By Mathew K Jallow
Nothing about the Gambia’s herd mentality is organic. That happens only in the movies and the animal kingdom. But again, Gambia’s recent history is an unending movie; a perpetually written and rewritten script that changes with the mood and emotional disposition of one person. Yet, it takes a tremendous amount of moral courage to drift away from the truth, particularly in cases of undeniable evidence, but the Gambia’s contemporaneous story is like an act that inhibits the resolve to defy the ubiquitous and paralyzing fear, marked by powerlessness and an indifference to reality. The naiveté, or better still, the willful denial of reality, among Gambians averse to conceding to the stressfulness of the social, political and economic conditions in the Gambia, has degenerated into an acrimonious relationship with former dissidents. The benign demonstration of fidelity to the truth about the wretchedness of conditions the Gambia is under, has instead, devolved into the pitiless stigmatization of victims who are unable, any longer, to tolerable the scourges of military rule. And in Gambia, a significant number of citizens have been forced into a state of complete detachment from the reality, a pathology that borders on insanity. Unfortunately, that same predicament has made inroads into the diaspora, where a few Gambian refugees, who until recently, demonstrated strident opposition to the savagery in the Gambia, now manifest a less than flattering filial piety towards Yahya Jammeh; consistent with collaborators with bygone ruthless regimes. And of great interest to the Gambian people, are the motives for the sudden philosophical conversion by former dissident refugees, whose vehement degradation of the Gambian regime, has contributed in casting Yahya Jammeh as an unmitigated abomination.
The puzzling change in support for Yahya Jammeh’s military regime by Gambians both at home and abroad, is a testament to the personal character flaws of dissidents and non-dissidents whose indecisiveness and vacillation on such crucial matters, has stunned Gambians struggling to be free from the vicissitudes of dictatorship. As the dark vein of political tyranny casts its shadow over a once peaceful nation, Gambians are faced with the timeless challenge on the most basic rule of survival; to surrender, fight or flee. The window to take concrete action to end twenty years of one man rule, is now. If anyone is less concerned about the appalling desperation in the Gambia, it must be Yahya Jammeh. The growing poverty, deprivation, killings, forced disappearances and exodus of Gambians, illustrates a slow decline into political dysfunction, but Yahya Jammeh’s mortifying fear of the ramifications of his brutality, has completely crippled his judgement and ability to change political orientation. Today, Yahya Jammeh is helplessly wedged between a rock and a hard place; no longer able to experience normal life, and despite his ostentatious display of bravado, the realization of the likelihood of his gruesome end, has steered him towards a familiar fatal error dictators make with incredible regularity; feel invincible. Politically and economically, the Gambia is in a precarious condition, but despite the gravity of the situation, it seems the tipping point has not been reached yet. Historically, economic deprivation and its associated indignities, have had a transcendent ability to inspire the moral courage to force political change. And in recent months, several indicators have collectively confirmed what Gambians lived through for the last twenty years; the political tyranny, economic privation and social alienation. This trilateral political fiasco, notwithstanding, Yahya Jammeh’s oppression of Gambians has continued to manifest itself in many different ways, not the least of which is the enslavement of the population; and this is not speaking figuratively.
One of the most depressing occurrences in Gambia in recent years, is the sight of civil servants, cabinet members, so-called “Vice President,” National Assembly members, the Supreme Islamic Council, the military, the security forces, students, farmers and citizens from every walk of life, frequently coerced into participating in free slave labor in one of Yahya Jammeh’s several dozen farms, dotted around the country. But, perhaps more startling still is the sight of soldiers going fishing on the pretext of one Yahya Jammeh’s philosophies of food self-sufficiency. Beyond the physical labor under the hot African sun, the control and domination dimension is the principal reason for organizing these group slave events, and the strategy is working. What this tells us, more than anything else, is the depth to which Yahya Jammeh will descend in order to coral the Gambian people, under any circumstance, to achieve complete domination over their lives. During his reign, Yahya Jammeh has broken every known political convention in order to assert his rule, still the collective will of the people to fulfil their patriotic obligations, in pursuance of justice, is sadly lacking. And when, last week, rumors swirled around, both at home and abroad, about Yahya Jammeh’s resignation, it was evident that there is a general public underestimation of the total inability of tyranny to succumb to reason. More broadly, rather than focus on Yahya Jammeh’s possible resignation, which goes against common sense, Gambians ought to be planning his exit, through protest marches and mass demonstrations. The Gambia’s inconsolable story under Yahya Jammeh reign is an embarrassment of epic proposition; a tale of overbearing misuse of power . More striking still, the state of denial, both in Gambia and abroad, even as the economy sinks has never been so apparent, for what speaks most to Gambians is an economy that is unravelling and causing hardship far beyond our national borders. And in Gambia and across s the globe, Gambian’s will to be free has never been so forceful and compelling.