My attention was yesterday drawn to the Sunday October 25 2020 interview of American ambassador-at large Lawyer Stephen J. Rapp by the US-based “For The People By The People” online talk show, hosted weekly by Messrs Banka Manneh, Musa Jeng and Pa Samba Jaw (Coach) on one of their series of topics featuring on my recent publication where I denounced Ambassador Rapp’s misplaced priority of hawkishly and hypocritically campaigning for the arrest, trial and conviction of former President Jammeh in a “hybrid court” reminiscent of the one he had successfully orchestrated against warlord Charles Taylor. The retiree ostensibly in search of a job cannot still differentiate the horrible legacy of Charles Taylor in the eight-year Liberian civil war and that of Yahya Jammeh’s relatively inconsequential crimes in the Gambia usually blown out of their contexts.
Anyhow, as much as I would acknowledge how Jaw and Jeng superficially raised some of my criticisms of the American highlighted in my article-although they never mentioned me by name-it was nonetheless obvious that Mr. Rapp knew exactly whom they were referring to and the content of my story; because at some point of emphasizing his resilience to always pursue heads of state suspected of committing war crimes or crimes against humanity he vowed to return to the Gambia to get Jammeh adding “even if Ambassador Sarr continues to criticize me”.
To be fair with them, I will first commend the hosts for “gently” reminding Mr. Rapp of America’s undesirable state-sanctioned excesses generally attributed to its combat forces deployed abroad to fight dubious wars and by extension to its government especially what had happened in Iraq and Afghanistan and for asking Ambassador Rapp why he is not equally vigilant about investigating or trying to hold any of those suspects accountable in his “so-called hybrid Courts” considering the inflexible antagonistic position of the US government towards any international courts instituted on such, including the ICC.
Additionally, no superpower nation including the five permanent members of the UN Security Council-America, Russia, China, Great Britain and France-has ever cooperated with human-rights-violation investigators pursuing suspects in their various security forces. But they would enthusiastically sponsor or support the investigation, arrest and conviction of other nations’ troops and leaders under the guise of maintaining a fair world order.
Amazingly, Mr. Rapp had no nation of major influence to quote as examples of targeted places by “his hybrid courts” other than Kosovo and another Balkan state ravaged by wars of genocide and crimes against humanity similar to what he said happened in Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia that ultimately validated the prosecution of ex-warlord Charles Taylor.
But did any of those serious crimes in those countries ever happen in the Gambia? Of Course not.
It was therefore intellectually very dishonest of Mr. Rapp for insinuating that my criticism of his selective approach to global justice when accused of targeting weak leaders over stronger ones as an attempt to discourage him from helping victims of human-rights abuses or other abuses committed by governments likened to the APRC under Jammeh.
I have never for once said anything like that but instead wanted him to understand that even the TRRC he is banking on for evidence to “capture” Jammeh was not necessarily commissioned for that, but to reconcile the political and ethnic difference of a polarized nation, blamed rightly or wrongly to some regrettable incidents associated with the 22 years rule of the APRC government still under investigation.
I have always argued that the APRC government was in form and substance derivative to the AFPRC military junta that came into power in 1994 through a popular and peaceful military takeover, and had maintained the same system of governance even in its democratically elected-civilian image.
But it’s also worth mentioning that most post-colonial military governments in Africa operated like that and were globally endorsed until in the past two decades or thereabout. Indeed military rule in West Africa was a normal and welcomed alternative to corrupt and tribally-constituted civilian governments that for decades served the interest of a few and the Neo-colonial masters. The first wave of coups in Africa were subsequently confirmed to have been instigated, financed or supported by foreign/Western powers for their own political and economic interests.
From the Congo’s Patrice Lumumba to Ghana’s Kwame NKrumah, most of our progressive post-colonial leaders were either assassinated or their governments overthrown on the instigation or sponsorship of certain treacherous Western nations to maintain control of our minds and resources. Eventually the military puppets they had taught the art and science of overthrowing governments graduated and started working for themselves rather than the greedy bastards.
But as typical of foreign or Western wheeler-dealers they soon started to campaign against the legality of military coups when it was no longer profitable to them, in the same manner they had to abolish the three-century old cataclysmic Atlantic Slave Trade when its economic losses started to outweigh its huge profits.
The balkanization of Africa at the Berlin Conference of 1884 without the consultation of the African people remains one of the most irreparable damages permanently inflicted in the evolution and salvation of our damned continent. In what has been considered as systematic racism and brazen genocide, Westerners have wiped out millions of people in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia and on every foothold of land they find profitable to impose their atrocious dominance for centuries. As long as their financial ledger books were profitably balanced, human lives other than that of Caucasians, meant little or nothing to humanity. They divided us against each other and never hesitated to annihilate dissenting voices or forces. Unless he failed his history classes, Mr. Rapp wouldn’t dispute this theory.
In South Africa Rapp’s ancestors participated, aided or pretended not to know that for close to a century Caucasians violently and fraudulently seized and occupied the land of the indigenous black majority and denied them their most fundamental human rights coupled with persistently killing and dehumanizing them.
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established for South Africans to forget those crimes against humanity, forgive each other and forge ahead which otherwise could have culminated into nasty retaliations of unimaginable savagery. Mr. Botha, the last president of Apartheid South Africa refused to appear when summoned before that TRC but eventually walked away with impunity. However in Mr. Rapp’s shallow reasoning one would hope that President Botha should have been tried in a hybrid court to avoid the recurrence of Apartheid in South Africa again.
That was his farcical reasoning when asked why he was so obsessed with pursuing Jammeh. That it would prevent what had happened in the Gambia for 22 years from ever happening again. I expected a smarter train of thought from the lawyer who should have simply been honest enough to disclose his interest in securing a job in the Gambia during these hard times of the COVID-19 pandemic in the world. No one has time for these expired lawyers anymore.
Besides, the world has never worked that way. For instance, the world has done everything imaginable to stop African governments from adopting military-style of governments but we still can’t get rid of rogue governments sustained by institutionalized corruption and tribalism and resorting to the same tactics we thought had vanished for good. After years of diligently working to rectify all their shortcomings in past administrations into perfectly civilized nations, the Nigerian, Ivorian and Guinean security forces under orders of their governments are today behaving like how they used to behave under totalitarian rulers. They are in the streets using live rounds to shoot and kill peaceful demonstrators protesting for their basic human and civil entitlements. How many more hybrid courts would Ambassador Rapp have to commission against all these criminals to prevent the recurrence of these incidents the zillionth time?
Mr. Rapp would have sounded a bit more reasonable if his efforts were geared towards stopping coups which will also require stopping corruption and tribal politics still cardinal sticking points that shockingly led to the Malian military takeover, lately. We all thought coups were things of the past, didn’t we?
From my personal perspective, if not confronted with honesty and total commitment, corruption and tribalism from our politicians will certainly continue to justify more coups regardless of the rhetoric or a million convictions in hybrid courts by all ambassadors-at large of the world.
Anyway I would advice Mr. Rapp to better redirect his compulsive and obsessive crusade of capturing and prosecuting Jammeh to the affirmed perpetrators of war crimes or unforgivable heavyweight criminals like George Bush, Tony Blaire (in Iraq and Afghanistan) Nicholas Sarkosy ( in Libya) and a bunch of them protected by the mere color of their skins or national origins.
Mr. Rapp has pointed out his possible reliance on the case-report of the infamous killing of some Ghanians from the TRRC to prosecute Jammeh in a “hybrid court of which I am afraid he would again dismiss my comparison of the similarity of what happened in the debacle of the 2003 invasion Iraq to the killing of those unidentified strangers, as untenable. In that both tragedies occurred from wrong intelligence given to the state but forgivable with the superpower leaders and not with the weaker third-world ones.
Yes, the “Ghanian”-murder issue that Mr Rapp thinks could be his best evidence is still shrouded by a controversial mystery with the key government witnesses behind the tragedy all dead, except perhaps for Jammeh alone who the bias TRRC is not making any efforts invite him to testify. They seem to be only interested in proving the occurrence of the crimes and not the circumstance leading to them which would have probably unveiled results totally different from the stories they want the world to know or believe. In other words, factoring the fact that the former Director General of the NIA, the late Daba Marena and the former Chief of Defense Staff the late Colonel Ndure Cham actually presented the wrong intelligence to President Jammeh that the suspicious strangers from Senegal arrested without ID cards were hired mercenaries to overthrow the APRC government and adding what former president Jammeh may have to explain could ultimately reveal a different conclusion far from the maddening story Essa Faal and group are determined to portray out there.
Marena and Cham had given Jammeh a frightening information that would have been a third incident of mercenaries-1996, 1997 and 2005-or murderous dissidents from Senegal planning and invading the Gambia to violently overthrow the APRC government. Stories had even later emerged that the men composed of different nationalities were “back-way immigrants” swindled by Senegalese racketeers and sent to the Gambia to wait for a nonexistent vessel that was to safely transport them to Europe . But upon arrival the evil Dakar agents tipped off the Gambia security forces including the Director General of the NIA about the “subversive mercenaries”.
That said one would wonder where Mr. Rapp’s ethical and moral standard would recline for accepting evidence from the only witnesses who happened to be the suspects or the Junglers who allegedly carried out the killings but who for three years were arbitrarily arrested and incarcerated in prison without being charged or being provided with any legal counsels until the con-artists from the TRRC appeared before them with the assurance of their freedom hinged on their confession to murdering the “Ghanians” on the orders of President Jammeh?
Most folks subjected to such coercion will agree to any confession just to be free. But there are always the true believers. Hence, the majority of them who agreed and said exactly what the TRRC had ordered them to say were released to go home while the few principled ones who refused to comply still languish in jail. How could ambassador Stephen J. Rapp among all high-profile lawyers rely on evidence provided from these victims in a proper legal setting, hybrid or otherwise and expect to win? Of course, he would collect a desperately needed paycheck from the gullible Gambia government even if he got nothing out of the case.
This country with its fragile democracy will never be reconciled by the bad gringos in charge but may instead be irreconcilably divided into feuding tribal and political groups.
Thanks for reading!
BANJUL THE GAMBIA.