by editor | December 6, 2014 9:08 pm
The courage and moral responsibility shown by Mr. Sheriff Tambadou to plead with President Jammeh to forgive the senior Gambian military officers and their civilian counterparts, convicted of treason and are serving life sentences in Mile Two Prisons is, in my opinion, the best next think he could do in this case after exhausting every applicable legal strategy to secure their acquittals without success. I find him really commendable for openly casting aside all those rigid professional principles, conservatively guarded reputations and seemingly irreversible fetters, quintessential of lawyers in general, who even in their moments of doubts or shortcomings will rather maintain their dogmatic viewpoints than yield to the dictates of their conscience.
Lawyer Sheriff Marie Tambadou
Being a good practicing lawyer has usually been attributed to scholars well acquainted with the complexities of the law and using that knowledge to the advantage of their clients even if it means playing the sense of the manipulator, the unconscientious or the intellectually dishonest. As a result, most of those who seek their service also employ them with the awareness that the majority are, after their artificial niceties from mainly the paychecks that go along with the contracts, very cold-hearted and lack any human concerns to their personal problems outside the courtroom. And I think it is fair to believe that their pleading for mitigation after losing a case and before final sentencing before a judge, more often than not, points to a mere insincere rigmarole that bears no significant effect to the decisive verdict.
Hence by taking this unprecedented gesture beyond his legal obligations of representing these men to the unfortunate end, Mr. Tambadou has clearly shattered that common but detestable stereotype identifying folks in his profession as harboring limited or no ethical empathy towards their clients. He would have been viewed perfectly normal if he had given up the lost case and blended back into the standard routine of waiting to take another one, then another one and yet another one with similar consequences without any risks of jeopardizing his status as a Gambian Lawyer. But for the first time in my memory of high-profile cases in The Gambia, this lawyer, by taking this route, has resisted the customary paradigm with a boldness often derived from the strength of the conscientious or faithful. Here is a man modeling the qualities of the ideal professional who perhaps thoroughly evaluated the personalities of his clients with the conclusion of identifying in them every relevant human characteristic that was in him as well; that they are Gambian men, fathers, uncles, brothers, sons, nephews, friends and husbands just like him. He also probably noticed a genuine sense of repentance from all of them with dreams of being one day granted their freedom and given another chance of living their normal lives.
But I think Mr. Tambadou was also encouraged by the fact that President Jammeh, whether you love or hate him, has time and again demonstrated his capability to forgive his adversaries. In fact, we have on numerous occasions witnessed scores of Gambian prisoners unconditionally pardoned by him purely on humanitarian reasons. Besides, we must not forget that twenty years ago after successfully taking the authoritative risk of changing the regime he felt was engaged in policies obstructive to the progress of The Gambia, President Jammeh in an incomparable resolution, decided to invite his predecessor from exile, reconciled their differences and accorded him the most respectable status befitting a retired Head of state. It was a gesture of not only being one of its kind in recent history of visionaries changing unfavorable governments, factoring in the hate, retribution and even violence that usually characterize their aftermaths in almost all other countries, but was also an illustration of what is so exceptional about President Jammeh. Another good example was our detention of over thirty senior military and police officers for security reason in the early days of his seizure of power in 1994. Going by several historic evidences, the standard operational procedures under such circumstances dictate that such detainees must be executed or kept in jail for life. President Jammeh however never entertained any of that; but instead; would decide to pardon all of us and even provided us with jobs as significant as regional commissioners, military and police commanders.
It is therefore evident that Mr. Tambadou knows very well that there was hope of success before he even considered giving this a try. Of course, he has made it clear that his decision to take up this responsibility of begging President Jammeh to pardon his clients was exclusively his initiative independent of their knowledge and that of their family members’; but hey who best matches the challenge than him, given that he has always been there closely and honestly rendering his best service to them which perhaps out of familiarity, further triggered his instincts into perceiving their emotional or subliminal expressions desperately urging him to give pleading a chance, because it was the next best thing he could do on their behalf. We don’t even need to elaborate on what it means to their family members, friends and well-wishers. But I have always said that trying and failing is far more progressive than not trying for fear of failure.
Presidents all over the world including the only two Gambia ever had—Ex-Presidents Jawara and current President Jammeh—had used and will continue to use their executive clouts which empowers them in such cases to circumvent the justice system to pardon prisoners convicted of every imaginable crime. In fact, the first ever Presidential pardon in the USA dates back to an armed rebellion in Pennsylvania in 1794 when two out of the rebels captured and sentenced to death for treason were in 1795 forgiven by George Washington, the sitting president at the time. Among the notable ones since, was the resignation of President Richard Nixon from office in 1974 in the wake of that historic Watergate scandal that arguably, could have eventually got him convicted and jailed if his successor Gerald Ford hadn’t granted him full Presidential pardon few weeks after. Whereas a lot of people always support the action, many people on the other hand are seriously against it for various reasons, ranging from their disapproval of the overwhelming power vested in the hands of a single person to others being simply bothered about its effect in deterring crime threatening the security of the nation.
What I have never heard or read about Presidential pardons is for the attorney of convicted individuals to singularly plead with the president of a nation to forgive his clients like Mr. Sheriff Tambadou did in this case. His action by every measure will go down in Gambian history as a great effort, requiring the support and praise of every considerate human being, Gambians and non-Gambian alike. In fact, if the case, slightly similar to the one involving the American Civil Rights leader Reverend Jessy Jackson did not turn out to be the disaster it ultimately ended into, I would have made an attempt to juxtapose the similarities and differences between the character of the Reverend and that of the Lawyer. But I figure my readers already know what I am alluding to.
On my part however I wish to inform Mr. Tambadou that we are in total support of his noble initiative, encouraging him to remain steadfast to the end. Gambia needs a lot more people of his caliber and faith where many prisoners would be wishing that he was their attorney and want him to also plead for them. Whether he fails or succeeds in this one, I recommend that he develops this to another level by, if possible, forming an organization composed of religious and community leaders, teachers and everybody deemed effective for the sole purpose of going to President Jammeh when necessary and saying to him “SABARRY , YOUR EXCELLENCY”.
We sincerely admire his conviction of anchoring his hopes to the mercy of the almighty God. That is what matters in the end. Our existence in this world was not designed with an insurance or a guarantee that things will always unfold according to our wishes or beliefs. If it were so, we probably would have all started with choosing who our parents have to be, where, when and how we should be born and certainly, every one of us would have seized the extra bonus of living forever and never to die at all. Anyway, in this mysterious human experience we call life, making sense out of it, starts and stops at recognizing that we were created by God who well before we were born, had preordained everything that will come by our way from start to end. The fact that we are living on this planet spinning on its axis at a speed of over 1600 miles per hour in the middle of nowhere, renders us ever more dependent to the dynamics of this mystery. It is estimated that there are over a trillion stars in our Spiral Galaxy alone; a further revelation that we are just standing on one oval rock, spinning around one of the stars.
Do we therefore need to worry about what cynics may think or say if our instincts implore us to help the needy by trying something new that by every human impression appears Godly and normal? I don’t think so! Our modern times need people like Mr. Tambadou who is proving that he would rather negotiate for a compromise than confront to tear us apart. It’s only the extraordinary people like him who can let go of their left-brain, obsessive-compulsive academic and seek refuge to the kingdom of God especially, when everything they try fails. Forgetting about the importance of God in our existence usually misleads us into suffering and confusion.
From a Chinese spiritual book I read two decades ago and would usually like to share its theme to Godly people, a special story about a farming village was the narrative, where every head of household depended on a single horse for their entire survival needs. Then one day, a horse escaped from one of the homes of a Godly man and disappeared into the jungle. The whole village heads converged at the man’s house to sympathize with him, asking him how he would now support his family after losing his only horse. “I don’t know” he said, “only God knows why my horse disappeared into the wilderness”.
“God?” they taunted him. “You will see how unfortunate you are when the farming season start”, they said leaving.
Then just before the farming season started, he got up one morning and saw his horse in the barn with six more wild healthy ones. Apparently, there was an outburst of deadly insects attacking and killing horses in the jungle from where his horse ran away to the only safe place he knew and was followed by the six horses to safety. The villagers came again but this time with envy and admiration telling him how lucky he was and how he was going to make seven times more than he used to make annually. But again, the man with his humbleness avoided to get excited, insisting that although he was appreciative of what looked like a gift from God, he still didn’t know what He did it for. “He is only bluffing,” said the villagers before leaving. Then in the process of domesticating the six wild horses for farming duties, his only son fell down from the back of the last one and was permanently paralyzed. As expected, the villagers came again and this time to seriously tell him that with nobody to inherit his fortune and continue the family tree into another generation, everything he is working for will end the day he died.
“I don’t know why God did this to my son and family”, he went on, “but since there is nothing I can do to change it, I will learn to live with it in good faith.”
“We will see”, they replied and left again.
After a booming harvesting season, word went around everywhere that the village was the richest among the villages in the area. It attracted the attention of their enemies who attacked the village to loot their properties. They successfully defended the village and chased away the bandits but paid the inconceivable price of every young man in the village being killed in the battle except the one paralyzed son who survived only because he couldn’t go to fight.
The villagers made a last visit to the man’s house to finally register their agreement with him in that: ONLY GOG KNOWS WHY HE DOES WHAT HE DOES.
I don’t know much about Mr. Tambadou but he is one person I will love to befriend. He is absolutely right by asking every Gambian to respect the fact that it is God who made President Jammeh what he is and trying to resist that simply translates into self-inflicted trauma and frustration. We will pray for him and continue to wish him the best. Yes, I think Sheriff Tambadou is a very GOOD Gambian.
BY SAMSUDEEN SARR, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY, USA.
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