By Emmanuel Nkea
Good Morning Gambia,
As you recover from the hectic and historic Independence Day celebrations last Saturday, I know many objective minds would have wondered how and why I engaged in frequent letters and controversial messages with President Jammeh.
During my stay in Gambia, I learned that the only way to appease President Jammeh and enlist his goodwill was to send him praise written letters. After my resignation and departure from the Gambia, I wrote the first and several personal letters, and sent controversial messages of goodwill, encouragement and support to President Jammeh. Obviously, the letters were intended to induce his goodwill. Some erroneously thought that I was working my way back to the Judiciary. No!! That was not the case. But what was this all about? The answer lies in the following passages.
On the 5th of February, 2014, I reached the strong conclusion that I had to resign from the Judiciary of the Gambia. Protest resignation under Jammeh’s Gambia, was untenable. It came with huge risk and uncertainty. The decision and procedure ought to be taken wisely to avoid unnecessary persecution. Gibou Dem who was one of my official residential guards was already an adoptive son in my home. He was a decent and trustworthy chap, with a high sense of confidentiality. He accepted to get me out of the country once my resignation was ready. A hardcopy of my resignation was sealed in an envelope and my driver would take it together with my official car to the judiciary the next morning. The driver only knew that I was going upcountry for something very personal.
By 6 am on February 6, 2014, I was already in Dakar, thanks to Gibou Dem. I decided that morning to forward an electronic copy of my resignation to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice. She acknowledged receipt and expressed her disappointment. On the 13th of February, 2014, I received an electronic letter from the Judicial Service Commission through the Judicial Secretary, acknowledging receipt and accepting my resignation while thanking me for my valuable services to the Judiciary.
I remained in touch with Gibou Dem from my hotel in Dakar, and updated me of the developments in Banjul. On the 7th of February, I received information that a team of plain cloth security officers led by one Lamin Darboe, went to SBEC School Bijilo where they attempted to kidnap my 7 year old son, but for the intervention of school authorities who refused and alerted my family. My family would later be subjected to long late night interrogations ostensibly by elements of the NIA. I instructed them to leave, and Gibou Dem again, assisted them to the airport and ensured that they left the Gambia unharmed. For these acts, Gibou Dem was reported to the NIA by his colleagues on guard. He too fled the country to Senegal.
Gibou Dem was soon trapped between Senegal and Libya struggling to use the back way to Europe. I feared that he may die in the process. And if he did, it would have been because of me. I sent him financial assistance regularly, but I was not sure if he could make it through. I persuaded him to come over to Cameroon but he seemed determined and convinced to make it to Europe. Still not sure that he could make it, I was forced to engage the Banjul authorities with a view to seeking some form of reprieve for him, just so that he could return to his family.
In most of the personal letters to President Jammeh, I openly and directly solicited for the return of Gibou Dem. I received replies to all my letters, and in most of them President Jammeh reiterated his call for me to return and work in the Gambia, but was conspicuously silent on the return of Gibou Dem.
Fortunately, Gibou Dem succeeded to cross over to Europe again with financial support from our two families. But his application for asylum had been turned down. The risk of deportation was high, and the consequences obvious. My conscience was on constant attack. I had to push even further. This coincided with the period following the arrest of the UDP Protesters. I thought, that in writing to President Jammeh along the lines that I did, he could for once permit the return of Gibou Dem. He did not. So after a second thought, I contacted the lawyer handling the asylum appeal, and after a detailed explanation, he agreed that I could make a statement to support the appeal process.
I issued a statement to the Asylum Tribunal in which I stated all these facts and how I genuinely feared that should the appeal be disallowed and Dem returned to Gambia, there was a real risk of irreparable damage to his life.
I am happy that my statement motivated a reversal of the earlier decision. Gibou Dem has been granted political asylum in Europe with a residence permit of 5 years.
I wish you all a bright day.