Fighting With Himself: Jammeh vs His Colonial Mentality

jammehBy Baba Galleh Jallow

African independence is questioned not only because of its tragi-comic performance as a mediocre imperial spectacle at which imperial power purports to grant “the status and dignity” of a nation to a former colony. African independence is mainly questioned because of the colonial mentality of African leaders. Ironically, these same leaders are engaged in a battle to the death with this colonial mentality that is internal to their own minds.

African leaders like Jammeh express their colonial mentality by engaging in an imaginary battle for independence sixty years after independence was celebrated. The battle is fought in the name of a hollow African nationalism or phantom pan-Africanism quite alien to current African realities. Since the colonial state that was the target of nationalist attack during the anti-colonial struggle no longer exists, the target of “nationalist” attack in this post-independence battle for independence is the African people. Anyone who disagrees with or does not share the leaders’ political views or dares to express their own political views is accused of having a colonial mentality. And in their pretext at defeating and destroying this “evil” colonial mentality, African leaders like Jammeh distort and damage beyond repair the socio-cultural identity of their people in the most grotesque ways. They declare one party states; hold bogus referenda to change constitutions so they could perpetually hang on to power, even if millions of living and unborn people are destroyed in the process. They create fictional histories of colonial rule, willfully curb and diminish their people’s rights and human dignities, and impose a slew of unjust draconian laws and restrictions on their people – all in the name of fighting the colonial mentality. Ironically, African leaders like Jammeh are so obsessed with the colonial mentality precisely because it exists only in their own power-hungry minds.

His Excellency Sheikh Professor Dr. Alhaji Yahya AJJ Jammeh is one of the sorriest examples of African leaders fighting their own colonial mentality. Their condition is worse than trying to run away from their own shadows because unlike their shadows which are external to them, their colonial mentality is what defines them and inspires their every mindless action. Ironically, they could only understand their strange condition if they knew themselves. But if they knew themselves, they would not be afflicted with the colonial mentality and so would not be capable of the kind of callous politics they practice. Self-knowledge presupposes moral high ground that precludes the kind of flagrant political injustice inflicted upon their people by these leaders. Self-knowledge presupposes a level of empathy that does not permit naked aggression and mindless infliction of pain on one’s fellow beings. Because they do not know themselves, these leaders tragically and pointlessly continue to fight a battle that ended sixty years ago and in the process, they mindlessly destroy the lives of millions of innocent people, living and unborn. Mr. Jammeh’s practice of carrying a sword everywhere he goes is perhaps subconsciously indicative of his ongoing battle with his own colonial mentality. He is boxing with his own mind.

A curious aspect of Mr. Jammeh’s battle against the colonial mentality is that he never tells us what exactly this strange creature is. He expresses manufactured outrage against “400 years of colonialism”, even though he very well knows that those years are past and gone, never to return. He loudly laments in even more offended tones that during “400 years of colonialism” the West callously exploited Africa’s precious resources; but that too is only relevant as a lesson in history, even if this history is fictional history. In other words, Jammeh’s pretended outrage against the evils of colonialism has no practical value to present day Gambians just like it serves no useful purpose to ceaselessly whine over milk spilt many decades ago. Mr. Jammeh also likes to swear that unlike some African leaders, he will never become a puppet of the West; but that surely is really beside the point. He can quietly refuse to be a puppet of the West (if in fact the West is interested in having him as a puppet) rather than abuse our sensibilities with all his fictional raving and ranting about refusing to be a puppet of the West. But beyond vehemently mouthing these specious justificatory irrelevancies, Yahya Jammeh never explains what exactly he means by the colonial mentality he is intent on banishing from the shores of Gambia.

And here is another expression of Jammeh’s colonial mentality: his battle against the colonial legacy. At every possible opportunity, he loudly calls upon Gambians and Africans to get rid of the colonial legacy. However, he never tells us what exactly this colonial legacy looks like. One suspects that Jammeh knows very well that English, the very language he uses to fight the colonial legacy is perhaps the most useful colonial legacy in his personal arsenal of political weapons and tricks. One wonders what happened to his sworn threat to ban English in The Gambia. That would be a good starting point towards banishing the colonial legacy, even though he would then have to impose a new colonializing language on Gambians, be this Arabic or Russian. Is his attempt at imposing an Islamic state on Gambians a first step towards imposing Arabic as the country’s official language? That would perhaps generate approving dollar nods from wealthy Arab sultans. But Arabic would still be an external, culturally colonizing language for Gambians. As for banishing the colonial legacy, Jammeh can effectively start by banishing the office of head of state, which is also a colonial legacy. One remembers rumors of a desire to be crowned king of Gambia which is still perhaps wriggling in the underbrush of his colonial mentality.

And there are other prominent colonial legacies he would have to kick out of Gambia if indeed he wanted to get rid of the colonial legacy. State House the building is a colonial legacy. So are the Gambian parliament, the judiciary, the civil service and the guns and cannon he depends upon. The various regional governors in The Gambia are inflated replicas of colonial district officers. Their responsibility and duty is not to the people they “rule” but to the ruler in Banjul, just as in the good old days of colonial rule. What Jammeh wants invariably trumps what the villagers of Fangfadi Kunda want from their governor. The office of Paramount Chief of the Gambia Jammeh created is a classical colonial legacy worthy of preservation at the Gambia National Archives. The present borders of The Gambia are a colonial legacy too. As Jammeh very well knows, no country called Gambia existed in pre-colonial Africa. When Jammeh proudly inspects a Guard of Honor or majestically strides down a red carpet, he is re-enacting a very prominent colonial ceremony – a tradition invented to “show the flag” of imperialism. And when Jammeh carries around the title “His Excellency”, he is carrying the defining symbol of the colonial legacy – the name of colonial power. His Excellency was how colonial governors and other imperial officials were addressed. Colonialism brought the term to Africa. The extreme extent of Jammeh’s colonial mentality is betrayed by the fact that not even “His Excellency” is considered powerful enough to reflect the his perceived power over the Gambian people. He insists on being addressed “The President of the Republic of The Gambia, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh, Babili Mansa.” Even Cecil Rhodes – that ultimate epitome of colonial despotism – would balk at the idea of carrying such a hollow string of bogus colonial-style titles around his neck. Lord Lugard, prominent pioneer of the notorious colonial system of indirect rule would grunt an emphatic “no” to these titles and perhaps abandon indirect rule rather than suffer the foolery of carrying such a long and embarrassing string of meaningless grandiose titles. In other words, the real colonial mentality of the colonial period is a drop in the ocean compared to Jammeh’s colonial mentality.

The phrase “colonial mentality” is composed of two distinct phenomena. The term “colonial” is a temporal category, a period of time that exists in the past – the colonial period, let’s say from 1884 – 1960 when most of the African continent was under colonial rule. The term “mentality” is a state of mind, a way of thinking that informs the way human beings act as they go about their day to day business. “Colonial mentality” therefore refers to the way people thought and acted during the colonial period. In this formulation, the only sense in which ordinary Gambian citizens can express a colonial mentality is by acting like rightless subjects of an oppressive state, which is how their ancestors acted under colonial rule. The sting in “colonial mentality” belonged to the colonial state whose defining characteristics were political authoritarianism and economic exploitation. If any entity in today’s Gambia mirrors the authoritarian tendencies and characteristics of the colonial mentality, it is the Gambian state. And since the Gambian head of state equates himself with both the state and the nation, only he could express the colonial mentality in its damaging, authoritarian and exploitative sense. In effect, Jammeh’s authoritarian actions derive precisely from his colonial mentality. The true leader of a free, independent people cannot afford to disrespect or unjustly diminish the freedom and independence of his people.

It is not at all difficult to cite uncanny similarities between the way the colonial state acted and the way Jammeh acts. The colonial state was allergic to criticism by its subjects; Jammeh is allergic to criticism by Gambians and anyone else; he is more intolerant of dissent than the colonial state because the colonial state allowed African nationalists to criticize it in the course of demanding independence. The colonial state did not consult its subjects about its actions; Jammeh does not consult Gambians about his actions, the most recent being his unilateral attempt at making The Gambia an Islamic state with a mere rattling of his tongue at Brufut on December 10, 2015. He did not consult Gambians when he decided to pull the country out of the Commonwealth. The colonial state imposed itself upon Gambians and refused to budge until it was forced to do so by a combination of self-interested considerations and other factors external to itself. Jammeh imposed himself upon Gambians in 1994 and has declared that he will be in power “for a million years” (his actual words), whether Gambians like it or not. Here again, he surpasses the colonial state in his personification of the colonial mentality. Over twenty years after he imposed himself upon Gambians with a great show of guns (much like the colonial state did “400 years” ago), Jammeh is still furiously fighting with his colonial mentality. He enjoys this fight with himself because it offers him the most accessible and least complicated justification for tightening the noose around the neck of Gambians.



  1. And this supposedly colonial mentality is by the way, a cook up phrase to legitimise the wanton destruction of opponents. Sekou Toure and our much admired Nkrumah installed one Party state by using the term as the legitimation to “de-colonise” our minds. Paradox was and still is, that many of the relics of colonialism are perfectly in place. For example, 2/3 of Gambia’s penal code was written under the British direct administration. Secondly, the police force was formed and is still dictated by the guidelines set out in the colonial era. Thirdly, the school system is based on the colonial system to name but a few.
    Now what those it mean to abdicate colonial mentality?
    – Maintaining the ideals of freedom of every man. For example, George Washington was groomed by some of his cronies to cling to power through the institution of a Kingdom. He refused saying among others, that instituting such a system betrays the real ideals of the American revolution. Instead he spearheaded a monumental political design that inherently entrenches checks and balances to curtail, at all times, the power of one person.
    – Put individual egos aside and mobilise a collective drive towards economic prosperity for all. By instituting one party state -argued as reaction to the imperial sabotage – Nkrumah or Toure both diverted the resources and energies of their countries from economic building to the preservation of one man’s rule. How can that work? If in every initiative taken by citizens, the leaders see only the possible dangers to their security & authority.
    The misguided expulsion of the EU representative to Gambia comes to mind and belong to such category of cook-up fears. Imagine expelling the REP of a community of countries contributing about 2/3 to our developmental aid? As reason for expulsion, citing rejection of any form of colonial arrogance.
    – Lastly but not the least, create an economic free zone and trade with one another instead of lamenting about the unfair trade system supposedly designed by colonialist to keep “us down”.
    Mr. Jallow, it is indeed easy to point fingers at others instead of taking responsibility for our in-house-made policy mishaps.
    Thanks for the piece.

  2. Far from Jammeh’s colonial mentality and other dictators in Africa, I think we should be concerned about the E.U development aid(aids) in Africa. I have the opinion that some member countries of the E.U should not at all be part of the E.U/Africa development partnership. These are E.U member countries where slavery, practically is not abolished. If anyone knows Europe well knows what I am talking about. Recently, some of those countries have started taking action against human(sub-Saharans) exploitation and that made me wonder, if Kairo news have more followers than I think. For that being the case, I don’t believe citizens of such countries will do any good for Africa continentally much more when they go there as NGOs as they always claim to be.
    I am yet to be convinced that the E.U, (in general) is helpful to Africa’s future in every aspect. Indeed, it is of my opinion that most E.U efforts in Africa be scrutinised and checked even if those efforts could be considererd as humanitarian. You can think to yourself that, a writing like this enables dictators but infact I think most E.U activities in Africa, indeed, enables and entrenches dictatorships in the bottom-line-plan. You know….., one likes to be part of a country that grants political assylum and humanitarian assistance to others rather than the other way around. Nonetheless,it is the Africans’ state of minds though, that should be able to work it out for themselves.

  3. Indeed, a critical distance to all kind of aid is necessary for any sustainable development, achieved through our own strength.
    I prefer inter-african trade to EU aid money. The question then turns to our leadership. What is hindering inter-african trade? Is the EU physically going to the various capitals and paralysing our presidents? Imagine that they can do it, are they to be blamed for the negligible low trade within African countries -50 years since independence? Take our senegambia as example, the daily cat and mouse horseplay between custom and traders is a daily nightmare. So if you are talking about European slave owning countries arrogance to us, but ignore the daily harassment along the senegambia border, is in my view sanctimonious. And remember: that border is a colonial relic. We are not able to neutralise it through free movement of people and goods for over 50 years.
    In conclusion, I am convinced that our malaise is bad leadership which translate itself in many forms. That frustration propels us to point fingers to others. But I am adamant that the causation lies in our continent. The solution also lies there. We all must strive for a better and accountable leadership.

    • Luntango Suun Gann Gi

      KINTEH the Wise spoke thus:

      “I am convinced that our malaise is bad leadership which translate itself in many forms … I am adamant that the causation lies in our continent. The solution also lies there. We all must strive for a better and accountable leadership.”

      Luntango only begs to ask two simple questions:
      1. How many “better and accountable” African leaders have been couped and/or assassinated by the CiA? Lumumba, Nkrumah, Murtalla Muhammad, Sankara, etc, etc. and
      2. How many BAD African leaders have been imposed and sustained by the CiA?

      My heart pulls towards your statement Kinteh, but my head and the historical facts tell me that we Africans are just “puppets on a string” for the powers that be to play with.

      • Luntango Suun Gann Gi, let us not forget that our agents do not don on a battle gear and topple the Good African leaders. It is the Africans that do the dirty work. If I give you a match and fuel and ask you to set fire to your own house and you do it, who should you blame?

  4. It is a fallacy to tell people that they are captive to the destiny, bestowed on them by the west/arabs and inevitably the Chinese very soon.
    By invoking conspiracy theories persistently, you deprive the people their god-given tools to better their lives.
    The Senegambia border for example, has no geopolitical significance, why upholding the colonial relic of border customs and hindering free movement of people and goods for the common good of a culturally intertwined peoples? Blame the west for creating it in the first place and presently do nothing about it?
    Mobutu and Campaore are africans like me. I don’t blame the west/arabs for sankara’s killing nor do I blame the west/arabs for the role of thousands of africans like you and me, who have enabled these western/arab stooges to bring havoc on their own continent.

    • Luntango Suun Gann Gi

      Kinteh asks: “Senegambia … why upholding the colonial relic of border customs and hindering free movement of people and goods for the common good of a culturally intertwined peoples?

      Because the French will NOT accept their interests in Francophone West Africa being threatened! Look what happened to Sankara and that chap in Ivory Coast who is now at the ICC. If Macky Sall acted Pan-Africanist the French will overthrow him tomorrow – the French Force is stationed in Dakar itself. Of course, we can chose to be heroic like Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Sankara and Mugabe but THEY will make us eat grass. They did it even to Greece!

      • Kinteh asks: “Senegambia … why upholding the colonial relic of border customs and hindering free movement of people and goods for the common good of a culturally intertwined peoples?..”

        My says…”Because the French will NOT accept their interests in Francophone West Africa being threatened! ”

        Bax says….May be there is more to it than that…Take Lafia as an example….He (and many like him) wants to defend and die for this imaginary colonial border..I’m sure that’s got nothing to do with French interest….

        It’s the mentality; the colonial mentality and is far more embedded in us than we even realise…We can’t even conduct our national business in any of our own languages…OK…enough of that…I’m out of here…Merry Christmas…

  5. Another thought-provoking and well-written piece from one of the brightest minds in the Gambian diaspora. Thank you and keep up the good work Dr. Jallow.

  6. The Senegambia border has no geopolitical significance what so ever. Again blaming France for that border’s sorry state is absurd. It is also an insult to the intellect of the senegalese, to assume that they are still in the clutches of colonialism. This is a fantasy. Senegal has produced 4 presidents to date through the free will of their people , whereas I our own so called independent Gambia produced 2 -albeit the last one undemocratically.

    • “In the clutches of colonialism”… Noooo!!!…We are no longer in the clutches of colonialism… That’s “dead” and “buried” many moons ago.

      There’s a term for its replacement…It’s called, “Neocolonism”…We are all in the clutches of Neocolonism and those who understand this and take steps to steer away from it are either made to “eat grass” or “buried six feet deep”..

      Nonetheless, this “war” must be fought, regardless of how many “battles” are lost..

  7. Absolutely, the E:U/west cannot be responsible or be blamed for triggers we pull on ourselves neither can they take any credits for any development/s in Africa then or now.
    Most African countries are mineral rich and so dictators will enslave their own people in clandestine and bogus mining activities. The west needs those precious resources so badly they don’t mind in reality where those resources come from or how.
    Mr. Kinteh it was not true when it had always been on international news that sanctions or trade embargos where been imposed on the Ghaddafi-Libya. To tell you the truth, only the U.S was practically absent in Libya in those days. Almost all the E.U had been present in Libya entrenching dictatorship and hiding that fact from the world till lately during the Arab spring, a time when the despot’s mental conditions have worsen, would they come after him to silence him from revealing secrets of conspirations. We most start making our E·.U development aid counterparts, understand the clear, simple and just alternatives to the Africa development initiatives. The bank notes aid is not a solution but a problem indeed.
    Yeah…., and thanks to Dr. Jallow for the well written article and thanks to all who were able to think out of it. Not making any comments doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of weight in an article; It is because perhaps one at times just learns from one and keeps quiet.

    • We are hooked onto foreign aid….Our budgets are supported by it…and the mere threat of its withdrawal is enough to coerce many governments into conformity…

      It’s a neocolonial tool of control, just like the manufactured bankruptcy and forced indebtedness… There is no escape unless our mind set is changed….Our (colonial) mentality must change…But achieving that is the greatest challenge facing the continent…

      • That is it. This is the situation the young generation African wants to deal with and resolve with once and for all. It is not based on any holly program or rule that we should be hooked on foreign aid, looking at the fact that nearly a third of the terrestrial natural resources lay in African countries.

  8. Our Syndola Colonialist, out of its obsessive colonial mentality, even decided to retire itself at fake self awarded Colonel title in army, when it choose against all that’s expressly promised by so-called “soldiers with difference” for accountability, transparency, probity; to became the Chief-Liar, as it calls the politicians after the illegal illegitimate coup, & contested bogus elections with claims of winnings…..

    The Murderous kanilai Tyrannical Armed Bandit must HAVE to be immortal, to perpetuate Murderous Syndola Oppressive Aggrandizement against Gambians…

    The noose’s round the Murderous kanilai Idolatrous yaya’s neck instead of Gambia; just matters of time; Come Rain Come Shine….

  9. “Ndeysan, ndeysan,ndeysan” Jammeh’s newest political expression. This is the first time Jammeh acknowledges sentiments in anything Gambian since 1994.
    Hopefully this “ndeysan” will mean his own demise very soon. As the popular saying goes, sometimes you hold your own…. whiles thinking it is some one else’s. Lol.

  10. African leaders are dictators Asian leaders are Corruptors what about western leaders?? Just mafias ,, if any African leader stand for Africa they attack you as we all know what happen with mr Sankara ? Lauren Bagbo etc post gadafi or sadam Husein

    • Western leaders are accountable. They are no less corrupt than Soninke leaders but they are under law. Soninke leader not under law they corrupt law. They are kaffir and tell us lot of nonsense behind screen with big mouth. Down with Jammeh colonial mentality and his corrupt Soninke supporter.

      • Like the intelligent American saying that; ‘we are not a country of men but of law’. Western countries amongst themselves have a common interest and respect for each other unlike the Africans countries who have everything disorganised from family level, not even mentioning their state of political affairs yet. @Soninke is the type of Gambian who, instead of learning facts, will go on feeling gallant with ignorance and idiocy. People must be sure of what they are saying though it does not necessarily mean that everything we say here should have to be perfectly correct. A blattant lie is different from an opinion.
        Mr.Jagleh, you know we must have the patience to help each other understand issues but how can you explain it to me in Vietnamese when I don’t know a word in Vietnamese?….You must find an other language I can understand if you want to help me and this is exactly what the Soninke situation is like………..Soninke’s type will kill his/her own cousin brother and put the blame on others and acting roles in the public space. This is no joke about his type.
        You are not bringing others to your standards @Soninke but instead, I think what others are telling you is, to help yourself to make some research in respect to what you scribble out here online. Which language do you really understand Soninke?…………Mongolese?………Siuox?……….. Temeney…….or Swahili?

        • Language..! Aah, you have hit something here..We put ourselves at a disadvantage from the word “go”, by attempting to train and educate our young in a language foreign to them…

          No serious attempts whatsoever to develop national languages and translate scientific/mathematical data for easy understanding and use to develop our young minds…

          More than half a century after gaining self rule, we are still comfortable using a foreign language, as a medium of instruction in our schools and to even conduct official national business ….

          Does any single African President, for example, go to the UN General Assembly and speak in his/her national language.?.It’s either English, French, Portuguese and (may be) Spanish…

          I feel embarrassed when I see other leaders, who can speak these (internatiomal) foreign languages, stand up and address the gathering in their national languages…I.want to see that too.

          • I agree Bax. African leaders should start addressing the UN in particular in their own languages, just like the Chinese, the Arabs, the Russians and other non-Western leaders. Interpreters are always available. But loud mouths like Jammeh (aka Pabi di Mastah) are too dimwitted to think about that even as they persistently bark about their opposition to “colonial mentality”.

          • That is suppose to be an African initiative and that’s the urge in most comments. Who knows the A.U should seriously start investing in that type of a project if it will be aimed at a greater African purpose. Having the opinion that, ”literacy is not foreign”, does not in anyway illigitimise our use of English language here on Kairo News as a medium for the Gambia’s national discourse.
            Language problem is not the only reason for our ”white elephant intellectualism” but also the lack of the research and experiments to produce material, essential to our day to day living.@Bax….., the Chinese have Chinese as the language of instructions but despite the fact you can still find Latin numbers and alphabets on the Chinese built software chip panels.
            To be realistic and practical in expressing alternate opinion is far from the idea of perfectioning one’s thoughts in public matters. I have the opinion that a lot of us need to learn a lot that will serve our better in the post dictatorship. Optimism is highest that dictatorship, without doubt, will come to an end.
            Real loud mouth intellectuals should kindly stop seeing genuine views that may be different from theirs as associates to the citizens’ killer Jammeh. If i ever disagree to any opinion here, I will, as usual, humbly refer to that opinion holder’s online name and express my disagreement with him/her and that, I think is a political behavioUr in the right direction.I mentioned the language issue in reacting to @Soninke as mere counter balance to his language that I felt was algebraic and dangerous.
            I for an example is here to learn from others but equally ready to make ridicule of, as much as possible, any disrespecting-bush-beating poetry or essays. I consider it all as an attitude straightening process for our better future.

  11. Baba: Thank you for the piece. Jammeh is just playing with the minds of the people since he took over power. He would echo the sentiments of progressives, he would pretend to be a big Muslim when he thinks it will serve his interest, he would become a Pan Africanist and even go to lengths to present history anyway he desires without any regard as to what he said is true or not, when he is dealing with people especially from the Diaspora, he would pretend to sympathise with the Christians during Christmas feast like this year, he would oppose the EU Agreements only when it does not serve his personal interest. He would oppose or support female genital mutilation depending on his assessment on whether the people want it or not.
    So your conclusion should be “This man has no PRINCIPLES period. If any, he just want to stay in power”.
    Thanks a lot

    • You are exactly right Yerro; quite spot on, on the way the selfish dictator’s “mind” malfunctions. I only hope your real surname is Jallow, not Ba. Other than that, I totally agree: This man has no principles. His only interest is hanging on to power for a million years which, happily, he simply cannot.

  12. The dictator and the dictatorship are graver than mere spectacles as his behaviour and manners are caricatured by most literal artists. His foolery and playing around with the whole of the Gambians foundamental constitutional rights is a predicament that needs opinions with some message of enlightenment and solution finding alternatives and not being bent on an artistic discriptions of a despot.