On December 1st, 2016, Gambians went to the polls and elected President Adama Barrow in a free, fair, transparent and credible election. Although Barrow’s victory came as a surprise to many, what was even surprising was the then President Jammeh’s move to concede the shocking defeat on national television in the evening of December 2nd, 2016. But a week later, Jammeh reneged on his promise to hand over the country to President-elect Adama Barrow in a stunning reversal that would put our small country in a political and constitutional crisis, leaving regional powers and international community scramble for answers.
During the impasse, few observations stood out. Gambian citizens had had enough of dictatorship and wanted freedom but were under no illusion that Jammeh wasn’t going without a fight. Jammeh did so many bad things in his 22 year reign that he wouldn’t relinquish power just like that. He did not respect Gambians before and wasn’t about to respect their will now. Left with no choice, Gambians began to abandon their homes and businesses en masse for the Interior of the country; others crossed the border into Senegal and Guinea Conakry. Some folks remained in the urban areas banking on hope and prayers.
Gambia was on edge, held hostage by Jammeh and sliding towards unpredictable disaster while the citizens lacked the capacity to save their country.
We then looked up to other nations and their citizens for help. We wanted them to rescue us and our country at the expense of their sweat, blood and money while we ran far away from danger or using the comfort of our keyboards in the West and other safer zones.
ECOWAS, with the backing of the United Nations, recognized what was at stake and mobilized troops led by Senegal to ensure that our verdict, as delivered on December 1st 2016, stood by all means necessary.
The brave men and women who crossed the border into Gambia had clear orders: to secure the country, to protect Gambians and their new government and to maintain peace in the country. They came in prepared, battle ready and determined to lay down their lives for Gambia and Gambians. They were not seen as occupation forces then nor were they accused of forcefully invading our sovereignty; they were the only force capable of forcing Jammeh to respect our will for once. I am fairly certain that we wouldn’t mind them use deadly force against anyone – civilian or military – that posed direct or potential threat to their mission. We wouldn’t mind them neutralize any individual protecting /shielding Jammeh from stepping down.
Dictator Jammeh chickened out after recognizing the forces at play against him; he came to realize that not only was his presidency and grip of power irreversibly over but his life and those of his family faced the gravest existential threat in 22 years. He did not have the army nor the weaponry to resist the regional troops. He knew his bravado and false mystic persona couldn’t safe him and had to flee to Equatorial Guinea.
Jammeh’s departure into exile ushered in new beginning for Gambians. Those who had temporarily sought refuge returned home. Many exiled Gambians had the courage to visit their country of origin for the first time in years. Their personal safety and security that were violated and /or not guaranteed by their brothers and sisters in uniform became the honorable tasks of regional forces. Gambia is finally free!! ECOMIG forces played heroic roles in bringing about this freedom.
Kanilai abortive uprising
What happened in Kanilai on June 2nd, 2017 was a well planned and well organized violent demonstration that sought to undermine our democratic process. Billed by the organizers as a National Day of Outrage, the logic behind was to initiate rebellion against Gambia State in the guise of freedom of speech/expression. According to one of the chief architects of the failed uprising, Sulayman Shyngle Nyassi, they were going to reclaim their country from what he described as “tribal fanatics”, remark I consider beyond freedom of speech but incitement to violence. Since Yahya Jammeh has succeeded in brainwashing some of these people into believing that Mandinkas hate Jolas, they will rather have a self autonomous region than accepting a Mandinka as President. The whole protest against Senegalese presence was a facade. Beneath the movement was a clear intent and a well calculated effort to cause lasting disruption to peace and posing significant threat to the territorial integrity of Gambia State. It is possible also that the some riot participants indeed had trouble with the Senegalese troops presence in the Fonis but it was clear the Masterminds of the violent confrontation had subversive motives. They preyed on the dark instincts and emotions of some individuals and pushed them to take the law into their own hands.
While circumstances surrounding the death of Haruna Jatta are not clear, his sudden death on that fateful day is regrettable and should not have happened. However, I trust the assuring statement of the Interior Minister Mai Ahmad Fatty that a thorough investigation would be launched to uncover the truth. Until the investigation is complete and findings made public, I will avoid any form of speculation or incendiary remarks premised on division, hate and outright dishonesty. My heart goes out to Haruna Jatta’s family. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Ameen.
Those using Kanilai-led abortive uprising and the unfortunate death of Haruna Jatta to waive ridiculous nationalism flag are the very ones who benefit most from ECOWAS timely and lifesaving intervention in our country. Since their deployment in Gambia in January and despite patrolling the hostile environment within the Fonis, this is the first time a confrontation of this magnitude occurred leading to fatality. ECOMIG troops are doing great job in our country and I hope that serious lessons will be learned from this direct challenge to Gambia’s laws, sovereignty and legitimate authority and that similar episode will be avoided going forward.
Mamma Kandeh’s distasteful
Kandeh has once again showcased and affirmed sheer political opportunism and double standard during his recent press conference in which he condemned the untimely death of Haruna Jatta. Mamma Kandeh’s press conference was nothing but foolish political posturing designed to fan the flame of division among Gambians and to agitate some section of Gambian citizens against our ECOWAS allies. Many Gambians were jailed, tortured, raped and murdered during Jammeh’s 22 year reign of terror but Mamma finds this unnecessary, unprovoked waste of Gambian lives unworthy of his condemnation. In fact, he has no genuine sympathy for the late Haruna Jatta. His condemnation was borne out of nothing but shameful desire to score political points from a tragic death of a fellow Gambian. He should not attempt to play politics of patronage with a Gambian citizen’s life and/or our national security. I condemn his condemnation in the strongest possible term and I wish to put it to him and his apologists that Gambians are ready to defend and guide this new dispensation in particular and the Gambia Republic in general with sincerity, wisdom and an unfaltering love of the country.
My advice to Barrow Administration regarding the failed Kanilai uprising
I would like to implore the Barrow government to dispense justice and rule of law impartially across the country without favour or ill-will. While Foni reserves the right to be the opposition APRC stronghold, there is no evidence that majority of the residents there condone subversive activities against Gambia State. Although Barrow Administration has the mandate of Gambians to mobilize resources to track down and bring to book anyone involved in undermining peace, stability and territorial integrity of our country particularly those behind the failed Kanilai uprising, it should do everything possible to avoid collective punishment against the people of Foni. The region is part and parcel of Gambia territory and their fundamental rights to responsibly oppose the government must not deprive them of any national development programs but this does not mean according the region some sort of preferential treatment at the expense of others just to appease someone or group of individuals.
May God bless The Gambia.
By Zakaria Kemo Konteh