By Mustapha Touray
Fatou Jallow’s recent sexual allegation against the former President Dictator Yahya Jammeh made international headlines just like Monica Lewinsky’s [former White House House Intern] sexual relationship with former President Bill Clinton did more than two decades ago. The main difference in term of legal representation and fighting for the best interest of the victims is that Lewinsky had brilliant legal team who protected and fought for her constitutional rights as an American citizen. Monica was “granted transactional immunity by the United States Office of the Independent Counsel in exchange for her testimony in court” while Fatou Jallow did not have any legal representation within the country who will speak for her during various media interviews she conducted in the last few days. As a result she made significant inconsistencies in various interviews. The consistencies will come to haunt her case and further expose her as a liar who is being used as a face of sexual violence campaign movement in The Gambia. Monica Lewinsky was never used as a face of sexual violence campaign movement in the United States despite the fact that United States has more sex crimes than The Gambia where sex crime is minimal. The United States Hollywood and pop culture both make sexual violence more prevalent than The Gambia where our conservatism and religious backgrounds highly support morality and respect for women and girlchild. A typical Gambian girl does not talk about sex like an American girl because it is considered a taboo until they get married. This is still the dominant culture of The Gambia. Dictator Jammeh introduced an evil cultural shift which led to sexualization of women as his personal property but majority of the Gambian men respect women as their sisters and mothers. Dictator Jammeh must be pursued for alleged sex crimes but using our current political climate to introduce a sexual violence campaign movement as a progeny of “Me Too Movement“ is indeed misplaced priority. The legal representatives and research team presented to pursue alleged sexual violence by the former president during Fatou Jallow’s press conference is predominantly white. This shows lack of cultural orientation as evidenced by exclusion of prominent Gambian lawyers in their audience. Fatou’s backers or supporters who presented her as a victim of sexual exploitation also did a poor job of allowing her to embark on international and local media campaign. Their 18-month research was not well conducted as far as getting to the right sources of information about alleged sex crimes. In fact, there are significant rumors which suggested that some people within The Gambia media who might have vested financial interest are using the beauty teen for financial exploitation. The veracity of this claim will be proven with time as the movement progresses. Fatou’s media blitz might also gave significant rating and financial benefits to these unscrupulous individuals as a result of high visitation of their websites.
Another important concern is that any legal expertise could argue that Mrs Fatoumata Sandeng is not a sex crime victim because she was not sexually abused and her claim against the former President cannot be prosecuted in any court of law. She might be acting as a victim in this case to promote prosecution of former President Jammeh’s whose regime was responsible for her Father, Mr Solo Sandeng’s death. Mr Sandeng is a national hero whose selfless sacrifice led to galvanization of Gambian opposition leaders to form a coalition that led to defeat of former dictator Jammeh in December 2016 election. Mr Sandeng’s selfless and heroic sacrifice must be recognized by every citizen. Majority of citizen now believes Jammeh is an evil sexual predator. Human Rights Watch is indeed wrong to feature Mrs Fatoumata Sandeng in this campaign. Mrs Sandeng could have been best used in “Jammeh for Justice campaign” but not as a victim of sexual violence. This is absolutely wrong.
Any intelligent legal representative would have advised Fatou Jallow to seek justice in the court or TRRC and later use her victory for advocacy against sexual violence in the country. But Fatou and her greedy supporters, few of whom in the Gambian media had onetime sexual relationship with Jammeh lack better understanding of criminal justice system and how cases of sex crimes should be pursued. If Fatou was truly interested in justice she should have first appeared on TRRC and made her case. This would have put her on record and avoid any inconsistencies in her story which has been doubted by half of population in the first place. The Number one rule in criminal justice case is that a client must not speak too much but allow legal representative or team mostly do the talking. It is this reason that in many advanced countries, victims of sexual violence are represented by well qualified lawyers who do not only have experience and expertise in sex crimes but also have wealth of experience in media and communication. Using the national and international media is the highest form of injustice anyone can do to expose 23-year-old inexperienced former beauty queen as the face of sexual violence campaign movement in The Gambia. Any responsible medical professional or psychotherapist would discourage the idea of having the victim of sexual allegation as a spokeswoman for herself or any sex related violations preventive advocacy group.
Currently, Fatou and her mother are enjoying the limelight and all minor benefits that comes with this new celebrity status but the consequences are far greater for the rest of her life. Fatou Jallow’s life has changed forever. She will never be a normal Gambian woman who can walk to the market in Serekunda, Brikama and Banjul without having any cultural stigmatization or negative perception of who she is. This is indeed dangerous platform that a parent or responsible legal team can place a victim of sexual exploitation or violence. The ministry of justice which should have had best interest of Fatou and provided her with the best legal team to protect her are now using her and to encourage women to join the new sexual violence campaign movement so that we as a country can have legislation as evidence to gain access to funding that would promote the agenda proposed by westerners/ human rights watch. This is sham and shameful. Few days after Fatou Jallow’s press conference and her brave narration of sexual encounters with the former President Jammeh, we have seen the ministry of foreign affairs advertisement looking for legal representation in sexual allegation case against one Mr. Melville Robertson. Instead of both ministries of justice and foreign affairs focusing on relevant economic development interest of the Gambian people, they are now focus on getting their share from the funding of sexual violence campaign movement in the country while Fatou Jallow is being used as a face of this movement to exploit her for financial gain. This is The Gambia, a country where most of our leaders have no principles to advocate and advance the common interest of the people but are vampires who suck the blood out of their victims (citizens). Fatou may be promised a book deal or to get financial assistance to fund her so-called Foundation to support sexual violence victims but the implementation of such project in a culture where sex crime is minimally reported will be difficult. Or We can give Fatou the benefit of doubt in her dream to see other women be “little scared than her in the future” as she suggested in her interview and be considered “Rosa Parks” of The Gambia but such cultural transformation needs to match with our development needs. The Gambia is two hundred years behind United States and May be Fatou would relocate to Basse or Farafenni or somewhere in Baddibu or URR where she could set up a little office to create awareness rather than live in Toronto, Canada. This will make huge impact. The Gambia is different from Canada where victims of sexual violence are provided with qualified legal team that advocates for the rights of victims.
History has shown that victims of sex crimes never live a normal life. The classic examples are Monica Lewinsky and the current famous American Pornographic star Stormy Daniels. The lead lawyer for Stormy Daniels, Mr Michael Avanatti has already had his life turned upside down after having a fifteen minutes fame in American media where he relentlessly pursued President Trump for alleged sexual encounter with Ms Daniels. It is indeed high miscalculation and lack of foresight to expose a brilliant woman like Fatou at risk considering the political, military, intelligence and economic influences of former President Jammeh who is worth closed to two billion dollars. Former President Jammeh has significant political support in the country and his die-hard supporters will always defend him regardless of atrocities or crimes he had committed. In The Gambia, justice for victims is like a dream that hardly come by. The families of Our National hero Solo Sandeng, the November 11, April 10 and 2012 death row inmates who were all illegally and callously killed never get justice. Why do Fatou Jallow and her supporters think Jammeh’s sex crimes victims will see him in court? I strongly doubt that former President Jammeh gets his day in court because President Adama Barrow who supposed to be our chief executive and advocate is following the footsteps of Jammeh and has not shown any interest so far to recognize Jammeh’s victims.
In both of Monica Lewinsky and Toufah Jallow’s case, media plays excruciating role in highlighting the story of the victims. Monica was traumatized by relentless negative media coverage from the conservatives and right wing of American politics while the liberal media up to this day continues to defend Ms Lewinsky. With the media blitz from both the conservatives and liberal media coverage, American media were very professional in covering sexual allegations story in many aspects than the poor talk show hosts in The Gambia, many of who cannot express themselves, lack ethics of journalism and cannot ask relevant questions but are rather interested in the personal qualifications, looks or material wealth of their guests to be interviewed.
Fatou Jallow was 18 years old at the time of the alleged sexual exploitation and currently she is 23 years while Monica Lewinsky was 22 years old White House intern who had consensual sexual relationship with former President Bill Clinton. Their experiences are different. Monica Lewinsky had consensual sexual relationship with Mr Clinton while Fatou Jallow claimed that she was raped during Ramadan but kept going to her abuser until she was helped by so-called family in United Kingdom. Sexual allegations against any powerful leader or person of influence has great consequences on the victims even if the allegations are true. Fatou Jallow’s allegation has serious implications not only on The Gambia’s culture but also will define sex and sex crimes in The Gambia’s laws for many years to come as the movement progresses.
Monica had DNA evidence and there was a tape recording of her conversation in which she narrated her consensual sexual relationship with former President Clinton. There was overwhelming evidence that suggested Monica had a relationship with former President Clinton. It was these evidences which led United States House of Representatives to impeach former President Bill Clinton while the Senate failed to impeach Mr Clinton. Mr Clinton continued his presidency and completed two successive terms with the best economic improvement in the history of United States. Currently, Mr Clinton is a well admired international political leader while Monica Lewinsky never get Married or have family of her own. Monica continues with daily struggles to make a better life because of the relentless media campaign in the aftermath of the sex scandal that destroyed her young life. Despite Fatou Jallow and her supporters’ international campaign, she has not produced a single evidence to the general public. Is there any DNA evidence or material evidence to implicate former President Jammeh? This is the perspective Awa Saho and Alpha Jallow have never learned or realized when they allowed an inexperienced, beautiful, smart and well articulated 23-year-old former queen to be used by a selfish talk show host with little education or no moral and cultural values to influence their daughter. Or are they influenced by their own beliefs that Fatou can participate in this new and risky endeavour that would ultimately transform her life forever.
I hope and pray that my analysis based on historical evidence does not apply to Fatou Jallow. Fatou in the very near future will realize that media can be destructive, especially in a culture where ethics of journalism is virtually nonexistent. The Gambia media’s irresponsible coverage of this case without giving any protection to the victim, asking relevant questions or perspective that may even exonerate former President Jammeh is indeed hypocritical. We must all ask ourselves why everyone is pointing finger at one man when we as a Nation turned a 29 year old man, a coup leader into a monster he had become. The media working with our government agencies are ruining the life of Fatou by being the face of new feminists movement in The Gambia. The general lesson every parent must learn from this tragedy case is that we must not push our daughters to gain celebrity status or short term fame for financial reason/exploitation because it is recipe for disaster. Fatou Jallow, the new Monica Lewinsky of The Gambia, has her life changed forever from being a brilliant, articulate and beautiful girl to isolated and culturally stigmatized girl in the future.