An Essay on Decadence of Morality in The Gambia
By Musa Camara
Irreformable and notorious individuals who commit blatant infractions or heinous crimes are generally isolated, publicly shamed, unequivocally condemned, socially sanctioned and even legally punished both in the interest of justice and for the good of society. Not the mercurial dictator who demands to be called His Excellency, Doctor, Professor, Sheikh, Alhagie Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh, Nasirudeen, the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the Chief Custodian of the Sacred Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia. For nineteen years on, it doesn’t matter what violations he commits against citizens or the law, he enjoys total impunity thanks to the authoritarian fist he wields over the country. His apologists are always on standby to explain away his incessant and mindless abuses of power with witless excuses to justify putting himself above the law and they never fail to remind friend and foe of the man how popular he remains with the public. Critics, on the other hand, counter that he gets away with his crimes and excesses because he has cowed the nation into submission with a level of brutality seen only in few countries even in Africa.
Nothing shed more light on his erratic mindset about the office he occupies than the events of August 26, 2012. He acted on his chest-beating vow on national television that he was going to start executing prisoners on death row because he had had enough of murderers and violent criminals on the street. The killing of nine prisoners, it must be underscored, was to all intents and purposes extrajudicial. It was carried out in secret and in the dark of the night, and never officially confirmed until diligent reporters broke the gory news to the world.
While Yahya Jammeh’s contemptuous disregard for the law, democratic norms and the rights of citizens would constitute overwhelming grounds of impeachment from office in normal societies, in The Gambia his every illegal conduct tightens his stranglehold on the nation. With the notable exception of few ferocious voices from the opposition parties, a handful of organized protests by dissident groups outside the country decrying the killing of prisoners, Imam Baba Leigh was the solitary voice, especially among the religious leaders who spoke against the despicable act. Predictably, his minions abducted Baba Leigh and for months now the imam hasn’t been heard from or seen in public or by his family. Whether he is still under illegal detention or worse happened to him is anyone’s guess. No court has issued a habeas corpus to order his release and the rest of the country simply gives in to Jammeh’s latest extralegal fiat with a shrug of helplessness.
The disconcerting killing of prisoners and the cavalier manner this erratic man rides roughshod over the country fill a patriot’s heart with rage. The question that confronts the pondering mind is why? Why is this regime particularly brutal? Why do the Gambian people allow it to lord over them for so long? What is in Yahya Jammeh’s character that makes him so crude and cruel? What is in the Gambian character that makes the nation so receptive to such crudeness and cruelty?
A serious examination of the historic records will establish that even the almighty British Empire could not effectively subjugate the entire population of what is now modern Gambia for more than 64 years. From the beginning of its meddling into the affairs of Gambians in 1588 to having formally annexed Bathurst Colony in 1816, the British failed to establish The Gambia Colony and Protectorate until 1901. The Gambian resilience, for over three hundred years, to British colonial aggressions reached its fineness with the resistance mounted by Burungai Sonko of Nuimi and Musa Molloh Baldeh of Fulladu. These two Gambian stalwarts drew the line in the Sahelian sand for the British when they took the stance with military force to jealously guard the sovereignty of their people and maintain the territorial integrity of their kingdoms before the country was eventually incorporated into the dying British Empire.
No sooner the British were about to enjoy some breathing space after defeating Musa Molloh Baldeh than Edward Francis Small started to agitate for Independence as early as in 1915. E. F. Small internationalized the struggle for our liberation when he linked it to the total liberation of British West African Colonies in 1920 at the pioneering meeting of the National Congress of British West Africa in Accra, Ghana. Our Founding Father’s struggle for national self-determination culminated in his election in 1947 to the Legislative Assembly, the first representative Gambians elected into office. In roughly eighteen years thereafter, The Gambia gained its independence as a state among the respectable members of the community of nations. This coming July, when Yahya Jammeh is out and about celebrating his coup, will mark the 19th anniversary of the sad mockery of that glorious day. His ignoble coming to power makes all noble sacrifices of the past seem like a pyrrhic victory.
Notwithstanding the admirable achievement heralding a promising future of freedom and equality for all its citizens, in The Gambia now, one man subverts the sovereignty of the people, cheats and lies to them, arrests and detains defenseless citizens, ridicules the extrajudicial murder and assassinations of the innocents, summarily executes prisoners, embezzles the national wealth, runs the country like a personal fiefdom, and grandiosely entertains to arrogate to himself their natural rights. Whereas all these impunities are not new in the history of the world, the incomprehensible is that in this age of postmodernity even his casual supporters celebrate him as a national hero. Admittedly, the gullible among us would be persuaded with the argument that history is replete with many such stories. The worst still and the irony, however, are that there’s no national outrage, condemnation, agitation, or resistance, let alone open rebellion to preserve the imprescriptible rights of Gambians. All that prevail are silent suffering, groaning, moaning, resignation to fate and self-pity. But why is a generation or two just removed from predecessors who overthrew the yoke of colonial rule endure brutalities, suffer humiliations, callous murders, reckless seizure and abductions of their abled-bodied with impunities? — crimes horrendous than those against which our forefathers revolted for the restoration of their dignities or perish with honors of fighting for freedom.
To provide answers to these irrational indulgences and riddle of Gambian history, I suggest we examine the moral compass of Gambian society. Morality is the set of values that embodies a people’s beliefs of right and wrong informed primarily by their understanding of fairness and justice. It’s the reflection of their couth pronouncements, but even more so it’s the projection of their actions and manifestation of their deeds. When actualized at the individual or collective level, morality shapes the ideals and principles that guide the actions of people in their social intercourse, equips them with the knowledge in imperative terms of right and wrong, exulting behaviors that should be justified when perpetrated to the human self or to others. Besides informing people of acceptable behaviors, morality in particular charges individuals with the responsibility that which are immoral or unethical do not become norms of their society while they stand idle. In essence, morality teaches restraints against violation of the autonomy of the vulnerable, but in practice, it ultimately demands actions from the powerful to prevent harm directed at the weak.
The sheer lack of serious literature on the subjects is indicative of the uneasiness among writers to put the Gambian Morality under the microscope. Even when writers attempt an exposition in this barren literal valley, they come out as straightjacket stereotyping. The towering scholar, Edward Said, once argued that the best critics to objectively assess, analyze, evaluate and pass judgment on any society are its outsiders because they are not corrupted by the moral delinquencies of their targets of inquiries. I doubt that the best critics of any society are outsiders alone for they may not have pertinent facts, fully understand the culture, communications, norms, values, folklores, etc.; of their subjects under study. Controversial as it maybe, I believe that the best and credible critics of any dispensation are the victims of its injustices, those who pay in blood and treasure the cost of its unrelenting egregious transgressions. In all over Africa when outsiders to our society attempt to critique us, to hold us accountable to universally cherished values and disregard for standards for which we eviscerated our colonial masters, we too often hide behind old familiar cries of Western imposition of their value system on Africa. Now it rightly falls onto us Africans to look at our society with the eye of critics, see ourselves as others perceive us for what we truly appear to be, envisioning images which portray the best we want for our progenies, then cast the unflattering judgment of whether we live up to our responsibilities in building the foundation of a just society for their inheritance. Regardless of the nobility of purpose and validity of criticism, the African critics of their own society risk the charges of a brainwashed Western stooge by their compatriots or more familiar but far serious: treason from their government.
I for one do not see myself as an intellectual, moral or any kind of philosopher, sociologist or psychologist, political or critical theorist, but only as someone who is both an insider and outsider of The Gambian community. I am an insider by virtue of my origin and for having spent most of my formative years in the country; and an outsider not only because I’ve never participated in or directly benefitted from the prevailing political schema of things, but also that my views are in the negligible minority among my fellow citizens. In spite of my claims, neither postulation enhances my credibility on the subject, but rather only illuminates my understanding of the country’s political and social arrangements. Undoubtedly, the premises of my arguments are to pass the test of validity by their proximity to the truth. The truth, I must admit however, I do not know but I am confident in the abilities of plenty of Gambians who are absolutely certain in their knowledge of the ultimate truth to remind us to remain cognizant of the consequences anytime we reach the point of diminishing marginal utility. Therefore, naively I hope, my views will not come across to the reader as sanctimonious.
Incontrovertibly, there are many ways to understand the social, institutional and political arrangements of a people, and any method of analyses is not exhaustive to substitute for the Rosetta Stone-like miracle. But even where that is possible, objective facts still leave room for subjective interpretations entitling everyone to formulate strong opinions on contentious issues. Conscious of this truism notwithstanding, any minuscular inadequacy in criticism of ideas or societies is sufficient enough for apologists and nihilists to wallow in the pit latrines of willful denial instead of examining the evidence of probable cause to warrant the reality check of self-evaluation. Therefore, by defying the cynics for who they are, a casual examination of the character of a typical Gambian, operation of the family unit, guild of the religious elites, the adulteration of the dominant intellectual class, and government operatives’ understanding of their functions will open the floodgates into the insight of the morality of these agents and by extension to a large degree The Gambian society. What it will exhibit is not pretty, a collective national morality at its nadir.
The Typical Gambian Monad
Since society is the collection of individuals, the formal and non-formal institutions in it are their social creations informed by their values and attained through their collective endeavors. The values they espouse ultimately reflect in their social and political institutions. Therefore, an insight into the typical individual of that society provides basis for understanding the group for the collection is the sum of the units. The sum is not only greater than its individual parts; the whole is, for good or bad, greater than the sum of its collective parts. But as it’s with human beings who are conscious creatures, not abstract objects, the individual agents are cultivated in social milieus where they share common beliefs nurtured in their consciousness. Consequently, the prevailing dominant behaviors of the individuals coalesce to shape their groupthink. Their personal preferences or degree of divergences from one another become immaterial ultimately caving in to their dominant traits. Therefore, the pronouncements and protestations, actions and inactions of the average Gambian displayed by his ultimate attitude to his professed principles are appropriate subjects of inquiry to facilitate accurate depiction of the units that constitute the whole.
What is the character of a typical Gambian? The Gambian is more often corny, deceitful, and self-centered. He intermittently takes pride in lying as a badge of honor, celebrates any success in deception as a confirmation of his higher intelligence over the victim. The Gambian assumes that his security and advantages in the race of life are assured and guaranteed over others by his ability to willfully deceive an associate, and will under the guise of providing genuine support knowingly volunteer misguided ‘help’ to frustrate the efforts of the already desperate. His lingos for his diabolic mischief are “smartness,” “speediness,” and “fastness” against the unsuspecting victim. Anyone who grew up in The Gambia or spent a significant amount of time there has, in one way or the other, fallen prey to deception or knows such victims. In most instances, we abate our friends and families to dispense dishonorable acts on even our neighbors or other people we know.
As society is the incubator of human habits, through instrumental conditioning, it reinforces behaviors it rewards. As such, serial indulgence in deception cultivates The Gambian to a pathological false impressionist. Once on a visit [semester] in the country regardless of whether he lives in poverty in Germany, Europe or the United States he gives the impression that he lives in heaven on earth. In effect, he assumes the role of a self-appointed ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary for his country of residence concocting fictional tales unimaginable even by Hollywood motion-picture screenwriters. The Gambian marvels at his abilities, shows off material possessions to “bluff,” and above all flatters himself a hero who takes no “nonsense” from any living being.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. philosophized that “a man who hasn’t found something he is willing to die for is not fit to live.” Even though I do not consider myself a disciple of Dr. King, his dictum became my standard to measuring people’s beliefs, convictions, principles they cherish and will die protecting. In Dr. King’s own country of the United States, any random survey of Americans on the test will show that their love to possess firearms will top the list. Americans believe that their guns are their instruments of defense against tyranny and they would pay the ultimate price in firefight against government forces if they believe it will transgress or go after their firearms. The 1993 Branch Davidian saga in Texas, among many others, is a symbolic demonstration of the American commitment to stand by a principle he cherishes. The belief in principles rooted in ideals greater than oneself, conditions freedom-loving citizens to indulge in seemingly irrational actions at supreme costs to preserve the inherent rights of man.
Similarly, any random survey of Gambians on Dr. King’s test will generate a consensus that their love for and sentimentalities about their mothers is the rock-solid principle they will never compromise. The Gambian would claim that his mother is the center of his universe and salvation to Heaven; and therefore any attempt by anyone to disrespect or threaten, let alone harm her, would provoke murder from him. After all, the imams remind him at every Friday congregational prayer “Jannat lies under the feet of the mother.” He would impress on you at every little chance he has that his love for his mother is unrivaled because it dwarfs anybody else’s love for their mother. Presumably, his father is no longer in competition for that love — he must have run out of stamina. But does he really believes in his claim, loves his mother and would pay the ultimate price to defend her in the face of imminent death, or take a principled stance like the American would for his gun?
Claims are just mere words as their evidence should be in actions. There has never been a Waco-like incident in the country not because the Gambian’s most ‘cherished’ principle is not violated on daily basis but because he doesn’t defend it. He doesn’t because he does not truly believe it. Many victims in the witch-hunting expeditions and detentions without trials are innocent mothers. The rest are sons, daughters, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, uncles, nephews, fathers, aunties, neighbors, you name them. They are humiliated, brutalized and handcuffed with hoods placed over their heads by government operatives without anyone — not even a son for the mother — who takes a stand to defend their love ones against abuses.
Gambians act like the proverbial hyena parents that were on a journey with their children. On their trip, they stumbled upon a lion that chased after them. Terrified by the appearance of the lion, the hyena parents climbed on a tree leaving their defenseless children for the lion to prey on them. The mother hyena asked the male hyena so what about our children, what are you going to do to save them? The male hyena suggested that they leave the lion to carry on with its feast; and hope that after they completed their journey, they will restart a family with new babies. The hyena has the most impeachable character of animals in Gambian tales. It is the animal that will ever live in infamy. It’s said to be selfish and unprincipled, ask a Gambian he would help list the remainders. Perversely, however, the predatory lion is lionized in all Gambian tales. But what are a society’s parables? They are the theoretical abstractions of their material conditions. Every thing the Gambian dislikes about the proverbial hyena is a projection of his behavior and character. The poor hyena gets the blame. For example, when Jammeh butchered students in April 10th 2000, Gambian parents, like the proverbial hyena parents, didn’t come to their children’s rescue.
The Gambian excessive fixation on his mother is his Oedipus conflict — espoused by Sigmund Freud in his Psychosexual Stages of Development — unresolved. He is obsessed with his mother because his father is fundamentally flawed, imperfections are too obvious, not that he has multiple wives but because his corruption is too arbitrary. Unfortunately for him, he knew from childhood that the love of the father’s life is not his mother but the junior wife whose children perhaps her youngest son is the father’s favorite child. Growing up, he often heard his mother complained that her husband provided for his younger wife while neglecting to care for him and his siblings. This corruptible person who beats his mother over trivial matters in a simple dispute with his junior wife, and even when she’s innocent can’t be his salvation to heaven. Therefore the father can’t be the representative of Allah on earth. Allah is just, but his father isn’t. The father is, in fact, his oppressor but the imam preached in his sermon that the father is only a divine oppressor chosen by Allah to test his patience. Therefore he has to accommodate, respect and obey him because he’s his father. By enduring more of his abuses, Allah will bless and reward him. In frantic desperation, he concludes, his savior on earth must be somebody else—his mother.
Contrary to his claim, the truth is the mother is not his ultimate important person because she has a master who she’s created to love, please, serve and obey—her husband. Functionally, the mother becomes his instrument of oppression by the father—an indirect means of control. He won’t admit to it because he does not understand the theory of social control. He will pay for his crimes if he derails off his prescribed track under the sun, but mother too will pay for the sins of the child. As a child, he was conditioned to not tell an offender his true feelings. His original and consistent abusers are the father and everybody in the family older than him, but he can’t talk about the unpleasant treatments. A man, he was told, couldn’t complain or be emotional, only women are allowed to whine. The testament to his manhood is resilience to relentless violence because men who cry are sissies. In the tradition of his society, thoughts must be suppressed, particularly evil ones, for if they are not watched closely and nipped in their buds, they will inevitably translate into words, words into expressions, expressions into actions, actions into deeds, deeds into habits, habits into character, and character into destiny. Thoughts eventually determines destiny. It’s a slippery slope that would ultimately upend the social order signifying the end of days. What a scary thought! Therefore, when one offends him, he won’t express his displeasure because the perpetrator might not appreciate it; but he would confide his complain in a third party. Even though he demands honesty from everyone, to tell him the truth at all times, he doesn’t really mean it just like he will not be honest with anyone. If one reprehends him in response to his indiscretions, he will be offended because people should understand that he’s just human with imperfections. He expects one to threat him like Allah would, thereby judge him by his purest intensions based on the assumptions that they are noble. For even Allah judges people by their actions!
The Gambian uses his mother as an ampoule against accountability for his dereliction of duty, abdication of responsibility—a mere excuse for his failures. In essence, it conveniences him to not think for himself, he’s always mama’s boy who will never grow up to ever take responsibility for serious cognitive interrogation of his darker corners. Yahya Jammeh knows and understands this as he continually pulls a Gambian on the nation not only to illustrate his points, but also to control them through their mothers. Right out of The Gambian playbook, but as every citizen has mastered the golden rule; no one argues it out loud because it’s our sacred weapon of salvation. When he pledged and swore that he wouldn’t campaign in the last election, after realizing that he could lose the election, he like any Gambian would do pulled the mother card. In a cowardly display of fashion, he disavowed his words by hiding behind his mother’s lapper. He dishonored the pledge he made out of his volition to Allah because his mother appealed to him to campaign. He argued that he “campaigns only because his mother asked him to and Allah said we should obey our mothers.” In his perverted logic, the mother supersedes and can override Allah. What a mistake Allah has made for decreeing that! Allah has by extension made Yahya Jammeh Allah because he’s his mother’s master whom he commandeers before the media and instructs her to say whatever he wants her to say to the nation. The Gambians can’t deconstruct him because he enmeshes himself too much into religion that if they try, they will commit a blasphemy. The line between him and Allah is not only blurry, but it’s also the most erasable. Yahya Jammeh speaks to Gambians in elementary language they comprehend.
The Gambian ‘love’ for his mother is unrequited because he knows she does not ‘love’ him as he claims to ‘love’ her. He is not her favorite child, that special honors goes to one of his youngest sisters or brothers, and that inheritance is extended to the sibling’s children too. She does not love the sibling to death; her love for the sibling is greater only relative to his. The mother loves his sibling’s children more than she loves his children. If he is less fortunate than his siblings, the mother has less regard for him and he loses out in every dispute or conflict to his siblings. He earns no respect, not even from his mother. But if he travels and leaves abroad, he’s idolized, even worshipped. He comes to discover that his mother has no noble character either, because he’s now become the means to her ends. She would deceive him to get his money, and when his siblings mismanage his money or destroy his wealth, she will not tell him. She would practically cover up for the culprits claiming to maintain family harmony. If he uncovers the truth, he complains that she has no sympathy for him, disregards his hardships and struggles in the Western world. He fumes that if the Gambians back at home could — he means her — they would literally eat his raw flesh. He gave all the love he has and got nothing back, so now he effectively loves no one, cares for no one, has sympathy for no one; but he’s conditioned by social upbringing to stick to passion for his mother — what else does he know?
Even though The Gambian claims that he got his unparalleled reverence for his mother from his religious teachings, when one asks him why he’s so different from the Arab who will stand up for his principle, defend his family, resist oppression and even die for them; in a perverted Gambian logic, he will respond that the Arab’s ‘heart is made of steel’—the ‘Arab will never give up.’ He forgets the Arab also has a mother. He rationalizes his silence in the face of injustices, disinterest to acknowledge the truth, lack of empathy to uplift the downtrodden, and absence of courage to take a principle stand as passionate humanism. He is calcified to the suffering of others because he can’t empathize, can’t take a principled stance because he’s not conscientious, and indifferent to injustices in his country because he has no sense of belonging. He is an island onto himself, for as a child and a man, he’s told to be selfish so he can’t be affected by the misfortunes of other people. On the contrary, he stands to reap his ‘naafaa’ or ‘njering’ when calamities befall on other people and if he can, he would engineer them. When Yahya Jammeh butchered his fellow citizens on November 11th, 1994, April 10th, 2000, execute political prisoners etc. he will not protest. He won’t protest at McCarthy Square to ensure the guarantee of his inalienable rights, like the Arab did in Tahrir Square, because if he does and die from a gunshot fired by the tyrant’s forces, his mother will blame him. Altruism would effectively make him a laughingstock, the epitome of a son whose mother never knelt down before Allah to pray. That will offend his mother even more. To him, the Arab conception of martyrdom is the enterprise of the foolish. Therefore, in his deranged mind, he projects his heartlessness onto the Arab whom he thinks is irrational when even faced with imminent death will not budge, relent, compromise, give up or succumb to his enemy.
The Gambian Family
If individuals are the nucleus of organized societies, families are their microcosms. In The Gambia, like in all human societies, the male is at the apex. The father is the Alpha and the Omega as his authority has no limits and is unquestionable. In short, he’s the dictator who reigns over the compound. If he were compassionate, life would be normal for everyone in the household; but if he’s heartless, then life has to be bearable. Whether he lives in the city or the provinces, his responsibility in the family maintenance is limited to supplying grains, millet, rice or corn to the household. In fact, in the village, he does not provide the grains by his efforts but by the collective labor of the entire family during farming seasons. He may have a mother but a woman can’t be the head of the family. Her son inherits leadership from her deceased husband. Despite this, her status is enhanced by being the mother of the family headsman, mother-in-law of his wives and grandmother to his children. Being the oldest person in the family, she attains position of reverence. She doesn’t have to cook, do laundry, work on the farm or directly participate in the decision making of the family. She didn’t have to; she’s truly retired with dignity. She’d borne her fair share of oppression, survived it and outlived her husband. She’s the ultimate survivor! The ‘king’s mother’ who arbitrarily differentiates between family members and dispenses favors to her chosen few. With her new status in the household and a brain to waste, she compels her daughters-in-law to continue carrying the burden of the woman. It’s not a burden but a divine duty and therefore faithfully discharging her duties is the woman’s gateway to heaven.
With the enforcer on the throne, the journey to live in hell on earth to secure a place in heaven commences in earnest. In most Gambian families, women are responsible for providing the daily fish money as they take their revolving turns of cooking three traditional meals for the entire household. It is not uncommon for a woman to be embarrassed, publicly shamed and assaulted for failing to provide quality meal out of her own purse. In most instances, the woman may have to borrow, beg or unfortunately even pimp herself out for money to discharge her marital duties. Those in the villages cultivate cash crops, especially peanuts, to market at exploitative third-world commodity prizes to feed their families around the year.
The Gambian woman, in practice, is the co-conspirator in her own oppression. She refines social institutions that are designed to continue her subjugation. For instance, she is an enthusiastic cosignatory to the pack that her actions are transcendental onto her son. If her son succeeds financially, he is the proud son of her husband, but he has done well because her prayers were answered. If some other woman’s son fails, it’s because her mother did not respect her marriage or the Lord did not answer her prayers. Since in The Gambia the only consistent thing is social control, this time around the child pays for the sins of the mother. The father is not culpable, the material condition of the family he comes from does not matter, or the lack of economic opportunities in the country are no factors. The sole culprit is the mother of the failed individual. She’s more often a victim of other women.
Fast forward to now. Generation Y of Gambian women are caught in the crossroad of a traditional society and modernity. She is conflicted in the true sense of the word. The life she prepares for is material possession not through industry, but through marriage. Society sets her on the journey of ancillary support to everyone: father, mother, brother, husband and in-laws. If she were the first woman in the marriage, her grand trophy is to bear the first child of the husband that sets her on the trajectory to cast off the burden of the woman onto her would be daughter-in-law. Were she to be the second, third or fourth wife in the marriage, she takes the consolation prize of taking possession of some other women’s husband. She would be quite often heard saying that after all it’s the man’s right to marry multiple wives—he’s not created for one woman. She sets herself for the competition to get the full attention of the husband from his other wives. She invests her financial resources in bleaching her skin to resemble a western woman; and redirects her creative energy and intellectual efforts in ceaseless bickering with her fellow wives.
Her first choice is to marry a “semester” who she knows has a wife in his country of residence in Europe or the United States. If she is lucky to marry one, she knows he will definitely hide the marriage from his wife in the West. She believes him when he says he doesn’t love his Western wife, she’s just a means to his end, just to gain legal residence status. She would tolerate him with a Western wife more than with a Gambia woman like herself. Even though the semester husband may give the impression of invincibility, he’s not immune to the machinations of his associates. Soon he would learn that his ‘best friend’ who lives with him in the West told his western wife that he had married a second wife on his trip to The Gambia. The boyhood friend is motivated not by fairness in humanity or welfare of the Western woman, but by his lust for the friend’s wife. He too would violate a sacred trust.
If The Gambian woman lives in a Western country, she “wants to enjoy life”—whatever that means. She spends fortune on fancy dresses and jewelry to host parties, weddings, baby showers, naming ceremonies, etc. She spends thousands of dollars and travels continental distances to celebrate the anniversaries of the revolution of her country of residence when she fails to fight for her own. She, unlike her mother, wants to be accorded with all the rights of a Western woman; but unlike the Western woman, she does not want responsibility for her basic needs. Why should she? — her husband has to man up like her father who takes responsibilities for his wives. It does not occur to her that she consumes in a day what her mother consumes in a year. She joins all the social clubs except one by “The Women of Substance” at Maafanta, but why should she? She knows where all the community halls, convention centers and nightclubs are at in her city of residence; but does not frequent its community colleges and universities. She would not labor in excruciating pain to develop her brain to think about the world’s problems or politics when she could “relax” and “enjoy life.” The labor she would ever have to worry about is childbirth.
If she tries to assimilate in American society by watching the NBA seasons, her imaginary husband is Dwaine Wade because he has beautiful eyes and he’s a basketball superstar. Her imaginary rival wife —she even refers to her “my co-wife” — she’s ready to challenge to a catfight is Gabrielle Union. She has no understanding of the feminist movements, or historic women. She doesn’t know Queen Amina of Zaria, Queen Nzinga of Angola, Titina Silá of Guinea Bissau, or Amie Sillah of The Gambia. The bankrupt education she had, misled her that women can’t be revolutionary or military leaders—let alone guerrilla fighters. That’s for men not women. On her list of great women are Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, Oprah Winfrey, Paris Hilton and Beyoncé Knowles. She hates Lindsey Lohan because she’s always in a mess with drugs, but even more so Kim Kardashian not that she’s a brain of her own, she’s jealous of her because of cleavages but condemns her as the ‘whore’ who dates every black superstar in the world.
She has no personal library or bookshelf at home, but the passenger seats of her car blasting deafening rap music from the stereo, the entertainment center or dresser adjacent to the 86-inch HDTV she obtained on consumer credit are piled with her archives of collections of People, Us, Glamor magazines, and yes National Enquirer. She is not an ardent reader—never read a book since he’d completed grade school, paparazzi photos satisfy her most curious enquiries of the world. Gossip, her hobby since in The Gambia, she spends her entire day on the phone talking about people. While her contemporaries in the Arab world use Facebook to obliterate dictatorships, she uses Facebook to end marriages. She rightly hates Yahya Jammeh and to her credit the only thing she’s ever been right about. Her reason: he kills people. She’s not analytical in political discourse, but both cynical and mystical. Without any understanding of the complex dynamics of power, she therefore concludes that Jammeh kills people because the Marabout told him to commit human sacrifice. Contradicting herself, she excuses Jammeh’s barbarism and zeroes down on the idolatry animist for prescribing human sacrifice. When a protest is called in the U.S. to condemn Jammeh’s atrocities in The Gambia, she would not show up because she would one day want to go visit her mother back home. In fact, the trip is not only to visit her mother, is to debut as a Semester, a ritual that every Gambian dreams off. In the past, only men used to go for it but in the modern age, it’s her version of equal rights for women. She fears Jammeh than she fears Allah, Allah’s punishment may probably not be real because He is too much of a procrastinator. Yahya Jammeh is different because his wrath is immediate, relentless, everlasting, and above all it’s not commensurate to the crime. She needn’t have to commit a crime almighty Jammeh just has to say she did — for his crimes are ex post facto. She has to religiously second guess herself, not because she’s wrong, but because she’s paranoid. She thinks Yahya Jammeh’s National Intelligence Agents [NIAs] are all over the globe including in America, therefore by showing up to protest against his atrocities, she will effectively seal her death warrant. Sometimes, she hallucinates seeing the bearings of the tyrant’s henchmen in her dressing mirror watching her every conduct. What a human tragedy!
In the Gambia, the Marabout is the supposedly the figure who knows the innermost secrets about us, and the conspiracies fomenting to submerge the client in a hellhole. He is the supernatural figure to exorcise evil spirits of Jinns and witches that have spelled omens on us. Even though he lives a wretched life without any gainful income, he supposedly makes prayers for the client to be rich. As such, the Marabout is the mediator between The Gambian and Allah. His product of trade, ‘intellectual property’ and ‘patented merchandize’ is the amulet he dishes out in circular, rectangular and square shapes to be crocheted in leather by specialist of an inferior tribe in The Gambia caste hierarchy. It’s The Gambia perfection of division of labor and specialization. Like all fetish products, the bigger the more desirable so the Marabout’s amulet inserted in an animal horn signifies the special demons that the client confronts. Displaying the ‘juju’ is sufficient to wade off any challenge from mortal human being if he did not die from supernatural powers for his aggressions. Yahya Jammeh conceals his ‘jujus’ from The Gambians as a psychological weapon to torture their souls with the curiosities of what he dangles under his garments.
Regardless of these claims, the Marabout is the biggest fraudster and swindler who perfected the guild of fomenting discord between members of families, between distant families, between rival wives, siblings, cousins, etc. Because his stories are manufactured, he wouldn’t give names of the ‘alleged conspirators’ but attributes will suffice to keep the client guessing who in the family or community wishes her ill. He tells the mentally unstable that his father’s junior or senior wife caused his psychological problems, and the physically sick that her fellow wife cursed her but that both were lucky to be alive. Being the principal source of confidential information to rival groups, the Marabout strains countless relationships as he pits the same people against one another. With his claims to knowledge of the supernatural world beyond the comprehension of mere mortals, he preys on his client with dubious claim of imminent machinations brewing to ‘end her life.’ His usual culprits for the conspiracies are supposedly a tall, short, slender, dark or light complexion relative. The Marabout ensures stranglehold on his client by lying to her that no one else could see the conspiracy and that only he could reverse the damages and save her from the impending calamity. The Marabout’s ingenuity is in his ability to continue to blackmail the client by concocting stories of his discoveries of even more deadly plots by the client’s enemy. The battles are supposedly fought in the supernatural world.
The Marabout trade is the freest of all in the marketplace; one needs no permission, certificate or license to prove skills of secret knowledge. Dressed in a mere kaftan and dangling prayer beads on one’s fingers suffice to send signals of having personal communication lines with Allah. We are bombarded on the religious airwaves the truism that no one knows who is closest to Allah which serves only as a subterfuge to maintain their dominant economic and social power. The logical conclusion of that truism would have suffice for Gambians to not take them any seriously, but apparently not everyone could establish her individual communication lines directly to the Lord. Therefore, the Marabout becomes indispensable to The Gambian even though his trade defies logic to the rational mind.
Yahya Jammeh is the perfection of the fraudulent trade of Maraboutism. He can cure HIV, Aids, infertility, bronchitis, etc. He is the master con artist who hijacked the trade of open deception. He wows even the Marabouts themselves. As a functionally illiterate not only in Western but also in Islamic education, he bamboozled the Marabouts on their own logic that anyone could be secretly closer to Allah. Unbeknownst to them, he’s now the ‘Grand Marabout of The Gambia’ who has secret knowledge given to him by his grandfather, and special supernatural knowledge from Allah. He, like almost all other prophets of Allah at age forty, is ready to put his miracles to work. He could not outperform Prophet Essa (Jesus) who became a ‘messiah’ in childhood and ‘raised the dead,’ but Prophet Muhammad will not be any greater than him for he can cure the worst diseases ever known to the world. He got the miracles at forty, not before that age, because that’s the hibernation period for prophets hence the logical conclusion of “no one knows who is closer to Allah” until we found out.
In his makeshift clinic, patients have no rights, no patient's bill of rights, and no patient-doctor confidentiality. Who would contemplate that, and if it were ever to exist, it would be doctor-patient confidentiality—and the unwritten code is if you’re a patient you must say you’re cured after the ‘divine’ touch of His Excellency, the Professor, Doctor, Sheikh, Naasiru Deen. The patients have no privacy, not from him; he’s their lord and master. Holding the Holy Qur’an in one hand, he literally strips women half-naked — wait a minute the patients do themselves — groping and humiliating them before television cameras. Even though Yahya Jammeh lies to the world that he can cure Aids, he can’t lie to himself, only the suicidal does that. He is not a fatalist; he is neither immune nor can cure himself of HIV. Despite his ‘treatment’ is noninvasive ritual, as he doesn’t come into contact with the patients’ bodily fluids, Western-made disposable gloves are his primary line of defense against the debilitating diseases he claims to cure. Evidently, he can’t touch their topical skins with his bare hands without wearing disposable gloves—the risk is too great. His grandfather would be turning in his grave for the chosen grandson’s coward display of doubts in the secret knowledge he had imparted to him. His acts are just shows to mystify himself with a divine aura to reinforce the byzantine belief that God imposes ‘leaders’ on people to accept their wishes and caprices.
In the real world, however, the uneasiness and anxieties from the impending general collapse of the economy worsened by the dire financial situation in the country condition Gambians to prioritize on their immediate needs instead of the imaginary supernatural wars in the universe. Majority of Millennial Gambians do not believe in the tales of the Marabouts because they have concluded that if they were ever true, their parents would have been more prosperous in life. By necessity, the Marabout trade must reinvent itself to stay relevant or be thrown into the dustbin of history. The natural heirs to the Marabouts, now the Islamic scholars, created their interest group to dabble into politics. Their vehicle into politics is the Supreme Islamic Council. The Islamic scholars are only educated in Arabic and can recite the Holy Scripture, unlike their predecessors the Marabouts, they do not claim to possess supernatural powers. Like most things Gambian, they are just mediocrities but the secret is unknown to their country with the exception of Yahya Jammeh who has sensed that out from their slavish appetite for wealth. He dishes out money to them they concluded that he must be greater than just a prophet. Why would he be like Prophet Musa (Moses) who received only the Ten Commandments when he can be, like the Pharaoh before him, Allah the lawgiver? There comes his coronation Naasiru Deen—the defender of the religion (Islam).
But the imams have forgotten ahead of themselves, he must first accomplish what Prophet Dawud (David) had, be divine, be a king and then secure the throne for his son. His hopeless predecessor Dawda Jawara’s major failure was his inability to have secured the throne for Junior. Therefore, he sets his ambitions to guarantee the mantle for his son by plotting to enthrone himself a king. The insurmountable task ahead of him is that democracy is incompatible with absolute monarchy and The Gambia has been a republic since 1970. The international community stands on his way. What better way to end democracy than democracy itself? Therefore, he claimed that Gambians have the sovereign power to handover their nontransferable and residual natural rights to him in a referendum. Ancient Athenians were after all not as ‘smart’ as the world thought they were because Africans have long discovered before the Greeks that whatever causes a disease can also cure it. One becomes diabetic by consuming lot of sugar therefore ingesting more sugar cures it. He got that wisdom too from his grandfather. The solution to end constant bickering, immorality, indiscipline and excessive freedom that breed homosexuality is democracy. Democracy, he therefore concludes, is its own gravedigger!
No one seems to prove with concrete evidence the charges that religion has no relevance in the real world, or that it’s a weapon of control by the powerful than the Gambian Islamic scholar. His sermons are empty, devoid of any reference to the material conditions of his congregation. He is at his best when he attacks the hungry for stealing a meal, the philanderer for chasing after women, or the women and kids for failing to accept their ‘right places’ in society. He lacks the analytical mind to link the conditions of the poor to the failures of the government, but if he is sophisticated enough to understand that, he selects his script to torment the weak. His sermon is personal: the poor could steal from him or his patrons; the philanderer could flirt with his beloved junior wife or daughters; women and children are the ‘evil’ that undermine his message — he labels them fitna — and therefore they must all be controlled. As in most unequal societies, the less fortunate—the poor; the weak—women; and the vulnerable—children must be contained through socio-economic institutions. In The Gambia under Jammeh, religion plays that role and the imams become his gatekeepers. Evidently, he doesn’t only dress and act like them— he’s in short them.
The Gambian political establishments, past and present, never had an intellectual class worth the salt which explains our governments’ lack of organizing national ideology, philosophy, institutionalism or national mission. The ruling parties recruit intellectuals from the civil service. Generally, those attracted to the parties are not intellectuals in the true sense of the word. We may as well refer to them as political elites. The litmus test one has to pass is to be a panderer, who can speak to crowds for five to ten minutes. His speech is full of platitudes, nationalistic jingoism and praises for the ‘visionary leader.’
The political elite’s job is to rally the nation behind the ‘visionary leader’ by enticing them with seemingly national programs that give the semblance of responsible governance. The target of these programs, however, are not the local people but to attract investments from misguided international adventurists. Because their initiatives are not rooted in reality, they realize too late that they were chasing a mirage. Reading from their language one can deduce that they have concluded that Vision 2020—now officially Illusion 2020—is no longer a certainty but possibility contingent on the ultra loyalty of all citizens to Jammeh. What a ninnyhammers they are?
The political elite is comparatively the most mediocre at his profession than any other expert at his trade. He is not only incompetent, but he might not even fully comprehend its implications. The elite attains prominence by defending Jammeh against people who have worked but fallen out with him. The elite might not have met the master, but he defends Jammeh in the press, write congratulatory letters on hopeless anniversaries, makes courtesy calls to register his loyalty or even publish a leaflet he calls a ‘book of accomplishments’ to be eligible to be anointed a loyal soldier of the brigade. He derides the elites who have fallen out with Jammeh claiming that they have crossed their boundaries and do not know how to handle the situation. He is right on his insightful observation because only self-deprecating narcissists can please Jammeh.
When Jammeh appoints and fires him, he slavishly goes on a self-appointed tour on Jammeh’s behalf, begging local chiefs to send emissaries on “Sabary Missions” to appeal to the dictator for mercy. When he’s reappointed, he thinks it’s an affirmation of his goodness, and may flatter himself that he’s indispensable to the regime. Jammeh knows the elite does not like him but behaves like prostitute pimping himself out for money. Money activates his pheromones and the promise of political office leaves him rehearsing the next political lordoses for the master’s bestial satisfaction.
Unlike the Marabout the political elite’s task in The Gambia is insurmountable because his trade is science: verifiable, testable and falsifiable with empirical evidence. When he is confronted with charges of Jammeh’s impulsive claims of finding cures for Aids, dabbling in sorcery and witch hunting he defends him exactly for who he is—a criminal. He invokes his right to presumption of innocence by giving him the benefit of the doubt. He displays supreme hypocrisy when he would not admit that people Jammeh accused of witchcraft were not accorded the Due Process. Even though Jammeh embarrasses him with his erratic behaviors, the political elite convinces himself that he can’t be wrong about the man, he is too educated and sophisticated to be that wrong. Even though it is a universal truth that to err is human, to be fallible is not Gambian.
When he’s confronted on the lack of democracy in the country, he responds that there is no true democracy anywhere, which existed only in Greece—he means Ancient Athens. Debating him, one quickly learns that he confuses democracy as a principle of governance through processes, to specific institutions each locality must establish to guarantee government constituted by the free will of, and accountable to the people. He doubles down on his myopic understanding of democracy by claiming that there is a different between American and British democracy. America, he elaborates, has President and Congress while Britain has Queen and Parliament. Wallowing in his ignorance, he would argue that we couldn’t have Western-style democracy in Africa. Because he is a shallow hole, he’s incapable of articulating what an African-style democracy would look like or whether it exits in South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana or Equatorial Guinea. Therefore, when one challenges him on the lack of respect for human right in the country he responds that nobody respects human rights because even the Americans invaded Vietnam in the 1960s and Bush in particular invaded Iraq in 2003. The shallow understanding he exhibits demonstrates that he lacks depth of political knowledge, the impact of globalization and the interconnectedness of the world. Thus, he is not a social or political scientist, but a racial chauvinist, determinist social Darwinist and political sophist.
When he leaves the country after falling out with Jammeh, and decides to go out publicly against his former master, like Dr. Momodou Lamin Sedat Jobe rambles nowadays, he sees no need to issue a public apology to the nation and the victims of the regime. Even though he had participated in consolidating the power, legitimizing the actions and entrenching the murderous regime, his conscience is not troubled an iota for his role in the collective crime. He’s an individual and collective responsibility is not in his political glossary. He arrogantly brands himself the new warrior, freedom fighter and the most important person in the country because he has sacrificed by resigning from his position in government. He brags that because of his enlightenment, he has now come to the conclusion that Jammeh is not a good ‘leader.’ He leaves jaws dropped and makes minds wonder whether he got his education from an accredited university because the peasant farmer in Wuli knew precisely that as he has consistently opposed Jammeh since his arrival on the political stage.
The Gambian Government
Public office in The Gambia is understood to be position of privilege and self-enrichment as opposed to a trust of service to the nation. The poor work ethics of public officials add complex layers to bureaucratic hurdles artificially increasing backlogs to inflict paralyses on already inefficient public service operations. The public official suffers from his own moral crises because he believes that citizens must pay him bribes to access public goods and services. But his seniors whose corrupt transactions, embezzlement, and misappropriated funds he helps siphon overseas also inspire him to emulate them. Having witnessed the masters’ transformations from destitution to affluence, he knows the wealth they have amassed is not commensurate with their legitimate income. Rightly, he concludes that corruption explains their wealth; he too indulges into their sinful practices.
The public servant is the aider and abettor of Jammeh’s regime. He does not see himself as a citizen who is a stakeholder in the country’s future, but a servant of Jammeh. He humiliates himself by allowing the government to commandeer him to public ceremonies and political events that have no relevance to his official duties. Never had he farmed in his life or since childhood, he abandons his paid duties in Banjul to be trucked like a domesticated slave in his own country to the ‘emperor’s’ plantation in Kanilai. He’s not only an embarrassment, but he’s a national shame.
Even though he works forty hours per week, he can’t sustain his family on his monthly income. Being a political nonentity, he’s not enlightened enough to form a collective bargaining union, like his country’s Founding Father did, to demand fair or even agitate for a living wage. Despite he’s required to show up at work five days a week and provide a supplementary forced labor on the slave plantation; he’s a beggar in his country. His great grandfather escaped and eluded European slave raiders but now he’s a new slave by his kind—an indentured worker on the master’s plantation. When he’s awarded a salary increase adjusted to general inflation in the economy, he thinks it’s a magnanimous display of generosity by the tyrant. As a functionally illiterate and politically misinformed public employee, the police officer victimizes helpless citizens by extorting money from them on the highways. Just like his father was not a responsible citizen to have held his leaders accountable, The Gambia civil servant literally sets his country ablaze depriving his children of even the dysfunctional nation he’d inherited.
The worst of the public officials are in the security services. He is a violent machine upon graduating from recruitment training. On the very night of completing his basic training, he descends on the city of Serekunda from Kombo Station wearing a uniform and dangling a rifle paid for by taxpayers to impose a one-man night curfew on citizens without any state of emergency having been declared in the country. He abducts vulnerable young men who haven’t broken any law, coerces them into forced labor in the concentration camp at Fajara Barracks claiming to be decompressing from military drills. He brags that he’s showing civilians the unpleasant side of the life they have not volunteered for—military services. Because he is ignorant of the role of security personnel in a democratic country, defenseless citizens are his ideal targets for abuse. He’s not the national army but a political operative for the regime that assigns him ‘missions’ to kidnap, maim and kill opponents. He would torture anyone he lays hands on and be proud of it as he provides rationale for his actions. The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) is the civilian institution that the tyrant uses to control not only the civilians, but also the security personnel. That dreadful agency more than any other government agency is at the heart of the problem, and like most secret police in oppressive societies, it unleashes hell on the people.
For most of their actions, Yahya Jammeh is the chief conspirator. Whereas his big lies sends opponents into their graves, his small lies are equally fatal to democracy in the country. Anyone who has followed the man closely in 1994 would have discerned his lack of credibility because he lies through his teeth. On his first official visit to Senegal after his treasonous hijacked of the nation, he told the Senegalese press that he planned to stay in power for four years. But upon arrival in The Gambia and from reading the pulse of the nation, in a paranoid frenzy he issued a statement that he did not say he would stay in power for ‘four years’ but that he said ‘for years.’ He doubled down on his lie with the ridiculous claim that the Senegalese media practitioners — ‘who do not speak English’ — misquoted him. His naiveté indicated that he lacks half a brain of normal human beings who would have concluded that ‘four years’ is more a discreet number than the ignoble ‘for years.’ Even unbelievable, he with his narcissist Vice Chairman Lt. Sana Sabally at his side announced a four-year transitional timetable at the Independent Stadium. He reportedly collapsed at the Independent Stadium under the weight of his big lie upon the announcement, but claimed his jujus pulled him down.
Jammeh’s obsession with mystifying himself was very observable from his first press conference after the junta seized power. He called on Aliue Badara Sowe of The Point Newspaper who visited his village of Kanilai and wrote a sensational story mystifying him as a supernatural figure to thank him for the story. One is left to conclude that he does not only want attention, but he thinks the world revolves around him. From the State House in Banjul, he circulated the fictional tale that he has elastic ears that he stretches at nights to sealed the nation with a dome to prevent external attacks. Even more ridiculous was his manufactured lie that at nights when he was a state guard, he used to revert to a white horse watching over the former president while he slept. This is a man who claims he does not believe in evolution, but he is the evidence that would have existed in Darwin’s wildest imagination. With the benefit of hindsight, one would have wished he had remained a horse in one of his conversions. The world and The Gambia would have been a far better place.
Speaking to a reporter at his so-called clinic, he argued that his ‘treatment’ is not completely a faith healing. It’s a ploy because he is caught between a rock and a hard place. Most people who believe his claims do so because he entrammelled it in a religious shroud and they will dismiss him if he says it’s entirely herbal. As a man who always demands full credit for everything in the country, he is tormented by having to admit that his ‘treatment’ is 90% Allah and 10% him as he negotiates with himself that Allah also created the herbal plants. He has been too generous to Allah because he wants 100% Jammeh and 0% Allah. As things stand right now, he is plotting to overthrown Allah but if he can’t, he will soon declared himself the Allah of Gambians. The only thing holding him back is that the people might revolt but if he could contain them through violence, he will make the declaration. He, undoubtedly, is genuinely a lunatic.
Yahya Jammeh brags that he is wealthier than the country and that without his personal donation, government employees would not have official vehicles. His office and its entire budget is a fraction of our national gross domestic product. His arrogant claim defies logic, an exhibition of grave stupidity. It does not occur to him that the day he stole power, the state owned the vehicles they commandeered to overthrow a legitimate government, and that his so-called charity manifests his utterly failed ‘leadership’ that has bankrupted the nation into a “retrogressive state.” He has not revealed to the country where he got his ill-gotten wealth from, but we know that he’s transformed our country into a drug hub for South American drug cartels. Like all foreign colonialists who went to the ‘savages’ claiming to enrich and civilize them but ended exploiting their resources, Jammeh too is “flamboyantly” fretting on the stage with the claim to ‘develop’ and ‘enrich’ Gambians while he is looting our resources. He’s the domestic colonialist who, like the European colonial masters, doesn’t take no for an answer. They maintained their power and control through lies, deceits and violence. We call his “extravagant” bluffs, by introducing him to the statement of one of the thinkers in Dostoevsky’s classic novel, The Idiot:
Vile as I am, I don’t believe in the wagons that bring bread
to humanity. For the wagons that bring bread to humanity,
without any moral basis for conduct, may coldly exclude a
considerable part of humanity from enjoying what is brought;
so it has been already…
Indeed, as The Gambia had been under British colonial rule so it’s today under Jammeh’s internal colonial oppression. He can take his vehicles and wealth along with him to wherever he wishes as long as he leaves our country for us to live as a free people with dignity. As vile as he may think we appear, the virtuous among us value human lives, freedom, justice, equality, fairness and democracy over ‘development’ without morality. After all what is development if not to enrich human lives he cold-heartedly destroys. History teaches that development without any moral basis is industrial genocide that exterminates considerable part of humanity from enjoying simple lives.
Today, as the Gambian wonders what has become of his country he can’t seem to find the answer with precision. In his own country, he is a virtual slave. If he lives abroad on either side of the Atlantic from his country, he’s effectively marooned in exile. This is true only because he did not search any deeper. After acquiring bachelor, master or doctorate degree, he can’t go back to live free in his country. Even though sometimes he fantasizes himself that he could return to raise his children teaching them his culture, but only if he could avoid political discourse, reality quickly kicks him in his abdomen. The country he left two decades ago is no longer there; the culture he cherished is dead; and the values he was nurtured with are now corrupted at their very source. He expresses anxiety because if he returns and tries to establish a business and succeeds, the tyrant will seize it from him because only he must own every successful enterprise in the country. But like risk-taking investors, he wants to try. His country is not an investment heaven but corruption paradise. He would not heed the wisdom “seek ye first the political kingdom, and all else shall be added unto you.” Consequently, he has no country of his own—but he is a stranger everywhere and most instances, an unwelcome illegal immigrant in the West.
As it is true in most human societies, the narcissist lies to himself by falsely claiming to possessed virtues he lacks. He plays his insecurity as his strength only to be consumed by his web of lies. The Gambian society poses an existential threat to itself for playing the same game too long. The killings we witness in our country are the natural growth of the subtle violence that characterized our society for so long. The violence that were confined to families, take lethal dimensions once people who come from those very violent homes gain new powers and expand their authorities on the national stage. We deceive ourselves that we are a peaceful country blessed by Allah but only expose our naiveté because we mischaracterize the absence of war for the presence of peace. Contrary to our claims, our society has never been peaceful but always very violent. For decades, The Gambia has been in the state of negative peace with all the necessary and sufficient conditions for bloodbaths and civil wars. We are a very aggressive people who constantly batter, assault, abuse and humiliate the weak in our society. The women in our society are constantly bickering against one another. The father figure can brutalize anyone without the victim having recourse especially when she is wronged. He is ‘sovereign’ in his home when even his neighbors or the state — except in the most extreme cases — could not interfere or intervene to stop his abuses. The best they could do is to appeal for “sabarry.” This is basis of Yahya Jammeh’s conception of power. Incapable of differentiating between household headsman and president, he’s mistaken himself literary as the father figure — with unquestioned authority and unlimited powers — who could abuse his citizens without his neighbors in the international community interfering in his affairs. All they could do is to appeal for him to exercise “sabarry.” His understanding of power is medieval but philistine when he sees his own people as children to be disciplined, taught lessons and confined in the donjon he calls his ‘five-star hotel.’ Like Laurent Gbagbo, Charles Taylor, Foday Sankoh, Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic and Hosni Mubarak before him, a cell awaits his arrival in the ‘five-star hotel.’ Compared to his atrocities, any form of treatment he would receive in Mile II Prison can be considered a ‘five-star’ treatment by his own standard.
No one is most immoral than the person who thinks he’s discharged his duty and has no further responsibilities. In the case of the Gambian, his immorality comes to the fore when he argues what he’s not responsible for the affairs of his country. After graduating from university with a degree, he laments that he would have loved to go and serve his country but because of Jammeh, he could not return home. He adds that he’s waiting for someone to remove Jammeh from power. It’s not his duty to do that, but he would not strengthen the forces struggling to dislodge the tyrant from power. Even though he’s privileged with formal education or financial resources than most of his fellow citizens, he becomes an armchair analyst who seems to know every single tactical error the opposition forces in the country have committed. He would not support them by joining the struggle, run for office, donate money to his country’s cause, protest to show support when people are arrested, write to the congressional delegation or senators in his state of residence to compound pressure on the murderous regime to crumble from within. He says to himself if he does, Jammeh will arrest his mother, and presumably his father. With his new concern, he’s relieved of any responsibility to his nation because the nation is expendable for him, his mother and father. The worst of creatures is the one who feels he has no responsibility to his society or country.
The primary source of our morality is our religions—Islam and Christianity. Because they are corruptible particularly by those who claim to represent them, the people distrust them and they lose credibility. They’re reduced to serve the status quo and deployed as weapons of oppression. Malpractice of religion is worst than no practice at all and even apostasy. Therefore, without other sources to draw our morality from, we are left empty-handed. Philosophy and social science could provide an alternative for the more secularists or humanists among us. When we seek answers to the courses of our national problems, we will discover that they are the products of the poverty of our morality.