There is no doubt that 22 July 1994 was the beginning of a despicable period when misery and carnage descended on the Gambia to last for 22 long years of blood and tears. The July 22 Coup was a tragedy of unlimited proportions that shackled a people to slavery and contempt by the very sons and daughters of our society. Without fear or shame, AFPRC which transformed into the APRC led by Yaya Jammeh, Sana Sabally, Edward Singhateh, Yankuba Touray, Sadibou Hydara, Ebou Jallow and Lamin Kabba Bajo and aided and abetted by many more security officers and civilians in all walks of life unleashed the most brutal terror on the people of the Gambia.
Scores of Gambians were raped, tortured and killed while many more had their properties forcefully and illegally taken away from them and others summarily dismissed or their businesses closed for absolutely no reason other than the selfish interest of Yaya Jammeh. We lived in a climate of fear and powerlessness, as our own State became the one and only predator on the lives of Gambians. For 22 years, the APRC plundered public wealth and disregarded every rule of our Constitution and every right of citizens with impunity. Indeed the AFPRC and APRC are the worst entities ever to emerge in the Gambia since Independence.
However we must rise up above the emotions about this day and its reality and look at the facts in order to help ourselves to move forward. The fact is that July 22 is not an illegal coup and the day is not illegal in the context of the Second Republic, which is founded on the 1997 Constitution. In that Constitution, the 22nd July 1994 coup has been recognized and endorsed in the Preamble as thus,
“Our hopes and aspirations as a people were reflected in the enthusiasm and zeal with which we embarked on the task of nation building on the attainment of independence. The self-perpetuating rule of the recent past, however, soon gave rise to the abuse of office and related vices which negated the total welfare of the Gambian people. The sovereign people of The Gambia therefore endorsed the change of government on 22nd July 1994 to rectify such evils.” (Preamble, Constitution of the Gambia 1997).
It was that coup under the AFPRC that a process unfolded to usher in the 2nd Republic through a referendum on the Constitution in 1996. That Constitution also went further under it’s Transitional and Consequential Provisions (Second Schedule) to indemnify the AFPRC and all that they did under Section 13. Hence by our current Constitution and political dispensation, July 22, AFPRC and APRC are legal events and entities.
Until now the APRC remains a legally registered party with representatives in the parliament. So long as they remain a legal entity they therefore must enjoy the rights to observe any day and conduct any activities they wish. That right cannot be denied to them because of what we think about July 22. APRC is a product of July 22 and therefore we cannot ban July 22 without banning the product of July 22. Hence this press release by the police is not enough and it is not legal. Let us remove emotions to objectively address the situation we face.
What we need is to use the law to address July 22 because July 22 is protected by the law. I would have thought that the Barrow Administration would take a bill to the parliament to declare July 22 as an illegal coup and therefore illegal to celebrate that coup by amending the necessary sections in our Constitution. The July 22 coup must be declared a day of infamy to be remembered as the period when carnage and misery descended on the Gambia.
Alternatively, it is for the Barrow Administration to go to court to have a declaration that July 22 is illegal and therefore must not be celebrated as a festive event. Rather it must be solemnly observed as a day of misery as how the Israeli’s observe 27 April/May as the Holocaust Remembrance Day or how the Americans observe September 11 terror attacks or how the Rwandans mark April 7 as Genocide Memorial Day, among others.
We must bear in mind that so long as APRC remains legal and operating then we cannot determine what events they should or should not observe or celebrate. If we do that then we are infringing on their constitutional rights to freedoms of assembly, association and expression and to demonstrate peaceably without the use of arms. Let us therefore demand that the Government takes the right steps to address the July 22 Disaster without emotions or appealing to the public gallery. This matter concerns the soul of the nation and therefore we must deal with it in the most serious, legal and robust manner.
Let us always insist on the rule of law and the protection of our rights because that is where our security lies. Forever!
God Bless The Gambia