By Mathew K Jallow

There are many cities around the US, but very few have the political characteristics of the City of Madison, as a bastion of radical thinking. The city’s progressive tradition dates back decades, and as the center of government of the state of Wisconsin, Madison is still largely defined by its progressive heritage; a history of radical activism forever etched in the American story. It is this story of moral consciousness that motivated my choice of Madison as a place of refuge, far from the haunting memories of death and dying in my native Gambia. And as someone stridently opposed to the Gambia’s military regime, I soon became a target of the regime following a scathing article condemning the presence, in the Gambia, of Libyan mercenaries sent by Col. Mumar Ghadaffi to help stabilize the new military regime.

Last week, upon learning that the city of Madison was planning to twin with the Kanifing Municipal Council, Gambia’s largest municipality, the news was more than perplexing; it was downright dumb-founding. I was certain that rather than city Alders drifting away from the city’s radical tradition, the choice of Kanifing Municipal Council for its twinning program, was either the result of bad information, or no objective information at all. As a leading member of the dissident movement vehemently opposed to the Gambia’s military regime, and working tirelessly with the international community to help end the rapes, torture, executions, political assassinations, mass incarceration,  disappearances, and fleeing of citizens to countries near and far, I feel obliged to educate the city Alders about the dire political situation in the Gambia, in order to assist them make informed decisions.

Gambia’s current Ambassador to the US, Shiekh Omar Faye, who I understand will come to Madison for the twinning, was a vociferous critic of the military regime, until he was bribed with a position at the Gambian Embassy in, DC. And the Mayor of Kanifing Municipal Council, Yankuba Colley, doubles as the Propaganda Secretary of the notorious AFPRC, the political party of the military regime. In 2000, right outside offices of the Kanifing Municipal Council, two dozen high school students protesting the murder of a student and the rape of a fifteen years old school girl by security forces, were executed by machine gun fire, which also left dozens more paralyzed for life. As we speak, the Gambia is in turmoil as protests again erupt in the Kanifing Municipal Council, where, last week, an opposition party member, Solo Sandeng and two female party supporters were arrested and tortured to death. Early last week, three more female party supporters  recounted in open court harrowing stories of rape and torture that they endured while in custody

Recently, atrocities committed by the Gambian regime made headline news around the world; Hoffpost, NBC, Yahoo News, Fox news, BBC, New York Times, Chicago Trubune; to name a few. Below is a list of a few of the other atrocities committed by the regime.

–          November 1994, the extrajudicial executions of ten military officer

–          June 1995, the burning to death of civilian, Finance Minister, Koro Ceesay

–          April 2000, the massacre in Kanifing Municipal Council, of sixteen demonstrating high students

–          December 2004, the assassination of Deida Hydara, President, Gambia Press Union

–          July 2005, execution of 44 Ghanaians and 10 other ECOWAS nationals

–          April 2006, the execution of eight military and security officers

–          August 2006, the forced disappearances of twenty civilians

–          November 2006, mysterious poison deaths of six witnesses of the massacre of forty-four Ghanaians

–          March 2009, arrest 1000 elderly accused of witch craft, causing the death and hospitalization of dozens

–          June 2009, mass rounding up and detention of a dozen journalists and media personnel

–          August 2012, execution of between nine and twenty six Mile Two Prison, prisoners

–          April 2013, abduction and disappearance of three Gambian dissidents from the Senegalese capital

–          December 2014, the rounding up, detention and parading of gays on national television

–          May 2016, assassination of three, rape of three and detention of thirty six opposition politicians

In between these landmark human rights abuses, hundreds more Gambians have been killed and over five hundred prisoners at the notorious Mile Two Prison, dead of malnutrition, sicknesses and lack of medical care. Central in all these atrocities is the virtual illiterate, so-called Mayor of Kanifing Municipal Council, Yankuba Colley. The egregious human rights abuses are only one side of the story. Gambia is a failed state on the verge of bankruptcy, as neighboring Senegal closes it border and aid from the west is withheld. Last week, the European Union passed a motion to freeze assets looted by officials of the regime, in addition to instituting travel restrictions on regime officials. Corruption is rampant and so ingrained in the psyche of officials of the regime that it is not considered a crime. Mayor of Kanifing Municipal Council, Yankuba Colley, who will be the primary partner in this twinning program with the city of Madison, is also one of the top henchmen of the brutal military dictator, Yahya Jammeh.

Other things the Alders need to consider in making their decision is that the people of Kanifing Municipal Council will not benefit from such twinning. The fact is that officials of the Kanifing Municipal Council will hijack and convert any benefit from Madison for their personal use, rather than serve the people. Any information that the Alders were told, which differs from what is said here, is an inaccurate whitewashing of the reality. There is no independent non-profit organization that will be responsible for the twinning with the city of Madison; instead, the corrupt Kanifing Municipal Council, under its Mayor, Yankuba Colley, a right-hand man of the murderous dictator, will be the beneficiary of any twinning with Madison. For these and many other reasons, the Madison Common Council is urged to reconsider the twinning program until the Council is well educated about why this is such a bad idea, at this time.

 Additional Reading

1.

President Obama expels the Gambia from AGOA, the Africa free trade protocol, due to severe human rights violations:

http://thegambiaecho.com/xp/president-obama-expels-gambia-from-agoa/

2.

European Union cut aid to Gambia due to human rights violations

http//www.euractiv.com/section/development-policy/news/eu-cuts-aid-to-gambia-over-human-rights-concerns/

3.

EU Parliament to freeze aid and backs travel ban, sanctions on Gambian officials

http://us.blastingnews.com/world/2016/05/eu-parliament-to-freeze-aid-and-backs-travel-bans-sanctions-on-gambia-officials-00918153.html

4.

Gambia: The worst dictatorship you’ve never heard of; The Star, Toronto, Canada

https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2016/04/22/gambia-the-worst-dictatorship-youve-never-heard-of.html

5.

Centre for Human Rights condemns human rights violations in The Gambia

http://www.chr.up.ac.za/index.php/centre-news-a-events-2016/1621-centre-for-human-rights-condemns-human-rights-violations-in-the-gambia-and-calls-for-relocation-of-au-african-year-of-human-rights-celebrations-and-seat-of-the-african-commission-.html

6.

Unprecedented Protests Hit One Of The World’s Most Repressive Countries; The Hoffpost

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/gambia-protests-jammeh_us_5733a071e4b077d4d6f207f6

7.

New York hotel protest ‘led to Gambia’s Commonwealth exit’ The British Telegraph

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/gambia/10354216/New-York-hotel-protest-led-to-Gambias-Commonwealth-exit.html

8.

The Gambia: List of Yahya Jammeh’s murder, torture, exile victims; The Gambia Voice

http://thegambiavoice.blogspot.com/2012/09/gambiayahya-jammehs-countless-murder.html