By Modou Lamin Korta, London, United Kingdom
The Gambia has experienced the worst moment of its history since it attained independence from Great Britain in 1965. It all started with a military junta that forced its way into power. President Yahya Jammeh ascended to power through the barrel of the Gun some two decades ago. Most of us were very young when this man and some few semi-educated, inexperienced soldiers forced themselves on us with a promise to shape a better future – a future that suits the present and generations yet unborn.
I can vividly recall most of the promises, which later turned out to be empty, President Jammeh offered Gambians in 1994. First, he promised to fight and defeat rampant corruption, accusing the ousted regime of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara of being corrupt. He referred the former senior government officials as “dirimos” who lived flamboyant lifestyle at the expense of ordinary Gambians. He coined the term dirimocracy [the art of stealing without being detected]. Jammeh’s coup d’etat slogan in the mid-90s was based on uprooting corruption in the Gambia. This message was perfectly tailor-made to whip officials of the People’s Progressive Party government.
Mr editor, it is clear to all that corruption today has been entrenched in the country. President Jammeh’s government is one of the most corrupt governments in the 20th century. First of all, we all know how Kanilai [birthplace of Yahya Jammeh] was like prior to the coup d’état. Unlike President Jawara, Jammeh has transformed Kanilai into a capital of its own, with residents having access to public amenities.
The same man who promised to wipe away “rampant corruption” has been diverting donor funds and taxpayer dalasis to line up his pocket. Through this daylight robbery, President Jammeh bought a house in the United States to the tune of 3.5 million dollars. This happened at a time when the average Gambian cannot afford two meals a day. He has also stolen from the national coffers to pay $75, 000 per annum for his daughter to attend private school abroad. Jammeh has squandered the limited resources of the Gambia to the extent that he has rendered the country bankrupt. So I can say with certainty that Gambians were economically better during the time of the former regime than in Yahya Jammeh’s tyrannical rule, which is characterised by gross violations of every rights – human, religious, social or economic. In a nutshell, Yahya Jammeh has woefully failed Gambians. All he needs to do is to handover our country because his damages far outweigh his successes.
Mr. Editor, I want Yahya Jammeh’s criminal government to release all political prisoners – dead or alive. We should pile pressure on the government to produce Ebrima Solo Sandeng whose faith still hangs in the balance. If Jammeh’s bravery bragging is true, then why is he not coming clean on the case of Sandeng and others who were believed to have been tortured to death by his security forces. President Jammeh’s long silence is a justification of leaked news that his criminal government had indeed summarily executed Solo Sandeng, Nogoi Njie, Fatoumata Jawara and Modou Ngum. These people have also joined the list of your government’s atrocities.
All the peaceful opposition protesters, including Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, his daughter Fanta Darboe-Jawara and the United Democratic Party leadership must be released unconditionally. Their arrest in the first place is unconstitutional because they have exercised their right to protest peacefully. And to top it all, they were arrested in a brutal manner and detained for more than 72 hours without being charged. Some of them have not been seen or heard about for more than two weeks.
Every Gambian has a beef with Yahya Jammeh, the man who swore to protect their rights. I too have my pending case with him. It was the same man who deployed armed security officers to round up over 300 innocent villagers in my native Sintet in Foni. Accused of being witches, these people were arrested and transported to camps where they were forced to drink poisonous drink, which left some people dead while others battled trauma, madness and shame. It is clear that this man has pushed Gambians beyond level of tolerance, which is why we are all leaning by the wall. Gambians are sitting on a ticking time bomb, which is gradually exploding. All Gambians either one way or the other have become victims of this regime’s heinous crimes. No generation is spared the wrath. As a matter of fact, disappearances without trace have become common.
Mr President, I know you are intoxicated with power but it is better you realise that Gambians have had enough of your government, which has only created abject poverty, tyranny, impunity and anything bad. As hunger and starvation linger over Gambians, you must be prepared for the resulting consequences. The country is on the brink of famine, and I don’t think your government will be bold enough to officially declare famine.
Gambians are sick and tired of living under 22 years of cessation of their right to express themselves freely. It is too painful to live in a country where there are no freedoms of speech, assembly or protest. A country where no one is guaranteed a job or economic prosperity. This is the same country where hiring and firring has become rampant, with almost every civil or public servant framed and jailed for trump up charges. A Gambia where the leader recycles jailed officials only to use them as tools of oppression, division and punishment. Yahya Jammeh is basically running the Gambia like a home.
Can someone tell this so-called President that he has outlived his usefulness? His empty promises are no longer attractive because Gambians have extracted chaff from the wind. Jammeh’s lies have become unbecoming, so to speak. We want a New Gambia where everyone is welcome except Yahya Jammeh, our common enemy who kills and disappear people at will.
Long live the Gambia! Long live Gambian people!