephone conversations and electronic mails. When we travel home to meet our loved ones, we are at times followed by his spies, arrested and harassed by his men, therefore detained and question over trifles me times even made to disappear without trace. Many of us have our hearts in mouth all through out our visit in the country. While in there we see the signs of fear, anguish and distress on the faces, of our loved ones in the fading glitter of the eyes, in the folds of worries on brows, and the nervous and jerky stature of their motion , in the coarse, husky breaks of the voice and we begin to realize that dear Gambia has really been turned into hell for most people there. Before it used to be “Gambia, no problem,” but now it is “Gambia, too many problems.”
Yes, the problems are many and varied, multifaceted as never before. It is not the normal problems of African poverty that we were born and bred in, that flourishes everywhere on the African continent that was conventional and was a poverty by default. It was a poverty caused by things we failed to do and since we were all the supposed doers, so it was one whose fault we were all to share blame for and therefore more bearable. But the poverty that has been simmering under the Jammeh dictatorship and under whose yoke we now suffer is one by design, deliberate and therefore the worst type.
This poverty is not only worst but it also comes with repression and terror so that we are not free to moan against it. Before, a sizable chunk of the Gambian population was on the way to becoming the country’s middle-class, with manageable incomes, landed property, chauffeur-driven wives to the market and kids to schools and even annual holidays to Europe or North America. Now that nascent class is being liquidated as a social group with little hope for the future. Most have fled the country into self-exile, some have retired into obscurity, some are in jail or out of it but catching hell with families that are breaking into pieces. Many have resorted to early death as escape from poverty and its humiliation.
Jammeh is a curse to our nation, an affront to our honor and a challenge to our humanity. No country is ruled by a tyrant as mad, wicked and malicious as Yahya Jammeh. He is someone who keeps malice even against the dead. As recently demonstrated in the case of our late , Buba Baldeh, Kukoie Samba Sanyang before him, as well as the late Sheriff Dibba and UDP’s Hon. Gassama AND Samura before him.
No other leader in the world sends tens of thousands of his subjects to “volunteer” as laborers on his many farms. Now, the biggest landowner in the country, if not in the sub-region, all the properties acquired through unlawful land grabbing of land be it of state, community or private individual ownership. The man is a maniac in the mind and a menace to all citizens living in his fiefdom, which the country has truly become hell. He snarls, dishes out threats and insults; grabs innocent citizens and jail or murder them just for the fun of it.
While Lang Tombong and company continue to suffer on the death row, everybody knows that Rambo, their Lebano-Gambian companion was allowed to go after the payment of ransom money. Jammeh knows we know what transpired but he does not give a damn about justice and fair play or what we citizens think about him and his lack of any scruple.
Stimulated by all sorts of drugs and hallucinogens Jammeh feels superhuman and considers himself master witch-doctor, master healer, mandated by the heavens to cure all sorts of diseases , takes us to the status of economic super power of the world, oil economy dwarfing Kuwait and all the others and the valley of River Gambia transformed to Silicon Valley.
But , a country, they say, gets the leader it deserves. Some will not agree on the absolute truth of these words, but Jammeh’s reign of terror has lasted too long, the number of people he sent to their early graves too many, and the torments he has unleashed upon our nation too profound. So we must take part of the blame because we continue to tolerate a rule we all now know is harmful to the nation, ravaging to the country and systematic pauperization for the people.
But none among us dare to speak out against this misrule. The leaders of our communities, our mosques and churches , our civil institutions and societies, our prominent personalities and traditional leaders all shy away from speaking out and instead, often go into sycophantic spells of praising the tyrant and his works. Jammeh decides who should be in the executive committee of the so-called Supreme Islamic Council, who should be the imam of the King Fahad Mosque in Banjul. The imam of a mosque in Gambisara and before this, one in Serekunda. The Supreme Islamic Council, upon Jammeh’s request and insistence, anointed him with the title “Sheikh,” something, unprecedented and way out of the council’s mandate and purview. So people who are concerned with restoring sanity in our leadership cannot find any help from the Islamic clergy. The two who dared speak out, Imam Ba Kawsu Fofana and Imam Baba Leigh now living in exile. The Supreme Islamic Council shied away from making any public comments when the two imams were separately arrested, detained and tortured. Members of the council have even been accused by some for helping in trying to get Imam Ba Kawsu sent back to the hands of his torturers. So no, soliciting can be expected from the Islamic Council or the Muslim clergy as a whole.It was just on Tuesday July 22nd the Banjul Mosque committee with their Imam Ratib organize the Recitation of the holy Quran praying for President Jammeh in commemoration of the July 22d “Revolution”
Soliciting cannot be expected from the Catholic Church either since Bishop Clearly was threatened with deportation by President Jammeh several years ago and is succeeded by another European who does not look like someone to meddle in our domestic politics .
Our opposition politicians continue to operate under very tough and difficult environment, which sometimes resulted to them being unfairly label ineffective and fractious.
The youth, after the April 10th 2000 debacle in which adults failed to back them up, have resigned themselves from concern for country and instead concentrating on how to get out of it.
The womenfolk, in towns, cities or peri-urban shanties, who Jammeh consider a natural constituency, with female Vice President, female cabinet ministers, propped up Yaye Compins, who enjoy Jammeh’s verbiages against their men, and with many as widows or divorcees single-handedly living on remittances sent from children afar, prefer swinging with the APRC bandwagon than with the money- trapped UDP or the dreary PDOIS . Their fellows out in the countryside continue catching the hell of both domestic exploitation and reinforced national oppression.
So as can be seen, the future for our country remains bleak, no light in the tunnel and no group of Gambians constituting any hope for any early salvation from the Jammeh autocracy. It is our hope that the swelling Diaspora Gambian communities who live far from the reach of Jammeh’s repressive arms and can raise protest without any serious consequences for their persons. This is why I take this broadcasts specially to call on you, and urge you to join the protest action planned for Jammeh when he comes to the U.S. on the 5th August. Let us not only act for our own individual good. Let us also, sometimes, take a glimpse of the common good. In my opinion, the only thing that can save The Gambia if enough Gambians live for something or someone other than themselves. That term ‘enough’ denotes the critical mass needed to move the wheels of history. We may be far from home, but this does not free us from all concern and responsibility, also it does not render us irrelevant and ineffective. Look at the last time, we did not have enough time to organize it properly, not many were on the ground in front of the hotel, but we were able to really rattle the tyrant, as if in a cage. That action shook him out of his wits, sending him abusive against Mandinkas, making many such people more opposed to him or less cheerful. It made him go into sending official insults to the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States. Many Gambians at home had the opportunity of seeing him appear powerless on state television and many were delighted at it and started having hopes. That is how that critical mass is attained, incrementally, sometimes spontaneously, other times in organized fashion. So you count on bringing about that critical mass by leaving whatever you are doing, just for a couple of hours, to join your fellow countrymen and women do something about the Jammeh menace. You are doing it for country, its people, God and yourself. You will come out of that action spiritually regenerated because it is the right thing to do. When those young fellas tried it and were gunned down terror gripped hold of our nation and it is still in that grip, we who are outside, who all we risk is the cost of tube tickets or taxi fares, time and perhaps some inconveniences. You go, make time to be sure you are there among them. Yes, your studies are important, so your work, your family, both here and back home rely on you, so getting it right is important, but the affairs of your country and community are also important,
Listen, some of us used to be students in Sierra Leone where we met one old African American tourist in front of the Gambian embassy. We got into a long chat about Kunta Kinteh, the television series and about the author of Roots. Then we came to the business of corruption, chaos and the ugly face of Sierra Leonean poverty. He said just that morning he saw a Syrian or Lebanese shopkeeper kicking a black man while others just stood watching, some even enjoying it.
“You see, the way they idly by stood watching in the same way they are watching and Joseph Momoh and his gang ruin the country. And because they are not standing up for the collective challenge, they will pay for it dearly in the not too distant future. Brother, believe me, I know what am talking about. It’s between you and others, it’s a social contract. The longer you submit to tyranny the more you will have to pay later.”
We have all seen when Sierra Leone exploded, all hell broke loose, thousands of citizens had their limbs chopped off. I remember what the old man told me. I see the same coming towards our country and its future and I say let us stop it. Come join us stop it, avert it , join us. I see men and women rising up and hacking at one and other with sticks, machete, knives and whatever because they speak different tongues. I see mobs lynching and burning up bodies of others who belonged to different political parties or opinions. I see whole neighborhoods going up in flames and the whole population on the run. Going out to talk sense to Yahya Jammeh is one way of helping prevent such a specter landing upon our nation. You will be out to stop it for yourself, family, friends, neighbors, the country, humanity and posterity. Remember some of the rights and privilege you today enjoy as a black person in the United States you do because other people , nearly fifty years ago , left all they were doing to join marches and protest demonstrations, got beaten by the police or even killed.
It is your turn now, come up and join us rattle the visiting dictator.
Ramadan Mubarak, May Allah Help Us. Eid Mubarak!