Defining Two Categories Of Gambian Intellectuals, Academics


Janko Camara

Suntou, thanks for provoking this debate. I have a slightly different view on The Gambian “intellectuals” debate. Instead of focussing on those of our “intellectuals” who have been silently (but surely, with amusement) watching the daily drama in The Gambia over the last two decades, I think we should rather beam our microscope on those of them who, having seen Yahya’s true character unfold over the years, still decided to join him and became ready tools in the execution of the heinous crimes against our people. The reasons for my postulation are:
There are some of our people (whether intellectual or not) who, as a matter of principle, believe that joining the Jammeh government, from the onset, was not an option for them. For this group, not only has Jammeh assumed political power through illegitimate means, but also the man’s lack of decorum and absolutely uncouth character, over the years, have brought to bear on governance in terms of policy formulation and implementation. Obviously, their role of providing professional guidance based or knowledge and integrity, is incongruent to the governance atmosphere created by Jammeh. Therefore, for such people, the earlier Jammeh quitted the seat of power, the better for the country. However, joining the so-called “Struggle” does not appeal to them either, as “The Struggle” for the emancipation of The Gambia appeared to have lost its essence long time ago. Therefore, the phrase “The Struggle” is fast becoming a misnomer. It is more of a “Collective Madness” were we compete to tear each other apart. In this “Collective Madness”, objectivity is not only an anathema but anyone trying to be objective is in fact the mad one. We have seen what has become of some of our HONEST intellectuals who decided to join the fight against tyranny in our country. Have they not been the subject of ridicule with everything under the sun said about them? So who, among our HONEST intellectuals, (note my emphasis on the word “honest”) will not learn lessons from this? Our good people (whether intellectual or not) get scared that in venturing into this hostile territory, they risk not only being ridiculed, but most importantly, they risk losing their integrity. The obvious question, therefore, becomes: Is it worth it? So on this point, I entirely agree with Dida Halake.
Secondly, as mentioned by earlier contributors, quite a number of our brains are working for World-Class institutions where there are clear-cut policies as to how one should comport oneself. Most of these institutions do not condone their employees being engaged in things that either could interfere with their work or could impact the name of the institution. For such people, conforming to institutional requirements becomes their overriding consideration. Obviously being Gambian and having their families and/or relations residing in The Gambia, means they are interested in and keenly observing the goings-on in Banjul. However they must, first and foremost conform to organisational requirements. Therefore, for the reasons above, we need to let them be. I will say something here. Most of these HONEST intellectuals are not DESPERATE. So they might not be interested in any future jobs in The Gambia even after Jammeh’s departure. The joy of having a stable country where their families and/or relations can live happily and enjoy the basic freedoms universal to all humans is enough for them.
So to get the quality of people we need (people with intellect and proven integrity) in the fight to restore sanity in The Gambia, we first need to re-define our objectives and align them for the benefit of the nation and nothing else. We have to recognise that our individual differences do not really matter so long as our ultimate objective is the salvation of our motherland. That means, at some point, there will be a convergence of the individual differences. Do we all have the same objective? I very much doubt. If our differences remain irreconcilable, that clearly means not all of us are thinking of the national interest. It is this simple: we can take different roads but if the destination is the same, we shall all get there – and getting there is what matters.
Now, so much of the first group of intellectuals. The group that, in my opinion, we need to focus on is the group of those so-called “intellectuals”, who decided to join Jammeh even after seeing and knowing the true colours of the man. To me, anyone who joined Jammeh’s government after 1996 could not claim ignorance or naivety about Yahya Jammeh and the type of government he headed. This is because by 1996, we had already seen the worst bloodshed in our history (with the exception of the 1981 mayhem caused by some naïve adventurers) as a country since independence. By 1996, we had become used to the uncouth Press Releases that were more representative of a string of national embarrassments than anything else; arbitrary detentions without trial; the inhumane tortures of detainees; the summary dismissals of Civil Servants; the daily violations of the rights of the man in the street, the November 11 1994 bloodshed; the cold-blooded murder of one of the country’s finest brains – the former Finance Minister; the internal power struggle among the “Council” members which could not be managed out of public glare; etc. To me, by 1996, things have clearly fallen apart within the AFPRC and the Falcon could no longer hear the Falconer, borrowing from Chinua Achebe. So we were headed for the worst experience in our lives.
I would have to admit that The Gambia was entirely new to Military adventures/misadventures in governance. Therefore, when you have high-sounding speeches – Transparency, Accountability and Probity – coming from vagabonds like Yahya Jammeh, an ordinary, clueless man-in-the-street type could easily fall for the trap, as most of us did. These were new and strange times in Banjul. However, if after all of the above-mentioned rude-awakening events, one still felt the urge to join the Jammeh regime, that can only be deemed as an adventure to further one’s own interest, not the National Interest. This is why I think maybe we need to refocus our attention and carefully evaluate our “Intellectuals” who decided to put everything at stake by accepting Jammeh’s poisoned chalice.


  1. Finally the voice of reason. Some may even say that some of the “struggle ” go out their way to antogonise people that are doing a good job internationally and could be beneficial to the country.

  2. Extremely good contribution brother Janko. Respect.
    Janko the Gambia’s dilemna is a tiny drop in the continental struggle to free Africa from “seeming democracy, dictatorship and more importantly POVERTY and corruption”
    I noted your concern about the different groups of Gambian “intellectuals” in or out of the struggle to liberate our country, in and out of the brutal regime since 1994. I would add that one needs not go out of the “limitations” in one’s source of earning a living to contribute his or her quoter. What is ask of every Gambian is to channel a little help even clandestinely to contribute in a free Gambia. An honest intellectual will never be happy when his surroundings laugh about the buffonery leader repsenting ALL Gambians worldwide whether we like it not. It is a shame on all of us even if not manifested openly. Here I would like to emphasize the fact generaly when an African sees a white man or an Arab or an Asian the first thing that comes to his mind is RESPECT for his race simply because his or her country is a developped nation. In constrast when these white races sees an African, the first thing that strikes their minds, is poverty, slavery and savagery. Are they right or wrong I would leave it to the readers.
    Having said that, we must accept that a fight against dictatorship is NEVER is straight forward matter and is never easy. It is has its ups and downs, its hopes, tribulations and discouragements, its one step forward and two steps backwards periods, but no matter how hard the setbacks are, no matter how long it takes, TRUTH will always prevail over FALSEHOOD.
    It took Egypt 32 years for dismantling dictatorship, it took Tunisia 34 years, it took Libya 42 years, it took Burkina Fas 27 years and it is taking the Gambia 21 years.
    The day Jammeh is knock out of power it will seem as if he did not spend 2 days in the Gambia. The air of freedom will feel the air and will swipe in a stroke all the hopelessness that crowded our hearts and minds, the jubilations will feel each and every home at home and abroad, that day behold! the telecoms operators will be the happiest money making companies joining and likinking Gambian people all over the world wishing each other peace and love.
    That day will also see Jammeh former enablers sneeking out of the limelight, looking for a hole to hide, crying and wondering what their furure will be. So goes the popular saying “what goes around comes around”.
    Despire not fellow Gambians for us there is no other OPTION but to continue the fight until VICTORY finally knocks at our doors. Verily Allah knows Gambians have sufferred enough just the people of Burkina Faso did 10 months ago, and Allah will come to our aid when we least EXPECTED it.
    The Struggle continues. Bon courage!

  3. Janko camara, Gambian intellectuals who are silenced and those who joined Jammeh to oppress Gambians are under the same category. These silenced intellectuals are even the worst because majority have benefited from taxpayers during their education and we do not know their status. it is constitutional responsibility as citizen to stand up for what is morally and ethically right. The idea that they risked being ridiculed and lose their integrity is not a justifiable reason not to participate in national affairs. How about those leaders who are not intellectuals but are sacrificing everything under the sun to help restore democracy and rule of law. Your description of such intellectuals indicated self-centered individuals who think that their education is meant to seek fancy jobs . This is why despite numerous PhDs in The Gambia or African in general ,their PhDs are just paper qualifications without any significant development to improve the lives of ordinary people. These intellectuals have very narrow view of how the world should be in terms of being there for each other. Therefore they feel entitled and self important go for best jobs and not to care for their people. You and I are able to write because someone has sacrificed for us by given us education.
    The majority of intellectuals who joined Jammeh are usually greedy, dishonest and unprincipled individuals looking after their personal interest just like those silenced intellectuals working for international organizations to make better living for themselves. I agreed with your description of those intellectuals who joined Jammeh’s camp. There is no difference between the two groups.

  4. Hi Max, I do understand your frustrations about the state of affairs in Banjul. However, we must avoid a sweeping generalisation here. There are a number of our compatriots in these organisations who have been doing well for The Gambia thereby helping to keep the average Gambian going by with external support influenced, to some extent, by them. To this group of Gambians, Yahya Jammeh does not really matter; it is the suffering Gambian people that truly matter. You will agree with me that by now, Yahya, as an individual, is rich enough to survive any economic sanctions against The Gambia. This means he is the last person likely to suffer from any hardship that may arise out of economic sanctions. Therefore, we need to consider that poor farmer in Kerr Pateh or Bantanto or Koina who knows nothing about government and how it functions, but whose livelihood is either directly or indirectly affected by government policies. Do they have to be punished simply because we want to punish Yahya Jammeh? These are questions that we may need to ask ourselves. Are we morally justified in handing down collective punishment to people who are helpless and are in dire need of assistance?
    You see, one reason why most countries, especially in the Third World, encourage their citizens to get into these international organisations, is to be able to access assistance through these citizens. So we need this group of people. Your government, out of either sheer ignorance or arrogance, does not see the need to take advantage of their own people. Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh is the only one, as far as I know, who sees Gambia’s human asset outside as a threat to “NATIONAL SECURITY”. So you go to Gambia and you are monitored to see if you will be talking to Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, Omar Amadou Jallow or Halifa Sallah. What nonsense! Human relationships have existed since the beginning of man himself. So is it the pursuance of an individual’s self-interest, carefully crafted and sold to the unsuspecting and naïve population as “National Security”, that is going to destroy our relationships? Think about it, isn’t it absolute bunkum?

  5. # Max surely if you truly believe that prominent should be vocal and shout their support for the STRUGGLE then you should set an example by using your full name and add your full face photograph so all can see you wear your heart on your sleeve.
    The world had learnt a bitter lesson from the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia and their year zero experiment of arresting all intellectuals like Doctors, Teachers, Doctors, in fact anyone whose hands were not hard and calloused as being INTELLECTUALS and sending them to the fields to farm.
    There were many in and around 1994 that sounded the alarm bells but the vocal majority did not wish to listen but preferred the utopian words of the Junta
    I would go as far as saying that people’s petty jealousies and sense of inequalities made them wiling participants in the national myopia and baying for the blood of anybody that was considered privileged remember not all parents saw an education as a waste of a good farm child’s time some till now will take their children from lessons to help with the farming.

    If the ” poor ” informants stopped their activities of reporting their neighbours things would be different.
    Some go as far as saying that when the POOR MAJORITY were hungry and tired enough change will be instantaneous as seen in other countries

  6. Janko camara , majority Gambians in diaspora are helping our people and that is why today 22 percent of GDP depends on them . These people includes very people who are totally against this regime and they are doing every thing possible to change the system for the betterment of poor farmers in koina . I understand the positions of those Gambians in leadrship positions in international organizations who cannot be involved in national politcs due to their institutional policies . However , vast majority of those intellectuals who are silenced did not head any institution and therefore their lack of participation is what is concerning to say the least . They have the expertise and capability to render their service to the nation . This has nothing to do with collective punishment , in fact their lack of participation can be viewed as punishment of poor farmers you are talking about because these farmers do not have any means to free themselves from military dictatorship . How can someone who has no ideas of what is going in his country free himself from a tyrant ? This is why it is very important to have these intellectuals come to defense of the individuals in the form of education , advocacy of their plight and ensuring that very government which suppose to protect them , did not abused them . National security will be used as a pretext when the right people are not in charge . So we all have a choice , we can concentrate on our personal selfish interest , let the poor people suffer or we can come to their defense by ensuring that we have right people in charge who advocate for policies that would better their lives .

  7. Dida , Any Gambia who listen to your political advise is not only unpatriotic but he or she is very politically ignorance because of your past record .
    Freud , i think you are an hypocrite because you are asking me to put my full identity when you have don’t that in the first place . Why my identity matters to you ? Are you a damn spy using a PSEUDOYNM to act as an opposition sympathizer . Come on , use your brain cells before they dies without any significant functions.

  8. # Max Seems you finally got my point about people who chose to be silent we all have self preservation instincts but we must learn that others also have the right to wish to preserve themselves and their families.
    You demand strangers in public view that owe you nothing declare opposition to the Govt but the suggestion that you set an example sends you scurrying for cover there are always Agent Provocateurs in a struggle and the intelligent thing to do is for those in the struggle to stop demanding for others to declare their stance which then renders them ineffectual.
    Do you think French resistance agents will stand in a public place in occupied France declare who they are and what they intend to do and expect to be successful in their mission.
    Yes there were collaborators but those were dealt with intelligently but many who were suspected of doing nothing were found to have been crucial to the battle when the general population realized the full extent of peoples actions

  9. Freud , your stupidity is manifesting itself here because my identity has nothing to do with your silly argument that Gambian intellectuals has Rights to sit on the fence and stayed silenced . Don’t you know that greatest freedom fighter Nelson Mandela had used once PSEUDONYM during the course of his activism . Your thinking is based on selfishness and lack of understanding of constitutional responsiblity as citizen. If everyone has the same selfish and igonrance thinking like the way you do , do you think you would even express your ignorance on this page ? Come on , use your damn brain to think that those intellectuals has national responsiblity to help their people except those in leadership positions who are not able to participate due to various policies of their institutions. I hope you get that in your closed mind.

  10. Freud, it is indeed a clear stupidity to indicate that revelation of my identity can be compare to Gambian intellectuals sitting on the fence and stayed silenced. Don’t you know that greatest freedom fighter Nelson Mandela had once used PSEUDOYNM during the course of his activism. If every one has the same ignorance thinking like the way you do, do you think you will be able to express your igonrance on this page? Your thinking is based on selfishness and lack of understanding of constitutional responsibility of citizen.
    Use your damn brain to think that those intellectuals have national responsibility as citizens to help their people except those in leadership positions who are not able to participate due to various policies of their institutions. I hope you get that in your myopic mind.

  11. Wow Max I shan’t respond to your tirade by coming down to your level for the saying goes


    so swear away

  12. I know for a fact that at least the majority of the silent intellectuals make good use and listen and read the Gambian online media for informations from home.
    Are they contributing for the upkeep of these online medias, for it takes money to keep these internet platforms alive. Are they contributing money towards the upkeep of this noble venture, to inform, educate and entertain Gambians around the world?? If not and are protifing from it then they are selfish and unpatriotic.
    Who said Gambians deserve Jammeh for we are all little Jammehs??