Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The Gambia: subverting the Constitution and putting a price on democracy

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On the surface, the looming opposition presidential contest fee hike, and its affordability or lack thereof, may seem like a benign money matter, but it is far more complicated than its superficial appearance. It is, first and foremost, a withering indictment of the Gambian regime’s mindset and Gambians’ collective complicity by indifference, which has enabled Yahya Jammeh, time and again, to undermine the capacity of the Gambian Constitution to regulate the political atmosphere and ensure civility in the political discourse.

It also challenges Yahya Jammeh’s indifference to the Constitution as a living document that is replete with unwritten laws and rules, which assign reasonable social and political behaviors in the greater bargain for fairness and justice. But, far worse than the fact that Yahya Jammeh’s arrogance is grounded in an ostentatious show of power, his habitual flaunting of the laws and Constitution of the land with reckless abandon, is absolutely unprecedented both in its scope and frequency. Yahya Jammeh intermittent bizarre clown shows, which strike most Gambians as needless buffoonery are, above all, extremely damaging to the Gambia’s standing in the international community. Of the many dumb ideas conceived by Yahya Jammeh’s rash decision-making, includes the arbitrary increase of fees for potential presidential candidates, but there is pervasive hostility towards a gutless idea that departs from customary protocol. The sweeping impeachment of the fee hike proposal from Gambians, has also generated unanimous international condemnation and spun a serious conversation around the legality of the fees, which Gambians see as an illegal form of taxation.

The fact that this terrible idea grew out of someone’s dim brain is, by itself, incredibly troubling, and above all, it demonstrates a painful lack of fairness and political civility. In Senegal where citizens understand their roles at the very apex of the political food chain, unjustifiable trampling on the rights of citizens often easily sparks widespread unrest in order to reassert the supremacy of peoples’ voices. The fee increase proposal, intended as punitive avenging for funds remittance made to political parties by the diaspora dissidents, inadvertently puts a price on democracy, apart from posing an existential threat to peoples’ rights to choose their leaders, unencumbered by the imposition of malicious and retributive barriers. Yahya Jammeh’s intent to scrape money out of diaspora pockets, to pay for the exorbitant presidential candidates fees, is a classless act of malicious thuggery. The burden the fee increases will put on the opposition, apart from being totally unfair, is completely at odds with the democratic processes, and, therefore, has no place in the Gambia’s political system. The Gambia’s gradual slide into a one-man regime, and Yahya Jammeh’s emboldening transformation into characteristic tyranny, began with the assassination of former Finance Minister, Koro Ceesay, and continued on with the 2000 student massacre, the execution of twenty-six Mile Two Prison inmates, the kidnapping and disappearance of Gambian citizens and hundreds of similar cases in between. Clearly, the Gambia’s descent into a state of chaos defies the law of chemistry, which dictates that every action has a reaction. Like nations, which historically suffered the burdens of deadly tyrannies, Gambians have fallen short of their patriotic obligations and have only themselves to blame.

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After each heinous crime Yahya Jammeh ordered, his actions were met with complete silence and morbid fear from Gambians, rather than the wrath of the population. The threats that still loom large over Gambian’s men and women of conscience, forced Gambians into fear-induced denials, complacency and radio silence; acts of moral cowardice that have buried Gambians in shame and regret. The nexus between public complacency and Yahya Jammeh’s predilection to buy support, silence and indifference, form the genesis of his shiftiness and the basis of his disastrous unilateral decision-making. In 1661, King Louis XIV of France declared; “L’État, c’est moi” (“I am the state”), and three hundred fifty years later, Yahya Jammeh can declare he is the state, and he will be absolutely right.

The level of power Yahya Jammeh’s welds over Gambians is unparalleled in Africa south of the Sahara, and the fact that Gambians still cower in fear of a man, who, in reality, is the one most fearful of them, is logically unexplainable. For eighty percent of the enraged population to rise up against a tyrant who will not stop murdering, disappearing and incarcerating them, should be a no-brainer. It is not. And that is the sad part. But, it is never too late to stand up to a vicious regime that has little regard for human life. Understanding the price he has to pay for the murders, plunder, and economic rape of the country, Yahya Jammeh is literally fighting to save his life, as Gambians fight just to be free. But the day of reckoning cannot be delayed forever. The writing is on the wall. The proposed fee should not stand; but more, the public out-cry is that Yahya Jammeh should not be permitted to contest in one more Gambian election. Period!!!

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