By Baba Galleh Jallow
Dear CDS Badjie and members of the Gambia Armed Forces,
Just over a week ago on December 14, 2016 we wrote an open letter asking you to find a way to persuade outgoing president Yahya Jammeh to step down peacefully and avoid bringing about violent conflict in our country. Over the past week, our country’s security situation has grown increasingly precarious, causing widespread fear among innocent men, women and children and adversely affecting our economy. During the same period we have also seen an increasing number of Gambian civil society organizations and individuals pleading with Yahya Jammeh to step down and prevent our country from sliding into conflict. These internal Gambian voices have been complemented by the voices of Gambian ambassadors, professionals and private individuals in the Diaspora. We all have also heard the concerned voices of many countries and international organizations around the world pleading with Yahya Jammeh to see reason and step down in the interest of peace and stability in our little peace-loving country and the safety of our parents, children, families and relatives who just want to live their lives in peace.
Unfortunately, in the face of this near universal chorus of pleas from both at home and abroad, Yahya Jammeh stubbornly refuses to budge and is willing to plunge our country into a violent conflict which will shed the blood of innocent people and destroy our country. Does Yahya Jammeh want God himself to step down to earth and plead with him to step down? Can Yahya Jammeh defy the will of the entire world and still win, as he says he will? Why does Yahya Jammeh shut his eyes against the reality that after 22 years in power, it is time for him to move on and allow The Gambia to move on? When Yahya Jammeh declares that he will not step down because he is not a coward, our response is that he is refusing to step down precisely because he is a coward. It is never cowardly to do the right thing. It is always cowardly to refuse to do the right thing, especially if refusing to do the right thing means sacrificing the lives of innocent people. In any case, the issue at stake is not about chest pounding and empty verbal bravado. It is about doing the right thing by God and by the Gambian people. It is about avoiding a conflict that will claim the lives of innocent Gambians who have nothing to lose if Jammeh steps down after enjoying power for 22 long years. Jammeh is trying to protect nobody but himself and his personal selfish interests.
We assume you have heard the news that ECOWAS has formally decided that if Yahya Jammeh refuses to step down on or before January 19, they will send a military intervention force to oust him and make sure that the will of the Gambian people is done. It is clear to all right-thinking people that there is no way Yahya Jammeh can win a war against the combined forces of ECOWAS with possible support from French Special Forces and other international players. Of course, if there is an external intervention force, you our dear brothers and sisters in the Gambia Armed Forces will be the ones to risk your lives in the line of fire. We Gambians do not want a single member of the Gambia Armed Forces losing their lives or suffering any kind of injury in defense of Yahya Jammeh. You Gambian soldiers come from us, the people. You are our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, and our relatives and friends. You also have your immediate families who look up to you, who depend on you for their day to day sustenance, and who love you more than Yahya Jammeh will ever care for you. Your spouses and loved ones need you; your parents and blood relatives need you; your children need you to be there for them as they grow up. We the Gambian people need you to stay alive to defend our country should the need arise in the future. The need to take fire for us does not arise in the present circumstances. If you take fire, you take fire for Yahya Jammeh, who is not worth it if only because he will no longer be your Commander-in-Chief after January 19, 2017. Why then would you die for him?
In essence, we are saying to you our dear brothers and sisters of the Gambia Armed Forces that the current crisis, especially after January 19, will not be about defending our country or our people – the majority of whom have voted for a new president and want to move peacefully on with their lives. The current crisis, especially after January 19, will be about citizen Yahya Jammeh, who wants you to sacrifice your lives and destroy the futures of your families, your children and the children of other Gambian families so he can try to do an impossible thing – hang on to power after clearly losing a free and fair election. If you take up arms against the Gambian people or against an intervention force, you are risking your lives for Yahya Jammeh, not for The Gambia or the Gambian people. Do not let Yahya Jammeh use and abuse your precious lives for his own personal and selfish interests. Please do not risk your lives for Yahya Jammeh. He is no longer your commander-in-chief after January 19.
In the light of Yahya Jammeh’s insane insistence on staying in power even if it means sacrificing your precious lives and the lives of many other innocent people, we are asking you again to please persuade Yahya Jammeh to step down peacefully and save our country from war. If he refuses to step down for God’s sake and for the sake of 1.8 million Gambians, we ask that you simply refuse to sacrifice your lives for him. If you die defending Yahya Jammeh, you die defending evil and you will never assume a place of honor in Gambian history. Rather, you will forever be remembered as soldiers who chose to defend an unjust tyrant against the will of God and of the Gambian people. You will be remembered as soldiers who helped Yahya Jammeh in his nefarious determination to stay in power even if that means destroying our country. And then what will happen to the innocent children you leave behind? What will happen to your brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, widows, widowers, parents? How will your mothers and fathers bear the pain of losing you to such an unworthy and evil cause? The point we are making is that if Yahya Jammeh refuses to listen to reason and common sense whether from you, from the Gambian community at large or from the international community, please do not sacrifice your lives for him. His time is up. He is going out one way or the other. You have your lives, your careers and your families to look after. And you have a country to guard and defend. Please don’t die for Jammeh.
In the event that military intervention happens – which it will if Jammeh refuses to heed the voice of reason – please remove your uniforms and stay at home with your families, drop your weapons and raise your arms, or otherwise cooperate and help in any way possible to make sure that Yahya Jammeh complies with the will of God and the will of the Gambian people. This will not be an act of cowardice or surrender. In fact, it will be an act of honor and courage on your part in support of truth and reason, and in the interest of our dear little country and thousands of innocent Gambians including your own families. No one will penalize you for doing that because that will be the right thing and the lawful thing to do. It will not be against any constituted and legitimate authority, but in support of the sovereign national interest which you are sworn to safeguard.
Remember that Yahya Jammeh’s term as legitimate president of The Gambia ends at midnight on January 18, 2016. After that date and time, he and anyone supporting him will be guilty of treason and treasonable felony if they oppose the government that has the mandate of the Gambian people. Please do not die for Jammeh or allow Jammeh’s mad greed for power to destroy your futures and the futures of your families and our dear, peaceful country. If this war happens, and we hope Jammeh sees reason to prevent it, it will not be one Jammeh and whoever supports him can win by any stretch of the imagination. If Yahya Jammeh wants to commit suicide, let him go ahead and do it. Please don’t die for Jammeh. The choice is entirely yours.
We want to seize this opportunity to also briefly address our brothers and sisters in Jammeh’s cabinet. We are certain that the intelligent men and women in Jammeh’s cabinet know very well that he is fighting a losing battle. Therefore, we are asking you to either issue a joint statement asking him to step down or even better, to resign from his government now before it comes crashing down around you and thereby implicating you in an aiding and abetting scenario. We all know that Jammeh’s time is up. His government is over or will be over exactly at midnight on January 18, 2017. His ship is sinking. Do not allow yourself to sink with it and jeopardize your personal safety, security, and future and the safety, security and future of your families, your children, parents, spouses and relatives as well as the wider Gambian community. It is not too late to do the right thing, join the vocal popular Gambian revolution and help our dear little country avoid a potentially catastrophic conflict just because Yahya Jammeh is too cowardly to step down after being president for 22 long years and after been clearly defeated at a free and fair election. So we say unto you as well, members of the Jammeh cabinet, please don’t die for Jammeh. Tell him to step down or resign from his government. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing the right thing before it’s too late. Godspeed.
Author’s Note: Please share as widely as possible with our dear brothers and sisters of the Gambia Armed Forces and in the Jammeh cabinet, their families, relatives and friends. We must nurture our beautiful new Gambia and protect our dear brothers and sisters in uniform. Let’s loudly say to them #Don’tDieForJammeh!