President Jammeh Must Immediately Enter into Talks with the Political Opposition and Diaspora Gambian Dissidents
By any measure, the August 2nd, 2014 political protests that greeted President Yahya Jammeh’s US-Africa Summit visit, was unprecedented in its skillful execution, scope, and success. Gambian dissidents traveled, at great financial and personal expense to Washington, D.C., from far-flung states like Alaska, California, Arizona and remaining states, to register their dissatisfaction with Jammeh, who has since 1994, ruled this tiny and impoverished country with an iron-fist.
Jammeh was holed-up in his hotel-room at the prestigious Hay Adams hotel for well over ten hours, and was physically and psychologically prevented from attending all formal White House functions except the official dinner, and photo opportunity with President Obama and his wife, Michelle. Armed with placards, dissidents chanted and cajoled Jammeh- calling him a “terrorist,” “rapist,” “pedophile,” “drug-dealer,” and “murderer.”
Numbering over a hundred, the show of unity among dissidents was remarkable, as they effortlessly drowned out chants of pro-Jammeh supporters that included several non-Gambians. Under D.C.’s sweltering summer heat, protesters that included children, also shouted out to Jammeh and his entourage and any who cared to listen: “Yahya Jammeh, must go”; “what do we want”? “Justice.” When do we want it”? “Now!” And, before long, a throng of curious spectators gathered, and protesters were only too willing to explain their purpose, which many endorsed with a high-five, a thumbs-up or a cool nod.
The environment was simply electrifying, as protesters from various organizations that included the protest’s organizers, DUGA, and Gambia’s umbrella organization, CORDEG, mingled in solidarity with members of CCG, GDAG and STGDP, other protest groups, and numerous individuals without political affiliation to upstage Jammeh’s visit. It was truly a sight to behold, a reunion of “Who is Who” among longtime Gambian dissidents, who sang in unison: “Na demm, na demma dema dem, su demme beh dem nu deffar Gambia.” (translation: Let Jammeh go, when Jammeh goes, and is really gone, we will then remake Gambia [into a better place]).
Four hours or less into Tuesday’s protest, the pro-Jammeh group, now lacking resolve, and clearly outnumbered, evaporated into thin air. And, as the dissident ranks swelled most remained undaunted, in spite of Jammeh’s seemingly menacing yet toothless security detail and underlings. They too, became the targets of insults, and were vigorously denounced as enablers. In the end, Jammeh was hurriedly and unceremoniously pushed by his handlers into a black van amid louder jeering by protesters- a major victory had just been registered.
On Wednesday, August 3rd, a smaller group of dissidents marched in front of Jammeh’s hotel, displaying placards that denounced Jammeh and his dictatorial ways, when Jammeh, and his entourage arrived. In a flash, and without warning, members of his so-called “Black Boys,” charged into the ranks of the protesters- physically assaulting both Fatou Camara, and Ousainou Mbenga, as well as, Sam Fatty and Ndey Daddo Njie. Before long, the entire vicinity was under lock-down by the D.C. Police, who came out in full-force to stem the violence and secure the premises and begin independent criminal investigations for these unprovoked physical assault.
Apparently, the Wednesday demonstration, was the last straw- following the humiliating showdown on Tuesday. It was a last ditch-effort by Jammeh and his “Boys” to redeem what little shattered pride they had left. The news of the attacks brought in more protesters, reporters, ambulances and needed airtime on the D.C.-ABC affiliate at 11:00PM. Thereafter, the news went viral, and Ms. Camara, and Mr. Mbenga, stood out as the faces of revolt and revolution- another victory for the protesters!
Jammeh’s humiliation last year in New York City and this year’s unprecedented demonstrations in Washington, D.C., are clear indications that Diaspora Gambians can no longer be ignored in the political and economic affairs of The Gambia- doing so would be at Jammeh’s own peril.
Consequently, Jammeh has no choice but to enter into talks with diaspora Gambians and opposition political leaders at home, and address their concerns over meaningful electoral, and political reforms immediately, as the status-quo is odious, and untenable.
Jammeh can no longer continue to ignore these legitimate demands in the face of growing diaspora protests and dissatisfaction with his regime at home. Otherwise, what sense is there in holding elections when victory over a splintered opposition is almost assured?
Jammeh must take the initiative, and use the good offices of newly appointed Secretary-General, Dr. Kalidu Bayo, a widely respected technocrat, to do the leg-work, and possibly call on Senegal, and ECOWAS, to broker the talks. Failing this, Jammeh risks facing a bigger and more menacing group of diaspora Gambian protesters the next time he ventures into the US or any European country, and a spontaneous revolt at home.
Dr. Bayo must not squander, but seize this opportunity to broker the much needed, and long overdue truce between diaspora Gambians, and Jammeh. He must drum-up the needed national, and regime support, more importantly, for this initiative. Otherwise, he too, risks being rendered ineffectual, dismissed and disrespected, as yet another enabler in a long list of cronies. Only then would Karl have redeemed himself, especially, among Gambians who received news of his appointment as the new SG, with disquiet.
Diaspora Gambians and the different groups that won such great success against President Jammeh in Washington, D.C., last week, must also use the momentum generated by these demonstrations, to foster greater unity and to strengthen effective future collaborations, in order to make Gambia’s case to the international community. The struggle continues!
Professor Abdoulaye Saine
Overall great work by the Gambian protesters in the United State of America, which include your honourable self [ professor Abdoulaye Saine]. I am having some trouble with your statement calling Yaya Jammeh to enter talks with the political oppositions and the Diaspora dissident.
Why do you think Mr. professor that, the dialogue is still possible with Yaya Jammeh in the middle of this struggle? Why do you believe Dr. Bayo? could reform Yaya Jammeh’s state House as a new SG?
One thing, i would like to make it loud and clear, the only option left on the table for Yaya Jammeh is to step down and leave the Gambia, otherwise no matter how long this struggle will take us, the good sons and the daughters of the Gambia will one day liberate their country from Yaya Jammeh and his group of criminals in Banjul and be young. There will be no level of manipulation to distract this struggle. In Sha allah Yaya Jammeh will be removed out of the State House by force, and the Gambians will immediately reconcile among themselves without delay. May Allah guide and protect all those involve in this struggle… Ameen!
Well said Burr Saine but please don’t count on Dr Kalilu Bayo. He is only there to provide cover for Jammeh’s mandinkaphobic tendencies. No sincere person will work for somebody who declared a threat against your own people and keep insulting them at every opportunity.
Mandinkadinkurungo ntee watagi bailatee
I pray that some day in the very near future, Gambia will provide all of us a forum to have such dialogue without fear of persecution.
Dr. Saine, I’ve read your article with great interest and while others may rightfully disagree, I would caution people to pause for a moment and look at other nations that have used other means besides a true democratic process to effect change.
Whether you like Yaya or not and trust me, I’m among the first to detest what is happening in the Gambia because I have a family member; a great civil servant that is living the unthinkable nightmare as we speak, I strongly suggest that we rally behind the above proposal. Our nation will be better off if we can convince Yaya Jammeh to sit down and negotiate with us. Our people are bearing the blunt of his stupidity. We must also not fall victim by equating ourselves to the use of force to effect positive change. We have the upper hand as Dr. Saine put it beautifully and Yaya is now cornered. The departure of Pa Bojang and his revelations are a true testament to a collapsing regime.
I’d say we begin by pledging to impose a remittance freeze which will further plunge the nation into total economic collapse. That will not bore well with Yaya Jammeh because the people will rise up. For starters, he must agree to allow the international community to investigate all of the reported atrocities between 1994 and now. Once these conditions are agreed upon, we can then proceed to put in place a transparent electoral process that includes voting rights to the Diaspora. If Jammeh wins in November 2016, he can remain president and I’m confident with Allah’s help, he will be on the loosing end.
Once again, we must not act in such a way that our families that we care about so much, become victims of a crises that once started, no one can predict how it will end. Our people have suffered enough and the only way forward is to force Jammeh to sit and negotiate with us. If he fails to agree to the terms, he will continue to be isolated and will not have peace each time he travels to Europe or the US. We can compound all of that with a remittance freeze!
I would re-iterate Dr. Saine’s initiative and it must also include some stipulations such as a deadline, time and place and more importantly who should attend. Leaders representing the various organizations in the Diaspora, human rights groups, advocates of good governance, respected international organization such as the UN, Yaya Jammeh and his top cabinet members, representatives from ECOWAS, AU, EU and the US should be invited. We must give Yaya some assurances that the meeting will be cordial, free and fair of any intimidation from the Diaspora.
Thank you – Saul Badjie
Good luck to you Saul. You probably have underestimated Kunkenpeleng Foday Alfonso Jemus Junkung Yahya jammeh’s arrogance.