How Amadou Samba’s Saga Signifies A Gambian Predicament

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BY: Ebrima G. Sankareh, Editor-in-Chief

When news of Gambian lawyer-turned businessman, Amadou A. Samba’s scuffle inside an elevator with members of a private security firm at Dakar’s luxurious Radisson Blue hotel broke Saturday, it ignited a campfire of resentment, nervousness, excitement, and debate. Only Moments later, did ominous images of Gambia’s high profile businessman began to fill Facebook pages and within minutes, the hottest issue on Gambian social media was Amadou Samba. For better or for worse, his story has trended, is trending and will be trending for some time to come given that the matter is now a subject of criminal inquiry before the Senegalese Police. As most matters Gambian these days, the hysteria and badmouthing conspired to create a combustible combination of acrimony and prejudice and at a deafening crescendo for that matter.

Several of the businessman’s concerned friends and family members frantically called The Gambia Echo expressing their anger and frustration over this worrisome development, that an innocent and easy-going Amadou Samba, who to many a Gambian epitomizes what the Americans call “a self-made man”, an icon and a luminary in every sense of the word, was inadvertently caught in a melee with so-called Gambian freedom fighters or Internet revolutionaries who have vowed to unseat Gambia’s healer-leader, Yaya Abdul Aziz Jamus Junkung Jammeh—Babili Mansa (Mandinka for the King who builds bridges across The River Gambia) and arguably, an indisputable alter ego of the lawyer-businessman.

Ever since this incident with the hoopla and brouhaha it generated, various theories have emerged, inter alia, wild allegations of Samba’s complicity with unnamed Guinean men to potentially identify and abduct, Sheikh Sidia Bayo, a 32-year old French citizen of Gambian parentage and probably disappear him for eternity. While some commentators suggested caution, some expressed anger and some still celebrated that the forced altercation Mr. Samba was subjected to, was a coup de theatre for The Gambia’s new Napoleon Bonaparte in his effort to unseat the Gambian leader. Simply put, if you can’t get him, they argue, get his friend to teach him a lesson, similar to what in Mr. Samba’s own legal profession is called vicarious liability.

Beneath and beyond the Dakar-Radisson Blue façade however, we at The Gambia Echo hold a different view. Despite the fact that Mr. Samba’s friend, President Yaya Jammeh is an avowed arch rival to us and has blocked our newspaper to Gambian readers for many years now, we think engaging Amadou Samba in a fist fight, brawl, melee or whatever name you choose, based on mere circumstantial evidence or suspicion from so-called counter intelligence speculators, bereft of depth and breadth quite frankly, speak to preposterous monstrosity. And why?

Notwithstanding its many complex networks of partisan politics and seemingly cumbersome legal system, credit must be given where it is merited. There is evidence aplenty that Dakar is a civilized city and Senegal is a country that has ratified numerous international instruments and conventions that respect the dignity and sanctity of human life with a transparent legal system that upholds the sacred principles of due process and the rule of law. Senegal is no ordinary country where citizens can be arrested for merely holding contrary views to the status quo; it operates a serious and viable democratic structure with an independent judiciary not under the whips and caprices of a marauding monarch with kakistocratic propensities.

Sheikh Sidia Bayo, the Ceremonial-Gambian-Head-of-state-in-waiting at a cosy hotel room overlooking the Atlantic coastline from where he hopes to topple Yaya Jammeh, knows all these impressive legal and democratic credentials about Dakar and Senegal without which he could not have even contemplated announcing his readiness to launch a military offensive without risking arrest or disappearance. And lest we forget, well before Bayo entered the political scene with clownish bravado, Senegal and Dakar have hosted numerous African leaders as exiles and despite sustained international pressure to extradite them, Senegal would not relent lest they end up being summarily executed as obtains in most countries in the West African sub region where constitutional due process remains Utopian. Unlike Senegal, in most of the West African sub region, the judiciary operates at midnight, an apt metaphor reminiscent of Apartheid South Africa but still operational in the continent.

                                                   Our Findings—What Really Happened At The Radisson Blue, Saturday?

In tandem with journalistic ethics, ever since the scary news of Amadou Samba’s brawl broke, The Gambia Echo has been digging deeper beyond the headlines and today, we report with unassailable evidence on what allegedly transpired at the Radisson Blue.

According to our  most credible sources close to the investigations in Dakar, both Amadou Samba and Sidia Bayo were guests of the hotel which invalidates the claim that Samba was an intruder. Asked if Amadou Samba has ever stayed in the hotel before, our source said “numerous times and over a span of decades, the Radisson has been Samba’s choice.”

Unlike Samba, Sidia Bayo has been in the hotel for almost a month if not more, The Echo gathered and whenever in Dakar, he hires private security operatives as personal handlers since he vowed to unseat Yaya Jammeh forcefully.

According to a senior investigator, moments before the melee unfolded, The Gambia’s former Information Minister turned human rights campaigner against Yaya Jammeh’s government, Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh, was seen at the hotel and reportedly had a brief cordial encounter with Amadou Samba by the vestibule of the magnificent building. “Mr. Sankareh, we have CCTV footage of the entire drama and once the matter goes to court it will all be there for the world to see”, our source claimed. “They shook hands and each went about his own business while Dr. Janneh even respectfully addressed Samba as his brother-in-law.” Only moments later, our competent source reveals, Amadou Janneh was seen with Sidia Bayo who was apparently very nervous, a nervousness that our source likens to infantile paranoia. Then without the slightest provocation, no sooner had  Amadou Samba been spotted heading towards the elevator, than three professional Senegalese wrestlers also involved in private security matters confronted Samba posing as agents of Senegalese National Security. They told Samba that he was under arrest for espionage and confronted him with a barrage of security related questions leading Samba to believe for a moment that the trio-impostors were genuine National Security agents. Bemused and speechless, a nervous Samba reportedly invoked verses from the Holy Koran and told the impostors that he was not a spy as alleged and had no interest in espionage as he was a businessman on purely business related errands but they wouldn’t just let him go. Instead, they seized his freedom, shook him ferociously, wrestled him to the ground and held him by the waist and leg as he helplessly wailed with pain  while Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh allegedly rushed to the scene taking the ominous still photos that later surfaced on Facebook. The Gambia Echo has tried to get Dr. Janneh’s side of the saga to no avail.

However, as the wailing got louder, the hotel security rushed to the scene and only after their intercession that Amadou Samba regained his freedom with a lot of praise to Allah. “These thugs really wanted to kill me and had I not called your attention, (he allegedly told the Radisson security team), they were out to kill me.” Amid the commotion, my sources reveal, Dr. Amadou Janneh was allegedly confronted by the hotel security who wanted to confiscate his camera, but the former lifer (NOT death row inmate as reported earlier) at The Gambia’s notorious Mile Two Central Prisons, who himself was amnestied thanks to Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. in 2012, quickly melted from the scene never to be seen again. My sources maintain that the CCTV footage covers the entire drama as it unfolds and pretty soon, it will be public knowledge.

Reveal my competent sources, the police were immediately called to the scene and when an armed team descended on the hotel, the so-called State Security Agents-impostors were arrested bringing a closure to this lawlessness where rank-and-file operators posed as state agents. As Amadou Samba made a cautionary statement, the culprits were thrown in police cells pending investigations. Samba has also reportedly hired a high-profile Dakar advocate (lawyer) to  “zealously pursue these scoundrels”, my sources say.

As we went to press, sources close to the investigation say Dr. Amadou S. Janneh is at large and Dakar police are in hot pursuit. While we cannot verify this, news reaching The Echo just now report that Dr. Janneh has in fact, been arrested in Karang and is being held in police custody amid investigations into a potentially embarrassing story.                                                                               

Sidia Bayo

Sheikh Sidia  Bayo, Absentee Head of  State

Echo Analysis

Thus Mutatis mutandis, how on earth could Mr. Bayo (a French tourist) have his bodyguards from a private security firm assault Mr. Samba without the slightest provocation (being a private citizen, under no national or international warrant) in a hotel elevator, and wrestle him to the ground in the first place? Where were the nearest Dakar Police Department whose duty logic dictates, it is to keep the peace and effect arrest? Where were the Dakar Gendarmerie whose policing competence is of highest repute even in nearest Gambia during the defunct Senegambia Confederation? These and similar questions continue to exercise our minds as we wrestle with this unfortunate incident borne purely out of what an investigator called “acting on bad intelligence”; whatever the oxymoron may mean.

In our view, even if Amadou Samba had entered the hotel with a dozen NIA officers to abduct Bayo, common sense dictates that as a French-born citizen, he would have called the French Embassy with closest proximity to his hotel and alert Senegalese Security/police or have the hotel security guys secure his alleged assailants pending the arrival of the competent forces to bring his alleged/potential abductors to book. To us, that would have made a FANTASTIC HEALINE but that has not just been the case. What we have here is cheap propaganda, the proverbial storm in a tea cup, mere hyperbole; a familiar scene in these cyber warfare where bandits and political wannabes continuously masquerade as heroes and heroines, Princes and Princesses of glory—and believe it or not, this is our Gambian predicament. Everybody is an Alhagi yet none has performed the hajj!

Amadou  Samba is a bonafide businessman whose prime goal is to maximise profit and like most business persons across the spectrum, he too, has to cautiously navigate the waters as it were to reach safer shores. As a private businessman, Samba has the damn right to go anywhere as long as he remains law-abiding. To the best of our investigative knowledge, we have never heard Samba being under any international arrest warrant limiting his freedom of movement and association.

Amid the chaos and lunacy, some had alleged that Amadou Samba presides over The  Gambia’s Judicial Service Commission and he may have advertently or otherwise, been party to the August, 2012 executions. Seminal stupidity or parochial narrowness? Amadou Samba is neither judge nor jury, he is not a minister of Justice nor Solicitor General, the fellow is neither Head of Department nor a Cabinet Minister and has no powers whatsoever to either have prisoners executed nor their scheduled executions commuted.

And lest we forget, during the executions, it was our own sister—VP Isatou Njie-Saidy, our firebrand politician, Lamin Waa Juwara, our jailed Attorney General, Lamin Jobarteh and our jailed Secretary General, Njogu Lamin Bah who among others took to the podium and zealously defended the executions as sacrosanct manifestations of Gambian jurisprudential rendition and therefore, legitimate.

Therefore, attacking Amadou Samba only because he is friends with Yaya Jammeh is regrettable particularly in due consideration of  the emerging allegations that our own brother in the struggle, Dr. Amadou S. Janneh was complicit in the so-called coup de theatre. It is because Amadou Janneh was appointed Information Minister by Yaya Jammeh and it was during his tenure that journalist Deyda Hydara was murdered by unknown bandits. Can we, therefore, argue that because Dr. Janneh was Minister of Information at the time of Deyda’s macabre murder, he was therefore, criminally liable and we should be fisting and fighting Dr. Janneh? Absolutely not, but logically yes only if we use their own barometer of judging Amadou Samba’s complicity or vicarious liability as it were.

Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh

Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh

Stretched further, the most notorious bandits who may have committed the worst crimes in The Gambia and fled are seen all of European capitals especially, Paris where Mr. Bayo happens to live. How come he and his fighters allow those criminals to continuously seek political asylum? Even in Dakar, there are several elements who may have committed heinous crimes and like the cowards they are, now try to use our Internet media to seek protection. Some come as warriors only to get riches and flee the scene.

My fellow Gambians, I am neither prophet nor messiah, nor do have magic solutions to our Gambian predicament but as a citizen like you, one who has endured two decades of exile for no criminal wrongdoing but for love of country like most of you, I would advise us not to be guided by emotions or narrow nationalism, but law and order and continue to believe in the power of due process, the rule of law and our Gambian culture of respect and tolerance and  unbreakable humanity which uniquely distinguishes us from most others; that regardless of  our limited territoriality, we command respect among sovereign nations. Difficult and uncertain as things be seem sometimes, let us continue to hold dear, the immortal words of the poet who posits that “the future governs with a golden finger” and desist from acts that may be counterproductive to all the sacrifices, each and all of us, both home and in the Diaspora, have rendered over the years.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that great icon of the American Civil Rights Movement, who paid the ultimate price to bring justice and equality to the United States, once reminded his followers when bullets were flying and innocent lives lost to racist White Anglo-Saxon Southern Protestants (Wasps) thus: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive.  He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

Therefore, consistent with Dr. King’s philosophy, a centrepiece of our messaging system in the Diaspora should be and must always be: love, our human capacity to forgive, render the good and the best and fight to suppress the “evil” in us.  We hope this incident will be an eye-opener to all of us actors and activists, human rights campaigners and political rights crusaders to be always cautious with matters like this. Let us not be oblivious of the indisputable fact that unlike many who stole Gambia government wealth to the detriment of us all, Amadou Samba is a lawyer who worked hard for his wealth with a track record of job creation through his diverse investments. Today, thanks to his creative ingenuity, many a Gambian family are able to put food on the table, send their children to school and many, many more.

Finally, as writers and commentators we must always be guided and guarded in all that we do for while the pen and radio have been great assets to mankind, we have also seen evidence of their destructive path particularly in Rwanda, in Burundi, in Congo, in Liberia and in Sierra Leone.

Editor’s Note: We had earlier reported that Dr. Amadou Janneh was a death row inmate at the Gambia’s Mile Two Central Prisons. That is inaccurate. Instead,  he was a LIFER–SEVERING A LIFE SENTENCE. The error is deeply regretted!

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