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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Benevolent dictatorship

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With Aisha Jallow

A benevolent dictator is someone who claims all his actions are for the benefit of the population. This leader exercises absolute political power over the state, but as long as his aim is the benefit of the state, he is free to act as he wishes. A dictator is focusing on his supporters and his own self-interest. I wish there was another term we could use for a leader, a president perhaps, that is something in between these two. A leader that is weighing between two ways of conducting his leadership, standing there like a donkey between two stacks of hey, not knowing which one is the best.

A benevolent dictator may allow for some civil liberties or democratic decision-making to exist, as long as these don’t threaten his leadership in any way. Yahya Jammeh was clearly a dictator, our current leader – he is weighing between two stacks of hay. Our former president lives in denial, refusing to accept his fate, living in Equatorial Guinea in some kind of freedom, not realizing that he lives in a cage he can’t leave or he will be arrested and taken to court. This figure, who believes he still has some power, is ruling his political party, the APRC, from abroad, with the help of his disciples in The Gambia. This party of shame still has five seats in the National Assembly. It is like allowing five executioners to partake in the matters of saving lives. Their interest is only whom to get rid of, not whom to save.

There has been a debate on the Former Presidents Bill, and part of the discussion was if Yahya Jammeh will enjoy any terminal benefits as a former president. An interesting discussion, I’m sure, as the law says one thing, but this is an extraordinary case where the decision is going to be made about someone who is not any kind of ordinary person. The Minister of Justice, Dawda Jallow, stated that the former president could be seemed to be qualified to benefit from the Act that provides retirement benefits for former presidents of The Gambia. However, he also said that the reality is former President Jammeh is a wanted person in the Gambia. He is recommended to be prosecuted by the TRRC. Government has accepted that President Jammeh needs to be prosecuted.

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It cannot be denied that Yahya Jammeh is a former president of The Gambia, but he is also in conflict with the law.

And, as the Minister of Justice also stated: ”Unless that conflict with the law is determined, even if he is entitled to benefit in this legislation, it will not be”.

He stated that this is because if anyone is a suspect of having committed a crime, one has to deal with the issue and clear oneself or risk losing one’s entitled benefits. Well said, dear Minister of Justice, please don’t change your mind on that point, because no-one should be above the law, not a former as well as the current president.

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There is too much democracy in The Gambia, according to president Barrow. He finds this disturbing and therefore he is doing his level best to hinder those who criticize his sayings and doings. As I said in the beginning of this essay; he hasn’t decided which way he is going – the only thing we know is that he finds some kind of dictatorship very tempting. Yahya Jammeh is not a good rolemodel, as the Never Again Network stated in their article in October this year. How is it possible to have too much democracy in a country? Either it is a democracy or not, so suddenly we are back to the choice between two kinds of dictatorship, as I stated in the beginning of this essay. Frightening prospects for the future of The Gambia!

Never again will our country have a dictatorship or suffer the kinds of human rights violations it suffered under the regime of Yahya Jammeh. This is the voice of the people telling that, but the voice of power and self-aggrandizement seems to be louder. The strategy is to silence people little by little, the steps are many times small and subtle and you don’t notice the trap until you are caught in it. Imagine the trap like a spider’s web that is woven in silence. The web is sticky and when the prey is caught in it, there is no way to freedom. It doesn’t matter how much you wiggle and try to get loosed, you are only caught more in it and your life will be sucked out of you, slowly but surely. Is that the kind of future you are looking for, or are you prepared to raise your voice and begin to question the traps before you get caught?

Yahya Jammeh’s family lives in Kanilai and they have had a celebrity visit from a dear friend who considers them as his family. He is defending their rights, not allowing anyone to harm them, and is assuring them that he is not their enemy. This family friend decided to meet Jammeh’s family while he was near, and that is so sweet of him, don’t you think? The problem is that this guy, who has reached out to his rolemodel, the dictator himself, is more concerned about the relations between himself and the dictator, than between himself and the citizens of The Gambia. When I read this article about Barrow not having any problems with the former president, I suddenly understood why he is acting as he does. The fact that an elected president should be a spokesperson for the people, is a small detail that has slipped his mind completely.

If you don’t believe my words, I wish to give you what Barrow has said himself:

”They wanted to evict his family from the compound but I said no, it would not happen under my presidency. If I hadn’t intervened, his family would have been evicted a long time ago. So, I am trying my level best to ensure friendship and good family relationships continue between myself and Jammeh. I cannot stop government decisions, but the relationship between us and our respect for the former president should be something that we all embrace,” he said.

He cannot stop government decisions! It’s like the government are the bad guys and he is the only good and understanding person who has reached out his hand for Jammeh to hold when he is sad. This is making me sick in my stomach!

He added that he is not responsible for the end of Jammeh’s presidency.

“It is God who ended it as everyone knows Jammeh was one of the most powerful presidents in West Africa. Even today, his power can still be seen,” according to Barrow. I find it hard to be diplomatical right now, when I am trying to wrap up this essay. I think you are smart enough to come to your own conclusions on what kind of person we are dealing with right now. We are not speaking about a leader, we are speaking about an apprentice to Jammeh. Beware, before it’s too late!

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