The Parable of the Flies and the Vultures -Part 1
Flies and vultures are two creatures of nature that most people deem to be irritants that they’d rather do without. The two have several things in common among which is the annoying tendency to self-invite to feasts to reap where they never sowed. However, a very significant difference between the two is: flies tend to be more loyal than vultures because at least they stick with their host until the end when he or she is ready to be taken to the grave. Vultures on the other hand, move on quickly to look for their next victim as soon as their current one can no longer provide them sustenance. Our dear little Gambia never seems to be short of vultures though its flies we need more of. We can learn something from both.
With less than three weeks to go, before Yaya Jammeh is made to leave one way or the other, anyone with any sense can tell that the only people loyal to him- the “flies”, are mostly his kinsmen. And this shouldn’t surprise anyone. He has purchased their loyalty with unearned privilege. I wrote about the popular State Guard Commander Karafa Bojang aka Saul Badjie less than two months ago. Karafa is a poster child of how Yaya Jammeh has reduced our country to a medieval fiefdom. Karafa used to be the adjutant (aide) to Brigadier General Yankuba Drammeh, a fellow Bwiam native of different ethnicity. For those with good memory, this was one of the generals Jammeh had summarily demoted to Private before firing from the Gambia army without any explanation. This was in December 2009. Karafa Bojang aka Saul Badjie was only a corporal on the day Yankuba Drammeh was fired! Yet, without any professional military training, he jumped from corporal to the popular and wealthy General everyone now talks about in less than six years. That’s why one WILL NEVER find any videos of General Karafa Bojang aka Saul Badjie addressing any formal military gathering anywhere. The man CANNOT even put together a couple of coherent sentences in English. Any wonder why he cannot write or give a five or ten minutes speech?
To understand the mystery behind Karafa’s meteoric rise, all one needs to do, is talk to his former school mates. You see, during his school days in Bwiam, Karafa was known to whop many a Jola boy who makes the mistake of speaking to him in another Gambian language. That Jola nationalistic fervor became an instant attraction between him and Yaya Jammeh. “Once he completed his first assignment for Oga satisfactorily, he was set” according to a source.
The one thing almost all the flies latching onto the Jammeh gravy train have in common is they’re not worth what he’s paying them in a fair and open labor market where Last Names and creed don’t mean anything. This explains why some are willing to stick with Yaya Jammeh until the very end. Their behavior is not out of altruism. In a Gambia with Rules and Standards where progress depends on merit, they’d never have amounted to much. The Gambia was on the road to that destination – once. But that trip was aborted by none other than Yaya Jammeh and replaced by one that rewards people not for merit, but for “loyalty” (his specific words!)
The old adage that cautions us all to be “careful of what you wish for” comes to mind. Yaya Jammeh has long been openly playing the tribal card when it comes to the Gambia’s security services thinking that’s the surest way to guarantee his lock on power. He shamelessly chased other Gambians away from the army and other security services through discriminatory practices to make way for his kinsmen. Consequently, the more successful he was, the less professional these Gambian institutions became. But in the current jam he is in, having so many Jolas in senior military and other security positions not only complicates things for him diplomatically or image-wise, but substantively, on practical and existential grounds, the titles he has given his kinsmen do not match the skills, training and knowledge needed to help him sail through the current storm gathering on the horizon. Yaya Jammeh knows this and he is TERRIFIED! These General Badjies and Kujabi we know, read, or hear about are NOT military tacticians or strategists. Almost without exception, the Generals surrounding Yaya Jammeh have attended a reputable military academy anywhere. And in the military, the rank of general is defined not by the title, but by the specialized skills acquired by a professional soldier from both practical experience in wars and experimenting (training) over an extended period. In Yaya Jammeh’s army, he dishes out such titles without any regard for the quality of the institution, or the cost to our country’s economy. Anywhere one turns nowadays, it seems there is a Major, or Colonel or General. They seem to have one thing in common: they’re generally grossly under trained. Without anything of substance to occupy their time, most of them have no other hobby than to put on their uniform and drive around town to prey upon impressionable young women including school girls. It’s an entrenched tradition among them, something they copy from their Oga. Ousman Sonko who has been shooting his mouth off to Europeans in the past two months hoping for a sweet-heart deal I’m told by a confidante has close to thirty out-of-wedlock children with different young women. This doesn’t surprise me one bit because I’ve known the guy since 1978. The only thing he loves more than football is women. I know for a fact he is not an exception. I think the average Gambian will be in for a rude shock by the kind of revelations that would be coming out by June of 2017. Anyhow, Yaya Jammeh’s Generals don’t have the foggiest idea about how to defend him from ECOWAS troops and he knows this. It is even doubtful if some of them can operate the Iranian arms they’re banking on as their main arsenal considering most of their troops are now openly deserting. This is where the near panic Essa Bokar Sey reports on emanates.
The whole supreme court nonsense is typical Yaya Jammeh bull crap. The man is a coward who is terrified of going to jail, so he is doing what he does best: distract Gambians! Notice how no one is any longer even broaching the subject of the man’s countless crimes – assassinations, murder, rape, drug-trafficking, money-laundering, counterfeiting. Even when one excludes the politically-motivated crimes, the sheer number of crimes committed by Yaya Jammeh is jarring.
Also, one very neglected aspect of the current drama is the international angle. However, if one pays close attention to global news, there are clues as to why Jammeh might be more worried about the West going after him than many of us Gambians realize. See shortly after he conceded, western wire reports including those from Reuters specifically noted that with Yaya Jammeh gone, illicit drug flow through our region is expected to drop significantly. This implies a key point: the West knew all along that Yaya Jammeh was the lynch-pin in the illicit drug trade in the West Africa region. It is noteworthy to remember that the US has one of Yaya Jammeh’s main partners Bobo Nacho, the former Guinea-Bissau naval commander in custody to testify against him if needs be. My instinct tells me Yaya Jammeh is really worried about this scenario. In the mind of Yaya Jammeh, the US could just pick him up and whisk him away. Remember, for over twenty years, he never passed an opportunity to lob insults at these people. With him out of office, what is there to stop them from putting him in chains considering they have ALL the evidence they need? It is my belief that Mansa Jakut is looking for some assurance from the West that they won’t go and grab him after he leaves office. The bad news for Yaya Jammeh is Mr. Nice Obama is done. Yaya Jammeh will NOT get what he is looking for from the West. More importantly, he better stop making trouble before Donald Trump focuses on him.
And now the whiff of the vultures circling…
In early 2002, I was working and living in Reston, Virginia when two Gambian brothers called from Atlanta to follow up on a discussion we had had earlier on the situation back home. Unlike most of our countrymen, WE believed back then the nature of the character we’re up against in the person of Yaya Jammeh is such that we’re wasting our collective time following conventional democratic routes knowing we’ll never get anywhere dealing with a pseudo-tyrant that keeps setting a moving target. We agreed to explore alternate means of ridding ourselves of the burden.
On the following Saturday morning, I strapped my months old first daughter in her car seat in the back of our van, and embarked on the four-hours drive to Raleigh, NC where we agreed to meet. When I got to the meeting location, I was in for a surprise. In addition to the two brothers I had previously had discussions with and expected, there was an additional participant that I had no idea was going to be there. He is none other than Omar Fye, Yaya Jammeh’s current ambassador to the US. I looked at my Atlanta folks for an explanation as to what was going on. One of the brothers quickly assured me that “Omar is one of us.” There’s nothing to worry about I was assured several times because I kept pestering those two brothers about what was bugging me about Omar Fye even back then.
It was nothing personal. Anyone who has ever met the man and spent some time with him in close quarters will tell you Omar Fye is a likable fellow, but this is about country, not any single person. See, I remember the stories of two NCO soldiers (one from Basse, the other from Kiang) under the command of Major Omar Fye in Liberia during the crisis there in the early 90s. Both said the exact same thing. Major Omar Fye not only sold their ammunition to Charles Taylor, he literally ran, jumped into his jeep and drove off when Taylor’s men later attacked Gambian soldiers in Liberia. One Lt. Kambi stepped up and saved their lives for which he suffered a bullet in the leg. I told my friends from Atlanta that NO ONE who did that could ever be trusted with serious responsibility! Despite my argument, I was told the man has changed. Besides those stories are exaggerated by disgruntled elements. Several weeks later, we met again in a DC suburb in Maryland. Again, Omar Fye was in attendance. At this point, I deliberately switched to spectator/listener mode because it was clear to me that my Atlanta folks were either blinded by sentiments or something else is wrong. God being who He is, a couple of months later, a friend called to inform me that Omar Fye had gone home to make peace with Yaya Jammeh and has been appointed a diplomat. At the ALD weekend that year, I was with Joe Sambou and James Gomez Jr. when Omar Fye’s name came up. Joe pulled me aside and said “Sulayman- I know you’ve been dealing with him, so listen; whatever you do; don’t go there because only god knows what he told Jammeh for the man to feel comfortable enough with him to make him a diplomat.” I thanked Joseph Sambou because that was EXACTLY what I had been thinking about since I heard of Omar Fye’s rapprochement with and appointment by Yaya Jammeh. That was 2002.
For the past fourteen years, Omar Fye has been quiet about all the horrible things Yaya Jammeh has been doing to Gambians until we finally managed to throw him off our back. Now Omar Fye has intruded our public space to proclaim himself a Change Agent. Oh boy!
My brothers from Atlanta are ALL much older than I and literate, so I’m sure they’ll let Gambians know if I’m making this up.
In the new year- god willing, I shall start a blog that I’ll use to chronicle my experience in the fight against Yaya Jammeh’s tyranny - from encounters with charlatans, fraudsters to the deadly. I will use the opportunity to collect and archive my opinions over the Jammeh years in a single location for eventual publication.