First, let me begin with this famous quote in order to set the stage for my narrative.
“The words came before the bullets and machetes in Rwanda, the words came before the bullets and sticks in Kenya, the words came before the bullets and Gas chamber in Nazi Germany. Therefore Words have consequences”
Why did I start with the above statement and how relevant is it to our “new” Gambia context? To answer these questions, one would have to go back to the 3rd of June 2016 when the then mad head of state Yahya Jammeh uttered his most audacious words ever, a remark which many commentators at the time predicted as the beginning of the end to his 22-year misrule. Of course, those words on that fateful June day were surely not his first but were by far the most vile, vulgar, and derogatory diatribe against the Mandinkas and everything we represent. In what seems like a paralysis shock to the whole country, I can still clearly recall receiving a phone call from a very good childhood Wolof friend of with an urgency in his voice saying, “boy have you heard what Yahya said about the Mandinkas?” Yes! I replied and went on to ask him about the well-being of his family. In what seemed to him as my lack of interest in his inquiry, I can sense disappointment in his voice. Finally comes his question I was waiting for. Bless him! After trying his hardest not to sound tribalist, he just wanted to know my opinion as a Mandinka on the president’s shameful pronouncement. I replied that I have none whatsoever. I then asked him what his own personal take was on the whole issue and his replied was: “what Yahya Jammeh said wast totally wrong.” He registered his anger and disappointment too. Voila! “Now you’ve spoken for me,” I said. What is morally wrong is wrong regardless of who is at the receiving end. And the condemnation coming from a non-Mandinka to my mind will carry more weight. If I were to huff and puff about it, the feeble minded person would accuse me of being angry because I am a Mandinka. I have learned to defend others on the truth and let others defend me on the cardinal principle of Universal Truth.
And why am I saying all these?
There will be no New Gambia if the regime change gained is not complemented by a serious attitudinal change. This has nothing to do whatsoever with President Barrow the person but everything to do with our Gambian society.
The happenings on social media about the government appointments, the NAWEC saga, the Halifa Sallah shenanigan, and the subsequent reaction of the Johny-just-come late to the UDP “supporters” is a cause for concern. These position seeking activists want Darboe or President Barrow to act as a tyrant and a democrat at the same time without realising that these two are mutually exclusive.
I intentionally make mention of Barrow and Darboe due to this fallacy of these supporters equating the coalition government as a UDP government hence they are calling for the personalisation of power by dictating who gets fired and who deserves to be hired. Yes, they the bona fide liberators, self-appointed, anointed ones, do-gooders, all-knowing “diasporans who love The Gambia more than anyone else should now be automatically appointed and rewarded with prestigious positions. And I hear you asked but for what? Exactly! I say nothing! But I’m sure you’ve heard them say for their “loyalty” not to the country but to Darboe and UDP and also for all the shouting they’ve been doing over the years. (See my “prophecy” almost 4 years ago on what is happening in The Gambia today)
Now let’s take a pause here for a minute. Are they not replicating the same ills they denounced in dictator Jammeh? That is, he only hires Jolas in key positions, APRC fanatics get rewarded handsomely, the louder, visible and explicit your attack and insult on perceived enemies, the higher your chances of getting rewarded with that dream job, you have a personal issue with a non-Jola just make a phone call and their faith is sealed. Now flip the coin and you will see the same traits in the new sheriffs in town. They will argue that Barrow should hire their “freedom fighters” in important positions devoid of Jolas. They cried “fire Isatou Badjie” and hire…. you know who! Yes “them”, recall all the ambassador and replace them with… you know who! Yes “them”. Fatou Camara should not be hired but instead, you know who! Yes them! Fatou Ceesay should not be hired, Saul Fraser should not be hired, and Banta Njie too and etc etc…. Therefore when the foreign minister started dishing out positions to these vocal supporters willy-nilly around the world, beneficiaries have now gone quiet because they finally enjoy the fruit of their “labour”. However, these rewards have now become the motivation and cue for lazy job seekers to outmaneuver each other in the praise singing war by upping the antics. And we all know what happens when bad behaviour is rewarded? It only gets worse! And it’s dangerously getting uglier!
For these loud, angry, and intolerant dominant section of party agitators/activists, everyone who supports this government but not a visible supporter of UDP does so – not out of honest love for our country – but out of a selfish desire for material enrichment that should be reserved for them only. Anyone who disagrees with them, however mildly, is an enemy of the Gambia. Anyone who expresses anything, however small, that shows Barrow and Darboe’s shortcomings, that person is a secret Jammeh sympathiser, and supports dictatorship and human rights abuses. Constructive criticism of their party and its leader is sacrilege.
Just like the APRC has consolidated a personality cult around Jammeh, these so-called Gambia lovers/strugglers are beginning to consolidate a messiah cult around Darboe and by extension to H.E Barrow to a lesser degree. What we are seeing is not the behaviour of either individuals (Jawara Vs Jammeh or Jammeh Vs Barrow) but a much broader problem deeply rooted in our Gambian society where kinship bounds us more strongly than nationhood, where personal interests supersede national interest, where political chicanery reigns supreme over the common good.
So whenever one’s kinsman or party ascends to power we automatically assume it’s our time to eat. I say #NotInMyName!
Tragically, whenever there is any criticism of the government, however mild it may be, these position seeking fanatical supporters will flood social media like a swarm of bees and virulently attack, accuse, insult, and verbally terrorise any dissenter. Unless we are all suffering from collective amnesia in a short span of 9 months, otherwise how can we forget that this is the same extremist and intolerant nature of Jammeh diehard supporters such as Seedy Njie, Bakary Marong, Rambo, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, Yanuba Colley et al and their green boys. Their shared motto? One is either with them or against them. They do not accept the legitimacy of any opinion contrary to their own. My friends, this is sanctimonious hypocrisy. This is the attitudinal change that has to happen for this “New Gambia” to sail smoothly.
These troublemakers seldom placed themselves on a high moral pedestal covertly claiming anyone, not a party sympathiser or was a “genuine struggler” cannot be trusted by the Barrow government. The irony and tragedy at once are that these are the same people who yesterday were sanctifying Halifa as God’s gift and today because he dares speak about changing the Jammeh system, he is now being vilified right, left and centre. And now see what has become of Mai Fatty, the cheerleader of those attacks as an aspiring president. Sadly rather than listen to Halifa’s message, they! Yes, they! The competing forces started shooting the messenger. I believed Halifa’s overachieving message was, our obsession and blinded focus on individuals has led Gambia to embrace one hero after another. First came Jawara, and when Jammeh toppled him, we sang and danced, then we welcomed Yahya the benevolent dictator with our hypocritical dances as the saviour and as if we haven’t learned anything, already the praise singers have started labelling Barrow as the messiah who can’t do no wrong even before he settles down in the position. This speaks to Mr. Sallah’s core message, which was, this change of leadership in government without changing the underlying structural constraints will in the future lead us into the search for the next prophet of The Gambia even before Barrow’s presidency ends. Alas, those structural constraints did evoke our collective anger around the Vice President’s appointment, the revelations at the Janneh Commission, the NAWEC Saga, and much more. This has reinforced my belief that we should all by now realise that Jawara and Jammeh are not the causes of Gambia’s problems but rather we conveniently forgot they are all the product and reflection of the problems of our own society. What is happening on our social media right now are a clear indication that there is a Jammeh in most people in our little Gambia. Thus when we change Jawara with Jammeh without changing our structures, it only causes us pain and suffering and to now change Jammeh with Barrow without the structural changes will only breed more Jammeh types around the Barrow presidency. Those familiar political hangers-on, praise-singing position seekers, sycophants and one track minded fanatics are raising their ugly heads again. The danger is, these can only and always will be a menace to any meaningful development and Barrow should quickly distance himself from such cheap flatterings. It has destroyed Jawara, turned Jammeh into a demi-God and it is set to undermine Barrow’s legacy. I’m glad he is beginning to flex that presidential muscle with the Mai “firing” for the greater good. Be the Magufuli of Gambia and bring in a drastic change from the past. Finally, Mr President what you deserve and we demand are those structural changes for The Gambia to fulfill its potential. The good news is, for the many who underestimated Barrow 9 months ago, with the purging of Mai, will do now. I hope this is a demonstration of his willingness to disturb the status quo and convince many that his intentions are more sincere than those surrounding him.
Our overriding priority should always be, how not to create a fertile field for the breeding or cloning of the likes of Saul Badjie, Ousman Sonko, Solo Bojang, Sanna Manjang, Kawsu Camara Nuha Badjie, Umpa Mendy, Bora Colley, Sanna Jarjue etc….
As the dust settles, it has now become clearer to many of us the different interest groups in your cabinet. I shall deal with them in my subsequent piece. But for now, this is no one’s time to eat, instead it should be everyone’s duty to change ourselves, our thinkings, our attitudes and ultimately The Gambia our homeland will become the “New Gambia” we are all yearning for.
I will conclude with this quote from Malcolm X: “I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice, and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.”
Sutay Kuta Sanneh