The Gambia: kidnappings, abductions, torture, political violence; the case of Yusupha Lowe and others

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It looks like the plot in a masterpiece Agatha Christie novel, or a scene scripted for a Hollywood movie; imagine a CIA abduction of Edward Snowden from the heart of Moscow; only this one is real and far smaller in political impact. Yet, it does not diminish the gravity of the degeneration of the Gambia’s human rights abuses into the unnerving, apocalyptic state that has gripped the nation in recent times. To begin with, Gambia is a country that has not known peace over the last two decades; the arrests, detentions and incarcerations, which have become a constant feature of life, have sapped the energy and will to live out of our once free and vibrant population.

Today, the fear of even mentioning Yahya Jammeh in public, except in glorifying his name, the constant nervousness of the wide-eyed population, that dreaded mid-night knock by operatives of the National Intelligence Agency, the invisible agents who shadow unsuspecting citizens, and the regularity with which Yahya Jammeh courts international disfavor, have never failed to push the Gambia towards the dangerous edge of a pariah nation. Gambians have been blindsided by many unilateral decisions Yahya Jammeh has made, on their behalf and without their consent, but it is the recent devolving into kidnappings and abductions that have caused disbelief and consternation among Gambians and non-Gambians alike. By all accounts, Gambia is unsafe to visit regardless of nationality. The attempted kidnapping a white child on a tourist visit to Gambia, four years ago, began the dangerous descend into a new dimension of human rights abuses. This attempted kidnapping of a British child for the purpose of the human sacrifice, was the first sign of the devolving nature of human rights abuse in Gambia into something sinister. Since that infamous failed abduction, Gambia has truly emerged as the most dangerous place to live in West Africa and beyond.

The state of the Gambia’s military regime’s ruthlessness is crystalized in so many ways, not the least of which is the massive exodus of young men and women towards the challenges of the perilous Mediterranean Sea, where so many Gambian youth have perished, the huge Gambia refugee population in Senegal and around West Africa, the forced disappearances, and the state sanctioned murders of citizens that know no end. To further compound the egregious acts of violence and mass discontent, the regime resurfaced its campaign of kidnapping and abduction in April 2013, by abducting Gambian businessman, Saul Ndow and politician, Mahawa Cham, both based in Dakar, Senegal. This was crushing news for the families of both men and a punch in the guts to Gambia’s dissident movement, but it was more a reflection of Senegal’s lackadaisical attitude towards Yahya Jammeh’s destabilizing nature and capacity to operate in Senegal with criminal disregard of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Senegal. Gambia’s human rights abuses have, with these kidnappings in Senegal, a country thought to be a safe haven for Gambians feeling the butchery in their own country, driven some dissidents underground and others left worrying about the long arm of the Gambian regime and its capacity to flaunt international law by kidnapping and abducting dissidents to its murderous regime. In February 2014, Alhaji Mamut Ceesay and Ebou Jobe, two naturalized US citizens visiting Gambia from the US, were abducted and have never been heard from since. The circumstances surrounding this particular case seem like a blast from Latin America’s past, when abductions and kidnappings were the policies in many military regimes. But nothing frustrates Gambians more than the inability of President Barack Obama’s administration and its Banjul Embassy, to force Yahya Jammeh to unconditionally free US citizens.

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But what continues to make headlines throughout the Gambia’s vibrant online media, is the recent kidnapping, torture and incarceration of a children whose military father was said to be involved in the attempt to restore democracy and the rule of law in Gambian, in December 2014. And not surprisingly, if the caveman mentality of Yahya Jammeh and his regime have resulted in child sacrifice over so many years, the kidnapping and incarceration of other children would be a no-brainer. Yusupha Lowe, a 13 year old child and Pa Alieu Lowe, 17 year old teenager, both son and brother of exiled Warrant Officer, Baboucar ‘Bai’ Lowe of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF), have been under illegal in-comemunicado detention for nearly four months. Yahya Jammeh’s willful ignorance and brazen flaunting of the laws of the land, knows no bounds, and not even the scathing criticisms of his crassness has had an effect in awakening him to the dangerous consequences of his insipid acts of cruelty and savagery. The multiplicity of his violent acts and complete contempt of the rule of law, more than adequately illustrate Yahya Jammeh’s philosophical indisposition to truly change the character of his regime. After years of citizens’ murders and political chaos, his attempts to mitigate his crimes are colliding with the reality of the depth and gravity of his crimes. The visible superficial calm and deafening silence in Gambia, hide a dangerous reality; the insidious rage, a blinding desire for revenge, and the sadistic impulse for payback that awaits Yahya Jammeh. Nothing Yahya Jammeh does will any-longer shock the conscience of a nation; but especially knowing his mobid fear of consequences of losing power. John Minto, the spokesperson for “Global Peace and Justice,” poignantly captured the essence of Gambia’s pathetic lawlessness in a celebrated article titled: “Peace is not the absence of war, but the presence of justice.” The is illustrated in Yahya Jammeh’s revenge detention of an innocent child; Yusupha Lowe.

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