The Gambia: What US And EU Should Know About Yahya Jammeh’s Dubious Amnesty

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By Mathew K Jallow, Madison, Wisconsin

A Diasporium newspaper article, which extensively quotes former dissident movement member, Samsudeen Sarr’s rambling denial of America’s National Security Adviser, Susan E. Rice’s statement on The Gambia’s terrible human rights violations, blew my mind with its irrational analogies, disputations and fabrications. It is hopeless, even needless, to argue with someone whose mind is bent towards denying reality, in order to embrace the fiction, on the human rights conditions in Gambia, peddled by irrational supporters of the military regime. Yahya Jammeh has for twenty years lied about the human rights situation in The Gambia, which the rest of the world finds appalling and reprehensible. But in between the hundreds, perhaps thousands killed and disappeared in The Gambia by the regime, over the past two decades, are many of the landmark cases heard around the world; cases whose reptilian gruesomeness left the world baffled and seeking answers.

  1. The November 1995 summary execution of ten military officers
  2. The assassination, by burning alive, of the former civilian Finance Minister, Koro Ceesay

iii. The 2000 massacre of twenty demonstrating high school students

  1. The ambush assassination of Deyda Hydara, head of the Gambia Press Union
  2. Disappearances of journalist Ebrima Chief Manneh and Red Cross Worker Kanjiba Kanyi
  3. The fake accident killing of nearly thirty children in human sacrifice rituals

vii. The witch-hunting exercise that resulted in dozen dead seniors and hospitalization of dozens more

viii. The broad daylight public execution of Sgt Dumbuya in the crowded Royal Albert Market

  1. The forced disappearances of nearly fifty Gambians, some since 2005 and earlier
  2. The 2006 execution of seven more military officers
  3. The burning down and closure of several media houses, and the home of one journalist

xii. The execution of between nine and twenty-six Mile 2 Prison inmates

xiii. The execution of two elderly brothers who opposed the slave labor on Yahya Jammeh’s farms

xiv. The abduction and disappearance of two Gambian dissidents from Dakar, Senegal

  1. The kidnapping in Banjul and disappearance of two US nationals of Gambian origin

xvi. The forced fleeing of thousands of Gambians to countries near and far

xvii. The mass incarceration of Gambians in prisons and detention centers around the country

xviii. The deaths of nearly five hundred Gambians while in unlawful custody or prisons

xix The massacre of forty-four Ghanaian immigrants to Las Palmas, Spain

In between these cases, are hundreds of individuals that the regime ordered killed in fake vehicle accidents, neck breaking, asphyxiations, dropping alive in deep dry wells, poisoning and a host of other killing methods. These listed incidents buttress the case made by The Gambia’s dissident movement for severe human rights abuses in The Gambia, thus rejecting the denials of the regime’s mouthpieces as riddled with outright lies, inaccuracies and blinding insensitivity to The Gambia’s carnage, under Yahya Jammeh. In addition to providing a few examples of the known human rights debacle in The Gambia, it is necessary to throw some light on the recent prisoner releases.

The recent prisoner release, as demanded by the US, the EU and other international organizations, is driving the pace of political change in the Gambia, particularly as it relates the recent prisoner releases, but as usual, Yahya Jammeh has found a way to circumvent the demand for prisoner release made by the US, EU and other international organizations. Beneath the hysteria and burst of excitement surrounding the prisoner releases, the regime’s undeniable charade represent is an attempt to deceive Gambians and the international community into falling for the prisoner release subterfuge. A closer look reveals that Yahya Jammeh has primarily released former regime officials, most of who were arrested, accused, tried and incarcerated for various economic crimes. The prisoners released include a long list of former military and security officers accused of complicity in the attempts to overthrow the regime. Inversely, the vast majority of prisoners who have demonstrated real political opposition to the regime have not been released.

The United States, the European Union and international organizations and the Gambian people are, therefore, being deceived by the Gambia’s military regime in their demand for the release of all political prisoners. Contrary to what the regime told international diplomats, Gambia’s real political prisoners still remain locked up in that gulag of death called; Mile 2 Prison. Businessman Saul Ndow and politician Mahawa Cham, abducted together in Dakar, Senegal, about three years ago, are still being held by the regime, as are Alhaji Mamut Ceesay and Ebou Jobe, two US citizens also held incommunicado for three years, without any charges ever brought against them. Amadou Sanneh, a senior member of the main opposition political party, the United Democratic Party, journalist Chief Ebrima  Manneh and CCF employee, Kanjiba Kanyi, still remain incarcerated, and have not been seen since 2000. But in addition, former Security Chief, Daba Marena and many more military and security officers as well as civilians, arrested or abducted, some over ten years ago, have also never been accounted for, some, in over a decade. The regime has released many of its former officials or  incarcerated members of Jola tribe, most of who were accused and tried for a variety of economic crimes, but the  real political prisoners still languish in Mile 2 Prison; perhaps the worst in Africa. The Gambian diaspora, the US, the EU and international organizations must continue to demand the release of all political prisoner from Gambia’s den of death; Mile 2 Prison.

The struggle for political change in The Gambia, has, in recent weeks, been tested by defections to the dark-side, of which Samsudeen Sarr is one, but these defections are not out of the ordinary; in fact, they are the norm in situations, which challenge the consciences and moral fortitudes of individuals in the struggle. These defections are less of a reflection on the struggle, than on the moral weaknesses of individual Gambians in the struggle with motivation other than the desire for political freedom of all Gambians. While discussions of the issues around the defections have often been adversarial, and sometimes confrontational, most Gambians realize that none of the recent defections register on the dissident movement’s Richter scale of importance. The defections are hardly felt by the dissident movement as the new defectors are not that important in the perennial struggle for freedom.

  1. The recent prisoner releases from illegal and unconstitutional detentions, also offered amnesty to Gambia’s dissidents and lifted the threats the new defectors to the regime would otherwise face in the country, should they return. Clearly, the releases and amnesty offer has made few headlines, but most Gambians are unimpressed, and view the regime’s release and amnesty move as too little, too late. After twenty years of tyranny in which hundreds of lives have been lost to a brutal regime, Gambians want and need a change of regime. Nothing else matters. International pressure and an African continent and a world have turned their backs on Africa’s medieval regimes and apocalyptic governing systems, and demonstrate a compelling need to change the antiquated ‘non-interference’ policy in favor of the UN’s ‘responsibility-to-protect.” In countries where regimes are dug in, some for many decades, committing horrendous human rights violations, as in The Gambia, the international community must act to protect the people. In Gambia, a country surrounded by Senegal, Gambians dissidents are willing, but unable to force a change of regime in their country, primarily, because Senegal will not permit the use of its territory as a launching pad to force regime change in The Gambia and the freeing of Gambians from twenty years brutal tyranny.

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