By Mathew K Jallow
The polemics are often expressed explicitly, and at other times, in more subtle ways; in either case, one underlying truth remains to expose Yahya Jammeh as the quintessential carpetbagger whose bigoted anthropological knowledge of the Gambia, is the hallmark of delusional rewriting of its history. Yahya Jammeh’s fabrication of Gambian history is dangerously twisted, and outright lies that have the capacity to inject bad blood among the various tribes, and undermine the cultural homogeneity that has defined Gambian society for centuries. Under Sir Dawda Jawara, tribalism was not officially sanctioned, even though its existence and practice was stark, and interwoven into the political system with a binary effect as an aberration and inconvenient stain on the pristine character of an otherwise peaceful, tranquil era of democracy and rule of law. But, Yahya Jammeh has pushed the boundaries of tribalism in the Gambia to a frightening level of absurdity, and in the process affirmed his unapologetic ignorance as a complete opposite of what the venerable Sir Dawda Jawara, is. But, most disturbingly, Yahya Jammeh subscribes to an ideology permeated by his undeniable urges for tribal prejudices, as clearly evidenced in the overwhelming, across the board, Jolanization of every level of the Gambia’s civil service, as well as access to a broad spectrum of opportunities. The tyranny of the Jola minority in the Gambia is real, and Gambians unwilling to cast light on its numbing effects, do so out of senseless denial of the naked truth. It is ethically relevant and morally justifiable to aggressively expose Yahya Jammeh for foisting on Gambia society, an apoplectic degree of tribalism; tribalism that is so severe in its total exclusion of the Gambia’s majority other tribes; demeaning and socially and economically catastrophic to its victims and to Gambia’s economic development. Without fear of embellishing the evident truth, it is safe to emphasize that Yahya Jammeh’s feckless use of tribalism to suppress and oppress the Gambia’s majority tribes, is unique in its viciousness, and found nowhere else on the African continent.
It is true that the lessons of Rwanda have preempted discussions of tribalism in the Gambia as a particularly sensitive issue, and an anathema to a significant number of the Gambian people, but ignoring the consequences of Yahya Jammeh’s social engineering, and the remaking of the character of Gambian society, lends itself to an appropriate characterization as hypocrisy and moral cowardice. Ambiguity and abdication of citizen responsibility does not equate maintaining cordial relations, on the contrary, it reinforces Yahya Jammeh’s highly divisive politics, and further perpetuates the tyranny by the Jola minority. Willfully refraining from confronting the challenges facing the Gambia under Yahya Jammeh’s bloody tyranny, is simplistic as well as a convenient copout from the political undercurrents unleashed by Yahya Jammeh and designed to wreck centuries old tribal cohesiveness, and dangerously threatening the integrity of Gambian society as single unified organism. It is evident that Yahya Jammeh’s tribalistic policies underpin his visceral hatred of the Mandinkas in the Gambia, and by extension, the singling out of the United Democratic Party and its leader, Hon Ousainou Darboe for harassment, and UDP activists for arrest, torture, rape and murder. The Mandinkas, in their Hon Ousainou Darboe representation, present an unyielding impediment to Yahya Jammeh’s political ambitions of perpetuity in power, and as the butcher of the Gambian people. Significantly, Yahya Jammeh’s core belief system is Darwinian in its conceptualization and vision of Gambian society, and mirroring Darwin’s evolutionary theory of species preference, but Yahya Jammeh’s pugilistic bellicosity towards the Mandinkas is not theory; far from it, it has real consequences detrimental to peace and stability in the Gambia, and more broadly, the sub-region. Yahya Jammeh’s efforts to exploit old tribal animosities that are now receding as a dim point of light in the distant past, is a consecration of his desire to stagnate the Gambia into a permanent state of turmoil. The effort to paralyze Gambian society in order to justify his continuous rule, and the victimization of the Mandinkas to achieve his goals, is the tipping point, even for opponents of the UDP as a political establishment
The melodrama Yahya Jammeh created around the Mandinkas, and his Machiavellian bent, has once again put the Gambia under the international spotlight as a pariah nation and a liability to regional peace, which ECOWAS and the AU seek to embody. But, the issue surrounding the Gambia, in this elections year, has an additional dimension, which challenges Gambians, ECOWAS and the AU in real, life-altering ways. The entire leadership of the United Democratic Party, the single largest Gambian opposition, including its leader, Hon Ousainou Darboe, have been held in incommunicado detention for more than sixty days, as their illegal detention and Kangoroo trial proceeds at a snail’s pace, under an absolutely laughable and unqualified mercenary ‘so-called’ judge from Nigeria. With elections six months away, and the main opposition unable to participate in the election process, and the smaller parties impaired and immobilized by public disinterest, which is focused on securing the unconditional release of UDP officials, it is not hard to see how Yahya Jammeh is undercutting the opposition’s effectiveness, in the effort to preordain the 2016 election results. But, the electoral process is confounded by an ethical dilemma facing the Gambian people and the smaller opposition parties; to participate or not, in the 2016 elections. In this, Gambians are faced with the continued detention of the entire main opposition leadership, and their inability to participate in the electioneering process. Two question, therefore, arise; whether the remaining opposition parties should participate in elections, in the face of the continued detention of UDP party officials, and the regime’s refusal to entertain the idea of electoral reforms, as demanded in 2015, by a united opposition. But, even with the release of opposition all the UDP leaders, there is no upside in participating in elections that are being rigged as we speak. The challenge the smaller parties collectively face, is the ethicality of participating in elections at a time the entire main opposition leadership is in detention, and the combined opposition demands for electoral reforms, in order to equalize the electoral process and ensure free and fair elections, have been out-rightly rejected. But, no matter what happens, one thing is certain; five more years of Yahya Jammeh is worst than going to hell. Yahya Jammeh, therefore, has to Go. Twenty-one years of living in hell is more than the Gambian people can put up with. It is time to rise up in a mass popular Balangba, to free Gambia from the twenty-one years of tyranny under Yahya Jammeh.