Col. Sarr Writes Open Letter to Firebrand Imam, Baba Leigh

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Dear Imam Leigh,

Out of those who had chosen to ask me questions, made comments or challenged the statements I made during my last Interview with the editor of the Freedom online media on Sunday September 28, 2014, I think you are the only one who caught my attention and certainly deserve my time for a suitable response. Obviously you are relatively new on this terrain and different as well from the familiar radicals out there playing the role of nuisances to anybody daring to think, look or act differently from the conventional wisdom. As far as they are concerned it has to be condemning President Jammeh’s policies, character or anything and anybody associated with him including his immediate family members or else be castigated into irrelevance. I mean those who would do everything to ensure that persons who don’t believe in their course should not be heard and if they can’t quieten them would resort to all sorts of personal attacks-hate mongering, insults, character assassinations, demeaning and sometimes plain old lies-just to intimidate them into surrendering. I am telling you this from over fifteen years of experiencing it which to me has now become a chronic condition of irrationality highly contagious and difficult to heal when one is infected. Since I began this shift in my political perception I have been called a coward, a torturer, bigot, killer, ceremonial soldier, a recovering mad man, a disgrace, a traitor and now a tired old man, unemployed, broke and homesick in the USA. It’s all baloney and that is exactly why I often ignore them especially those instigators so possessed by their fear of being identified that they will hide behind all sorts of pseudo names or do everything to corrupt their publishers to spare their images and use only my picture even when the rules forbid it. So wonderful for claiming fairness and being balanced. Anyway in your case I think you mean and represent an understandable legacy with a strong belief in yourself combined with the guts to occasionally face the world with your facts without the fear of owning up to their challenging consequences.

However before elaborating on the purpose of my letter I will first wish to thank you very much for expressing your concerns about my safety for successfully seeking reconciliation with President Jammeh. It could either be a gesture well meant to simply advise me out of what you perceived as a potential threat to my life or be another cynical warning reminiscent of the classic fear mongering to merely frighten me or discourage anyone out there planning to do the same in this hostile environment. I hope I am wrong on the latter.

In your introductory remark last Sunday, you spoke about our close relationship dating back to our families in Serekunda which I didn’t even know about that much. Of course I can still vividly recall my primary school days when you used to warn us against the sinfulness of playing football because Islam prohibited it. Your father Pa Imam Muhtarr Leigh of Serekuda mosque was so opposed to western education that, like you, he wanted my father to take me out of school and enroll me at his Qur’anic school  (Dara) at your house. However, my mother wouldn’t have any of that on her watch. That was why we had Seringe Mbenga at home. I also remember your older brother Amadou Leigh another nice Islamic scholar who later migrated to Germany, and your sister Fatou Leigh who was a tailoring student of my mom. So you are absolutely right about our closeness although with all honesty I never knew how old you were. I have in fact always considered you my age group but since you claimed to be my junior, I will from now on treat you as my younger brother.

Well Imam, or Junior, I think I will start by criticizing you for not contacting your older brother since your resettlement in the USA over a year ago. That’s what our traditions would recommend as the proper way of treating one’s relatives and elders. I guess, in reference to your rather inaccurate claim, you will under such circumstances accept that it was not after all my fault for the communication break since I left the Gambia in 1999. If I am not mistaken, after romanticizing our relationship for a springboard to jump into the discussion, you later dampened your account, presumably for the pacification of the pundits by declaring that our communication link had been ruptured for over fifteen years now. It was unfortunate that you had to be deceptive there to avoid violating the accepted attitude. As a rookie I can understand your compulsions but throwing the low blow by insinuating that I literally used the Freedom medium to successfully pursue my reconciliation objective was at best disingenuous and at worse very ungodly. Mr. Pa Nderry Mbye could have corrected you there by putting it to you that he was the first to invite me for an interview and has been unsuccessfully trying to hold one with me for the past five years since I started my campaign for a compromise. However, I think I have been well acquainted to Mr. Mbye’s agenda long enough to recognize that as long as one is preaching his desired dogma that helps to boost the ratings, no matter how shameless the misrepresentation or conspicuous the deceit, the culprits are sanctioned to peddle any garbage. Thus, when I spoke about being ungodly, please understand that it was all about the necessity to accept the truth and avoid the temptation of spinning it to suit one’s narrative. Take for instance during my first interview with Mr. Mbye when I questioned the endless silence of The Gambia and Senegalese governments over the official reason for the disintegration of the “Senegambia” Confederation which I said has prompted all sorts of speculations including one I gathered from Gambians who believe that it was mainly Senegal’s fault; the next thing he did was to invite some loose-tongued Senegalese who probably didn’t understand a word in what I explained to come and distort the actualities and call me liar purely for the entertainment of his autistic audience. I couldn’t believe that Mr. Pa Nderry would allow these vagrants to go on the rampage through his media and for so long without the conscience of calling their attention to the truth behind my statement. For a better and more educative answer he could have consulted the likes of OJ, Bakary Dabo and perhaps one or two retired Senegalese ministers at the time with better qualifications on the subject than from some insignificant vagabonds. But like I said, in Mr. Mbye’s dominion anything goes as long as it feeds the gullible accordingly. Ironically these Senegalese, satisfied that they had humiliated and proven me wrong, concluded with the speculations that it was all former President Jawara’s and the PPP government’s fault. What some nut jobs! At the end of the day I am still hoping that someday one can tell me where to find the elusive official version from either the Senegalese or Gambian governments as to why the confederation collapsed.

Apparently when I heard that Imam Baba Leigh was on the line to make a comment on my interview, for a moment, I thought you will be supportive in letting Pa Nderry recognize that I couldn’t be wrong in finding him offensive when he invited me and opened up the program with dissenting demonstrators cursing the president’s parents who by every measure, in the past or present, has always been very kind to his parents and family back in The Gambia. Disappointingly, you did not; and let me guess why! I think he would have rudely shot you up right away and in the next program gather his Senegalese loud mouths to curse you all the way back to your Kanifing Mosque.

Anyway junior, this is what you should brace up for in this so-called struggle, another defining factor for my ultimate decision to call it quits because of the joke it has turn out to be. Just fancy where the political significance lies in trying to disgrace a president by initially casting him as sexually impotent to the extreme of trying to convince the naïve that he was not the father of his own children just to later flip the script into calling him a habitual sex predator raping all kinds of women only because the original tale had run out of logical steam. If that is not crazy enough to turn off a political believer in a course spearheaded or well influenced by such characters, try factoring in the relentless misinformation often justified as investigative journalism. You Imam Baba Leigh were for example reported dead under custody and when you appeared alive, the reporter, Mr. Mbye called it investigative journalism. Really? Bala Jahumpa was also reported killed in a car accident supposedly staged by President Jammeh and when Jahumpa later surfaced sound and well, he realized that rerunning the investigative journalism prank will be insulting to the intelligence of his intelligent listeners. Hence he chose to ignore addressing that deception and buried it deep with more deceptions. Can you remember President Jammeh’s brain-tumor surgery in France reported by the pathological “soldier”? It was supposed to end his life and government in few months and believe me, most of the morons were ecstatic. Let me quickly share this bad news with them. When I met him in New York a couple weeks ago, I saw a very healthy and happy man far better than when I last met him over fifteen years ago. How many times in the past two decades has he been reported self-quarantined for fear of traveling abroad because of a looming military coup?  I could go on and on Imam, but this one is only about you with marginal dose of therapy shots for our collective emancipation.

I will however start with the corrections about when we last met in 2000, a year after I left the Gambia, and conclude with what I think landed you in trouble with President Jammeh until he had to arrest and detain you in The Gambia.

My hosts at Valentine Avenue in the Bronx, New York who are still here can bear me witness that you came for a visit in 2000. They can also attest to the fact that we used to talk often, during which you did not only sympathize with me for my misfortunes in losing my commander’s job but exhaustively counselled me to be faithful and accept everything as divine occurrence. You were very effective and might have convinced me to forgive and forget sooner which, thank god, I eventually did later. But then the announcement suddenly reached us that the late Cheyassin Secka had been appointed Minister of Justice by President Jammeh instantly transforming you from a very concerned altruist in one day into a dismissive-self-centered individual, with no longer any patience to hear me, in the next. The President you were advising me to understand as being unfair and inconsiderate within day became your hero for what you explained was the appointment of your “Talibe” in his cabinet. We were supposed to meet but you couldn’t wait any longer or perhaps you thought by continuing to associate with me you might upset the “Talibe” or jeopardize his efforts to consolidate his achievement.

On another telling incident, a friend of mine following your political activities in the USA called to explain how hypocritical you were during a “Face of AFRICELl” competition, widely supported by many Gambians when you vehemently condemned the program as “haram” but still allowed your daughter to take part in the contest. And incidentally when she won the first price, a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), you ended up taking it for your own private use. According to him, you were one Imam in the nation blending your political agenda with your religious obligations and sniping the authorities in the name of Islam. That is absolutely unacceptable on President Jammeh’s watch.

That brings me to the next theme of my discussion- your major trouble with President Jammeh’s government. You see junior, you cannot tell me that you were not aware of the Farafeni and Kartong Barracks attacks by our enemies in 1996 and 1997 respectively. Ten young Gambian lives, sons, brothers, fathers, uncles and nephews were lost in the hands of brutal killers trying to overthrow the government; eight from Farafeni and two from Kartong. In both incidents the entire country was exposed to the prospect of a civil war which thank God and those fine men the disaster was averted.  Many Imams in the country especially those around the urban area, one way or the other, condemned the attack and killing with some of them taking the trouble of coming all the way to the  army headquarters to express their sympathy. Imam Baba Leigh the so-called Muslim- firebrand cleric never uttered a word about the innocent men killed or injured. You were perhaps also aware of the trial of those captured and the subsequent verdict sentencing them to death. Whereas most of your counterparts were consoling us, you, I could recall, remained unconcerned or indifferent throughout.

 

With Kukoi Samba Sanyang implicated in the first attack and still at large, compounded with the suspicious involvement of high ranking Senegalese military officers, the situation really worried us with the fear of more possible attacks. In the second attack like in the first, planned and staged from Senegal, the evidence of Senegal’s complicity was again rather baffling. And it did not stop at that. Our national Intelligence personnel kept on uncovering more plots from hostile Gambians given sanctuary in Senegal and looking for the ideal opportunity to hit us again. That was during Abdou Diouf’s era but I later understand that the threat lingered through Ablaye Wade’s time. I think in one of his interviews with the Freedom Media, Captain Ebou Jallow revealed a plot where the Wade government had tried to sponsor him and Kukoi to plan another attack which he said had failed because of insufficient funds and corrupt Senegalese officials. And during Macky Sall’s time we all remember how Mr. Sedia Bayo was provided a platform in the Senegalese media to threaten the Gambians with impending military attack. It was around that time when President Jammeh took the decisive action of showing both Senegal and Gambia’s enemies that his patience had been exhausted. And he didn’t hide it.

You would have been less hypocritical and more religious if you had taken actions or beg for mercy to prevent the executions that everyone knew was coming. Or ask every Imam to join you in conducting prayers for the lost souls-the attackers and attacked together-who after all only God knows why he had programed their existence in the way he did. But no, you waited quietly until it happened and then out of all the Imams in the country, you alone sounding more conversant with the Quran and its sharia law combined, took up the risk of denouncing the government behind the facade of delivering a routine Friday-prayer sermon. It was quite apparent that you were all about agitating political trouble and nothing resembling religious principles. Under normal circumstances when they came to arrest you, the right thing to do as an Imam was to immediately contact your fellow Imams especially the Imam Ratib of Banjul or members of the Islamic council but not Omar Jallow (OJ).  Yes he may be a relative but in the final analysis given his political views and position towards the government, calling him first was indicative of your political defiance or confrontational demeanor. If you couldn’t condemn the crime of killing ten innocent Gambian young men or pray for the victims, what made you thought that your status as one Imam in the whole nation among thousands allowed you to disparage the government for carrying out the verdict of the courts that convicted them?

What you didn’t know was how you upset a lot of Gambians because of your arrogance and hypocrisy. Was it not a wake-up call for you when none of the members of your congregation, I assume in hundreds every Friday, showed no sign of concern about your indefinite detention even when the rumors were rife about your death? Please spare me the accusation of branding them cowards. I think that was all a sign from the Almighty God for you to get off your white horse.

I will now take you back to where we left off in the Bronx in 2000 with our roles reversed in this October month of the year 2014. My advice to you is to have faith in God and begin to understand and accept his actions as being preordained well before we were created. We are often miserable because of our resistance to what we cannot change. For twenty years Jammeh has been ruling The Gambia regardless of the wishes and expectations by his adversaries to see him go every day, week, month or year. After so long of using the same tactics without any sign of hope or improvement, changing your approach places you in a better position for possible redemption. The difficulties you had faced in The Gambia were divine challenges that were perhaps meant to awaken you for a better life. All you need to do now is to humble yourself, cease playing the political game where the rascals will only flatter you into thinking that there is something greater for you in the future which only God knows about.

You should also understand that going back to the Gambia where the environment is friendlier, where you could legally and successfully run a household with three wives, where all your children will be raised under your supervision, where you can lead prayer congregations in your own mosque among culturally familiar people and for your guaranteed benefit refrain from making sensitive political remarks, is the next best thing I will recommend you to consider doing. Correct me if I am wrong but from what I understand, you are married to three women which is illegal in this country. You are therefore only allowed to register one woman as your legal wife here leaving the other unfortunate two at your mercy to either dump them with all their children or force them with no other choice but to hold tight and wait for an indefinite opportunity to grab a side cuddle and continue blaming President Jammeh for your own misadventure. In my book, that is absolute UNGODLINESS. Hence I urge you to change your orientation brother for at least the benefit of your extended family and of course for the sake of the almighty GOD.

The only caveat is the hostility you will encounter from the intolerant instigators whose relevance are fundamentally rooted in this campaign to denigrate President Jammeh, his family members and everybody associated with him. They don’t know how to forgive those who want to abandon the alliance or gang and will stop at nothing to make such persons regret any attempt to violate the covenant. But if I can do it after a decade as the former commander of the Gambia National Army, trust me brother you can do it faster as the former Imam of the Kanifiing Mosque. We saw you on Gambia TV the day you were released from detention and the way you humbly comported yourself with a message of repentance calling President Jammeh your good friend. That was a far cry from hearing you on the on-line media in August yelling profanities at him in the streets of Washington DC surrounded by those who are bent on trying to make you think that you are somebody different from who you actually are. Take back your humble personality, go home and keep on calling President Jammeh your friend and leave the rest in the hands of the almighty God.

May God bless you and your entire family and please accept my apology for sounding too hard in some of my expressions.

Sincerely,

Samsudeen Sarr.

 

sam sarr

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