By Jaw Manneh: Weeks preceding January 19 will be defining for The Gambia on many fronts. The string of familiar abuses of power this week is a rude reminder of the grotesque horrors of the 22 year-old terror machine that has preyed on the population, once deadened by fear and subjugation. In large part and in patterns fashioned in a totalitarian dystopia, this cruel oppressive system is what characterized the legacy of APRC governance administration of our dear country. Like a miasmic plague, it relented not.
The closure of the two radio stations – Teranga and Hiltop radios – and the reported arrest of some supporters of the newly birthed grass-root democracy movement #GambiaHasDecided are indicative of the residual will of a badly wounded brute, reeling from the excruciating impairment delivered to his heart, to disrupt and subvert democratic process. Shutting down the radio stations that have just found a lost voice in decades following the December election helps him to further suppress access to alternative information, while reestablishing the state own media as the flagship distributor of a tailored pro-government propaganda milled from the State House.
President Jammeh and his misguided cronies have refused to come to term with the loss in a free and fair election. He is determined to change the course of history, and has launched multiple battle fronts to the effect. Behind the façade of public show of legal challenge, his objective is to unleash some sort of vengeance against Gambians he claimed he loves deeply. He loves no one but himself. Like a rabid unhinged ideologue, he has since resolved to render the country ungovernable.
His game plan is a complex one. With the aid of the so-called Nigerian judges, he is ready to use the Supreme Court as the coliseum to undo the will of Gambian people.
Second, he is using the remnants of APRC echelon to whip up the base, perpetuate anti-IEC and anti-Barrow-led-coalition favor. All rooted in unfounded allegations of electoral “irregularities” and suppression of APRC voters by IEC agents. He has since deployed military assets and mounted military checkpoints across the country. He has literally set the country into a practical war posture. And he is highly likely to use the NIA and a sadistic killer squad nestled within the Gambia Armed Forces as repressive human machines to entrench a predatory culture of fear and death.
The denunciation and rejection of sub-regional body Ecowas in his New Year address sounded to the ears as beats of war drums. Not the renewal of hope and a future that holds a promise. It was all darkness and apocalypse, and political braggadocio. Stippled with unbridled arrogance and false sense of immortality and entitlement. Curiously enough, he devoted inordinate number of minutes, lamenting and belaboring constitutional democracy, patriotism, and sovereignty. Non-interference. Peace and security. “We will defend ourselves to the last man”. Et-al. What can be more unintelligible?
Ironically, the same Yahya Jammeh is the biggest violator of the Gambian Constitution. Arguably, the most unpatriotic Gambian in memory and the greatest threat to the peace and security to the Gambian state, internally and externally. He invokes the language of the constitution when it suits him and his big ego. Patriotism, to him, means agreeing with him or singing his praises or defending his personal interest. Security and peace to him, means your total submission to his will even when your constitutionally guaranteed rights have been violated. Rarely, he speaks of justice and equality under the law. Rarely.
Under his watch, court verdicts are openly flagrantly flouted by security agents, without consequence. His directives and statements have been treated as the laws of the land. Impartial judges and magistrates are fired at will, without explanation. He uses foreign judges against the Gambian people in sham trials, just as he is trying to do so again with the APRC’s election petition before an embattled Supreme Court. He has undermined the very foundation of justice and obliterated the essence of fairness and just laws as we know them. He has presided over the bastardization of the Gambian judiciary. Only his laws matter, not ours.
Jammeh routinely insults openly and humiliates the elderly gleefully. Ordinary citizens, Imams, chiefs and alkalolus all became his victims. Even those who served him with total loyalty have fallen at his machinations, Machiavellian. He has effectively decimated the institutions of our democracy. Everything in the country revolves around him. His tried-and-failed attempts to divide the country along tribal lines still ring true.
He set families against each other – sons against fathers, brothers against brothers, uncles against nephews, and cousins against cousins. He has savaged and dehumanized any man or woman who refuses to bend to his will. He has illegally appropriated properties from private citizens. Vast lands grabbed from villages across the country and free labor supplied by citizens, often out of fear. The poor became poorer. And he often referred to political opponents who disagree with him politically and those that disagree constructively on public policy, as dogs, donkeys, cockroaches and rats. Your own people? These characterizations personify the depth of disdain and hatred that beats in his heart for those Gambians who choose to think different and perceive thinks differently.
In addition, he has continually hemorrhaged national treasury for 22 years and lived a lavish life at the expense of hard working rural farmers and market women vendors who pay duties for selling garden produce at public markets. He pays none in taxes for his for profit businesses that have mushroomed in all regions of the country.
Now, knowing the odds stand starkly against him, and facing an emboldened population united in the common call for him to respect the election outcome and step down peacefully, he is resorting to the old oppressive tactics of intimidation, death threats and arrest of Gambians. These are all calculated moves. He is trying to provoke citizens to spring into revolt. Do not take the bait. I repeat, do not take the bait. Remain law abiding. But be ready to erect guards against any aggression. Walk in groups if you sense a threat trailing you. We cannot afford to see one more Gambian life perish at his pleasure. The moral voice of the coalition leadership is needed and must be forceful and ever-present in the final weeks to January 19.
Work with the Gambian police and military when and where possible and remind them of the duty and the sacred oaths they took to protect and defend citizens from harm. Majority of our military and police outfits comprise good men and women who wish to see a thriving, progressive and developed Gambia. They wish to see The Gambia restored to a just democratic society. Work with the civil society leaders too, including members of the religious community.
Embrace the gallantry of our youth who have since coalesced around the #GambiaHasDecided movement. All shoulders to the wheel for a final push. We must not let Jammeh have it his way.
he author is a former political and
Economic Assistant for the US embassy in Banjul