Ever since Gambians tolerated a fake revolutionary of the 1994 junta to prevail in our common national space, Gambian Muslims have been on the firing line. For good measure, Gambian Muslims have played instrumental roles in entrenching and strengthening dictator Jammeh during the 21 years of tyranny.
We have blamed Muslim Imams, Muslim preachers and praise singers – openly or subtly -for endorsing and helping President Jammeh. We have attacked, vilified and criticised nearly every Islamic figure that endorsed or anointed President Jammeh. Yet, contrastingly, we seem to ignore the critical and vital element of the ‘Gambian Christian Intellectual support’ for President Jammeh.
Although many Gambian Christians are said to have loyalty to President Jammeh, we neglect to point out that, being a minority in a country doesn’t mean you are devoid of power and influence. In fact, Gambian Christian elites have greater positional advantage in public administration in both the First and Second Republics since they were first educated few privileged to be connected to both colonial masters and the Civil Service.
In the face of Yahya Jammeh dictatorial rule, some have prevailed behind the public eye. Apart from the late Bishop Telewa Johnson who had openly rejected dictatorship, the Gambian Christian clergy behave like their Muslim counterparts. They both keep mute and publicly ignore President Jammeh’s tyranny. In fact, it is reported that behind the scenes, some of the Christian clerics secretly endorse the Monster.
With this backdrop, one would have thought that President Jammeh’s open violation of the secular mandate of our constitution – making all public offices visibly Islamic, walking around with what seems like the Holy ‘Qu’ran, and dressing in Islamic Kaftans – Gambian Christians will be the first to swell the ranks of the opposition in seeing the secular space prevail and the bias approaches of President Jammeh stopped.
However, for whatever reason, President Jammeh is certain to secure the Gambian Christain vote. This is not to say we don’t have prominent Gambian Christain personalities in the opposition. The UDP has the veteran Femi Peters, Foroyaa and PDOIS Sam Sarr, Diaspora have men such as James Bahoum, Lawrence Jabang and other human Rights Activists who express their opposition to Jammeh’s dictatorship. But in reality, a significant number of Gambians Christians have taken a backseat in the struggle.
President Jammeh’s Brufut proclamation declaring The Gambia an Islamic Republic has agitated greater number of Gambian diaspora activists, most of them Muslims. We are waiting for the Gambia Christain Council to issue a statement, which according to many people, is the right thing to do. This will tell us where they stand with regard to ensuring that their rights are protected and that justice prevails. Failure to take the bull by the horns in this case means our Christian clergies have sold themselves to the devil, which contradicts the teachings and beliefs of the Church.
The key issue here is, President Jammeh feels very comfortable with the Christain community, thus they may not find his statements threatening or odd. Our call now is upon our capable Christian brothers and sisters to come to the forefront of the struggle, and play their part in ending this uncertain future that awaits all of us.
On a personal note, a Gambian elder Christian friend confided to me last year that even at his late mother’s prayer gathering in Banjul, the Priest called for the congregation to pray for President Jammeh. “I objected and alerted the Priest that the event is a prayer gathering for my beloved mother, and not a politician.”
My friend added that the Gambia Christian Council also regularly panders to President Jammeh’s whimps, with its prominent members meeting at a bar at the YMCA road and drive to Kanilai to massage President Jammeh’s ego. One of these ego massagers is Nana Grey-Johnson, our once celebrated and respected writer who allowed Jammeh to mess him up.
The stake is now open for all of us – Muslims, Christians, secularists, and animists – to team up and remedy the Jammeh mess. Let us all see President Jammeh as a national problem, since no one is safe from his tyranny. Gambian Christians are said to constitute 10% of the population and that is a significant bracket to help tilt the tide against Jammeh.