Fatou Jaw Manneh Goes to Washington

Gambian Activist Fatou Jaw Manneh

 By Foday Samateh

Unlike James Stewart in Frank Capra’s classic political drama “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” she didn’t go there with any high-minded illusions to do good. She went there simply to cause trouble. And trouble she caused along with her fellow travelling band of happy rabble rousers and party crashers. Reading her interview with Gainako, it was hard to tell which to feel sorrier for: Obama’s US-Africa Summit or the African leaders he invited. The White House, scrambling to play catch-up to China in Africa, would have the world believe that the summit they billed as a historic gathering for realignment of mutual interests was a spectacular success. The kindest and gentlest retort Jaw would allow herself was to dismiss the summit as a photo-op for Obama to claim that he too, like his recent predecessors in the Oval Office, has done something for Africa.

And then she descended on her real targets. She lashed out at the African leaders with her special brand of invectives that make you laugh and cringe in the same breath. Her cartoonist depiction of them and satirical take on their presence in Washington provide abundant comic relief even as the truth behind the caricature serves sober reminders why Africa is still in the state of misery. Not even Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria had enough good luck to be spared her sharp rebuke for failing to bring back the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram and deal a deadly blow to the Islamic terrorists. Yahya Jammeh, say all you wish about him, was no fool. The Baabili Mansa of Banjul turned into a rat in D.C. by holing up in his hotel and proved the coward he really is rather than brave the protesters that converged to name and shame him before the world.

The only leaders Jaw had good things to say about were the Malian President and Jacob Zuma of South Africa. On the latter I beg to differ. Zuma’s invitation to the National Press Club had very little purchase with me. He is as corrupt and ignoble as any of his transgressing brethren. He is doing everything he can to ruin Mandela’s South Africa into another dysfunctional African banana republic, and if he didn’t succeed by the time he stepped down from power, it wouldn’t be for lack of trying. Besides the difference of opinion on cunning and conniving Zuma, I concur on every aspersion she cast on this disheartening crowd of useless men. Her decrying evoked something much deeper than the obvious emotional appeasement. The sight of these so-called leaders all arriving in Washington, Beijing, Paris, Ankara or some tiny capital of some tiny Gulf State for help is sad, demeaning and embarrassing. Nothing so clearly personifies subservient mentality with all its attendant symbolisms. The saddest still is to admit the cruel fact that these are the men who speak and think for Africa as our heads of state. Imagine fifty versions of Yahya Jammeh in charge of the continent and you wouldn’t need a sage to tell why Africa, instead of earning the world’s envy, receives its pity.

Moving beyond the events and encounters at Obama’s photo-op summit, Jaw shared a good piece of her mind about the “struggle” for freedom in The Gambia. She was a woman of all seasons in that segment of the interview. She spoke as a battled-hardened fighter ever determined to stay the course for as long as the cause required. She also spoke as a commentator on the struggle mincing no words in dispensing advice and criticism in all directions. Jovial, dismissive, critical, sarcastic, blunt, facetious, upbeat, gloomy, resolved, indifferent, irreverent, reflective, passionate, clinical, sweeping, pithy, sardonic and serene at random, she expressed no reservations about the duty to redeem the country from the claws of despotism, but wasn’t reticent either with her qualms and misgivings about the state of the struggle to meet the challenge. While she aired grave concerns about the commitment of some individuals to the cause, for instance, she joked about appointing herself the gatekeeper of the struggle to keep out infiltrators, double-crossers, collaborators and opportunists.

She pointed the suspicious finger at some quarters and singled out a few good men for bounteous praise. Mathew K. Jallow for employing his writerly prowess to the struggle on behalf of any issue and individual in need of a public advocate. And Dr. Abdoulaye Saine for dedicating his time and illustrious erudition to the patriotic cause while the other intellectuals garlanded with Ph.Ds have been nowhere to be seen. Her defence of the duo was great and it’s hard to argue with the way she laid out her argument about each man’s merits and sacrifice. She had good things to say about the opposition parties on the ground in The Gambia as well.

Then the pure sad part about the former enablers of Yahya Jammeh staking their shape-shifting claim to the struggle. And her beef isn’t just with the disgraced minions and mandarins, and their brazen and unrepentant on-the-flight-to-exile conversion. Here is her Facebook posting embedded in the interview: “These loud-mouths think they can outdo the past just with a wink wink. They are all liars. Where were they all these years when Jammeh was committing all these crimes? They were all sitting tight on their jobs and positions. Jammeh was okay until they get fired from their jobs. We know Jammeh. A brutal and cruel human being through and through. I need no revelations or preaching or education on that. They will tell you Jammeh killed and hacked some limbs and buried some alive. They will never tell you that they ferried those bodies for mass burials. They will never tell you that they have amassed /annexed or are now occupying the houses of one of the victims that Jammeh killed.

“These enablers will never tell you that they have been hiding at the AU villas, air conditioning and electricity blasting 24/7 whilst the average Gambian cannot store fish for an hour. These enablers will not tell you that by being close to Jammeh, they used that power to throw people off their lands, lock up people they despise, force people to contribute to their never ending Jammeh foundation galas and all the nonsense and waste surrounding it. They will never tell you that they have mobilized thousands of hopeless youths to the APRC endless festivals, creating a pool of brainwashed young Gambians. Where were they when Jammeh killed our uncles and fathers around the country accusing them of being witches? That was the worst of all his crimes, and that is what sealed our collective uselessness against Jammeh. All of us. Where were they when the school children got shot and many crippled? Koro Ceesay was burned down alive. Remember Deyda Hydara was shot dead too. Omar Barrow too and Chief Manneh is still missing and his old father still sobbing. Jammeh government is brutal and dangerous. But all these frightening events never shook these enablers out of their positions and cover up for Jammeh. These enablers will not tell you that they have slammed many heads along the way.

“These enablers brought under-age girls for Jammeh at his Kaninlai hideouts, they bring musicians and dancers for him, all inflating the ego of this brutal and dangerous President in the name of Yaya Jammeh. You cannot be close to Jammeh unless you are as terrible as he is or have condone all his terror because you are benefiting from it. The personal wars in the APRC cabal gets tough and complicated and then you have some of these people get kicked out of course naturally. And then all of a sudden it is redemption with complete arrogance. Like a rattle snake they shed the old skin and are now brand new young activists playing on the Gambians obsession with gossip. All they will tell you that Jammeh slept with someone’s wife. And we know that. That is no news. I can go on and on. No one will pull wool over my head. Welcome to the struggle, I say to all of them. Now they can look into the lenses of Gambians in exile and try to feel and understand why we wake up angry most of the time. We, their loud mouths and nyakka barrkehh.

“When these enablers were at the helm, remember we are the losers, loud mouths and unpatriotic citizens. Please if these folks are thrown out by Jammeh, please accord me that freedom and prerogative whether to catch them back with open hands. Why do you think Jammeh treat Gambians this nasty?? Partly he knows most of them are criminals and opportunists just like him. Imagine how he recycles and maltreats them only to be knocking and crawling back to him, and they will take anyone along/down to get these jobs. Just watch your back. These are the very people making our job difficult here as we wait for batch upon batch upon batch to be recycled by Yahya Jammeh.

“And please save me the new Jammeh awareness campaign. The guy is bad through and through, we knew it long time ago when these opportunists were clapping for him. If it continues Jammeh will be there forever I don’t care how loud we scream our lungs out. We have to take this fight to a very sophisticated level. Gambians are all about forgiveness, kindness and are compassionate but nothing can be done will all these opportunists running all over. It is tough and we should speak the truth. We cannot outdo our past with arrogance and fanfare especially when you were hands in a glove with a brutal system killing your friends and neighbours. But I guess in the Gambia everything runs in the reverse.”

Editor’s Note: Foday Samateh is an enigmatic (mysterious) literary giant among Gambian communicators in the English language. His style of writing is provocative, rich and tantalising. A highly intelligent critic of the Jammeh dictator yet Samateh tend to keep away from the public limelight with all his writing abilities. If you know Foday Samateh or have a photo of him, please email to bolonba@gmail.com). I am on a crusade to bring great Gambian communicators to the public limelight. 




  1. No matter how long it will take Gambians to cajole the magic solution to unseat the beast, the day will come when all and sundry will utter the magic word VIOLENCE.
    Whether it will take the form violence demos until he runs away, civil war which he will not be part of because long gone, a bloody or bloodless coup d’etat or a snipper action that blows his brains off into thousand pieces, it will finally, all boiled down to the only solution of our problem: VIOLENCE.
    Let us simply pray that the easyest form of the above scenarios takes precedence.
    For every action there will be a reaction and the beast actions will not be the exception, no matter how long it takes.
    All of us are responsible for what happen to us, yes you are right Brother Samateh and Sister Fatou J Manneh. No need to put off the magic solution for another day.

  2. He is a great writer “mar sha allah” but let him know that 80% of Civil servants and the private sector movers don’t like Jammeh a bit, not all of us can leave the country and not everyone can secure an international job….we have to stay on and feed our families by sticking to our jobs only God knows what’s in our minds it’s very sad that Gambians in the diaspora are missing this point. No one want to be jailed and your family suffers and not every one want to flee and become a dissident abroad. What do you get abroad shady dirty jobs that you pay somebody to do for you in The Gambia. Imagine who likes that no body it’s unimaginable. No good thinking person brags to grab all your qualifications and go live in a country where its not even recognized.
    The truth is if all the diasporan Gambians dare let all of them book tickets and all fly together into Gambia in the name of coming to protest Yaya Jammeh and see whether they will succeed.
    You people don’t know what we go through here if you are even suspected of having a different view from him you loose your job and you go to jail. Your family suffers your kids education stops feeding and paying rent becomes the major trouble if you don’t own a house. So what do you want us to do?

  3. Sitting in your comfortable rooms and calling others enablers is just cheap talk. Go to Gambia if you think you can do better. I worked several years as Government driver, during when i worked at jammehs farm with my colleagues and in public i support Jammeh , because i want to keep my job to feed and pay my kids school fee. Wolahi, you can call me enabler, but God knows i stop supporting Jammeh since 2000. You can believe me or not that is your right Fatou and foday. There are thousands so call enablers like me. I am sure one of your family member is doing same like us, because the whole society is affected.
    In Fatou and foday’s Gambia, i am just a criminal just because we stay in Gambia work for our county under a dictatorship.

    If i get to Europe i will also raise my voice maybe louder than both of you.Talk is cheap…..

  4. @Fuladu and Fansu, I get your points and do understand the dilemma that 80% of government workers go thru right here in Gambia under dictatorship. In fact I would say without mistake that 99% of civil servants dont like JK and the 1% are only pretenders because of the bread crumbs they received directly for their griotism.
    Having said that I aslo sympathize with the diaspora Gambians who work so hard under tough climatic conditions to send money home to the families. Being thousand of miles away, they are blessed with the freedoms that no dictator will allow in the home front.
    When you combine these two problems you will get an EXPLOSION one day. If you revisit the history of all countries that lived under dictatorship, you will see that it took one day when the People will naturally and unconciuosly decide that enough is enough, our lives or the dictator’s live. Since no one can crush people power, dictators end up loosing the battle.
    Under a dictatoship no one is spared, the soldier, the police man, the ordinary man, the wealthy, the intellectual, the driver and the cleaner in short everyone feels the pinch and no one is spared. They will all rise up one day and take their government back.
    No matter how long we postpone the day, it will certainly come and will come as suprise to ALL.
    Jammeh must and will GO!

  5. Lafia Touray la Manju

    Fulladu, why can’t the enablers just vote against him if they really don’t wish to support him since it is sceret ballot system and also to talk to their wives in the bedroom not to be jammeh’s Yai Compin. Is that hard to do as well??

    I think some of these excuses are lame. Some Gambians are more afraid of Jammeh than God. Crazy, isn’t ?

    • @Lafia Touray
      I voted against Jammeh in last two elections. Does my vote count ? You must be naive to believe that a free and fair election is possible under Jammeh.Your statement shows that you are out of touch with the realities on the ground.
      Well, am God fearing and a dedicated Muslim and to say i fear Jammeh more than God is an insult.

  6. Oh! Lafia, do you really know how dictators operate? Dictators will NEVER lose elections. Please ask Capt Kanteh how they used to fix the ballots, then you will understand that elections will never remove dictators. If you know just ONE dictator that was removed by the ballot please let us know.

  7. Lafia Touray la Manju

    They used to say in Senegal that election will not remove Diouf but when the Senegalese people massively voted against him, he himself called and said “you won”. The APRC cannot steal or import 60 percent of the votes from cassamance. Gambians are just providing lame excuses for fearing Jammeh more than God. I am not and will not tolerate any comfort being given to such lame excuses.

    Fulladu, you said you voted against jammeh in the last two elections. What about the previous two elections or are you telling be that you only that something is gone wrong with governance in The Gambia in 2006? You can’t be serious with these kind of lame excuses.


    • @Lafia Touray
      I didn’t vote. Period! Who are you for me to ask for an excuse?
      You are really mixing apples and oranges here. Jammeh didn’t need to import 60 percent of the votes from cassamance. He create it by himself by just changing the figures. You are a day dreamer.