By Dodou Jawneh
Congratulate Jammeh for what? It looks like another case of Jammeh paving the road to hell with good intentions. Those who salute this move of releasing prisoners and giving so-called amnesty to Gambian dissidents are creating a new, dangerous and another naive front for Jammeh’s propaganda machine – putting innocent people in prison and releasing them at a later date and then claim the credit for magnanimity. Our priority should be to pray for the released prisoners so that they can recover their shattered lives. As for Jammeh, he should instead be tried for putting many of these people in prison without any legal basis in addition to all the other crimes he committed against the Gambian state. He cannot be serious about national reconciliation when in effect the newly enacted diabolical electoral reform law closed the door for genuine opposition.
Was his so-called amnesty not been granted on condition that that the Gambian dissidents would surrender their rights and refrain from criticizing the actions of the regime? After all these years of insulting the diaspora, and Jammeh suddenly calling for a reconciliation with the dissidents have to be analysed more critically. It demonstrates palpable resemblance to Robert Mugabe’s recent move to seek reconciliation with Zimbabwean diaspora dissidents and calling for their investment in the economy. Jammeh would have realised the crucial role of the diaspora’s money for his survival. His regime’s sources of finance are increasingly being diminished, a phenomenon articulated well by many observers. He must have realised the value of remittances to feed not just the nation but also his greed, because these monies are increasingly being used to buy goods and services provided by Jammeh’s expanding personal business interests. Any reduction in the amount of remittance will have devastating impact on Jammeh’s cash-strapped economy. And his cronies, with a modicum of understanding of economics, would have whispered this into his remaining functioning ear – the one receptive to personal interest propositions. So tell me Diaspora, what is it you think Jammeh loves – your faces or your monies? Is the dissident community not merely a surrogate of the Gambian opposition, whose tireless effort they are complimenting? Therefore raising the olive branch to the diaspora and firing more salvos at the opposition is, at best, like putting the cart before the horse, which will not take the journey anywhere. To situate it better, this is a naked disingenuous move by the regime.
What about his pardon of the incarcerated military officers? Even this has to be looked at with a great deal more suspect. It has been catalogued variously that the Gambian army, the single most important instrument of his survival, also bore the greater brunt of Jammeh’s draconian rule. And the army personnel must have realised now that they are only being used as cannon fodder by Jammeh and as soon as anyone is no longer needed, they are discarded in some cruel ways. The release of this officers would therefore be used by Jammeh’s propaganda machine to showcase his false kindness and to attempt to counter the argument that the army is the must abused institution of a battered nation. Furthermore, the move is likely to feed into Jammeh’s longstanding recycling machine which enables him to bring back into his administration officials who had already been fired and traumatised for long period of time. His calculation could be that such individuals will more readily carry out his sinister directives. This will be particularly important if Jammeh is thinking about purging this current top brass of the army, the kind of thing he has done consistently throughout his decadent rule.
Already, Jammeh’s shameless propaganda stooges, headed by Vice President, have been at work since the prisoner release parading the traumatised ex-prisoners and putting pressure on them to sing the regime’s praises. This is a morally backward act. It appears also that the propaganda machine is extending its tentacles in the dissident communities, claiming the so-called amnesty as justification for the need to engage in a ridiculous dialogue. Dialogue becomes meaningful if Jammeh respects the diaspora’s ideas, but this is clearly not going to happen as he has little or no respect for qualification. If the dissident movement goes that route, it will represent the most blatant betrayal Gambian opposition will face. The released prisoners and the army as a whole need to be loyal to their families and to the Gambian people and to learn clear lessons that continued support to Jammeh signals a bleak future for us all.