By Mathew K Jallow
It is one of those occasions that stun Gambians and further deepen international hostility towards a regime completely preoccupied with the destruction of its primordial asset; its people, its very soul. The abduction and subsequent detention of Ambassador Sajo Momodou Jallow, nearly two months ago, so soon after the murders and rape of peaceful opposition UDP party demonstrators, and the arrest, Kangaroo trial and incarceration of the main opposition leader, Hon Ousainou Darboe, and fifty of his senior party’s executives, is absolutely unprecedented, even in a continent mired in heart-wrenching corruption and inhuman political behavior. The pervasive undercutting of Gambian society; its foundation, its role models and its heartbeat, happening with the approval, by indifference, of the Judiciary and National Assembly, two institutions constitutionally sanctioned to act as relentless bulwarks against state excesses, speaks to the administrative weaknesses that permeate Gambian institutions. The Judiciary and National Assembly are the true metaphors for institutional failures, as crowned by the rampant corruption, moral bankruptcy and dearth of moral courage, which combine to impeach the two institutions for the decades old human catastrophe in the Gambia. The withering criticism of these co-branches of the Gambian government, beyond just unmasking their ham-handed response or lack thereof, to the breakdown of civil society, the constitution, and laws of the land, establish their vile dearth of commitment to the superiority of human dignity. It is impossible to innumerate the infinite ways in which the Gambian state has disregarded the constitution, in its abuse of the civil and human rights of Gambians, a stinging indictment of the Judiciary and the National Assembly, but this also reflects the moral bankruptcy across the broader civilian Gambians population. But, unlike the National Assembly, the Gambian Judiciary has a second strike against the institution; the rampant corruption, which has taken root at that institution, flies in the face of the common sense and the reality of the institution’s mandate, which further confirms the pervasive belief in the African’s natural instinct for corruption. Yahya Jammeh’s political juggernaut survives in this environment, to the chagrin of the dead and the living dead, who are paying the steep price for the institutional failures of both the Judiciary and National Assembly. Clearly, paying the price for Gambia’s institutional collapse; in particular, the Judiciary and National Assembly, is a heavy burden that Ambassador Sajo M Jallow and so many others are paying, in order to contextualize the Gambia’s deadly moral and ethical quandary.
Africa’s contemporary history is replete with tyrants whose egomanias and short-sighted worldviews are catastrophically absurd and dangerously primeval. And the Gambia is the last of these regimes with political leaders stubbornly wedded to the primitive idea of absolute, perpetual power, and the insatiable need to control and micro-manage the lives of citizens. Three decades after the sanguinary era of the 1970s, ignorant military rules ended, the Gambian military regime is the last of the oligarchies in West Africa to drench itself in the blood of its innocent citizens. And under the cover of proverbial darkness, and unbeknownst to ECOWAS and the African Union, Yahya Jammeh has remade himself into the cheerleader of African tyrants, who run into political troubles in their own countries. Buoyed by his successes in blocking the ECOWAS term limits proposal, and recent triumph in obstructing an African Union force to the beleaguered nation of Burundi, Yahya Jammeh’s ego is stroked enough into perceiving himself as consequential in ECOWAS and the Africa Union’s decision-making. This real or imagined excess power that he wields, has further goaded him into a new political adventure; imparting unsolicited advice to African leaders in crisis situations, nudging them towards political rigidity and confrontation. Yahya Jammeh is, in effect, promoting violence in countries as far as Burundi and Burkina Faso, in an effort to undercut the democratic processes and entrench tyrannical leaders in those countries, into perpetuity. Not unlike political tyrant before him, Yahya Jammeh’s usurpation of absolute power in the Gambia has left a dark stain on the character of a country once renowned as the epicenter of Africa’s Jeffersonian democracy and it goes without saying that Yahya Jammeh’s derives political education from a template every African dictator must master to survive the human being’s overwhelming need to be free. Thus, Amb. Sajo Jallow’s abduction and subsequent detention, is rationalized against an environment where the arrogation of power is normalized as acceptable political behavior, which, within a decade turned Gambia into the moral dilemma in which it finds itself. The broader question that now confronts Gambians is how to grapple with this perpetual state of violent human rights abuses that continues to haunt the population. Over the last twenty years, Gambia has progressively receded further into the familiar fear-driven comfort of apathy and indifference, yet even mindful of its recent brutal history, significant political changes are slowly taking root in Gambia, as the overpowering fear of Yahya Jammeh, is increasingly, no longer something that preoccupies the minds of most Gambians.
As the Gambian people begin to reassert their full right as citizens, what Yahya Jammeh has so far done to the country, is just now beginning to feel more like a bad dream, as citizens fight to completely dismantle the fear infrastructure in Gambia from the political system. And while the population struggles to restore dignity to their lives, it is safe to conclude that Gambia has been the worst governed country in ECOWAS, over the last two decades. The pursuance of political change in the Gambia is thus a typical human response to the pervasive human tragedy, which shrouds the Gambia in a cloud of Machiavellian savagery. Ever so gradually, but decidedly, as Gambian unfear Yahya Jammeh, he will unlikely make it any easier, as the detentions and forced disappearances, hallmark of his two decades military rule, continue to jolt the daily lives of Gambians. Consequently, the case of Amb. Sajo M Jallow’ and Hon Ousainou Darboe and Co’s detentions, in spite of the new taste of freedom, are only the latest high profile abuses of power, which has the touched raw nerves across the Gambia and the international community. And despite the smell of change percolating in the air, and determination of Gambians to alter their circumstances, Yahya Jammeh hopes his defiance will help him re-establish the rule of fear that worked for him in the past. The pettiness and crass stupidity of Yahya Jammeh, a person who still engages in brutalizing citizens, has judged him to be a disgraceful representation of Gambia, and a bad prayer for the country. The Gambian political crisis, so revealing, as in the cases of Hon. Ousainou Darboe, and Amb. Sajo Jallow, underscores the pathology of ignorance among Gambia’s political party leaders, to the detriment of citizens. There is sense that narcissism and lack of political maturity belie the spectacle that now passes for coalition negotiations, which, in the minds of most Gambians, is self-defeating in the cause fighting to be free. Additionally, denunciations of political parties, which has a long tradition in Gambian politics; is creating angst, but more specifically, as incubator of sectarian politics. In the abduction and detention of Amb. Sajo M Jallow, his friends and family, concerned for his wellbeing and safety, are mindful of Yahya Jammeh’s unnerving capacity for cruelty. Even as Yahya Jammeh’s appetite for brutality is exposed, new developments confirm the total collapse of Gambian institutions; a judge’s ordered to immediately release Amb. Sajo M Jallow from detention and Yahya Jammeh’s illegally and unilaterally withdrawal of Gambia from the ICC. And with a moribund National Assembly and a Justice system hamstrung by fear, Gambians are left unprotected and on their own, with no institution to enforce the laws in the books and hold the Gambia to its international ICC obligations.