By Yaya Saidy
President Jammeh has done it again. This time trying to gain the confidence of the world by releasing some of his former military friends who were imprisoned on various treasonable charges. There are various theories advanced as to why Jammeh may have come with the release of over 200 prisoners, some of them on death-row. The president’s own supporters have attributed it to Jammeh’s kind hearted nature and claimed that it is unprecedented in human history even though in neighbouring Senegal, over 500 prisoners were released earlier this year. It is clear also that the prison release took place in a period of intense pressure that the Gambian leadership is going through. On December, 30 2014, a handful of Gambian dissidents carried out a daring attempt to capture the president. Their attempt failed but succeeded in projecting international media attention on the state of autocratic rule in The Gambia. The Government of The Gambia also faced severe economic difficulties in recent year following the suspension of donor support from various multilateral partners due to Jammeh’s human rights violations.
Although Jammeh’s supporters tried to make political capital out of the amnesty, it was carried out with conditions attached. First the released prisoners were paraded before the state media to express their appreciation to the president and to hail him as the kind and sympathetic leader, even though many of the released prisoners were never brought before any court of law. They were also warned by the Interior Minister to desist from saying anything critical of the country’s leadership.
However, majority of Gambians thanked God that the innocent prisoners have regained their freedom. But questions still remain about the whereabouts of the many missing Gambians, such as Daba Marenah, Chief Ebrima Manneh and Kanyiba Kanyi. Gambians are demanding that Jammeh’s government provide information on the fate of all missing individuals. We demand the right of families to visit them at whichever prison they may be in.
In addition, Gambians are making the ultimate demand for Jammeh to step down from the presidency. It is unsatisfactory to resort to half-hearted measures, such as the prisoner release, resulting from the mounting pressure the regime is coming under. Such measures are not enough for our country and for the future of its people. They are only meant to enable Jammeh buy time and revert to the dictatorial rule he is better at doing. Jammeh’s resignation will pave the way for national reconciliation, freedom, democracy and socio-economic development that we yearn for our country.