President Jammeh’s Bogus Amnesty To Silence & “Wipe Out Dissidents”

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Yahya Jammeh never ceases to amuse or amaze. On one hand, he grants “amnesty” to diaspora dissidents and critics but excludes ten others whose names he failed to disclose. It is reminiscent of his “amnesty” to Sir Dawda.” While he welcomed him back, “security” of former government officials who wanted to come home with the former president could not be guaranteed, he said.

This is not amnesty- an amnesty has to be total not partial, if it has meaning. Also, Jammeh’s “amnesty” must begin at home where hundreds of innocent citizens languish in prisons and jails, mostly for trumped-up charges. If he really means what he says, let Jammeh commute death sentences for those on death-row. Perhaps, then, we can take Jammeh seriously- “charity begins at home.”

What use is Jammeh’s “amnesty” to diaspora dissidents and critics when no one in Gambia is free to enjoy basic rights and routinely endure indignities of searches and seizure at military/police check points? What use is Jammeh’s “amnesty” when Gambians are consistently denied justice and basic freedoms are criminalized? Some diaspora Gambians are granted “amnesty” for breaking no laws but for merely exercising their civic duties.

In fact, Jammeh’s so-called amnesty is a gag-measure to forever silence his critics. Accepting Jammeh’s “amnesty” also means surrendering your democratic rights, and your right to express legitimate concerns about him, his policies and the country. Accepting Jammeh’s “amnesty” turns one into an observer. This is too high a price to pay in exchange for Jammeh’s “amnesty.”

Jammeh’s threatening words against Falai Baldeh suggest that he has not forgiven him. Yet he is now silenced and as a result lost much of his hard-won credibility in the dissident community. Was it all worth it?

Samsudeen Sarr’s, though not arrested upon arrival in Gambia, was publicly humiliated- this is not amnesty. Why invite Sam to grace Gambia’s fiftieth anniversary of independence only to call him, among others, “liar of the century?”

Many will say, this is exactly what Sam deserved for reconciling and playing ball once more with his former boss. Yet this is not what Sam bargained for or expected following his reconciliation with Jammeh in New York.

This is vintage Jammeh- he has to have the last word and remain in control at whatever cost. It is a familiar ploy Jammeh uses to effectively tarnish his critics and former employees. And, once amnestied, you are forever tainted and relegated to a group of “Jammeh rejects”- neither a dissident nor “forgiven.”

In sum, Jammeh from his actions, is a deeply vindictive person who issues worthless “amnesties” to burnish his image as a magnanimous Muslim leader- slow to anger and quick to forgive, he is neither. “A true believer/Muslim is one who does not hurt others with his thoughts, words or actions.” (Prophet Muhammad STW). Jammeh “gives” with his left-hand and under-handedly takes back with the same hand.

Therefore, how can anyone take Jammeh seriously?

With a straight-face, he promises Gambians first-world economic/supper-power status in 2015 with the entire world listening. Transforming Gambia into Singapore? This is delusional. Perhaps he meant 2025?  Which, makes one wonder- what ever happened to “vision 2020,” rural electrification and countless other promises he made but could not keep.

Jammeh can keep his “forgiveness” and “amnesty,” as most Gambian critics and dissidents have little or no use for them. He does not understand what these words mean nor does he have it in his heart to truly forgive. If diaspora critics and dissidents believe Jammeh has changed, think again.

Professor Abdoulaye Saine

Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

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