By Mathew K Jallow
The old adage ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’, is not an abstract idea. It has foundation in reality. In a world of changing political paradigms, the antediluvian mindset Yahya Jammeh exhibits is a rapidly dying force, as the spread of people’s power changes the very definition of politics and governance in this 21st. century. The divination of politicians and sickening submission to corrupt political leaders, as means of control and exploitation in Africa, often punctuated by state violence, has no place in the emerging political dispensation of our time. The existential threat posed by absolute political power in the Gambia has had a deleterious effect on Gambian society; ranging from mass killings to irreparable traumatic mental illnesses. Consequently, there is no upside in Yahya Jammeh’s intransigence and futile effort to remain in power; on the contrary, during his twenty-two years of Stalinist rule, Yahya Jammeh has graduated from single, isolated killings, designed solely to send a message to the population, to the mass murders intended as human sacrifices, to prolong his reign of terror. The fact that after twenty-one years, Yahya Jammeh, even with some of the most gruesome state crimes, doesn’t believe Gambians have the fortitude to vote him out, is not an unfamiliar pattern for tyrants losing touch with reality, which compels them to act irrationally, despite the writing on the wall. The trapping of power Yahya Jammeh has enjoyed, at the expense of the Gambian people, has irrevocably run out of steam, and GambiaHasDecided is not a campaign slogan; it is the unmistakable embodiment of citizens’ determination to revolt against Yahya Jammeh’s misanthrope and unchallenged ravaging of the Gambia’s wealth and national resources. Gambians have made an irrevocable judgement to never again return to the era of mass killings, forced disappearances, mass incarcerations and the tortures of the past, but evidently Yahya Jammeh’s inexplicable arrogance and insanity precludes his coming to grips with the sentiments of the Gambian people; that they have voted him out, and he must relinquish power, as stipulated by Gambia’s sacred document; the constitution.
In another issue of import, a recent social media posting that has attracted significant interaction among citizens, deals with the future of Gambia’s military and security forces, in particular, considering their degeneration into the window dressing forces designed specifically as Yahya Jammeh’s personal protection outfit; rather than the nation’s military and security protection. The very nature of the army as a defensive force, precludes Gambia from having one, considering the geographic contour and size of the country, as an enclave of neighboring sister Senegal. Military threats to Gambia’s sovereignty, which, more than any other rationale, supports the concept of an army within the Gambia’s borders, is rendered mute and unnecessary by virtue of the bloodline relations with Senegal, Gambia’s geographic location, futility of creating an army, which Gambia’s much bigger neighbor, Senegal, can easily defeat and the total waste of resources in maintaining an army under these circumstances. This is a drain on the Gambia’s meagre resources. Gambia’s experience, first with the Field Forces, and much later with the military, has been a terrible miscalculation that has rattled the Gambian people into rethinking alternative ways of maintaining peace within our borders. The height of insanity is arming a fighting military force for the purpose of defending against citizens’ constitutional rights to free expression, in the forms of public demonstrations, protests, political rallies and riots. Yahya Jammeh criminalized these citizens’ rights and used them as his primary method of suppressing and maintaining public detachment and indifference to the tragic crimes that his regime is getting away with. The history of the past twenty-two years, after through investigations, will eventually reveal that Gambia spent more on the upkeep and maintenance of its military personnel and hardware than on the Gambia’s primary engines of development; education and agriculture combined. The Gambian people cannot afford repeating the error of the past; the neglect of our commitment to our citizens, which is a disservice to our country.
But, even the truncated army, as proposed by proponents of some kind of military force, cannot entirely make Gambia unsusceptible to temptations of power grab, which so often imperils national security. The smartest idea for the Gambia is make even the smallest chance of military action against the government both impossible and completely excluded from the mindsets of our citizens. Under this circumstance, the idea of National Guard, which totally excludes possession of military type weapons, makes the most sense. Rather than military weapons, light police type arms that commensurate with National Guard duties of civil defense, highway enforcement, border control, natural disaster mitigation, rural medical emergencies, fire and flood disaster relief and prevention, natural resources protection, and civil engineering works, among others, will preempt contemplation of power grab and ensure national security. The recreation of an army under changing political circumstances and the cost of maintaining it will be the ultimate institutionalization of diminishing returns, which the Gambia, faced with mounting economic challenges, for the foreseeable future, cannot afford. The dissolution of the army and the National Intelligence Agency, two institutions renowned for their severe drain on the nation’s economy, with nothing to show for it, over the past two decades, will create cost saving that would be ploughed into education, health, infrastructure and agriculture among other areas. It is senseless, even nonsensical to prioritize the development of an institution that would be moribund from the moment of its conception; consequently, understanding and defining national development needs that are impactful and self-sustaining, makes the most sense. There are no indications that a Gambian military, as expensive as it is, has any merits other than the meaninglessness of evanescent sense of pride, without the commensurate rewards in national development. This is a critical issue that deserves public discourse and further exchange of ideas. Any decision arrived at, must consider three major issues; Gambia’s geography, the prevailing political circumstances moving towards ECOWAS regional integration, and cost savings to the nation.
And as inauguration day 2016 draws near, instances of citizen rights violation have increased steadily, as Yahya Jammeh, desperate and fearful, seeks to reassert power and authority that he no longer has. In his futile attempts to reinsert fear and intimidation among the population, in a dwindling window of time, Yahya Jammeh has again resorted to making death threats to public servants, and IEC Chairman, Alieu M Njai, his most recent target for death, has reportedly fled the country, in fear for his life, leaving Yahya Jammeh’s legal challenge of the elections in jeopardy, especially without Mr Njai, the sole authority in the state’s legal challenge of the elections. The fleeing of Chairman Njai is a blessing in disguise, as it would preempt his coercion into returning to work at the IEC, and inadvertently assist the regime in its frivolous case against the IEC, with Mr Njai as primary defendant. In the waning days of his regime, Yahya Jammeh’s continuous reechoing of his past threats and subsequent murders of citizens, will come back to haunt him. Abandoned by the rest of the world, and with no friendly country to accept him, Yahya Jammeh is a desperado. In the same vein, the gratuitous citizen arrest, incommunicado detention, and forced disappearances, occurring all around the country, must be met with determined condemnation by the Coalition, as provocative, unnecessary and dangerous. With citizens routinely arrested for expressing unflinching support of the Coalition, it is imperative that the Coalition reciprocates with unequivocal condemnation of Yahya Jammeh and his agency of torture, disappearance and death; the disgraceful NIA. In another area of concern, in this phase of political transformation, it is necessary, even imperative for civil society to participate actively in charting the future of our country. The Coalition has done a tremendous work in moving the national agenda forward, and professionals and experts in institutional, administrative and economic development, need to be co-opted as Gambia faces the new challenges of the future. With the inauguration less than three weeks away, the Coalition might find it necessary to appoint a point person to engage the diaspora and civil society professionals in meaningful discussions about the future.
As inauguration day fast approaches, it is important and imperative that the transitional government has the tools to hit the ground running, but with limited shilled manpower resources at home, engaging the diaspora, the other half of the revolution, is inescapable, apart from the diaspora representing the bedrock of the future bureaucracy. In order to rapidly increase the available pool of experts and professionals, a list of civil society organizations in the diaspora is provided below for reference. This list doesn’t include unaffiliated individual dissidents members, who ,over the years, have played significant roles in challenging Yahya Jammeh’s deadly military regime. As in the developed world, Gambians who wish to offer services and participate in rebuild our country, may send their CVs or resumes to: firstname.lastname@example.org, copied to DibbaK@gmail.com. Alternatively, direct contact can me made with Dr Isatou Touray, whose Facebook post invited Gambians to send their CVs or resumes to a Coalition group, presumably headed by her. Contact her directly for instructions as to where and how to send your documents. Each of the listed organizations is supported by professionals and experts, some of who, may consider returning home to participate in the rebuilding of our country.
Dissident Civil Society organizations
Gambia Consultative Council (GCC) Dr Momodou Sedat Jobe, US/Europe
Campaign for Democratic Change Gambia (CDCG) Hon Bakary B Dabo, UK
Gambia Democratic Action Group (GDAG) Alkali Conteh, US
Committee for Restoration of Democracy in the Gambia (CORDEG) Dr Abdoulaye Saine, US
National Resistance Movement of the Gambia (NRMG) Alhagie Kanteh, UK/US
Democratic Union of Gambians (DUGA) Ousainou Mbenga, US
Gambians for Democracy and Development (GDD) Ndey Jobarteh, Sweden
Gambian Movement for Democracy and Development (GMDD) Saihou Mballow, US
Coalition for Change Gambia (CCG) Dr Amadou Janneh, Senegal
Stockholm Gambian Diaspora (SGD) Jaineba Bah, Sweden
Campaign for Human Rights Gambia (CHRG) Alieu Ceesay, UK
Human Rights for All (HRA) Yahya Dampha, Sweden
Gambia Association for Democracy and Human Rights (GADHR) Dodou Jobe, Senegal
Save the Gambia Democracy Project (STGDP) Banka Manneh, US
The Gambia Association for Peace and Reconciliation (GAPR) Tamsir Jasseh, US
The Gambia Youth Unity (GYU) Fabakary Ceesay, US
December 30 Heroes (D30H) Cherno Bah, US