In the run-up to and during the Rwanda Genocide, elements in the Hutu-led government including the military, the ruling party and their youth thugs coined and propelled words such as cockroaches, vermins, rats, tall trees, long necks among other phrases to refer to the Tutsi. These words and phrases were the code words used to direct the youths to identify and kill the Tutsi in the world’s worst genocide since the 2nd World War. Within a space of three months, more than 800, 000 to 1 million people were massacred across the country.
The recent remarks by Yaya Jammeh in his rallies in the Gambia have brought back these same words and phrases as he refers to the majority ethnic Mandinka as enemies, foreigners, destroyers, ants, vermins and such other words and phrases. If the Rwanda Genocide is to serve as a useful lesson, then Gambians and the world must stop Yaya Jammeh right now as he has set himself on the path of genocide in that tiny country of 1.9 million people. All ethnic groups in the Gambia share the same life, relationships and destiny, and therefore genocide would be the annihilation of the entire country.
The only reason Yaya Jammeh is embarking on this genocidal project is simply because the man is corrupt and incompetent yet wants to remain forever the ruler of the Gambia. His tirade against the Mandinka is not because of what he says about the Mandinka. It is because he has seen clear and direct efforts and initiatives that seek to put a stop to his criminality and evilness. If the Wolof were the majority, or the Fula or the Aku were in the majority, he would have said the same thing about them. The fact remains that the very pillars of support for Jammeh since 1994 were the Mandinka people simply because the Mandinka are the majority group. More Mandinka support Jammeh than oppose him. In all the elections in the Gambia, he has won hands down in all Mandinka constituencies expect Kiang West. In all Jola constituencies in the Foni, he and his parliamentarians won the elections unopposed. Yaya Jammeh has gained unbridled and passionate support from Mandinka individuals, chiefs, imams, youths, professionals, soldiers and women. During Jawara’s era, the majority opposition were the Mandinka. Thus the idea that the Mandinka are against him stands against facts and figures.
Yaya Jammeh is not the Gambia. Those who oppose Yaya Jammeh cannot be equated with being an enemy of the Gambia. But he has been cleverly playing with facts and reality to confuse naïve-minded people and unconscious sections of the society just to entrench himself in power to continue to loot our treasury, personalize our lands and legitimize his atrocious misrule while projecting himself as a victim. Dictators have always employed brute violent and deception to fool the people. This is what Yaya Jammeh is exactly doing.
For example, the claim that the Mandinka came to the Gambia is not only false and criminal, but also irrelevant. By law, even if a Chinese assumes Gambian citizenship today, his non-Gambian history is no more relevant than any Mandinka or Fula or Jola Gambian for the past seven generations. Secondly, the Manding Empire stretched from the Gambia to Niger covering the majority of states in West Africa. Thus the Mandinka have been indigenous in all the nations in the region including the Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mauritania and Niger. Thus to claim that the Mandinka are not indigenous to the Gambia is criminally false and dishonest. The Mandinka or Jahanka are called other names such as Jula or Djula in Ivory Coast, Malinke in Guinea, Mandingo in Sierra Leone and Liberia or Bambara in Mali and Senegal are one people across the sub-region. To therefore claim that the Mandinka came from outside to the Gambia is to claim that the Wolof or the Jola are also foreigners in the Gambia. That is false. These are all indigenous peoples of the Gambia.
For any Gambian citizen to claim even in your bedroom that any particular tribe of the country is non-Gambian and describe them as vermins and enemies would constitute a severe violation of the constitution and the laws of the land. Such a remark would be unpatriotic and a threat to national security. If such statements become known, such a person would have been subjected to arrest and prosecution for hate speech, sedition and a violation of the constitution. Thus to have such a statement come out of the mouth of the head of state in a public event constitutes treason for which such a president must face impeachment proceedings immediately or outright arrest and prosecution.
Where such action is not possible as in the Gambia right now, all well meaning political leaders and parties must come out openly and in unison to condemn such a statement and its producer and demand that the president resigns. Thus this statement by Yaya Jammeh is a direct test to the leadership and patriotism of Hamat Bah and his party, Halifa Sallah and his party, Mai Fatty and his party, Mama Kandeh and his party, Henry Gomez and his party, OJ Jallow and his party and Ousainou Darboe and his party. If these individuals and parties will prove their patriotism and honesty with the Gambia, here is a classic and non-controversial challenge before them that requires an outright and direct attention. Failure to take such a stand is to abet tyranny and complicit in genocide that is to unfold in the Gambia.
At the same time, the ICC in an attempt to curtail impunity in the world has a responsibility to respond to the systematic history and practice of human rights violations and atrocities in the Gambia. While the ICC focuses on war crimes, crime against humanity and genocide, however the body bears responsibility to also deter the occurrence of these heinous crimes where it detects a trend that will produce them. The ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has made statements in other countries where these ICC crimes were not yet committed, but she gave a warning to stakeholders to bear in mind that they are being watched. Yet in the Gambia, the prosecutor is yet to make a statement when the Gambian leadership is the first in Africa since the Rwanda genocide to issue genocidal statements. If this were not enough to warrant an ICC warning statement, then the ICC would be complicit if genocide erupts in the Gambia. It is clear to all and sundry that Yaya Jammeh and his regime have a targeted policy of abuse against the ethnic Mandinka since 1994.
Not only the ICC, but also all African and European governments, ECOWAS, AU, EU, US and UN and indeed all stakeholders need to urgently address the uncontrolled vitriol of this despot. Africa, and indeed the world cannot afford to witness yet another genocide or senseless bloodbath. It is clear for all to see that there is a consistent trend of atrocities and human rights violations in the Gambia perpetuated by this regime since 1994. The number of Gambian victims of summary execution, torture, rape and enforced disappearance continue to rise. Currently tens of Gambians are languishing in jail for merely staging a peaceful protest. These people have been refused bail for more than a month in detention. Already no one can account for how many have been killed. In the ongoing court appearances, two elderly women Nogoi Njie and Fatoumata Jawara gave details of their detention during which they were subjected to severe torture and rape.
For all Gambians, no one should brush aside these violent statements as ranting of a deranged and paranoid tyrant. Only tyrants in their imbecility cause genocides. No Gambian must perceive this matter as an issue for the Mandinka people. No Gambian must seek to detach oneself from this terrible issue because it is about politics. All Gambians must realize that the country faces an existential threat that will not spare anyone. Thus all Gambians regardless of ethnicity and religion and region must become alert and vigilant to ensure that the Yaya Jammeh regime is removed from the country because it is a direct threat to our existence and all we stand for. All efforts and initiatives must speak to each other to ensure that this regime is kicked out so that a new Gambia could be built on the foundations of respect, tolerance, democracy and human rights.
All Gambians need to ask themselves if this is the kind of leader and government they deserve. How would you feel if Nogoi or Fatoumatta were your mother, sister, wife or aunt? Should any human being be subjected to such inhumanity?
Forward to the Gambia.