In a very touching letter published below, Fatou Musukebba Tamba explains why Jola speaking people must not sit back and watch one man’s lust for power to soil the “good name our forefathers have lived with and passed on to us. You see, you have destroyed the name of our tribe so badly and I am angry with you. We Jolas are not violent people and therefore you should step down without delay. We all knew a lot of crimes have been committed,” wrote Fatou who at first brushed aside allegations of state sponsored murders. But the death in custody of Ebrima Solo Sandeng was enough for her to accept the reality.
May I first thank you for giving me space to write this open letter to Yahya Jammeh President of the Gambia.
Yahya Jammeh, my name is Fatou Musukebba Tamba. I am a Jola like you. I was born in Foni Arangkoli Kunda in the Foni Jarrol District. I am sure you must know me as amongst some of your former staunch loyal supporters since when I was in Kololi in Kombo North District. I am one of those Jolas who loves the Gambia and its peaceful nature so much that I see the Gambia beyond tribe and religion. At first, I and many like me thought other tribes hated your Presidency simply because you are not one of them. Oh my God! How wrong we were? But I have now realised the problem of the Gambia is none other than you Yahya Jammeh because I do not understand how you could insult an entire tribe to the extent of calling them virmins and foreigners? We Jolas have been living side by side with Mandinkas for decades without any problems. In fact, most Jolas are intermarried with Mandinkas and other tribes. What would happen if someone insult our tribe like you did to Mandinkas? I am sure all Jolas, including you would be angry. Therefore, all Jolas should openly condemn your insulting of other tribes, especially Mandinkas who have lived with Jolas for decades in peace and harmony.
But my worry is more on the alleged beating of people, the alleged rape of women and the horrendous killing of people. Yahya, I am a woman and to think of fellow woman being raped gives me sleepless nights and heart aches. The worst of it all was the confirmation that Ebrima Solo Sandeng died while under police custody. How could you allow such things to happen in the Gambia under your watch? What sort of precedence are you laying for us Jolas Yahya? I cannot imagine how a human being can look into the eye of a fellow human being and kill him/her for nothing other than having political difference with that person. How can politics be compared to human life? Yahya Jammeh, I am telling you this because I want a future for my children after you are gone. These allegations of tortures, rapes and killings are so un-Gambian that it is giving me unimaginable thinking spree as if I were the victims. What would happen if we or some of our tribesmen and women undergo such brutal tortures rape and killings? Remember you are not going to rule the Gambia forever. In fact, you would not be President in the next 20 years. Therefore, are you thinking about us Jolas and our security once you are gone? When I heard that a young man named Ebrima Solo Sandeng was tortured until he died, I cried like a baby. I thought of his wife and children because I am a woman. What if that happened to my father, Uncle, Husband or brother I know how I would feel?
On top of that killing, you used force to arrest so many elderly people, including Femi Peters. Yahya those people protested because they alleged that Ebrima Solo Sandeng was tortured, killed and buried [like a day.] Now that it has been confirmed that what they alleged was true, why are you still keeping them in prison for? Don’t you have conscience? You see, you have destroyed the name of our tribe so badly and I am angry with you. We Jolas are not violent people. You should therefore step down without delay. Jolas are peaceful people who do not know crime which is why we should not allow your Presidency to destroy that good name our fore fathers have lived with and passed on to us. We all knew a lot of crimes have been committed. At first I used to brush it aside when people accuse you and your government of killing so and so as mere allegations and their hatred of your administration, but when you confirmed that Mr. Sandeng indeed died during interrogations yourself. Yahya I nearly lost my head thinking, asking how could all those allegations about people being killed be true? Oh my God! Yahya you have completely tainted the Jola brand and you should step down right now. The Gambia is known for its peace and no peace-loving Gambian should simply support anyone who has admitted killing Gambians for whatever reason. People must not be killed for being in a different political party. What is party after all? How can mere party affiliations be compared to human life? On behalf of all peace-loving Jolas, I condemn your action and call on you to try and punish anyone found culpable in the death of Ebrima Solo Sandeng. I am not a UDP supporter but that does not mean I should close my eyes to murder. All human lives are equally important and killing is killing, no matter who commits it. You admitted to killing and therefore you should be arrested, prosecuted and sentenced accordingly.
If this is not done, I want all Jolas to come out and disassociate themselves with these crimes. Everyday has a tomorrow. What can we say when that tomorrow comes and we see our own Jolas people being killed like the way Yahya Jammeh is killing other tribe members? Step down now before you do more damage to us and our peaceful nature. We Jolas are peace-loving people, and all these crimes you are committing are not done in our name. You are committing them in your own name because of your hunger for power, despite serving more than 20 years in office. Enough is enough! Go before you endanger our lives too. We don’t want any Civil War in the Gambia and the longer you stay, the more likely the Gambia could descend into civil war. When that happens, where would we Jolas go to? Only a fool would believe we can fight against any tribe in the Gambia even with all the guns. The Jola tribe is not diversely scattered but concentrated in one small area of Foni. Even Kombo alone can finish us in one day. Let my fellow Jolas come out and condemn this man and what he is doing to us and the future of our children. He must go now without delay. Yahya Jammeh, you need to step down right now.
Fatou Musukebba Tamba