Yaya Jammeh’s Tyranny: The Denouement
By Saul Saidykhan
Contrary to the choice of some of us in the diaspora, the seven non-APRC Gambian opposition Party delegates at the cumulative Opposition Convention held to choose a unitary candidate have voted to elect Mr. Adama Barrow of the United Democratic Party -UDP as flag-bear of the coalition that is genuinely committed to ending Yaya Jammeh’s tyranny in The Gambia. While I still dream of seeing the day when Gambians would elect their leaders based mostly on individual competence, character, and skills-set, I fully respect and support the choice of most the opposition delegates who I suppose are more grounded in Gambian reality. We will leave the fight for competent leadership and so on for a future when sanity has returned to our poor little Gambia. My congratulations to Mr. Barrow and ALL the opposition leaders. It’s particularly heartening to hear from various sources how magnanimous Mr. Barrow has been carrying himself in his dealings with the other opposition leaders. This is commendable. Barrow should redouble efforts in that area!
The one unsettling news has to do with my preferred candidate Dr. Isatou Touray’s absence from the convention and subsequent comments to the media on the coalition. I do not know, nor have I ever met Dr. Touray. In fact, until a couple of months ago, I wouldn’t even recognize her if we meet because I had no idea how she looks like. I know her by reputation and took the words of some reliable friends who worked with her in various capacities- some tangentially. She’s well regarded by those that have worked with her. But politics is a different ball game altogether.
Anyhow, having read her comments to the media, I must say that I was taken aback. I can only hope she’ll reconsider her stance. Dr. Touray does have something to contribute to the fight against tyranny in The Gambia. But unlike some, I don’t find Dr. Touray’s claim of male chauvinism- being sidelined, farfetched at all. Such behavior is common among Gambian men. Those that don’t recognize this problem are perhaps the very insecure type who make us all look bad. But given that our house is on fire, we should stand together now, put it out, and per the MOU, use the next three years to put such gender issues among others on the table to create a new Gambia where such things would become an anomaly. Thus, my appeal to Dr. Touray is to brush off the pinpricks and sally on!
On the same subject, in my humble opinion, those that have used various media to abuse the lady owe her an unreserved apology. She has a right to complain if she feels she wasn’t treated fairly because of her gender. It would help to hear from someone else present at the meeting what transpired before crucifying her. In any case, the reaction to her comments on the coalition is complete over-kill. Dr. Isatou Touray has NEVER been an ally or agent of Yaya Jammeh. So, I find it bewildering that some who are treating Jammeh’s newest closet apologists with kids’ gloves see no irony in trashing Dr. Touray.
My advice would be to go after Jammeh’s patsy or “Plan B”. This is the Party Jammeh wants to impose on us if he cannot force a fifth term on us through intimidation on December 1st. Recall Gen. Ibrahim Babangida in Nigeria in 1993.
Think, Gambian people – think! And watch it play out …
Since 2002, there has been a consistent attempt to get Gambian opposition parties under one tent. For many reasons, they all failed – until now. However, despite overcoming these seemingly insurmountable odds, getting all the non-APRC Parties under a single tent is probably the easier task of the challenges facing Gambians in our desire to rid ourselves of the murderous and corrupt Jammeh regime.
Meanwhile, let me be very clear and specific about several salient points. First, Yaya Jammeh is NOT Abdou Joof or Abdoulaye Wada, or Goodluck Jonathan. Those that expect to wake up on December 2nd and read Yaya Jammeh’s concession speech and expression of gratitude to Gambians are in for a very rude shock! As incredulous as this may sound to any rational person, Yaya Jammeh truly believes that he is the best thing to happen to Gambia. He believes Gambians owe him! Seriously. The only thing worse than Jammeh’s cruelty is his narcissism. He is more like Blaise’ Campaore, and Laurent Gbagbo. Consequently, he would rather burn down Gambia than gracefully hand over to another person – especially one who is NOT his choice. This is what I was alluding to in my last series when I referred to what will happen after the election.
Second, no matter what most Gambians decide, Yaya Jammeh intends to subvert their wish again. He has done so in the past because of the complicity of the Electoral Commission and the security services and the environment. ALL of these have changed significantly this time around. Fear and intimidation both have limits when it comes to effectiveness.
Sources within the intelligence services are informing us of desperate and frightening efforts being made by Jammeh to prepare for contingencies in case opposition supporters are determined to defend their votes at all cost. With his old tricks now fully exposed, and sensing fewer aides around him trust-worthy, Jammeh’s legendary paranoia is said to be getting out of hand. This, because the same sources have it that their own surveys reveal that Jammeh can only win in only a few districts in Foni in a fair contest. To put things into perspective, Jammeh has succeeded in tribalizing Gambian politics in the past two decades, but it seems that has now come back to haunt him. According to figures his own government supplied the CIA last year, the Jola/Karoninka population of the Gambia is only 10.9%; the Mandinka/Jahanka are 33.8%, Fulani/Tukulur/Lorobo are 22.1%, Wollof is 12.2%, Serahuleh 7%, Serere 3.2%, Manjago 2.1%, Bambara 1%, Creole/Aku Marabout 0.8%, others 0.9%, non-Gambian 5.2%. The figures are doctored as usual to suit the narrative Jammeh wants, but that’s beside the point. The key is to note that after opening The Gambia’s borders with Cassamance for twenty-two years and granting Gambian citizenship to any of his kinsmen on the Senegalese side that wants it, it speaks volume that he hasn’t been able to alter the Gambian demographic makeup the way he wants. That fact alone would give a more thoughtful person some pause. But not Yaya Jammeh. Forget the theory or math, there is simply no community in Gambia today that is receptive to the idea of another five years of Yaya Jammeh’s volatile rule per a senior security official who sees reports that get to he Jammeh.
Sadly, though, there is very little chance of this saga having a happy ending. I wish and pray that I’m wrong but every instinct in my being tells me only a true miracle can avert the impending and overdue confrontation between the forces of darkness and freedom in the Gambia. I know Jammeh is determined to kill as many people as it takes to retain power and I also know quite a few who are simply sick and tired of being brutalized and dehumanized, and are unwilling to allow themselves to be slaughtered like wild animals. Contrary to what Yaya Jammeh believes, purveyors of violence don’t always get the result they hope for. The Manding say “boiled cassava never breaks off where you want it to.” Yaya Jammeh has long terrorized defenseless Gambians in the misguided belief that he has a monopoly on violence. December 2014 showed that to be false. Yet Jammeh refuses to reform his ways. Perhaps god will finally show him who is in charge in His unique ways. The powerless have limited options, but they are options nonetheless.
The African union – if they want to be useful, can help in two key ways: 1. By asking Senegal to monitor the movement of its citizens into Gambia during the forthcoming election period. Often, Senegalese have been part of the problem not solution in Gambia. 2. Help railroad Yaya Jammeh out of Gambia like the Americans did with Fr. Aristide in Haiti in the 1990s and Charles Taylor in Liberia in the 2000s. If you have a problematic leader whose presence stymies a country’s progress, take him out and give the country a chance! What good is the African union when one corrupt tyrant’s selfish interest supersedes that of an entire nation of two million people?