A YEAR SINCE JAMMEH’S ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST
It was a little more than a year ago, Wednesday the 9th October 2013, that the Government of The Gambia in Banjul officially issued what it called an exposure of “the United States of America’s hostile actions against The Gambia since 1994.”
In a televised statement read on behalf of the Government, the then secretary general, head of the Civil Service and the minister for Presidential Affairs, Momodou Sabally. The ex-top state official is now serving a jail term and faces several other allegations . Last week, at about the time of the first anniversary of the release of the first curious anti-Western statements, 5th of October 2014, a magistrate’s court in Banjul decided that Mr. Sabally was to be transferred from the fearsome
torture chambers of the National Intelligence Agency to the Remand Wing of the Mile Two Central prisons outside Banjul. There Mr. Sabally must have met his predecessor, Dr. Njogu Bah as the malignity of fate would have had it.
In his days as The Gambia’s second most important man, Dr. Njogu had also been the author of several such un-stately official statements attacking former Senegalese President Wade, Ivory Coast President Alhassane Outara and, of course, traditional punching bags, the governments of United
Kingdom and United States.
Though the literary style of the official denunciations authored by the two successively could be easily made out, the crude logic, brutish choice of words and the mental immaturity that pervaded through all of them were the same. They were like transcripts of long and jumbled harangues by a man
under the influence of marijuana or cocaine scribbled down on paper by his loyal servants.
In the first statement, issued on the 5th October 2013 Sabally reminded Gambians of the British and US Governments’ various attempts to have Jammeh government overthrown since its installation in July 1994,. The statement put the cause of this Western hostility, on the Great July 22nd 1994
“Revolution’s” assertion of Gambia’s independence from her colonialist and neo colonialist hegemony and the refusal to allow them “exploiting our natural resources to the detriment of The Gambia.”
The October 5th statement stressed:
*“THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA’S HOSTILE ACTIONS AGAINST THE GAMBIA SINCE
*Gambians and the whole world are hereby reminded of the British and US Governments’ various attempts to have this current Government overthrown since 1994 when the Great July 22nd 1994 revolution definitively and truly asserted Gambia’s independence from their colonialist and neo colonialist hegemony thereby ending all their hopes of exploiting our natural and
petroleum resources to the detriment of The Gambia.*
*“The first was the US and UK sponsored coup attempt on November 11th 1995 led by the then Army Commander Lt. Barrow. All those coup plotters that escaped by going to the US and Senegalese Embassies including Bakary Bunja Darboe, a former Vice President under the PPP regime, and a dismissed Finance Minister under the AFPRC who escaped the jurisdiction by riding in the official flag car of the then Senegalese Ambassador to The Gambia, Mr. Moctar Kebbeh, were issued US and British Visas by their respective Embassies in Dakar and given Asylum in the US and B B Darboe in the UK.*
*“Since that coup plot failed; up till today, these two Western powers have continued in their relentless efforts to destabilize this country desperately using every means possible from sponsoring coup plots to financing the opposition and mounting a vigorous smear campaign consisting of outrageous lies and false allegations against The Gambia.”*
Note that this was the first time the infighting that broke among soldiers of the Gambia Armed Forces on the 11th November 1994 was being mentioned officially and also that it was a coup in the making with alleged backing of the two Western powers.
A still unknown number of soldiers lost their lives in that fighting and it has been alleged that when the discontented soldiers at the Fajara barracks were made to believe that a team of junta negotiators were on the way coming, they were surprised with an armed contingent of pro-junta forces who over ran the barrack, killed many, took the rest to the Yundum barracks and buried some of the detainees alive.
The coup that took the junta to power three months and eleven days earlier was executed without any shed of blood but with the November 11th massacres, The Gambia came to lose her innocence and the military junta, which had been entertaining the idea of handing back power to civilian rule, began to think of dropping that idea altogether. Their plight came to resemble a rider on the back of a tiger who cannot disembark for fear of being consumed and must therefore keep on riding for the foreseeable future, never stopping much less disembarking. It was and still is a long long ride without any particular direction or target; it was riding for riding’s sake, without any purpose only to avoid any enquiry into the killings, the apportioning of blame and possible retribution for the murderous crimes of
November 11th 1995 . This eventuality, however, must come sooner or later.
Since the events that transpired during that tragic week of November 1994 had never been officially mentioned until nineteen years later,5th of October 2013, the mercurial Gambian leader must have been under some very formidable pressures.
And remember, the statement was like an after-thought given the fact that just four days earlier the Gambia government had issued a similar denunciatory statement against the two Western governments. That one was about three times lengthier, more dramatic and comprehensive. Seen from the viewpoint of Banjul, the October 9th statement was like a finishing upper-cut, exposing the contents of alleged secrete security talks between Banjul and Washington and disclosing some of the alleged strong-arm tactics of US diplomacy.
The Jammeh narrative reminds one of statements issued by authorities in the past Cold War days. Because of its consistent anti-colonialist, anti-neo-colonialist and anti-imperialist policies the Gambia government has long been considered enemy to the Western powers, the statement pointed out. They have targeted the government of The Gambia with virulent and permanent smear campaign of lies and slander. This has become all the more clearer with government’s refusal to allow the British and American “vampires” and “locusts” to come and prey upon the innocent Gambian people’s oil wealth, which The Government of The Gambia, “fearing only Allah,” would never allow. According to the narrative in fact the “imperialist powers“ had long nurtured plans of destabilizing, sabotaging
and overthrowing the “legitimate” government of The Gambia, the statement reiterated.
In fact the plans started to be cooked at the Atlanta Olympics, using the tribalist Mandinka party, the UDP, who will never be allowed to rule this country. The imperialists thought because the Mandinkas were in the majority the scheme would work but it never got the blessing of the Almighty Allah, praise be upon him, Ahamdulilahi!
The second, October 9th , statement claimed, “*Our crimes as a Government are, but not limited to, those clearly stipulated in the first statement. The latest being the rejection by the National Assembly of the so called US Gambia Maritime Security Agreement. The letter and spirit of this Agreement clearly meant the total control and exploitation of Gambia’s territorial waters; boarding and searching of all vessels coming to and leaving The Gambia etc. The Honourable members of the National Assembly, representing The Gambian people from Kartong to Koina, detected their ulterior motives and refused to ratify it. This Government, after carefully reviewing the
Agreement to find out exactly why it was not ratified, realized what a catastrophic mistake we have made by signing it in the first place and sending it*.”
And it added:
*“From then on, The Gambia Government, vowing not to repeat the same mistake, decided to subject all security Agreement proposals from the US and UK to full scrutiny by the Minister of Defence, H E The President of The Republic of The Gambia.” *
And it was not only this, the statement went on. There followed a second set of “sinister” but
elaborate proposal put forward by the US Government through their Embassy in The Gambia. The proposed Agreement which is attached to this statement as annex reads:
“*The Embassy of the United States of America present its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of The Gambia and has the honor to refer to recent discussions between representatives of our two Governments regarding issues related to United States military and civilian
personnel and United States contractors (defined as non-Republic of the Gambia companies and firms, and their employees who are not nationals of the Republic of the Gambia, under contract to the United States Department of Defense) who may be temporarily present in the Republic of the Gambia in connection with mutually agreed activities including, for example, ship visits, training, exercises, and humanitarian activities.*”
According to the document published by the authorities in Banjul, the United States Embassy in Banjul had proposed that United States personnel be accorded the privileges, exemptions, and immunities equivalent to those accorded to the administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961; that United States personnel may enter and exit the Republic of the Gambia with United States identification and with collective movement or individual travel orders; that the Republic of the Gambia shall accept as valid all professional licenses issued by the United States, thereof or their political subdivisions to United States personnel for the provision of services to authorized personnel; and that the Republic of the Gambia authorities shall accept as valid, without a driving test or fee, driving licenses or permits issued by the appropriate United States authorities to United States personnel for the operation of vehicles. The Embassy further proposes that United States personnel be authorized to wear uniforms while performing official duties and to carry arms while on duty if authorized to
do so by their orders.
The Government of the Republic of the Gambia recognizes the particular importance of disciplinary control by United States Armed Forces
authorities over United States personnel and therefore, authorizes the Government of the United States to exercise criminal jurisdiction over United States military personnel while in the Republic of the Gambia.
According to the Banjul statement . “*The Embassy further proposes that the nUnited States Department of Defense and United States personnel shall not be liable to pay any tax or similar charge assessed within the Republic of the Gambia and that the United States Department of Defense and United States personnel may import into, export out of, and use in the Republic of the Gambia any personal property, equipment, supplies, material, technology, training or services in connection with activities under this agreement. Such importation, exportation, and use shall be exempt from any inspection, license, other restrictions, customs duties, taxes, or any other charges assessed within the Republic of the Gambia.”*
“*The Embassy also proposes that the United States Department of Defense may contract for any material, supplies, equipment, and services (including construction) to be furnished or undertaken in the Republic of the Gambia without restriction as to choice of contractor, supplier, or person who provides such material, supplies, equipment or services. Such contracts shall be solicited, awarded and administered in accordance with the laws and regulations of the Government of the United States of America*.”
The statement went on with a long litany of allegations against the US embassy in Banjul relating to the said proposal said to have been dated and sent Tuesday 27th November 2012 .
The proposal was not only rejected by the country’s wise and patriotic leader it led to the dismissal of Agreement was not only rejected outright, but led to the dismissal of the then Permanent Secretary Ministry of Defense, Mr. Pa Harry Sambou, according to the October 9th release, for approving and signing the proposal.
The allegations against the US government were many and some were quite interesting. According to the thinking in Banjul not all American diplomats were convinced of the wisdom of US’s policy of hostility against the authorities in Banjul. Such “*honest and fair-minded diplomats*” were often unceremoniously recalled before completing their tour of duty in The Gambia. The statement alleged that, “ *The cases of these former US Ambassadors to The Gambia would buttress this point.*
*Jackson Mcdonald, Pamela White and, the latest, Edward M. Alford who just left recently and his replacement has not yet taken post. Interestingly enough these noble God Fearing Americans are normally posted to trouble spots after their removal from The Gambia as both punishment for their conscience and a warning to future Ambassadors that if they refuse to join the smear campaign bandwagon intended to destabilise the current Government, they will be sent to dangerous trouble spots. This is buttressed by the recent posting to Southern Afghanistan of the last US Ambassador to The Gambia, Ambassador Alford.”*
The statement concluded that, ”*These are the facts that have led to this ignoble and Satanic Smear Campaign against The Gambia*.”
But a year after this mad outburst from Banjul, relations continue to sour because primarily by the excesses in Banjul. US and other Western diplomats in Banjul continue to tolerate it because they are unable to find alternatives among the gallery of personalities within the locally based opposition politicians as a result of their inability to unite behind one candidate. Western observers share the same skepticism with the average Gambian voter. Can we change this in the run up to the 2016 presidential?
Many Gambians cannot imagine the holding of free and fair elections that can pave the way for peaceful transition to democracy. What such people often fail to realize is that with sufficiently committed, innovative leaders, the masses of citizens can be aroused, Jammeh’s political thugs neutralized and the regime put on the defensive, till final victory. It is when we get the critical number of Gambians who care about the common good that we can begin to turn things around.