By Mathew K Jallow
The needless executions, in 2012, of twenty-six people, all of who were inmates at the scene of more than five hundred deaths, since 1994, Gambia’s notorious Mile 2 Central Prison, reinforced the belief that Yahya Jammeh had reached the peak of insanity. The startling executions, in 2012, preceded by five mass murder incidences, dating back to the November 1994 executions of nine military officers, typify the notorious ruthlessness of Yahya Jammeh and his military henchmen. But, notwithstanding those tragedies, Gambians recently woke up to a different kind of reality; a craziness that embodies the quintessence of Yahya Jammeh as cold-blooded and unapologetic. The dark vein of hate and tribal bigotry, which runs through the past two decades of Yahya Jammeh’s baronial rule is not his predictable psychosis, but the depth he is willing to descend into, to confound the public interest with his self-interest. Only two weeks after his unilateral and illegal declaration of the Gambia as an Islamic state, in contradiction to its secular republican constitution, Yahya Jammeh began his jihad against the Gambia’s animist majority and Christian minority. And last week, in a widely publicized state directive, all female staff of the Gambian civil service were obliged to dress in Arabic hijabs and burqas, in a mass social engineering exercise that has already proven to be an aberration that disparages Gambia’s local culture, undermines the freedom of choice, and subverts individual dignity. Yahya Jammeh’s adventure of folly in the futile effort to sabotage Gambian society and culture, has no precedence in Africa and ECOWAS member states, and even by General Idi Amin Dada’s low standards of morality, Yahya Jammeh’s impolite and forced Islamization and its attendant radical directives, range in broadness from the extreme to the downright idiotic. Paradoxically, in true African tradition, Yahya Jammeh’s superstitions and voodoo and shamanism rituals, make his stand on Islam, at best spurious, and at worst, deceptive and mere show-boating.
As opposed to organized religion, voodoo rituals and shamanism practices are intricately woven in the fabric of Gambian society, among both Christians and Muslims, but are punishable by beheading under Islamic state’s strict Sharia Law. Thus, the Gambia’s Islamization is the epitome of contradictions, which challenges the Islamic declaration, as a comical exercise in futility. The Gambia’s Islamization decree is compelled, not by a sense of religiosity, but by the ongoing, debilitating economic downturn, which has forced Yahya Jammeh to turn to the schmucks in the Middle East to finance his severely corrupt and extremely extravagant lifestyle. The worsening economic situation in Gambia is impelled by the terrible human rights record to compel Africa’s cash cows, the United States and the European Union, to withhold funding, and by extension, push the Gambia’s economy towards a free fall to bankruptcy and collapse. The issue of forced Islamizing of the Gambia has to be a tough sell, largely due to barriers Gambian culture has erected in its path. And increasingly, for the highly educated minority, organized religion is, at best, the transfer of alien cultures, and at worst, mere primitive superstitions. In the face of these insurmountable economic obstacles, Yahya Jammeh’s dream of forcibly Islamizing the Gambia, if only in the superficial context, is driven by slavish subservience to his Arab masters, and in the process, is using the Gambian people as pawns in his sinister and corrupt conspiracy. Apart from the fact that true faith resides in the hearts and minds, and recognizing that inconsequential changes to female civil servants’ dress codes, don’t a Muslim make, Yahya Jammeh has a steep hill to climb to accomplish his infamous quest. Islamization necessarily requires deep social and cultural transformation in the Gambia, which will put the legal as well as some sectors of the thriving underground economy, in jeopardy; Banjul Breweries, the unregulated Jola palm-wine tapping, the equally unregulated Manjago zum-zum brewing, the mass slaughter of swine, and the beachside food service industry, among others.
For workers who lack education, marketable skills, and are dependent on the unregulated economy; in particular, Jolas and Manjagoes, Islamization will be devastating to their livelihoods. Besides, pervasive marabouism in the Gambia, in conflict with Islam, and punishable by beheading in the Middle East, is a thriving multi-million Dalasi, unregulated industry. But, a close scrutiny reveals the dirty con-game Yahya Jammeh is playing on his Arab benefactors, using unsuspecting Gambians as his props. In Gambia, more people believe in jinns, witches and witchcraft, than the concept of monotheism, which Islam adapted from the Hebrew Old Testament. And under Sharia Law, Yahya Jammeh, who surrounds himself with voodoo priests and Islamic clerics, is an atypical Muslim, in particular, due to his well known animist practices, which conflict with Islam. The YouTube media platform is replete with video clips that showcase Yahya Jammeh in voodoo rituals “curing” HIV Aids, infertility, high blood pressure and diabetes. But, even more relevant than the superficial dress code of hijab and burqas, Islamization is a standalone legal system, which requires abolishing the Gambia’s Common Law, or relegating it to an obscure role in the legal system. The complexities of Islamization are many and varied, and must include the reconfiguration of the banking and educational sectors, to conform to the hadiths of a truly Islamic state. But, what is transpiring in the Gambia, over the last three weeks, is a vivid example of the endless fall from civility, and besmirching of the country, as a function of one man’s greed and lust for power, which has exposed Yahya Jammeh as the quintessential sellout, lacking virtue and morality. In the final analysis, it all comes down to the mysterious and criminal negligence of responsibilities by two-thirds of the Gambia’s government; the judiciary and National Assembly. In the face of Yahya Jammeh’s abuse of power and overstepping the boundary of authority defined by law, these branches of government have the constitutional responsibility to act as the bulwarks in preventing the executive’s legal, administrative and constitutional overreach. And in their fearful silence and complete lack of moral fortitude, the Judiciary and National Assembly are as good as dead to Gambia’s suffering population.