By Mathew K Jallow
It is more than a mismatch. It’s a misfit; pure and simple. At a time the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is assuming a much deeper meaning and purpose to Gambians than to the nationals of any other member country, the appointment of Edward Singateh to a senior ECOWAS position feels like a profound sense of defeat. It harkens back to an article, few months ago, which lambasted ECOWAS for its lack of clear membership qualifying standards, as a prerequisite for joining the body. And as globalization nudges countries and geographic regions into establishing political, economic and cultural partnerships, the European Union has emerged as the gold standard for its articulation of human rights as a benchmark for its member qualifying criteria. In contrast, the African Union and ECOWAS operate blindly without a vision, and seemingly without the benefit of guiding moral principles to highlight the philosophical creed of the two institutions’ member qualifying stantards. The appointment of a murderer, Edward Singateh, to the ECOWAS, is the subtext of what happens when due diligence is not exercised in the recruitment and hiring processes. The shocking news of Mr Singateh’s appointment to a senior ECOWAS position is not unlike kicking someone when they are already down, something the mad dog, Edward Singateh, made a career doing, as a member of Mr. Yahya Jammeh’s murderous military regime. Mr Singateh’s cruelty, viciousness and disregard for human life has earned him notoriety as a butcher, incomparable to anyone else in the dying regime. Quite frankly, without a proper vetting process, it defies logic how ECOWAS consented to appoint a person whose brutal instincts make Yahya Jammeh cringe with disgust. Edward Singateh, an unapologetic assassin, who carries himself around as some kind of untouchable, is feared by junior officers in the military as someone capable of animalistic savagery. Like his boss, Mr. Yahya Jammeh, Edward Singateh lacks deep cultural connections to Gambia, and this identity crisis is likely haunting him to an extent where he is obliged to resort to violence in marking his territorial boundary and impress on his full-fledged citizenship.
Edward Singateh first left a horrific and unenviable impression on Gambians in November 1994, overseeing the cruel execution of nine senior military officers; Lieuts. Basirou Barrow, Abdoulie (Dot) Faal, Gibril Seye, Second Lieuts. Bakary Manneh, Buba Jammeh, Momodou L. Darboe, Officer-Cadet Sillah, Warrant-Officer Nyang, Cpl Bassiru Camara, and so many other junior military officers, but it was far from being his most gruesome act of violence against Gambians. In June 1995, Gambians woke up to the tragic news of the assassination and incineration of the body of the Gambia’s civilian Finance Minister; Koro Ceesay. The late Koro Ceesay’s hands were handcuffed behind his back, placed at the back of his government issue Mercedes Benz, which was doused with gasoline and set ablaze. And when the embers finally died down, only the charred remains of a once popular and upcoming technocrat were visible. It was shocking, to say the least. It was as if everyone was tongue-tied upon hearing the sad and horrific news, and now brothers Edward and Peter Singateh, have since been identified as the culprits responsible for that mindless barbarity. The full extent of Edward Singateh’s complicity in the litany of state sanctioned political assassinations in the Gambia, since 1994, will not be known until there is change of government. In addition, Mr Singateh prides himself as a legal practitioner, but the law degree he earned from Gambia’s degree mill, the so-called University of The Gambia, is not worth the paper it is written on. And, Mr Singateh’s hiring to a prestigious position, which he does not deserve or qualify for, is emblematic of the pervasive bureaucratic amateurism in the Gambia, a country where as many as seventy percent of the country’s foreign university graduates have fled to the safety of lands near and far. Yahya Jammeh is an ardent anti-intellectual bigot who prefers, and is more comfortable surrounding himself with the barely educated and totally subservient, willing to wag their tails and bark at the sound of his command. Edward Singateh is the product of the political environment he finds itself in; an environment he engineered, but which will eventually consume him too.
Edward Singateh is very much an integral part of the political orthodoxy he helped create, whose weapon of choice is the violence that has plunged the Gambia in a political morass, and an unbearable sense of dystopia. Crucially, the appointment of Mr Singateh, at this critical time of political upheavals in Gambia, is suspect, considering the scheduled December, 2016 elections. In 2011, after a thorough fact-finding sojourn in Gambia by ECOWAS staff, Hon James Victor Gbeho, former ECOWAS President determined that the Gambia’s electoral process was rigged, perverted and skewed in favor of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) party. Hon. James Gbeho’s understanding of the subverted political climate and latent opposition oppression, declined to send election observers to what was proven as a deeply flawed electoral process, which, otherwise, would have undermined the objectives of ECOWAS. By roundly declining to send election observers to the Gambia’s unfree and unfair election process, ex-ECOWAS Chief had rejected the legitimization of the regime. Without being cynical, it would appear that the positioning of the murderous Edward Singateh to a highly visible ECOWAS job may likely be related to the planned December, 2016 elections, in particular, given the international pressure on Yahya Jammeh to step down, after twenty-one years of killings, torture, forced disappearances and exodus from the Gambia. Mr Singateh is intensely unpopular in the Gambia, which makes his ascension to a highly visible ECOWAS position that much more depressing to Gambians. Yahya Jammeh’s parochialism and Edward Singateh’s Machiavellian ruthlessness have complemented each other through the years, which has facilitated Yahya Jammeh’s long duration at the helm of political power in the Gambia. Edward Singateh’s overarching task in ECOWAS as an apologist for Yahya Jammeh may soon play out, as it recently did in an interview in which Mr Singateh denied reality, downplay the Gambia’s suppression of free speech and onerous human rights violations. The next six months promise to be challenging to the Gambian regime as the clamor for political change grows louder. The role Edward Singateh may play in insulating his co-criminal boss Yahya Jammeh from ECOWAS and international sanctions, may determine his and Mr Yahya Jammeh’s fate.