Letter Writer Claims Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh, A Star Among African Leaders

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Part I

Dear Editor:

                   I have been following your newspaper for a very long time now and many others as well. I have lived in Gambia both before and after Jammeh’s coup and would be grateful if you can give me the chance to share my honest feelings in your highly respected medium. This letter/opinion piece is the beginning of a long document I want to share regularly in The Echo if you will be democratic enough to entertain my independent thoughts.

In the aftermath of the decolonisation movement, West-Africa was plagued by instability during most of the second half of the twentieth century; for instance, Liberia and Sierra Leone suffered long and gruesome civil wars. Barely a decade into the current one, that similar atrocities were again witnessed this time in the Ivory Coast albeit in comparatively smaller scale than in the two cases named above. The latest challenge to stability in the region emerged only a few months ago in the form of the deadly Ebola virus that has already claimed scores of lives. In contrast to this dire picture, the “tiny” country of The Gambia cuts a spot of shiny light that has escaped all of  the aforementioned disasters.

The Gambia has not been spared because it is immune from globalisation nor is it correct to assume that Gambians don’t see their World through lenses of development aspirations or human rights ideals. In fact, The Gambia could have easily succumbed to political instability when Jahya Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup on 22 July, 1994. Few coups were carried out so smoothly on the continent at the time ; what ensued has been a  long period of stability and steady economic development..

President Jammeh’s detractors often misrepresent him as a dictator yet they fail to mention his tremendous achievements hitherto and the many more qualitative changes he has brought to the lives of those who need it the most; ordinary Gambians.

Roads, schools, hospitals, electricity, and other infrastructures have been and will be at Gambians’ disposal under the leadership of Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A JJ Jammeh, Babili Mansa.

 Jammeh is sometimes attacked over  some of his deliberately provocative public declarations on issues such as human rights, homosexuality, and democracy. On close look however, it is quite clear that Professor Jammeh thrives to uphold the secular values that Gambian society developed and cherished over several millennia before colonialism. President Jammeh has ruled and ensured stability over two decades while his opposition both within and in Western capitals have failed to propose better and workable alternative policies that will enhance the living conditions of their compatriots. Most Gambian opposition leaders or activists fail to ask a very basic question, “what are the values that I have learnt abroad that meet the needs of my own culture”?

Philosophical debates about concepts such as democracy or human rights cannot be conducted in a vacuum, they need to be carried out from a foundation of cultural pillars. All humans aspire to freedom to speak, eat, learn and shelter themselves in accordance with their individual and collective conscience; nothing can be more universal but a uniformed World functioning according to the whims of those who not so long ago blessed slavery and colonialism is just what we cannot wish for ourselves.

The real issue with Gambian opposition is that its members despise Jammeh as a man but who is that man then?

Behind the outspoken and overtly Quran carrying figure, is a man deeply in tune with his ancestry and the modern World of Facebook , Twitter and YouTube. Prof Jammeh is not afraid to remind other Africans who they are and what they have been subjected to at the hands of those who now preach democracy and human rights. This devout Muslim is tough when it needs to be but also affords clemency and genuine candour towards other people. His leadership may not please everybody but the tangible results achieved since the departure of Dawda Jawara are there for all to see. In Africa it is often said that there are only three types of leaders; some stand in front of their people, some immerse in the people while others stay right behind their people. The first type is the adventurer unaware of the people’s aspirations and preoccupied by self grandeur. The second is so wrapped in daily routine that all important events pass them by; as for the third, they stand behind the people to observe, analyse then act on the aspirations and beyond. Jammeh is very much of the last type hence his longevity in power.

By Mr. Kombassere Tinga

Email. Kombassere.tinga@gmail.com

Editor’s Note: Consistent with journalistic ethics, we have no power to control your opinion, nor are we going to censure your thoughts no matter how cynical some of your contentions may be. As I read Part I of your paper, I was reminded of the immortal words of the noted English author and clergy, Frederick Langbridge, who ones noted thus: “Two men look at the same bars: One sees mud and one sees the stars.” To some Gambians, your star-Yaya Jammeh, is their mud and vice versa. Thank you for your views and you are welcome as long as you keep your arguments respectful.

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