On the 1st of october the government of the United States decided on resorting to a queer measure against the government of the Gambia, denying entry visa to employees of the government and other related entities their spouses and children. When US Senator Charles F. Grassley had disclosed that the American Home Land Security was about to resort to that move against the government of the Gambia few took any notice of the threat that was to become talk of the town.
Just a week earlier there had been yet to be confirmed news report that former Gambian Interior minister, Ousman Sonko had been denied visa to the United States before fleeing to Sweden. Members of the Gambian opposition as well as international Human Rights groups have long been calling on the U.S. and West European governments to impose entry ban on prominent members of the Jammeh government as punitive measure against the mercurial, autocratic leader’s gross human rights and civil liberty violations. In the wake of the cold-blooded murder of young opposition UDP party leader Solo Sandeng last April, many Gambians had been waiting for such a move. An E.U. travel ban would indeed bite against the government of the Gambia and even further entrench its current pariah status, but a ban to the US, of top Gambian government officials, their spouses and children, bites much more painfully. The children of President Jammeh go to school and live in the U.S. The Jammeh family owns a multi-million-dollar mansion in the U.S. The denial, based on the U.S. Immigration code Section 243(d), leaves the presidential couple in Banjul with an immediate family reunion problems and possible marital consequences with the president’s Moroccan wife of gold-digger reputation. Saturday’s announcement can make any top Gambia government officials jump ship, following the example of ex-Interior minister Sonko and destabilizing government administration in Banjul.
On top of these, denying members of the Gambia government entry visa will tend to intensify its international isolation and its desolate sense that the whole world, particularly the imperialist West, is ganging up against it at a time of coming elections. Currently the country is without any arrangement with the IMF after the May 2015 presidential directive that served to set an artificially overvalued rate for its dalasi currency rate despite vigorous IMF dissuasion attempts. Banjul is currently bent on, hat in hand, knocking on the doors of the Fund but being denied visa will not make it any easier. While not much can be expected from the Fund itself, it is its door that leads to the doors of other members of the international donor and financial communities. Perhaps more than ever before, the Gambia is in need of some form of bailing out since its government looks to be innately incapable of riding over the economic and financial storms it is facing.
The only positive indicator in the country’s worsening economic situation over the past several years has been the persistent increase in the volume of remittances from the ever-swelling overseas Gambian community. And perhaps herein lies the root to Jammeh regime’s reluctance to aid and abet in the repatriation of Gambians back home to the hugely impoverished country. On a road traversing through Serrekunda’s central marketing district, opposite the largest market in the country, one shop openly displays the schedule and fare for trips to destinations on the perilous, ¨backway¨ journey through the Sahara Desert, across Nigerien bus stations, to Libya, and then across the dangerous Mediterranean to notional green pastures in Europe. Hundreds of young Gambians lose their lives on such trips every month and Gambian government officials, when occasions call for it, pay lip service against ¨backway¨ trips but actually do nothing to stop or discourage it. Though the said lies less than 100 meters from the main Serekunda police station it is openly carrying out its business of selling fares to young people wanting to embark on the dangerous adventure. The ingrained official reluctance on the side of Banjul to discourage the ¨back-way¨ exodus is one side of the same coin that made it unwilling to assist the American government bring back the two thousand or so Gambians it wants deported to Banjul. In the US, no matter what they live on, those Gambians are a source of remittance, now much more than the annual Foreign Direct Investment and export earnings the country gets added together. Brought back at home they will be chronically unemployed, social parasites and potential trouble makers as far as the Jammeh autocracy is concerned. The autocracy has, together with other West African governments, over the last decades, pocketed millions of Euros cash and secured travel advances, hotel accommodation costs, travel and other allowances, from EU governments, why isn’t the United States government ready to do the same? Why must the government of little Gambia help an American government’s presidential electioneering by importing its troubles when it is itself in the throes of what looks like the most threatening elections since 1996? Bringing back two thousand dollar-minded men, or criminals, whatever, to little Gambia, without any more dollars, hamburgers or even the original coca cola drink, can be extremely dangerous and with potential social consequences that the officials in Washington cannot even imagine. And why are they picking on us in Banjul, just now, in this election year 2016, weeks before the poll? The authorities themselves say, in times of number of targeted deportees, the Gambian is ranked eleventh, why are they not starting with the first ranked? U.S. immigration authorities say 30 000 of the list are from Cuba, many are from China and Latin American countries, so the Gambian queries may be somewhat justified. In fact in 2014 Mrs Vaughan told reporters that: “ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is no longer allowed to try to deport people who are no longer a priority for enforcement. Just who is not included on this list of illegals are those not convicted of a felony that the administration considers to be serious.” These, must mean. those convicted for being, or regarded, as threat to state security are placed on the highest rank of priority.
Last year, 2015 the number of deportable aliens convicted was 19 723 for a total of 64 197 criminal convictions . These included 8,234 violent convictions and 208 homicide convictions. The largest number of convictions was for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol; there were 12,307 alcohol DUI convictions and 354 drug DUI convictions, for a total of 12,661. But what has all that to do with the autocracy in Banjul? The only security threat Gambians in the United States pose is the one to the government in Banjul. They are not dangerous Salafists, or Islamists or anything. They are all just Mandingo or pro-Mandingo ,¨unpatriotic traitors’’ bent on ¨sabotaging and destabilizing¨ the country, so let them be where they are. Of course the Americans know the 2 000 small gangsters are not welcomed here, but they want to use them as fifth columnists. The section of the immigration code being cited targets not only government employees but all citizens of the particular country but the move announced by the Americans is saying only ¨Gambia government employees, their spouses and children.¨ It is obvious that the United States officials are not saying it as it is,
If not that why do they keep on coming with all these nonsense? May be they are just taking a step that they do not dare to take openly. Just like the E.U, that luckily the hypocritical Brits are now leaving, they have been talking about imposing sanctions, property freeze and travel bans. But the Americans sharing the hypocritical blood of their British cousins are hitting with that same blow but pretending it is a normal immigration issue. But we cannot react on that immigration issue plane before the elections. We must ignore them and make the average Gambian believe we are in solidarity with the 2000 Gambians that is why we are not going to allow them to be deported- Then after the election, we can see what we can do, but not before the elections; at least not before the December presidential one. What is in the mind of a mercurial tyrant is not easy to decipher, but it seems much easier than that of a fragmented opposition who know they must forge an alliance but are unable to come around to fixing it.
The Gambian opposition must quietly welcome the decision of the United States government. Knowing that there is more to it than the supposed immigration issue but must not jubilate over it. They should not be seen celebrating over attempts to deport any fellow countryman or woman. They must continue with the demand for United States, European Union, Japanese, Chinese and even Russian governments to impose the various sanctions against the murderous autocracy in Banjul for improving on its human rights and good governance. Gambians must continue to call for a parallel travel ban based on the human rights issues and the freedom of the UDP prisoners. The October 1st visa denial looks too tentative and provisional, what we want is a sanction that can only be lifted with radical reforms of the human rights and governance situation and the release of all political prisoners.