The Gambia: The dreaded midnight knock, and the abduction of Ambassador Sajo M Jallow
By Mathew K Jallow
The paralyzing fear, after that dreaded mid-night knock, stirs up familiar, but haunting reminders of the Gambia’s contemporaneous history. And September 2, two weeks ago, was quintessential Gambia. It was the day life forever changed for one family. When Ambassador to Ethiopia, Sajo Jallow, who also doubled as Gambia’s Permanent Representative to the African Union, became the latest statistic in the Gambia’s systemic forced disappearances, history was repeating itself. Yahya Jammeh was back to his old playbook.
Ambassador Sajo Jallow, has often evoked catcalls of sellout and worst; traitor, but the former Ambassador is in every way far different from your run-of-the-mill public servants pathologically enthused by the caricature of meaningless titles and accolades and worship of selfish materialism. In Ambassador Sajo Jallow, one finds little or no regard for the superficial perks of officialdom or the yen to gloat in the intoxicating temptations of pompous narcissism. Nothing in Ambassador Momodou Sajo Jallow’s calm demeanor betrays his rare intellect, and no matter how anyone seeks to dissect and distort his personality, one thing easily becomes evident; fidelity to honor and moral rectitude underpin the very essence of man. It is hard, if not impossible, to imagine Ambassador Sajo Jallow immerse himself in activities that will blacklist him for spite and contempt, but again, innocence does not insulate citizens and non-citizens from Yahya Jammeh’s vindictiveness; both real and imagined. Ambassador Jallow is not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination, but on the human perfection scale, he ranks high up there in the stratosphere; unapologetically upstanding and mercilessly true to his good nature. More than anything else, his stellar character makes the unfolding quandary Ambassador Jallow is entangled in all that more incomprehensible, but his senseless abduction has again put the Gambian regime in the cross-hairs of an international community perplexed by the dangerous political shenanigans in Yahya Jammeh’s Gambia.
One of the unbelievable ironies of Ambassador Jallow’s forced disappearance is, how, earlier on, when the regime stood on shaky grounds, he helped bring stability to it. But, in the intervening years since those early unpredictable days, Yahya Jammeh, has completely degenerated into a morally desensitized and guiltless egomaniac that uses his allies and discards them on a dime. The kidnapping and abduction of Gambians from the region, especially Senegal, was once a regular occurrences a few years ago, but Ambassador Sajo Jallow is perhaps one of the most senior official Yahya Jammeh has yet ordered detained incommunicado. As Gambians around the globe anguish over yet another forced disappearance, the arch of history is repeating itself, and in the process, shrinking support for the regime, as the unambiguous drumbeat for political change goes on full display all around the country. As a general rule, dictatorial regimes always disregard the writing on the wall, and Yahya Jammeh too has fallen into that ditch, smugly assured of invincibility from his celestial perch. The impulses to ignore signs of changing circumstances compel Yahya Jammeh to double down on his arrogance, marked by paternalistic condescension, but increasingly bribing citizens into indifference and detachment from reality is no longer effective in hiding Gambia’s tailspin to social and economic disintegration. And the abduction of Ambassador Sajo Jallow is symptomatic of the Gambia’s unbearable oppression and social and economic collapse. What is happening in the Gambia is no longer laughing matter, as the trickle of senior public servants that have abandoned the regime, turns into an avalanche. Increasingly Yahya Jammeh’s mysticism and imperial stature has lost its magic as the inaudible roaring of “no to five more years” has swept a broad swath of the consciences of most Gambians, including staunch supporters of the regime. As Yahya Jammeh remains in total denial of reality, Ambassador Jallow’s family and friends agonize over his disappearance, and solicit international pressure in securing his immediate and unconditional release.