Ideology Critique 2: Jainaba’s Restless Ghosts

SidibehJainaba Bah Jallow, alias Lamin Sanyang alias Pa/”Mbaa” Njaga, with all her other cloaks of guilt appears to be on a rampage. Her list of occult and duplicitous identities could become the stuff of legend. Those who truly believe in the justness of their cause, the truth of their claims need not lurk behind fictional characters plumed with heavy and dark burkas in confrontation with fellow travellers. Yet the duplicity is understandable when one is simultaneously battling restless ghosts of a relationship with the AFPRC that was hatched in greed and treachery. Greed because it was a shot at the rims of undemocratic power, and treachery because it, with peevish arrogance, simply betrayed the trust and loyalty to a sacred oath: that no matter what, one must remain true to the letter and spirit of the principles to which one swore allegiance. This would all become clear in a while, but first let me put your minds at rest on an issue she raised.

Indeed Bin and I had severe disagreements that on two occasions resulted into violence between us. I did not beat her black-and-blue, a charge dispelling which would simply place the onus on me to produce the context (the why and how) of the violence in the first place, logically answering Jainanba’s call to a Jerry Springer showdown. Calling me a reactionary dweeb or a diabolical wife-beater could be dismissed as figments of Jainaba’s rhetorical flourish, except that it effectively obscures the possibility that I might have been the one who suffered verbal and physical assault. Let me simply say I assumed responsibility for what happened, felt remorse for what occurred and I grew up into a responsible husband and a great dad. This was some 28(!) years ago and I am still married to Bin and there has not been an incident of violence in our relationship since! Yes, older MOJA members intervened positively in my troubles and I am forever grateful to them. What happened had nothing to do with our political organization. The violent and repressive home that Jainaba falsely portrays is where two promising scholars were raised: one a doctoral student of bio-technology and the other an ambitious scholar of Islamic jurisprudence at Medina University. In fact the Sidibeh household over the years became a refuge for battered and abused women and men, literally! In the summer of 2015, a respectable lady I rescued from an abusive husband who was threatening her with deportation narrated an emotional story of how I housed and helped her hide, and bought her a train ticket to a relative some hundreds of kilometers from Stockholm where she could remain for months before venturing to return home. She kept this secret to herself for more than 26 years only to disclose it to her current husband and Momodou Camara, a close friend from Copenhagen who was visiting her and her family! That is just one independently verifiable story amongst many.

Raising my private life here was a crass and pernicious red herring, too crimson and plain even for Gambia’s last NIA crank to fail in flushing out. It was a furtive ploy to kill genuine critique, and obscure the penitent forces behind Jainaba’s personal insurgency to dry-clean and perfume hers and Sarjo Jallow’s irreparably damaged reputation. Clutching at straws it may also be, but it was also a tactical act of painting me ugly so as to make herself politically pretty. (Jainaba and I were once quiet close friends besides being comrades. Now that I know she sees me as a reactionary, I will publish some of the private letters we exchanged in my History of MOJA).
The relevant issue then and now concerns my rejection of Ousman Manjang’s theory of pluralism inside MOJA, which he advanced as plausible explanation for Sajor Jallow’s incredibly relentless support of a vitriolic tyranny. I called such attachment to power what plain-speaking folks would call it, plain and banal opportunism, the shameless grabbing of a chance to bask in the radiance of power at every and any cost, irrespective of what oaths bonded you for years with “comrades” in the struggle for democratic liberation. Naming Mr. Jallow in that context is deliberate; yet referencing him is, in literary terms, tangential to the subject of my criticism. But of course, she would brook no criticism of her husband from any corner; a biochemically understandable, but ideologically and politically outrageous position to be adopted by any so-called activist for justice. I am not known to indulge in vicarious condemnation and have over the years never balked at criticizing, sometimes vehemently, either Koro Sallah or Ousman Manjang (or anyone else for that matter within or without MOJA) for what I thought to be a mistaken or a wrong position. Although I regret the poor timing of my criticism, I reject the calculated teasing of easy emotions and the soft and cozy lure of ndeysaan narratives, the ragout diet of gullible Gambians. I adhere to my belief that no amount of past or present suffering should vaccinate anyone against criticism. (It is a strategy Zionist intellectuals excel at; dredging up gory images of the Holocaust as inoculation against criticism of Israeli terror on Palestinians, euphemistically referred to as anti-Semitism). So here are the few signposts I will present here:

Jainaba conjures up a dotty thesis, arguing that violence with my wife nearly 30 years ago somehow aggregates to my disqualification from championing the democratic rights and ambitions of Gambian women. On the contrary, I should think that ought to be precisely one fictive (hers) reason why I should support women’s struggles. That is why on April 28, 2016, Jainaba, other Gambians and my humble self, marched together in Stockholm denouncing the APRC regime for its brutal murder of Ebrima Solo Sandeng and the ghastly rape of two women UDP activists. Not only that! The very next day Jainaba, a handful of compatriots and I went to deliver a protest letter (that I penned, I might add) on the same crimes, to the office of the Swedish Foreign minister. Imaginatively, such a letter would have been the referral document that may land on the desk of the Gambian minister of External Affairs and his deputy, Sajor Jallow, had his recent appointment not been a hoax. The issue is not which Modou Sidibeh people should believe; but rather how in God’s name Jainaba accommodates her own struggle for the dignity of the two women so brutally beaten and raped (by more than a dozen men, as was evidenced in court) with the fact that her husband jumped at the next chance to serve the monstrous government as deputy foreign minister, after such a crime?

Before going any further, let me show you this photograph. She wears a smile on the front page of the Soldiers’ tabloid Upfront (I think it was called), flanked by Edward Singharteh and Yahya Jammeh, one of them holding and grinning at her very young child. She joined them, as merrily as a lark. It is taken not long after July ’94. The ghosts which are still tormenting her were produced by her own sculpturing hands.
I have made clear MOJA’s position on coups as a usurpation of power never to be condoned or celebrated. But she insists that they were given the “go ahead” by some nameless leaders. Well who were those people? Did she mean that she and Sajor Jallow needed counseling in order to decide what to do when the invitation to join the AFPRC came? Since they seemed not to have minds of their own they must belong in the same bag of pumpkins as their counselors! Did they not read their Thomas Sankara to refresh their memories about the fact “that uneducated soldiers were little more than armed criminals”? Jainaba, Sajor, and a handful of other MOJA activists at home joined the AFPRC in an act of banal opportunism, period! Halifa Sallah and Sidia Jatta too (I think) were invited into the AFPRC government; but they simply declined the offer on account of their adherence to the principles of democratic rule. Former members of MOJA ought to have held on to similar principles! Peddling such flimflam as Jainaba did, must be the greatest act of fraudulent writing on the history of the Gambian left.

They murdered Ousman Koro Ceesay, another former member of MOJA in the most brutal fashion. Yet MOJA members remained seated both in Government and subsequently in what became known as the July 22 Movement. Gambians continued to be killed for tiny traffic infractions against the President’s long motorcades. Then the killings of civilians escalated to the explosive and brutal massacre of school children in April 2000. I was by then active on Gambia-L, damning and decrying the regime with other progressive-minded Gambians for its wholesale cruelty. I heard that Sajor Jallow in his capacity as minister in the APRC government went on national television appealing for calm from a distraught population, promising that investigations would be carried out. I sent him e-mail, urging him to quit. He answered that history would judge him. He did not quit. (I guess I was just being jealous or malicious according to Jainaba Bah Jallow, alias Pa Njaga). But unlike him, Dr. Sedat Jobe resigned from his position of External Affairs minister a few months hence. While Mr. Jallow was doing his work for the regime I took the initiative here in Stockholm to call a meeting to organize a demonstration against the massacre and demanding justice for the murdered children!

I believe it must be after that act of unconscionable brutality that Jainaba withdrew publicly her support for the regime. She subsequently joined Gambia-L, pretending to be a Lamin Sanyang, until Hamjatta Kanteh flushed her real identity out. Mr. Kanteh in a polemic with Ousman Manjang (some ten or more years ago) decried the latter’s support for Mr. Sajor Jallow in spite of his involvement with the regime, and especially at a time when his former comrade, Dumo Sarho, was incarcerated by said brutal regime. One comrade and I privately harassed Mr. Manjang for his attempt at defending the indefensible. I did not get involved in that exchange as I reasoned that not only had Mr. Manjang a right to his opinion but especially because MOJA’s politics or organization was not an issue in contention. But Jainaba, using the fictitious identity of a Lamin Sanyang could not remain mute. At one point in an exchange with Mr. Kanteh she praised the gentleman for fitting the label of Gambia’s Shakespeare only to tell him something to the effect that he was “not worth the dirt under her husband’s fingernails”. (These discussions can be mined from the archives of Gambia-L). So defending her husband’s reputation is nothing new, and neither is Mr. Manjang’s support of his innocence. Political pluralism either in MOJA or some other political organizations is never boundless. It does not claim for freedom and democracy and respect for rule of law and basic human rights while at once condoning association with a murderous and tyrannical regime butchering Gambians for decades. In fact, what else has Mr. Manjang, for years, been arguing with Mr. Jallow if not precisely this question? The pluralism she desperately works at defining logically extends to include Yahya Jammeh in MOJA. Well who recruited him? Was it Sajor, Dumo Sarho, or Jainaba herself? Was that the reason he called to offer the couple a cabinet post? Pluralism, stretched to the extent that views on issues transcend ideological lines simply translates into another political organization or party. The AFPRC/APRC is definitely not anything MOJA has ever been.

When Jainaba gave her back to the regime, calling it “child murderers” (sometime after April 2000) she was at once also driving a huge wedge between her husband Sajor Jallow and herself. In all her writings, interviews, statements and activist roles working against the APRC regime she created and maintained an ideological and political distance between what she damned as the regime’s frightful abuses of power and whatever role her husband served in the same regime. The louder Jainaba condemned or decried the wanton killing of Gambians, the disappearances, arson attacks, long-term detention of journalists, the execution of prisoners, the brutal torture of detainees and political opponents, and other acts of pure terror on a fearful population, the more she illustrated her opposition to her husband’s association with tyranny. His position must in the long run simply become untenable. The pair of them became irreconcilable binaries, defining one another’s political positions in violently contradictory terms. That is not political pluralism between spouses. It is the chosen association with tyranny by one, and agitation against it by the other. Yet instead of facing the world and condemning her husband’s choice of political buddies she scoops my private past as a comparable moral failure. She laments in Omerta how she was tortured by President Jawara’s secret police until smoke oozed from her nostrils, but defends the good works of her husband on behalf of a regime whose agents killed school children, killed and maimed journalists and raped women. So liberation is equivalent to creating gardens for some women but remain mute and prim and fair when others are killed or raped? Is that what the struggle is all about?

Finally, that Fatou Camara asked her why she did not divorce him can easily be deconstructed to mean, how does a fair Ajaratou like you remain riveted to so undeserving an Alhaji like him? My calling Mr. Jallow an opportunist is a much kinder criticism. It is amazing that it would take his arrest to drive home to Jainaba that she has been his greatest and loudest critic since April 2000. She is in need of scapegoats even if only to appease her own ghosts temporarily. This is not about Sajor Jallow per se; it is about all those so-called intellectuals, including the author of Kany Lai Sheriff Bojang, who, in Hamjatta Kanteh’s immortal phrase “…supply intellectual muscle” to a crackpot.

Mr. Editor, I am more than grateful to be given space to refute the vicious charges thrown at me.

Momodou S Sidibeh
Stockholm, Sweden


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