By Ebou Gaye
The news of pardoning of prisoners and Gambians in the Diaspora by the Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh has been received with mixed feelings and reactions. While many people qualify it as a welcome gesture, some opine that it should be treated with caution. Jammeh’s supporters and the released prisoners have thanked him profusely and praised him highly, calling him a merciful, oft-forgiving leader, praying for him abundantly. People on the other side of the divide are of the view that Jammeh has done what he should have done long ago and hence does not deserve such commendation and praises. They believe that Jammeh should repent and seek forgiveness from his compatriots rather that treating them as wrongdoers or villains who deserve his pardon while portraying himself as an infallible being or a saint. According to them, some of those said to have been pardoned have not committed any crime and should not have been imprisoned. They also argue that the Gambians in the Diaspora have not done anything wrong that warrants amnesty or begging pardon from Jammeh, adding that he is unpredictable and as such people should always be cautious when he makes declarations of this sort, lest they get carried away and be disappointed or regret the consequences later. They contend that all Gambians have a stake in the running of the affairs of The Gambia and thus have the right to criticize Jammeh when he goes wrong. Some members of this camp see Jammeh’s move as a political gimmick, and some say he has been put under pressure to act in such a manner.
Whatever the case may be, the fact remains that allowing the prisoners to regain their liberty has given a sigh of relief to them, their loved ones and well-wishers. Viewing the matter from this perspective, one can say that it is a step in the right direction. However, Jammeh’s “amnesty” to Gambians in the Diaspora is dubitable and leaves too much to be desired. There are strings attached to it- the condition of keeping quiet and refraining from criticizing him while in The Gambia. This strongly suggests that he aims to stifle dissent or silence his critics with his pronouncement of amnesty to Gambians in the Diaspora. Therefore, he should be reminded that Gambia belongs to all Gambians irrespective of status or position; that no condition is permanent and that it is unreasonable, unjust and imprudent to try to deny people their god-given, inalienable rights.
At this juncture, I call on Jammeh to go a step further in his move and try to locate or set free all those who have disappeared under his watch and ensure that such disappearances without trace, mysterious killings, arbitrary arrests, detention without trial and torture stop. On a final note, I urge him to desist from issuing threats and try to cultivate the habit of addressing people in a polite, diplomatic way. As a reminder in this regard, I would like to reproduce verbatim an article I wrote in the Daily Observer newspaper of The Gambia on 12 October 2004 under the title “A rap over the knuckles”:
Nowadays, we frequently read or hear reports of Gambians brutalizing their compatriots, threatening to kill them, boasting of having been licensed to kill them, or predicting their death, which had been alien to our society until recently.
Such beastly, immature and misguided behaviour should not go unchecked. Those involved in it should be given a rap over the knuckles or criticized blisteringly, for it has negative ramifications. This behaviour begets rancour whose concomitants are undesirable. Superfluous to say, it runs counter to the teachings of Islam, which the majority of the Gambians claim to embrace.
Islam enjoins kind treatment and forbids cruelty of all forms, including cruelty to animals. According to Islam, anybody who deliberately kills an innocent believer will be sent to hell fire: “Man qatala muminan mutahamidan fajazaa-uhu jahanan.” We are further taught by Islam that tormenting is graver than killing: “Al- fitnatu a-shadu minal qatal.”
A woman is reported to have been sent to hell for locking up a cat and denying it food for sometime out of cruelty. Our venerable prophet (SAW) banned the practice of tattooing animals and advised his followers to sharpen their blades when slaughtering animals so as to minimize their suffering.
Hence, it is flabbergasting and sickening to hear people, particularly those who claim to be Muslims, treating others with cruelty or threatening to take their precious lives for no just cause. What can they gain from this inhumane behaviour? Nothing, except notoriety and God’s wrath!
Additionally, they expose their fallacy, narrow-mindedness and lack of respect for human rights and human dignity, thereby placing their own lives in jeopardy. God has said explicitly that He honours mankind: “La qad karamnaa bani Adam.”
Besides, He created man without seeking help or permission from any human being. Therefore, anybody who sets out to afflict or kill people is challenging God the Omnipotent. Wishing people death or predicting their death is very unwise and utterly un-Islamic. One can implicate himself or have fingers pointed at him, and rightfully so, if such a wicked wish or prediction materializes. Moreover, no one knows when and where he will die, and such a prediction can backfire. God has said that no one knows on which land he will die: “Laa ya-arifu ahadun fi ayi ardhin yamuutu.”
According to Prophet Muhammad (SAW), deeds are judged by intention, and everybody gets what he intends: “Inamaa al-a-maalu bi niyaatin wa inamaa likuli imri-in maa nawaa.” It is for this reason that he advised that everybody wishes others what he wishes himself: “Hib li naasi maa tuhiba linafsika.”
It should be borne in mind that whatever pretext used to kill people is known to God the Omniscient and that those who kill, harbour killers or license people to kill others are not powerful enough to resist death or immune their agents from death or save themselves or such feeble-minded agents from God’s chastisement. It is also worthy to note that no work in the service of mankind can be meaningful or beneficial or attract God’s reward in default of kindness and respect for human rights and human dignity.
Thus, those merciless, sadistic Gambians who torment their compatriots, threaten to kill them, wish them death or boast of having the power or authority to kill them and go scot-free, should be enlightened if they fail to see reason an repent or kick out their nasty habit. It is incumbent on all Gambians, especially their relatives, friends and associates, to try to edify such errant people, for their acts could be detrimental to all.
One may ask: Why do people make such wicked, foolish utterances? The answer is simple. They are arrogant. Some people, by virtue of their status, become so haughty or arrogant to the extent of seeing themselves as demigods who can behave anyhow. This is particularly the case when such people believe or know fully well that it would be extremely difficult or impossible for them to attain such status under normal circumstances. I put it to those people that their aberrant behaviour is unwarranted, for there are other people of equal or higher status who humble themselves and behave maturely. Arrogance is a dangerous, unethical behaviour. According to our Prophet (SAW), anyone who has an iota of arrogance in his heart will not enter paradise: “Laa yadkhulu aljanata man kaana fi jawfihee misqaala tharatin minal kibri.”
By behaving arrogantly, one alienates people and earns enemies. Hence, arrogance doesn’t pay. Abhor it! Don’t trifle with people!