The Gambia: Open letter to Gambia's political party leaders
When mathematics and electoral politics collide
Dear Gambian voters and political party leaders,
Introduction: To the political party leaders, the most important thing Gambians face is removing Yahya Jammeh, not who heads a unity coalition. After all, if we can have unity, the unity government will only have a mandate of less than three years, before real multiparty election and return to party rule. Party leaders should sacrifice their hunger for power, empathize with suffering people of the Gambia or risk throwing the country under Yahya Jammeh’s cruel rule five more years.
This open letter addressed to political party leaders, does actually speak to every Gambian voter, irrespective of party affiliations. Gambian voters, whether they live in Bakau, Koina, Kartong, Sare Gubu and anything in between, must considers the contents of the letter a challenge to them to help in the efforts to change political leadership, after twenty-one years of violent human rights abuses and unparalleled corruption. The letter is coming at the most critical moment in Gambian history since the tragic military coup in 1994. The December elections, barely two months away, also challenge Gambians in many other different ways, but first let me set the scene. Twenty-one years of a military rule, whose only history Gambians will forever remember, is the hundreds of human beings that Yahya Jammeh has ordered killed. But it doesn’t end there. Over hundred Gambians arrested by the NIA, the military and the jugglers have never been seen alive again, most, since their arrests over ten years ago. And, before Yahya Jammeh came to power in 1994, Gambians, as a society, considered it shameful to be incarcerated, but since then, he imprisoned thousands of Gambians unjustifiably. Today, it is hard to put an exact number to the number of Gambians who have died in prison under heart-aching conditions; torture, hunger, starvation, diseases, not to mention those who have since become mentally ill due to harsh conditions in Mile Two and other prisons. Mile Two is unfit animals habitation, but it is where Yahya Jammeh has warehoused anyone he considers a threat to his murderous rule. But consider the other things Yahya Jammeh has caused; the terror he unleased by giving NIA agents power to arrest innocent Gambians every day, the detentions, tortures of innocent citizens by the NIA in which so many tortured victims have die under NIA custody, or soon after their releases from prisons. The unflappable opposition politician, Sheriff M Dibba and Tombong Camara of Mansajang Kunda, both died from torture a week after their releases.
But to give a fuller account of the damage Yahya Jammeh has done to Gambia, one thing strikes home for every citizen, whether they have relatives who were murdered by Yahya Jammeh, like some of us, or not. Since 1994, every has Gambian felt like they were in chain shackles, unable to express themselves politically. There was fear and terror in the heart of every Gambian and no one dared to mention Yahya Jammeh’s name in public. Besides, politicians and the media were forced into complete silence as Yahya Jammeh committed crime spree, including murders. The National Assembly and the judiciary, the other two branches of the regime, are emasculated and reduced to laughing stock, to the detriment of the entire Gambian population. Additionally, in a short space of ten years, Yahya Jammeh has become wealthier than the state, and to those who work as slave laborers in one of his numerous farms around the country, this should hit home. In Gambia, Yahya Jammeh has business in every sector of the economy, from agriculture, the ports, construction, mining, and pretty much every income generating sector of the economy. Meanwhile, across the country, the graves of people murdered on Yahya Jammeh’s orders litter the landscape, from dead bodies inside deep dry wells, to dense forests, and in the bellies of his crocodiles in Kanilai village. The Gambian disaster also profoundly affects the civil service as for twenty years Yahya Jammeh has placed his fellow Jolas tribesmen, at the exclusion of Fulas, Mandinkas, Wollofs and other tribes, expect the few, like Isatou Njie Saidy, who has helped and condoned Yahya Jammeh’s murders of Gambian citizens, without resigning in disgust. But, no understanding of the Gambian tragedy would be complete without mentioning the thousands of Gambian who fled to Europe, America and elsewhere around the world, from Senegal to China to across West Africa. The World Bank has estimated that nearly 70% of Gambia’s university graduates fled to country. No modern country can develop without its most important resource; its people, but the danger of forced exile manifests itself in many other ways. Without sounding xenophobic, foreigner have basically taken over the Gambia, as blue-blood citizens flee to lands near and far for safety and security in distant countries. This is unmitigated disaster.
But, to be clear, many people who worked closely with Yahya Jammeh, concede that Gambians and the world will never know the gravity of the crimes Yahya Jammeh has committed until he leaves power. And this brings us to the critical elections in six weeks. Evident, the suffering in the country is unbearable and the Gambia is hated around the world for the way Yahya Jammeh is running it. Gambians have the support of the international community in the desire for political change. The country cannot afford five more years of deaths, disappearances incarcerations; the endless hiring and firing of civil servants, and voters have the power and obligation to change the political leadership. The voters are the people that can determine who is in power and only in. Africans are the voters seen as the lesser, and continually abused by those in political power, and in our country, the regime uses Gambians as slave laborers on Yahya Jammeh’s multiple farms around the country. Fellow Gambians citizens and voters, we need political change, and the only way to achieve this is if political parties leaders come together to elect one person to contest the elections against Yahya Jammeh, with the support of the rest. Recently, we saw the crowds of enthusiastic Gambian citizens in at UDP, GDC and Dr Isatou Touray rallies, it’s both impressive and hopeful, but it also presents us with the danger of disunity, as each of the three candidates try to get themselves nominated to the leadership position. Clearly, judging from the positions of the party leaders, this is the case where mathematics and electoral politics collide The commitment to political is unattainable if each of three or four candidates contest the elections. The desire for political change must be greater for each party leader than their desire to lead coalition unity. It is clear, if each party candidate contests, the votes will be divided, which only help Yahya Jammeh return to power, and five more years of disaster and mayhem in the country. It is the duty of the voters in the country to help force unity among the parties, without which no single party can win and Gambians will retune to misery of the past two decades.
Mathew K Jallow
A Voice from the Gambia Diaspora
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