The 2016 election affair is now getting messy. Our beloved Gambia is fast becoming a business enterprise, Turn-by-Turn Gambia Limited, with every Tom, Dick and Harry wanting to become the country’s Number One citizen. Why did I say so?
It has been 22 years since God put The Gambia under the biggest trial in the history of our existence, by giving us none other than Yahya Jammeh as our Head of State. In these 22 years, Gambians have put up with a Head of State who is second to none in mendacity, hypocrisy, in torture and in everything evil. For 22 years, Gambians have endured the kind of dictatorship that the rest of Africa has not witnessed since the demise of Idi Amin Dada, Emperor Bukassa and Sergeant Samuel Doe. For 22 years, President Yahya Jammeh has been aided and abetted, in his crime against The Gambia and her people, by elements of our armed & security forces and by the APRC-elected Parliamentarians, the latter, from the vantage point of their dominance in the National Assembly. For 22 years, one group ensured the enforcement of Jammeh’s mostly illegal orders whilst the other legitimised his illegalities by supporting and passing laws that provided the legal framework to validate his actions. In other words, these two groups, plus some selected selfish Gambians, collaborated in an unholy Trinity Alliance to mortgage our beloved country to Yahya Jammeh in return for transient economic cum political fringe benefits. So, if there is one lesson Gambians should learn from our experience of the last 22 years, that lesson should be: to, henceforth, develop a critical mind that would carefully evaluate any person who wants to run for the highest office on the land.
Given the above, when one of those who had been an integral part of the unholy alliance that destroyed our country beyond compare, decided to re-brand himself as a political born-again wanting to “salvage” the country, we should question his sincerity, evaluate his intentions and commitment to the welfare of our people. I must admit that the move itself is not so surprising in the new Gambia where most of us now appear to have been morally “re-orientated” under the Sheikh’s APRC influence. However, what is most surprising is to see Gambians falling head over heels in love with such a man and his party. Is it a dream? I ask myself. I truly cannot get my head around this obvious folly. It is either we, as a people, have exceptionally very short memories or we are nothing but a nation of hypocrites; and I am inclined to believe that the latter is the case – a nation of hypocrites. It sounds harsh but that is the reality. In a normal setting, all the APRC Parliamentarians, should have been busy defending their integrity in constituted competent courts of law for their crime(s) against the Gambian state, and not have the audacity that they now display as contender(s) for the highest office on the land. But like I said earlier, after APRC’s “Re-orientation” of the Gambian people, foul has suddenly become fair and fair has become foul. That is why even the Sheikh’s queer comportment appears normal and acceptable to Gambians; one gets flabbergasted that there are some over-zealous supporters who are willing to commit any atrocity on the orders and in defense of the Sheikh.
So, in view of Mr. Kandeh’s desire to seek Public Office, I think it is very important, at this juncture, to thoroughly scrutinize him to avoid any semblance of a Yahya Jammeh-reincarnation. Given this premise, let us take a look at this re-branded politician to unmask him, because as far as I am concerned, this man is wearing a mask that needs to be pulled off for our people to see who he really is.
As a premise, Mamma Kandeh is (and should be seen and regarded as) an excommunicated member of the ruling APRC party, a fact confirmed by Mr. Kandeh himself in an interview with the Standard Newspaper (29 June 2016 edition), where he was quoted saying “I was expelled from APRC on 3 April 2013”. Therefore, to me, until his dismissal, he was an integral part of the system that has mortgaged (and continues to mortgage) our country to Africa’s latest dictator. In fact, until the emergence of the GDC, Mamma Kandeh, to some of his APRC colleagues, was still an APRC member, never mind his dismissal three years prior. To corroborate this statement, Mayor Yankuba Colley, in a news article captioned MAMMA KANDEH BETRAYED PRESIDENT JAMMEH (The Standard, 1st July 2016), had this to say about his former APRC colleague:
“Yes, he was expelled from the APRC but after that, he asked me to facilitate for him to meet with the president. But to remind him, after meeting the president along Bertil Harding Highway, where the president was on a spot visit—if he could fully remember—he said to the president that he would never betray him and that he would be his number one supporter and the last person to betray him. That was the last [time] we met. This is why when I saw his letter from the IEC saying Mamma Kandeh has registered a party, I could not believe that it is the same Mamma Kandeh”. Continuing further the Mayor Colley nailed the coffin with the following statements: “I was not sure it is the same Mamma Kandeh I sat together with the president who promised never to betray the president. It looks like a dream to me that the same Mamma Kandeh betrayed the cause”.
The above statements say a lot about Mr. Kandeh. First, the above statements imply that Mr. Kandeh, at the time, did not mind a reinstatement into the ruling party. Otherwise what was the point in meeting the president to show his loyalty promising to be his supporter Numero Uno? It also implies that Mr. Kandeh would not have left the APRC party on his own volition if he was not dismissed, and that, to me and any other critical observer, is an indication of Kandeh’s continued endorsement of President Jammeh’s stewardship of the Gambian ship for the past 22 years and beyond, hence his pledge to be his “Number One supporter”, as alleged by the KMC Mayor. But of utmost significance is the Mayor’s implicit depiction of Mr. Kandeh as a two-faced man: – one face is a Mamma Kandeh who promised to be the “Number One supporter” of Yahya Jammeh thus implicitly endorsing all of the APRC Government’s policies. The other face is a Mamma Kandeh who now heads GDC, a supposed Opposition party that opposes Yahya Jammeh (and the APRC Government’s policies) and is working to replace him as president of The Gambia. So I ask: How does Mr. Kandeh himself reconcile these two mutually exclusive positions? Secondly, which one of the two Mamma Kandehs is being presented to the unsuspecting Gambian voter?
Mayor Yankuba Colley’s view of Mr. Kandeh was corroborated in another article in The Standard Newspaper (14 July 2016 edition) captioned “Mamma Kandeh is dodgy”. In this article, one Facuru Sillah (supposedly Number 2 man in GDC, at the time) was quoted saying that GDC’s “intentions are shrouded in doubts, and their ways are wayward” and that Mamma Kandeh has a “….dodgy behaviour” which made him (Facuru) to part ways with him. If this two-faced portrait of our presidential aspirant was expressed by his former APRC colleagues only, we might have some doubt in the veracity of the claim. However, if the same sentiment is echoed by a non-APRC member and a one-time close ally of the man, then every right-thinking person should be concerned. This is a RED FLAG.
As if the above contradictions were not enough, Kandeh himself dropped the bombshell in a news article authored by one Sheriff Phatey dated 26th May 2016 captioned “Presidential term limits not in Kandeh’s plans, to stay in power as long as Gambians want”. In this article, Kandeh was alleged to have said that two five-year term limits was not enough to solve the country’s “teething troubles” caused by Jammeh and the APRC party. What an irony! You worked and endorsed the party that created all the mess, now you turn around asking people to entrust you to clean the mess but then this cannot be done in 10 years! How audacious can one be? Nowhere in the article was it mentioned that Mr. Kandeh had accepted responsibility (either fully or partially) for the “teething troubles”, given that he was, at some point, part of the team that caused the “teething troubles”.
To me, the above is enough warning to be truly wary of our new man in town. Yet when you ask people what is it that attracts them to a man with such a baggage around him?, the answers that have become a constant are: he “looks presidential”; he “attracts a lot of followers” and he has a winning formula. For God’s sake, I can understand when such answers come from a barely literate person. However, when such statements come from supposedly educated fellows, it is a grave cause for concern especially when these are the so-called future hopes of our dear motherland. Do we mean a man’s mere “looks” are enough to entrust him with the life of a whole nation? One thing I have learnt and validated from my very early age is William Shakespeare’s famous quote in Macbeth “there is no art to find the mind’s construction on the face”. Yahya Jammeh was seemingly a “freedom fighter” to his comrades in arms until he assumed the mantle of leadership. Now the rest is History. In fact, what does the phrase “looks presidential” mean? What looks must one possess to “look presidential”? I asked because I am very curious.
I read one piece on Mamma Kandeh which, among other things, states “The new leader of the GDC is indeed a very attractive candidate, a fresh face, youth and the fact that he is not one of the old opposition leaders that people see as part of the problem, gives him that edge. Politics is about timing, and time investment does not necessarily guarantee an advantage”.
In all honesty, I want to ask the author following questions:
- How “attractive” is a man who has supported all the terrible laws that the APRC Government enacted since coming to power? Was it not by virtue of their majority that the APRC party, of which Mr. Kandeh was an integral part, decided to bastardise the Second Republican constitution with all the alterations and amendments which rendered it totally useless? I ask: How attractive can Mr. Kandeh be to those parents whose innocent children were mowed down with guns on that fateful day in April of 2000 but the culprits of which crime were indemnified by laws passed by the APRC parliamentarians by virtue of their majority, never mind Mr. Kandeh was in that parliament or not? How attractive can such a man be to any conscious citizen with a bias-free mind? How attractive can a man be when they associate themselves with the bitter legacy of the APRC?
Deep down, do we truly believe in the statement that Mr. Kandeh is a “fresh face”? What is “fresh” about the “face” of a candidate who has been on the wrong side of the political spectrum and who partook in enacting and legitimising all the Draconian laws of our land? Can we call an old wine “fresh” simply because it is now put in a new bottle? How serious are we about the future of our country? What lessons have we learnt in the past 22 years of Yahya Jammeh’s stewardship? I weep for that beautiful country called The Gambia, if this is how her sons and daughters rationalize matters of life and death.
How can any genuine person implicitly absolve any APRC parliamentarian from responsibility for our current predicament and refer to our Opposition leaders as “part of the problem”? Are we day-dreaming? Or is this Philosophy walking on its head? Granted, we have a rotten system in The Gambia that everybody acknowledges. For ages, we have been trying to bring our Opposition parties together to form a united front to fight the common enemy instead of fighting themselves. However, it is also not Rocket Science to understand that the lack of unity is mainly an outcome of the hypocrisy and the self-centeredness of some members of the political class as well as some of the so-called Diasporan “Strugglers” “fighting to liberate” The Gambia. Otherwise, truth should be (and as a matter of fact) visible to all. At this juncture, I am very convinced that you can only wake a man up if he is sleeping. However, if he pretends to be sleeping, there is no amount of noise that can wake him up. Instead of realizing that this is the wrong time to have more parties in the Opposition, nay we see the new party as “fresh” and not a part of the problem. In fact, as far as I am concerned, the new party is not only a “part of the problem”, they in fact constitute the new problem at a time when we have almost found a solution to our perennial challenge, given that Gambians have now obviously started to turn their back against the Sheikh as exemplified by the formation of the G7 Plus 1 Coalition. This is certainly not the time for a proliferation of parties, instead this is time for a consolidation of the already existing parties. And to talk about politics being “about timing, and time investment does not necessarily guarantee an advantage” is the worst (and most dishonest) intellectual judgment anybody can make. So do we mean the emergence of the GDC at this juncture is timely? Do we sincerely believe that this is the time to have more new faces in the Opposition to alienate “old opposition leaders that people see as part of the problem”? It is either we do not understand the basics of party politics or we are being intellectually dishonest. What message are we trying to convey?
How about other crucial matters like governance? How much effort have we put in to fathom what a GDC government is going to look like? I have come across what appears to me like a mumbo jumbo document, referred to by GDC as a Manifesto. To be frank, my worry about our two-faced new man in town was completely dwarfed by what I read on that document. Are we being taking for a political ride by the GDC? Is that the best that GDC can produce? Apart from the incoherence which was the hallmark of that document, its opacity left me wondering whether that was a deliberate action on the part of the drafters to shroud their intentions or it was an unwitting display of lack of capacity. Again, how attractive can such a mediocre work be to any genuine and patriotic Gambian? Are we just concerned with the flashy things (superstructure) or the actual substance (substructure)? I see a group basking in absolute Utopian fantasy like a headless chicken, yet some of our “educated folks” say this the “attractive” group because the man in charge “looks presidential”. Truly some people are jokers and they want to extend this joke to rest of the sane world. I refuse to be a part of the tasteless joke.
The last seven months have been quite eventful in the political life of our country. As sad as this period had been, it also provided sober, honest and genuine Gambians the opportunity to assess the level of commitment of the politicians to our cause, as a people held in bondage against our will. If there was anybody with a cobweb around their head regarding who to cast their vote for, it is now crystal clear as to which party (or group of parties) truly has the people’s interest at heart and thus well deserving of our votes. While acknowledging the right of everyone to vote for their choice of party, how can any genuine and well-informed Gambian vote for any political movement other than the Coalition 2016, if we truly want change?
As I pen this piece, all kinds of allegations are flying around, linking GDC to APRC and the GDC leader as a political surrogate of the leader of the APRC. Mr. Kandeh needs to clear the air regarding this and other baggage around him. A number of pundits have even started labeling his party as APRC 2. The burden of proof lies with Mr. Kandeh to convince Gambians that he is not a cat’s paw used to cause havoc to the political dreams of the majority of Gambians.
In concluding this piece of opinion, I would like to state the following:
- Mamma Kandeh is a bonafide Gambian and has all the right to vote and be voted into any political office in The Gambia (provided he qualifies), in accordance with the existing laws of The Gambia and our electoral by-laws. He is at full liberty to exercise his democratic rights. However, it is important for him to know that just as he is at liberty to exercise his democratic rights, we the masses too have the inalienable right to evaluate the actions and utterances of our politicians to decide who truly is deserving of our votes. It is such inalienable right that I have exercised here by bringing him (Kandeh) under the surgeon’s knife in this article.
In my view, Mamma Kandeh has a lot to answer regarding his role in mortgaging the future of this country to President Jammeh. We must not forget that the A(F)PRC suspended certain people from holding public office when they took over. What was their crime – association with the then PPP regime. We now know, the PPP is a party of saints, when compared with the A(F)PRC. Therefore, until Kandeh does that, I, and many others like me, cannot and will never take him serious for he is no different from the Sheikh. The only variation is that the Sheikh, apart from being the most ignorant professor in the world of academia, has an added Military and an exceptionally queer tinge which makes him more interesting to political analysts, and perhaps to the entire world.
Gambians should cast away hypocrisy and focus on the real issues that confront us as a nation. This is not a Bandiraabe/Mboka/Mbaading business. This is about our country, our future and the future of our children and grandchildren. It is not a person’s “fresh face” or his/her “presidential looks” that makes him a great leader. In Elizabethan English, it is said that once beaten twice shy. In my native Manding language, it is said the eye does not carry load but it recognises the load that the head can carry. If we repeat the same mistake we made in the case of the Sheikh, we will live to regret more than we are regretting today. That is why the December 2016 election is an election like no other.
I have said my bit and, as my Fula/Fufulbe in-laws say, “Anndudé fof ne wēbi kono haldé fof mojjāni. Hiiri Leloyoden” or as said in Mandinka, “Bey Long Yēdì Bari Bey Fõ Mēdì. Suwõ Kõuta Aling ngallaa.
By Janko Camara