Fellow Gambians, I am all over the moon in writing this piece. God has accepted one of my prayers to see a Gambia without Yaya Jammeh. Who would have believed this just two years ago? However God is good. I feel the same way Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa felt when Apartheid came crumbling two decades ago (1994). I want to laugh, I want to cry and I want to dance all at the same time. I want to sleep, I want to run, I want to sing and I want to meditate all at the same time. I want to celebrate by doing all these things at the same time but it is impossible. I will just make it simple: Koooooooookuuuiii, Nyaho Deeyata!
I believe my emotions at this point in time represent those of many Gambians. People are happy that twenty-two years of terror is over but sad that we do not have our hands on our tormentor/terrorist/murderer at this point in time. Some will even prefer to have him dead rather than let him leave the shores of the Gambia in one piece. I am with you. I feel you. I get it.
However, considering where we started, say one year ago, when even the most optimistic person would not have imagined that Yaya Jammeh would be out by January 2017. Giving that reality, I will simply take what we have today. I will celebrate and thank God that we have been liberated from evil control of the monster. Yaya has not escaped justice from Gambians. Hell no! It is a matter of time before he accounts for twenty-two years of violence inflicted on Gambians. At this point in time, we need a cooling off period to enable the new administration to settle down and begin nation building. Once the administration put its feet in place, the war on Yaya and his enablers will begin in earnest. Yaya will pay for every evil deed he had committed whether it is murder, torture, disappearance without trace or economic crime he used to destroy his enemies. Even if Yaya goes to Mars or Pluto, we will get him when we are ready for him. He will not escape with impunity. Those days are over in West Africa. I am saying this because there are empirical evidence in recent past where by people who committed evil used blackmail and backroom deals to get away with it only for it to catch up with them shortly afterwards. We all remember Charles Taylor when he was allowed to go on exile in Nigeria. He was allowed to go with everything he wanted including the illusionary immunity from prosecution. Where is he now? No wonder Yaya never looked at the asylum offered to him by Nigeria. We all remember Captain Amadou Sanogo who illegally took power in Mali for twenty-two (22) days in 2012 in the middle of a civil war and forced Malians to accord him the status of a former president with all the privileges including a hefty monthly stipend and body guards. Mali obliged then so that the country can move forward. Where is Sanogo today? He is where he belongs to, behind bars! Yaya will account for his sins, it is just a matter of time.
The main objective of this article to show that we should not let our emotions carry us in this crucial time of nation building. Whereas every Gambian who committed serious crime under Yaya’s leadership such as murder, torture or looting of our resources should fully pay for it, a great majority of us are innocent victims of Yaya. The national army and other security agencies, probably with the exception of the NIA, were victims just like ordinary citizens. Some people argued that the army betrayed the nation by not immediately abandoning Yaya when it became open secret that Yaya was crazy when he said he voided the December 1st election results. Some even argued that they should have immediately abandoned him, arrest him and switched their loyalty to the then president-elect Adama Barrow. With all honesty, this was impossible given what obtained in the Gambia. Yaya was a master manipulator who divided the army in such a way that any individual who openly showed disloyalty to him (Barrow) would have been destroyed. Legally, the army could switch sides only after Yaya’s term ended on the 19th of January and this is what most of them did as shown by their refusal to fight ECOMIG and the smart move by the two commanders of Yundum and Fajara barracks to cross the border to join the invading forces. The army has been the biggest victim of Yaya as they bore the brunt of his violence: killing, imprisonment, firing and rehiring. “Put yourself in their shoes, see the world through their eyes”, as Barack Obama likes to say. This does not mean all the members of the armed forces are clean. No! It is far from that. Just like civilians, there are elements who helped Yaya perpetrate his crimes and these elements should not only be cleansed from the army but should pay for their crimes. However, I believe the great majority of the army are decent and patriotic citizens who do a decent job in protecting the nation and taking care of their families. They have been abused by Yaya just like we the civilians have been abused over the years. Any reform of the security forces should not necessarily victimize the victims twice but only those who helped Yaya in committing his crimes like his junglers. Remember as late as the 15th of January, a number of soldiers were arrested for not openly committing to support Yaya.
Urgent Unsolicited Advice to President Barrow
I was very impressed when I heard you said in an interview in Dakar that your aim is to lay a good democratic foundation for the country so that anyone who succeeds you in three years’ time will continue from there. Mr. President, you are spot on! In achieving that objective, I would like you to consider the following urgent steps:
- Even though our current constitution does not require it, you will set a very high standard if you make it a policy for all incoming senior members of your new administration to disclose their assets. These senior officials should include at least all cabinet positions as well as heads of departments. This will be a first step in curing a cancer called “corruption” in our society. You can start with yourself by disclosing your assets. I know some people will tell you this is not necessary because Yaya’s administration did not do that. Remember, we are not comparing you with old regimes but we are building a new Gambia and in new Gambia standards must be high.
Do not play with the constitution. Our current constitution however imperfect it may be, it is what it is. It is through the same constitution that elections were held and you became president. One of your priorities should be to overhaul the entire document in a comprehensive way that it will reflect the aspirations of the people and sustain and nurture our democracy and development. Meanwhile, do not amend or change any part to suit an individual interest. This was what Yaya was doing and any such action on your part will make you look like another Yaya. In order words, do not amend the constitution to enable you appoint Fatoumatta Tambajang as your Vice president. Give her another position and do not mess with the constitution piecemeal because this was what Yaya did to prostitute the constitution. The age limit in the constitution was specifically meant to disqualify Ousainou Darboe and you must not change it to qualify another individual.
Coordinate your activities so that your government can speak with one voice. We understand that your transition is one of a kind and you will be excused for a lot of missteps. However, you are surrounded by a lot of knowledgeable people and what happened in appointing a constitutionally disqualified vice president or two separate senior officials contradicting each other on critical public issues is unacceptable.