By Sainey Darboe
Despite the pleasant surprise that greeted Yahya Jammeh’s concession of December 2 elections, the more trained eyes and minds on Jammeh regime nurtured immense skepticism. And for good reason.
After 22 years of incumbency, President Jammeh had presided over human rights abuses and plunder of national resources that will give the likes of Idi Amin and Mobutu stiff competition for entry into the Guinness book of records.
Jammeh’s arrogation to himself of disproportionate powers has provenances in the culture of undeserved respect, forgiveness and false praise that has seeped into the Gambian society to such toxic levels that it has generated a gaping crack in the Gambian smile.
Jammeh’s disgusting decision to reject the will of Gambian people actually started 22 years ago when he broke his promise to step down after the two- year transition period. He was supposed to be held accountable by Gambian people to make good his promise. He was not, at immense collective cost to Gambians. He used religion as a tool to build trust. Leaders of the Islamic religion to which the majority of Gambians subscribe were bribed and intimidated into supporting him.
I have a vivid recollection of an interview with Imam Fatty in which I challenged his use of the pulpit to exhort followers to support Jammeh.To my utter dismay he replied that he saw nothing wrong with talking politics at the pulpit. In fact, he went ahead to insinuate that ‘ even God is a politician ‘.
More outspoken preachers who criticized Jammeh’s excesses, Baba Leigh and Ba Kawsu, have been dealt with in brutal fashion and coerced into exile. That a supposedly erudite Imam like Imam Fatty would say ‘even God is a politician’, which borders on outright blasphemy, underlines the profound rot in the hearts and minds of religious leaders supporting him.
Adding to this potent cocktail of hypocrisy is the legion of educated fools lining to fill their pockets with public loot. It’s only by the grace of God and only in The Gambia where certified liars and lunatics like Bala Jahumpa and Isatou Njie-Saidy can be entrusted with the destiny of people. They make grandiose gestures of loving Gambia without love. Never have a people’s destiny been so fervently scorned. To them Jammeh is God whose words and sentiments command divine reverence.
They dug and continue to do so deeply into his sentiments that in search of interest they found love, because by trying to make him love them they ended up falling in love with him to the detriment of Gambians. Isatou Njie Saidy , for her part, loved him more and more as she felt his love increasing, and that was how in the ripeness of November, she began to believe once more in the proclamation of soothsayers that Jammeh will rule for a billion years.
Death really matters to them not. But life does and therefore the sensation they felt when IEC announced the decision of long-suffering people was not a feeling of fear but of nostalgia.
But on the dawn of December 2nd, her dreams and hopes proved futile. She believes that poverty is the servitude of love. Both fleeted back memory lane on the wild revelry, the gaudy wealth, and the unbridled greed and they lamented that it had cost them so much of their lives to find the paradise of shared tyranny. They decided they have tasted too much of the sweetness of power to quit at this stage, even after conceding defeat. Surely, there is a way to hang on. According to the narrative of living witnesses, Jammeh sank into his rocking chair, the same one in which he had sat during the early days of the regime to give execution orders. In that flash of lucidity, he became aware that he was unable to bear in his soul the crushing weight of so much past.
And prosecution with possible rot in jail , as well as the accompanying ignominy of losing his assets including gold-digger wife, makes an at attempt at a comeback so appealing despite eventuality of a death foretold . Perhaps if Fatoumatta Tambajang had not been a ‘super kanja mouth’ he would have been spared so much quiet devastation of the soul in the small hour morbidity of the night.
Unbeknownst to them, Gambians have tasted unbridled freedom and, oh boy, they can’t give up at this stage without a fight. Without a modicum of doubt , there must be a way to guard against the determined resistance of tyranny in its death throes.
The author is a US-based Gambian journalist and
former editor-in-chief of The Standard newspaper.