The Gambia: Amnesty For What?

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By Mathew K Jallow, Madison, Wisconsin

A big part of the miracle of change occurs by the forces of nature; sometimes with human influence, but more often; not. It is dynamic, imperceptible and mostly irreversible; with a capacity to draw human instincts to respond to changing circumstances. In political terms, The Gambia and Gambians have reached a level of alienation that nature can only balance out with a corresponding decline of The Gambia’s agonizing regime. And this week, Gambians’ collective emotions are on a roller coaster; with a few stragglers unsure how to respond Yahya Jammeh’s chronic detachment from reality. But, for the majority of Gambia’s diaspora dissidents, Yahya Jammeh’s amnesty offer is absurd, and borderline insane to even give weight.

Obviously, international pressure and the convergence of politically disastrous events, both at home and abroad, have forced Yahya Jammeh’s precipitous course reversal, which for many Gambians, is rather too little; too late. Yahya Jammeh’s pathetic amnesty is a comical expression of insanity, and unequivocally rejected by a defiant dissident diaspora, as laughable. The echoes of diaspora voices, from around the globe are expressions of unmistakable calls for political change as the only acceptable compromise. The recent release of prisoners, political or otherwise, who did not deserve to be locked up in the first place, some for years, confirms Yahya Jammeh’s insensitivity to locking up, without cause, children, politicians, women, farmers, businessmen/women, students and visiting foreigners. Gambians have long been convinced that Yahya Jammeh is a bloodthirsty maniac and retarded carpetbagger, blinded by fantasies of his grandeur. Yahya Jammeh’s efforts to insult Gambians’ collective intelligence with an amnesty and prisoner release, is the manifestation of his own intellectual myopia. The vast majority of the dissident diaspora rejects Yahya Jammeh’s amnesty offer as unnecessary as they committed no crime, unless if defending Gambia’s citizens traumatized by Yahya Jammeh’s regime is a crime. And to compound Gambians’ legitimate grievances, Yahya Jammeh recently characterized the dysfunctional political system at home, as a zero sum game, calling politics “a dirty game” as the headline of one article screamed out loud. This is the closest Yahya Jammeh has ever come to first confessing, and then, justifying the murders, executions, mass incarceration, tortures and disappearances of Gambians and non-Gambians under his watch.

This week, as Chad’s former military ruler, Hussein Habre, was forcibly lifted up by personnel of the Senegalese Gendarmerie, in a Dakar courtroom, what stood out was his utter helplessness, and the angry, deafening jeers of relatives of his victims were raw expressions of unforgiving emotions. Across the border, in The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh must be watching the unfolding trial of a brutal tyrant, Hussein Habre, as possibly exemplifying his own end days. But, if Yahya Jammeh is not moved by the tragedy of Hussien Habre, perhaps the brutal end of his mentor, Col. Mumar Khadafi, was a watershed moment in his life. The story of Col. Mumar Khadafi, more than any contemporary tyrant, debunks the notions of invincibility, which dictators use to foil dissent, instill fear and conceal their own weaknesses. In the Dakar courtroom this week, the fears of the Chadian people were unmasked to reveal the depth of anger, rage and emotions of pain, which until now, were obscured behind the nervous looks on the hallowed faces of the battered Chadian people. And the parallels between Chad and The Gambia are astonishing in so many ways, but particularly, the lesson that no matter how long it takes, the long arm of justice has the capacity to stretch infinitely into the future; until justice is served. That Yahya Jammeh is an exact replica of Mumar Khadafi in both temperament and political attitude, goes without saying, and his dramatization of the trivial and downplaying his crimes against Gambians, is signature Khadafi. And just like Col. Khadafi, his luck must run out, sooner or later, and the Gambian people will have the last laugh. If Yahya Jammeh thinks he can wipe out his long slate of serious criminal infractions against Gambians by patronizing people with gifts of money, cars, sugar, rice and oil or, because he thinks his word is the law, he is in for a rude awakening. The fact is, most of us live by our own laws, and could care less what he thinks his words weigh. For now, the lousy “amnesty’ and prisoner releases do not come close to the demands of Gambian dissidents for Yahya Jammeh to never again contest elections, and to offer his resignation to the Gambian people.

Additionally, the Gambian dissident movement will never betray the memories of their dead and the missing comrades, a list too long to mention, by agreeing to return home and act like nothing happened the last two decades. And in as much we all long to kiss the ground of our homeland and feel the sounds, smells and sights of our motherland, we are tasked with carrying the legacies of the victims of all Yahya Jammeh’s blood-lust, and demand answers as to where they are and why they had to die. And if we are to come home, we are not leaving our dead comrades behind, we owe it to them to bring them home one last time so that they make peace with mother Gambia and find eternal rest in mother Gambia’s earth; Buba Baldeh, Kukoi Samba Sanyang and others. For, they too were warriors in the battle that we still fight.

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