The story of Aminata Manneh and her disappearance in Gambia after posting a video on Facebook showing a police officer beating a young school girl with a stick, shocked and united Gambians worldwide. The sheer outpouring of condemnation was overwhelming but finally Aminata’s story did the impossible by uniting Gambians regardless of their political or geographical status in denouncing an obvious wrong and the lack of freedoms especially freedom of speech in Gambia. Aminata is now safe and far away from harms way, having been smuggled out of Gambia for her own safety.
Aminata’s troubles started when the video she posted on Facebook went viral and landed young Aminatta in trouble with Gambian’s notorious NIA and armed personnel and she began receiving threatening phone calls from unknown numbers and text messages asking for her location. According to close sources Aminata got really scared and informed few associates about her predicament, She was advised to not tell the authorities calling and texting her exact locations. The phone calls persisted and she was advised to switch off her phone and run to safety. The young girl forward the text messages and phone numbers of the authorities calling and texting her, including the name of one of the soldiers who identified himself to friends just incase anything happened to her and left to hide. Her dangerous journey thus commenced with a daring escape out of Gambia. Her ordeal according to a source “left Aminata emotional and after her arrival, she keeps crying and is still very scared” Gambians are relieved that she is safe but continue to question why a third year university student like Aminata with a promising future ahead should have to be in exile for exposing what is clearly wrong. Aminatta is a Gender and child rights activist and has been working on mentoring young women on their rights and fighting for an end to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Gambia. Many observers believe a young accomplished lady like Aminata should be rewarded for her stance against violence especially in having the courage to denounce an obvious violation of a child’s rights.
Many are calling on Aminata to return to Gambia and they would fight for her not to be arrested but history has shown that the culture of fear and silence in Gambia is so entrenched that it would be suicide if she returns because no one will stand up or defend her. The outpouring of anger among the youths is particularly marked with many changing their profile pictures to Aminata’s photo, however is that enough to guarantee that the youths will risk their lives to defend her rights if she was to return. The case of Sait Matty Jaw is a clear example, he was arrested for conducting research on good governance at the University and arrested and detained at the NIA for days in clear violation of his constitutional rights. Sait’s ordeal was denounced by all including the youths but that did not save him and he is currently going to court for conducting an academic research. His close friends were invited by Jammeh at the State House and presented with a D400,000 gift, many observers see this as “bribe” money to divide and rule the youths. Many believe that Jammeh is using these set of youths to help build his image among many youths now finally realizing that their lack of jobs and opportunities and increasing hardship in The Gambia, giving rise to the “back-way” phenomenon in Gambia is due to Jammeh’s lack of vision especially policies for the youths.
Aminatta is no doubt paying a heavy price for denouncing a wrong. She is forced to not only run away from the country she loves dearly, but she misses out on completing her final year of university education and has to start allover again. The kids she mentors at the American corner in Gambia miss out on a role model and the fight to end FGM in Gambia loses a committed member, most importantly Gambia loses another potential citizen who really could have made a difference. Observers are calling on the unity experienced during Aminata’s incident to continue with Gambians in Gambia and those in the diaspora rejecting the divisions and standing up for a common good and that is the importance of fighting the culture of fear and lack of freedoms especially freedom of expression and being able to tell the truth and denounce the wrongs happening in Gambia. Gambians are being asked to stand up to avoid another incident like that of Aminata Manneh’s.