By Saul Saidykhan
Some days ago, one-time military ADC to former Head of State Yaya Jammeh Major Kalipha Bajinka passed on at 48 in Boston, MA. I first got introduced to Major Kalipha Bajinka in an unusual way. On the snowy day news of US forces pulling Saddam Hussein out of the rat hole he was hiding in the previous nine months in 2003 broke, I dropped my wife and oldest daughter off at JFK airport in New York for their trip to Gambia. Over two weeks later, closing in on New Years’ Eve 2004, I called my wife to check on them. They were traveling and visiting relatives across the country. She said something about them wanting to stop in Kanilai on their way to Kombo because one of my brothers-in-law who she was with is good friends with the man in charge of the security at Kanilai. I was amused by the irony because at the time, I was an active subversive looking for serious partners to take out Jammeh by any means necessary. My wife and only daughter visiting Jammeh in his lair at that time couldn’t be more ironic. The background to the visit idea is, the previous May (2003), when Yaya Jammeh visited Washington and held a reception at his hotel (attended by 50+ Gambians in the DC area), which was also the day Ebou Jallow publicly cried and begged Jammeh to forgive him only for Jammeh to leave his extended hand of friendship hanging until Blaise Jagne kept nudging him to show decorum, – myself, Ousainou Mbenga, Pa Samba Jaw, Mbye Sarr, and wife -Sofie Ceesay, held a small, but noisy protest outside the venue. My wife went inside the hotel to collect a package her older sister had sent her through one Sukai – wife of former Justice Minister Lamin Jobarteh (who was part of Jammeh’s delegation.) Due to some silly drama with NIA agents wanting to eject my wife because of my politics, she got trapped by the entrance outside the reception hall that Jammeh had to pass through. Noticing their demeanor once Jammeh emerged, she brushed them aside, stepped forward, and asked Jammeh if they can take a picture. Jammeh to his credit, stopped, and obliged eagerly. My then two-year old daughter’s reaction to Jammeh in the picture is priceless.
Anyhow, on that December 2003 trip, my wife and daughter stopped in Kanilai on their way to the West coast. I learnt from my brother in law the identity of his Kanilai contact is one Major Kalipha Bajinka, close aide to Jammeh who personally cleared their way from Kanfenda to Kanilai. They didn’t meet Jammeh though he was in the village because of his temperamental nature. I took my wife and brother in law‘s word for it, a version that would later be corroborated by the Major. In any case, I kept my distance from Bajinka based on both perception and rumors. My rule of thumb in the Jammeh years is NOT to trust ANYONE -civilian or military, who has been close to Yaya Jammeh at the personal level for more than a few years. In my reckoning, it’s simply impossible to be a decent human being, and be close to Yaya Jammeh!
Fast forward several years, I heard Major Bajinka and Jammeh have fallen out. A mutual friend gave me his contact info in the US and I reached out. One of the first things I told him was my low regard for and distrust of people like him who work blindly for a murderer like Yaya Jammeh for years. To my complete surprise, he agreed with me with a caveat: that it’s generally true, but there are many who are simply in a bind and can’t seem to find a way out because Gambians can’t be trusted. He told me he was helped to get out by American friends (wink, wink) because he was tired of seeing Jammeh setting innocent people up and destroying them. He was forced into exile because he intervened in the case of two cabinet ministers. He didn’t tell me their names directly, but from his description, I immediately knew who he was referring to from news reports at the time. Jammeh was intent on locking up the two men, but they had no idea. (He eventually did anyway.) They would come to Kanilai, and the man would put on a show for them as if nothing is amiss. When they step out, he’ll let out expletives about what he’ll do to them. Bajinka said he couldn’t take the hypocrisy anymore. So, after one of the two men’s trips to Kanilai while he was at home in Brikama for a short break, on their way home, he let them know what is in the offing for them. However, instead of skipping town or resigning, or being grateful, one of the men, a former head of the public Service, ran back to Jammeh to ask him if it is true what Bajinka said! Jammeh furious, immediately ordered his Jungulers to execute Bajinka for betraying him. His American friends stepped in to get him out of harm’s way.
He swore he never killed a soul for Jammeh. I have no evidence or reason to contradict or doubt him.
In my interaction with Bajinka, I found him to be very intelligent, and insightful. He was an invaluable resource on the GNA especially the Officer Corps. He knows his fellow officers well, their mettle – the stuff they’re made of. He was a great sound board all around. And unlike many of the Foni officers around Jammeh, Bajinka earned his rank properly through the recommendation of his foreign professional military trainers after completing the required military programs for promotion. He was particularly fun of his military college days in Nigeria. While he was born, and bred in Brikama, he said his roots are in tiny Foni Kanmanka near Kanlagi and Jarrol. He calls me Mbitang (in-law) because his wife’s mom is from Jarra Sankwia as is my mom. He understands Yaya Jammeh very well- his mentality, proclivities, weaknesses, and so on. There’s no better witness than someone whose job is to literally stand behind and look over another person’s shoulder in an intimate setting, and to pretend not to see or hear anything. I’ll forever be grateful to him for the information I was able to glean from him about Jammeh and his associates over the years of our correspondence. This will come out in different forms in the future god-willing. He sent me a Thank You note for 2016 on last New Year’s eve for brightening his year. It was to be our last correspondence. I had no idea he was also humbled by ill-health. May Allah grant him JANNA!
Courtesy of www.mantankara.com