Gambia Diaspora Families Petition US Congress, EU, UN, AU, ECOWAS

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Dear Sir/Madam,

We Gambians and friends of The Gambia wish to share with you a very important letter and supporting documents to provide a comprehensive look at the 20 years of atrocities meted out against the Gambian people by Yahya Jammeh, a dictator whose ruthlessness and human rights abuses are well known to Gambians and the international community. Additionally supplied as attachments, are the “Our Heroes” profiles and news articles clearly demonstrating the inspiring lives they lead and how they attempted on December 30, 2014, to right the 20 years of wrongs and release all Gambian citizens from the clutches of tyranny.  Some of them paid for it with their lives and those still alive, and the families, are all paying dearly.

We thank you for your time and willingness to support and quickly respond to the urgent requests.  Detailed in the open-letter below are CALL-TO-ACTION items (in bold red text).  IMMEDIATELY BELOW, we have outlined a bullet summary of  WHAT WE NEED YOUR HELP ON, which are then further explained in more detail within the open-letter itself.

Put pressure on The Gambian Dictatorship to immediately release the bodies of the deceased champions of freedom who the Gambian government claimed were allegedly killed while participating in the events to topple the dictatorship on December 30, 2014.

Put pressure on The Gambian Dictatorship to immediately allow neutral bodies such as the international Red Cross and Red Crescent, visitation and access to determine the well-being and condition of Mr. Momodou Njie, who was allegedly captured on December 3, 2014.

Put pressure on The Gambian Dictatorship to immediately release all family members and friends of the alleged participants in the attempt to topple the dictatorship; who have been abducted incommunicado by the regime since the December 30th, 2014 incidents.

Drop the Neutrality Act violation charges (of conspiring to violently overthrow a ‘friendly” nation) by the U.S. Department of Justice leveled against Ex- US Army Captain & Afghanistan Veteran- Alagie Barrow, Mr. Papa Fall- U.S. Veteran of Afghanistan, and Mr. Cherno Njie, Businessman and community supporter.

SIGNED: Diaspora Gambians, family members of the December 30th, 2014 United States and Gambian Gallant Patriots

                                     An Open Letter on The Gambia

A CALL TO ACTION in Support of U.S. Veterans and U.S. Citizens Who Made Great Sacrifices Standing-up Against the 20-year State Sanctioned Terrorism by the Gambian Dictatorship.

On July 22nd 1994, a group of junior-ranking military officers, led by then 29-year-old Yahya Jammeh forcefully took over the reins of government in the Gambia, through a military coup d’état, ousting the then democratically-elected government of President Sir Dawda Jawara, who was the Head of State of the Gambia since the country attained independence in 1965. After assuming power Yahya Jammeh, the Chairman of the erstwhile Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC), justified the military takeover on the basis that President Jawara’s extended stay in power and pandemic corruption had crippled the economy of the impoverished nation of nearly 1.8 million people, the smallest in the African mainland.

Since then, Yahya Jammeh has ruled the country with a deadly iron-fist by instituting one of the most ruthless dictatorships in the world presently. Yahya Jammeh’s government in the Gambia is best described as a callous regime, featured by massive arrests and disappearances, inordinate torture, extrajudicial executions, and heartless intimidation of political opponents, dissidents and journalists who express even the simplest form of critique against his government. The Gambia’s current problem of governance is in a nutshell, the existence of an authoritarian ruler who assumes that the country is his personal property, treats Gambians with disdain, and ridicules national and international laws on human rights and dignity.

This “one party” autocratic system in the Gambia all began when President Yahya Jammeh initially embarked upon destroying the country’s democratic institutions by amending the five-year, two-term presidential limit of the 1997 constitution to limitless terms, which established the bedrock to forcefully perpetuate his presidency and reign of terror against Gambians. In line with demolishing other principal arms of government, Jammeh engages in arbitrary violation of the basic human rights of Gambians. This ensues in the form of continuous arrests, disappearances and torture of ordinary citizens, as well as the killing of journalists, opposition members and political dissidents. With regards to journalism and the media, the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS), which is the country’s only national broadcasting institution has essentially been turned into Yahya Jammeh’s private asset and mode of propaganda as well as, a tool used to intimidate the public. Moreover, the President muzzles every aspect of independent journalism and no one dares to broadcast or publish anything that is even remotely critical of his government. This culminated to the cold-blooded, state-sanctioned assassination of Mr. Deyda Hydra in December 2004, who was the co-founder and primary editor of The Point newspaper, and was also a correspondent for both AFP News Agency and Reporters Without Borders for more than 30 years. To ensure that his personal dominance of the media remains, the President constantly meddles with independent media outlets, which led to closing prominent news agencies such as; The Independent, The Daily News and The Standard newspapers, as well as Teranga, Citizen and Sud FM radio stations.

Similar to the media, the Jammeh regime has literally transformed the Judiciary into a travesty of justice, run by foreign mercenaries who are only loyal to the President. The outrageous and overtly unfair rulings made by the highest courts of the country confirm the widely-held contention that the Judiciary, a once legitimate and independent branch of government during President Jawara’s era, is presently nothing but a farce. Furthermore, the Legislature has effectively changed into a puppet chamber, which approves almost any and all bills presented by the government without much real opposition, if any. In order to prolong his autocratic government, Yahya Jammeh continues to instill fear in all fibers of the Gambian society including the military, through constant arrests, persecutions, and torture of any average Gambian perceived as opponents, making it virtually impossible for dissidents living in the diaspora to ever visit the country. Even religion and the basic conditions for human existence are not immune to Yahya Jammeh’s system of terror and autocratic rule in the Gambia. In October 2014, the President instituted a draconian homosexuality law against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, which imposes a minimum life imprisonment on anyone charged with “aggravated homosexuality” in the country. Exactly what constitutes “aggravated homosexuality” is not clearly defined in the stipulated law, which allows Jammeh’s criminalization of homosexual activity – which violates international law, to be used arbitrarily as deemed fit by Jammeh and his sycophants. With regards to religion, the President commands Islamic leaders (Imams) and priests alike to subscribe to his own interpretation of their religions, in order to legitimize his government’s repressive policies, or they face aggravated assault, arbitrary arrests, and imprisonment. Even more frivolous, the President meddles in and forcibly establishes specific dates on which religious celebrations are to be observed in the country. Most prominent cases of atrocities against religious leaders involved Imams Baba Leigh and Bakawsu Fofana, who were arrested, tortured and eventually coerced into exile for preaching against the ruthless policies of the regime. At present, a local imam, Sheikh Muhideen Hydara and village head, Buyeh Touray are undergoing trial after being charged with “conspiracy to commit a felony, for disobeying a public declaration of the President by refusing to perform Eid-ul-Fitr (end of Ramadan) celebration on July 28th 2014.” This would be akin to the President of the United States making a unilateral public declaration that Christmas should be celebrated on December 26th and any religious leader who dares to allow mass or any other religious observance of Christmas on December 25th, would be immediately arrested and imprisoned. Also, Jammeh barred efforts to hold the national honoring of the death of a globally renowned, well-respected, and long serving Gambian Anglican Bishop Tilewa Johnson, Archbishop of West Africa, who passed away on January 21, 2014; because the Archbishop took the government to task against the tampering of elections and human rights violations.

Opposition party leaders are also constantly being persecuted, and even though the government conducted elections every five years since 1994, general elections in the Gambia are neither free nor fair, making it virtually impossible for any democratic change of government, or genuine improvement of democratic principles to take place in the Gambia!

In effect, it is because of such milieu – the excessive human rights violations; the inordinate brutality with impunity by the Jammeh regime; the blatant removal of any peaceful, democratic options for improvement for the past 20 years, that compelled a group of Gambian patriots living in the diaspora to attempt to institute the rule-of-law in the Gambia on December 30th 2014. It is therefore, IMPORTANT to note that these individuals – who are widely hailed by Gambians and all those who have closely followed Gambian affairs as “Our Heroes”, are neither terrorists nor criminals, as they are currently being branded by the Jammeh regime and other international entities.

Most of these men lived in the United States (U.S.) for decades and a few lived in Europe, such as Alagie Jaja Nyass, an ex-Gambian soldier who was the first to wear a red beret due to his specialized training, lived in the United Kingdom and had recently married his young wife only 2 months prior to losing his life on December 30th. Those who know him well will attest that he was steadfast, non-conforming, respectful, kind, upright, and he believed in justice, liberty, fairness and respect of the rights of individuals.  He was a man of compassion by all accounts. These heroic men were model citizens. Some pursued the American Dream of individual success through hard work, and remained as respectful law-abiding model American citizens. For instance, Cherno Njie is a successful entrepreneur who specializes in low-income, federally-subsidized housing development in Austin, after graduating from the University of Texas – Austin, living in the U.S. for nearly four decades. Lt. Colonel Lamin Sanneh, was a rising star within the Gambian army who knew of the challenges facing the Gambian Army and was never comfortable with the excesses of the military on the civilian population. During his years in the army, a profession he loved, he set out to change the culture within the Gambian army from a rag tag military population to a more refined and disciplined force, which did not align well with the dictator.  He was an articulate professional who commanded deep respect from not only his seniors, but by those under his command. Lt. Colonel Lamin Sanneh was also a loving husband and caring father to three young children who later sought refuge in the US, the land of liberty and justice and for a Master’s degree in Strategic Security Studies.

Infantry Commander, Captain Njaga Jagne and Papa Faal were both military servicemen who gallantly served in the American Army and deployed on multiple occasions to Iraq and Afghanistan respectively on combat missions. They led men and women into battle to deliver freedom to people in Iraq and Afghanistan, while watching over a twenty-year span, the eroding and brutal stifling of their own native peoples’ rights back in the Gambia.  These are men who have fully embraced and live for the founding and guiding principles of their chosen country, the United States of America; as illustrated in a quote from Captain Njaga Jagne carried by the “Bluegrass Guard” newsletter during his U.S. Citizenship Naturalization ceremony in Iraq in November 2006, as he stood in between General George W. Casey of the multinational force and Lt. General Peter Chiarelli, Commanding General of the then multi-national Corps in Iraq at the time, “I am now part of a nation founded and guided by the principles of liberty, justice, equality, and humanity.”  They are men of honor and integrity and they are devoted fathers, loving husbands, caring sons, great uncles, kind brothers and believed in service to humanity as indicated by the various community service activities each of them were involved in.   Moreover, these individuals had no intention of personal gain in their efforts to liberate The Gambia.  They knew that they would be sacrificing their lives, liberties, families, livelihoods, and professions, because they had established comfortable middle-class lives, and had maintained flourishing careers and families in the U.S. prior to the alleged December 30th incident. These were men simply compelled to act against the tyranny and constant brutality of a ruthless dictator in their native country, which has been going on for 20 years with impunity, and without much condemnation by the international community. Guided by their American values of Justice, Freedom and Liberty for all, they finally reached a point where they could no longer ignore their conscience and realization that the perpetual crimes against Gambians by the Jammeh regime, like the state-sanctioned abductions of two American citizens, Ebou Jobe and Alhagie Mamut Ceesay, who withdrew their 401K accounts and went to invest in the Gambia with the hopes of helping to stimulate economic growth and innovation among youth but have since 2013 not been heard from, were finally unbearable and therefore have to be alleviated off Gambians. Like many diaspora Gambians, these men became increasingly frustrated with the fact that President Jammeh has effectively shut-down all means of democratic transitions and political reform in the country. As they continuously enjoyed their inalienable freedoms and civil liberties in the U.S., it gradually became insufferable for them to simply observe the constant persecution and horror of 1.8 million Gambians, some of whom are either direct family members or extended relatives. See the attached profiles in the link below to learn more about who these valiant men of honor were and how they served their adopted country, their communities, and their families here in the United States and abroad.

https://docs.google.com/folderview?id=0B7xOPyxGv1pyYXFKLUhhYkQxaG8&usp=docslist_api

As family members, friends, and concerned U.S. Citizens in support of these honorable men, we hereby convey the following urgent requests and Call-To-Action to the U.S. government in particular, and the international community at large:

We ask that the US State Department, the US congressional representatives, the United Kingdom parliamentary representatives, the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other Regional and International Bodies take immediate and proactive steps to:

  1. I. Put pressure on The Gambia Dictatorship to immediately release the bodies of the deceased champions of freedom who the Gambian government claimed were allegedly killed while participating in the events to topple the dictatorship on December 30, 2014. The families demand that in accordance with the rights to human dignity even in death, that the bodies of their loved ones be returned to them so that they can afford them the peaceful and respectful burial services they deserve.
  1. II. Put pressure on The Gambia Dictatorship to immediately allow neutral bodies such as the international Red Cross and Red Crescent, visitation and access to determine the well-being and condition of Mr. Momodou Njie. Mr. Njie was allegedly critically wounded and captured during the December 30, 2014 alleged attempt to topple the dictatorship. Momodou is a refugee and an asylee from Germany, he is currently being held and we must assure that he is not undergoing torture and being treated outside the requirements of allowable international laws to which the Gambia is a signatory.

III. Put pressure on The Gambia Dictatorship to immediately release all family members and friends of the alleged participants in the attempt to topple the dictatorship; who have been abducted incommunicado by the regime since the December 30th, 2014 incidents.

These innocent family and friends were abducted and have since disappeared with no information on their whereabouts. The majority were simply arrested because they are related to or are friends with the alleged participants in plans to topple the dictatorship. For most of them, their only means of learning of the alleged involvement of their loved ones was through their own abduction by non-uniformed government secret intelligence officers in unmarked cars. They have now been held incommunicado for weeks without any charges. The Gambian constitution requires the release of all arrested and uncharged persons within seventy-two (72) hours.

  1. IV. Drop the Neutrality Act violation charges (of conspiring to violently overthrow a ‘friendly” nation) by the U.S. Department of Justice leveled against ex-US Army Captain & Afghanistan Veteran- Alagie Barrow, Mr. Papa Fall, U.S. Veteran of Afghanistan and Mr. Cherno Njie, Businessman and community supporter. The Gambian Dictatorship cannot by any wild stretch of the imagination be termed a nation “friendly” to the United States. Its Dictator Jammeh has committed multiple covert and overt acts and declarations against the US and other Western nations and their citizens, a well-documented in the link to the Advocacy Toolkit provided on the last page of this document. Jammeh publically demonstrates an enormous lack of respect to those he terms as the “Western Colonizers” and typified this when his security attacked and committed aggravated assaults on press and peaceful demonstrators in front of US police officials at his hotel, only miles from the Seat of Congress in Washington, D.C., during the US-Africa Summit in Summer 2014.  Claiming Diplomatic immunity, all the attackers returned to the Gambia, without being held accountable, where Jammeh publicly boasted of teaching them lessons right in front of those they thought would protect them. The U.S. should never stand against the principles of its founding fathers which guide these United States as a beacon of world hope and guardian of democratic principles.

The US Department of Justice must drop charges against the US citizens currently charged under the Neutrality Act and being held away from their families and children without bail.  These men are currently being dragged through federal district courts, possibly facing up to twenty five (25) or more years in prison for standing up for people who for twenty (20) years could not defend themselves against wanton terror sanctioned by the very government that is supposed to protect their rights.  These men stood up for tenets and ideals of Liberty, Justice, Freedom, Equality, Honor, Respect of Human Rights & Human Dignity, and Democracy.  These are tenets they learned and internalized from their adopted countries, especially for those that were in the U.S. military and went to war in order to liberate Afghanis and Iraqis based on those very same principles.  Thus in choosing to prosecute these gallant men, who stood up for liberty much like the founding fathers of the United States, the U.S. has chosen to stand on the side of one of the world’s current worst regimes of Tyranny and Dictatorship.

To learn more about the 20 years’ worth of atrocious crimes by the Jammeh regime, including; smuggling of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah, business partnerships with persons identified on the U.S. Department of Treasury’s list of Financiers of Terror, endless human rights violations and crimes against humanity, etc., visit the link below for the “Advocacy Toolkit” which serves as a repository of information. Contained within the kit is the “Table of Contents” a navigational guide to ease the user through the information contained in the “Advocacy Toolkit”.

“Gambian Advocacy Toolkit”

https://docs.google.com/folderview?id=0B7rq74JkbiuAV3dpck1PTDY2Skk&usp=docslist_api

For further inquiries regarding this document, please call or email the following contacts:

Sigga Jagne         SiggaJagne@gmail.com   # 502-319-3767

Pasamba Jow     jowfara@msn.com           # 301-547-9573

Saul Mbenga      Ssraa9@aol.com               # 914-441-8839

Demba Baldeh   dbaldeh@gmail.com       # 425-319-0884

SIGNED: Diaspora Gambians, family members of the December 30th, 2014 United States and Gambian Gallant Patriots

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