As part of events marking 21 years since he seized power through a bloodless coup in 1994 and continued to rule with an iron fist and impunity, earning him the titles “King of Impunity” and “Dictator”as well as Gambia being dubbed the “North Korea of Africa”; President Yaya Jammeh in one of his shortest ever speeches in front of hundreds at a march past organized to mark the July 22 1994 revolution announced the pardoning of all those convicted of treason as well as those convicted of drug procession.
“Those concerned to take notes because i will not repeat” said Dictator Jammeh as he continued to outline the categories of those pardoned as follows:
“All those convicted of treason from 2013 to 1994 and are in death row or serving life sentences are hereby pardoned” said Jammeh, this was met with loud applauses and celebrations from the crowd who gathered to witness the march past.
“You have not heard me yet!, as from today, all those convicted of murder and have severed 10years and above are hereby pardoned! except 3 cases that i know of, the carnibal, the one that calls himself Ayatola… violence against women and children i shall never forgive, also…..all those found guilty of infanticide, i will never forgive them, i have made it clear if you deliver a child you do not want, there is SOS children’s village or come to state house and handover the baby to the guards….”
“A group of foreigners that killed a British citizen, stabbed him more than 70times, killed him in his own car, brought him on the road, burned him and attempted to burn him, such type of evil people will never be pardoned by me”
“All those who have been convicted of procession of carnabis, especially all the young people, except repeat offenders are hereby pardoned. Those convicted of trafficking of carnabis and served three years and above are hereby pardoned, except repeat offenders”
“For hard drugs, well if i can pardon murders, then why not for hard drugs! all those who have served five years and above for cocaine and other hard drugs, they are forgiven, but be it the murderer, the drug trafficker or anyone if anybody has been condemned of rape, if the person he raped is 20years and above, he is pardoned, i mean from those convicted from 2013 backwards, anyone who raped a child will serve the full sentence, there will be no mercy for raping children”
“Now, in as much as we welcome anybody irrespective of your color, race or wherever you come from or culture, we know that we are the creation of almighty Allah and the beauty of humanity is in our diversity but all those convicted and who are foreigners especially of murder, rape, drug trafficking, arm robbery, they must be deported immediately”
“All the people i talked about, must be released no later than Friday prayers, i wish you all the best! happy celebration!”
The president then ends his speech to loud applause but was quick to return and continued as follows:
“I forgot one category of people, and those people they need forgiveness more than anybody else because for 21 years today, they have never said anything good about me, they’ve lied against this country, they call me all sorts of names, the majority are in the United States, Great Britain and a few of them in some European countries. You lied for 21 years, this country has been progressing, then you are serial liars. I forgive you all of you, whether you lied or you escaped from a coup plot and you ran away, you are all pardoned” This is a departure from his former amnesty, which was extended to the diaspora but excluded 10 people.
“All those who are going to be pardoned, their relatives must be warned that they must never be on the wrong side of the law for the next 10years, otherwise there will be trouble”. Many observers see this as a direct threat that even if the persons concerned leave the country, their relative can be rounded up and detained just like the case of the December 30th insurgents, whose parents, friends and child are still illegally detained.
“Drugs, murder, rape, these are not going to be tolerated in this country, i turned a new page but the first person to stain the page, will pay the ultimate prize! I wish you all the best” ended Jammeh.
Many observers welcome the news but are cautious following the re-arrest of pardoned prisoners that took place during Ramadan, with many urging caution and a wait and see policy to Jammeh’s public declarations. Pa Samba Jow, a Gambian activist living in the US was quick to react on his Facebook page and asked an important question “What about the illegally detained, who are not convicted?”
Sidi Sanneh another Jammeh opponent and career civil servant was also quick to react on social media with the title “Nothing to write home about”, he continued to say that “You pardon someone who has been charged and convicted in a fair and open trial. Most of those in Gambian prisons have neither been charged nor convicted of any crime, and those who have been convicted were the victims of trumped up charges. We will only rest when Yaya Jammeh is arrested and tried before a court of law for crimes against the State and against Gambians”.
The wait is now on to see if Jammeh will make good of his promises above and release those categorized above. Faturadio will continue to monitor the situation on the ground in Gambia and will be publishing a reaction and analysis thereafter. We know that with sanctions, an almost collapsed economy, internal and international pressure from Interntional organizations as well as the dynamic diaspora groups, Yaya Jammeh has little choice but to begin to reconcile or perish.