A case for justice in the ‘new’ Gambia: the military’s betrayal and the public’s tepidity


How can a standing army harbor an illegal hit squad for arbitrary executions within its ranks?
We cannot indict Jammeh and his ‘Junglers’ without holding to account the other toy soldiers that stood to defend his barbarism with brute force and intimidation.

It is true that the military hierarchy demands obedience of lawful instruction of a superior but doesn’t impel one to carry out unlawful actions. The military are trained to fight our wars, which is matter of life and death, so discipline is indispensable. But within every layer of the command structure there remains room for a ‘thinking’ soldier’s discretion – to refuse carrying out an unlawful orders. A higher law ALWAYS forbids such conduct.
In the heat of battlefield, one can argue that a soldier might not have time enough to reflect or determine if an order is lawful or not. The integrity of ‘the rules of engagement’ still remains unbending even in such scenarios.

In Jammeh’s Gambia, orders were given to assassinate political foes, perceived enemies and ‘suspects’ of all stripes in the calm of night. Following such cruel orders is not only against all military standards of conduct; it is inhumane and reprehensible. These traitors sold out the country out of cowardice or for their own selfish interests. Now they’re again telling us they love Gambia and want to serve.


Like any army field manual, The Geneva Convention came into being to ascertain that soldiers are not used like brainless pigs to commit atrocities – in war or in peace. Carrying out unlawful orders were the reason the Nazi generals loyal to Hitler were prosecuted and some executed in the aftermath of World War II.
The same standard is applied in many other conflicts; those that commit war crimes or atrocities are prosecuted and sentenced accordingly. Worse still, the gruesome crimes by our military were carried out in peacetime; people dragged from their homes and taken away to be executed.

In the military, consequential actions even among the lowest ranks comes down through the chain of command. Every misconduct or worthy concerns within the ranks are equally reported up the chain of command. Within these ranks, one cannot be obliged to commit crimes or follow unlawful orders. And if a ‘superior’ cannot exercise proper authority over those directly under his command, he should not retain that command.

“A worthy or good commander NEVER retains command of soldiers that he or she has no control over.” – Eden Sharp
This makes resignation the appropriate course of action anywhere in the chain of command one is deprived of his legitimate command authority, or ordered to carry out unlawful orders.

When ordered to commit crimes, the feeble minds within all ranks of our military decided to stay there and devolved into ‘wooden’ soldiers. Our military leaders either looked the order way, or knowingly carried out unlawful orders, including arbitrary executions.

In the ‘new’ Gambia, we are quick to call each other out when we sense one to be deserting democratic tenets. We should equally put the same energy into holding murderers, torturers and their enablers accountable.

Empty orations and silly dialectics that seek to dissuade from prosecuting heinous crimes is a waste of human breathe. What we do for justice, is done for ourselves and for posterity. When we resort to expediency and refuse to hold people accountable for heinous crimes, the converse is true. We are doing injustice to ourselves if we abandon truth for falsehood in the name of reconciliation.
If we took that route out of expediency, a heavy price will be levied. We shouldn’t pretend as if something like this can never happen again. We cannot fool ourselves that Jammeh is the only soul capable of such wickedness.

I see no wisdom or moral superiority in becoming a mouthpiece for unrepentant criminals. Many of Jammeh’s fervent supporters are still remorseless and belligerent. Instead of the party leaders start an apology tour, and seek forgiveness from the victims, they are out dismissing their plight and advocating for the return of the narcissistic monster.
We can weep for the victims and their loved ones all we want; it will all be gags if we don’t demand real action for justice sake.

Truth is the sum of nature and the highest virtue. Justice is the application of truth and best expression of morality. When we depart from justice, we will be descending into falsehood. Society cannot survive on false promises. It is part of prudence for society to pay every claimant the full price for the debt of justice.
Forgiveness in the precise sense, is personal, and it is business of the victims to forgive their aggressors. It is not the business of the state or some loud mouth to make that call. The business of the state is to treat all citizens equally under the law, and properly dispense justice to all.

So it benumbs reason and logic to see a call for justice and the plight of victims being slighted as a want of revenge or a lack of sympathy. Some hearts goes out to the culprits, and want to philosophize why forgiveness can precede justice. Don’t we have hearts that feel for the grieving children, windows and siblings of those butchered by the former regime?
Reconciliation, if it proceeds from justice is noble, but anything short of that is a farce and insult to the injury of the victims.

As a society, what message do we send to posterity – if our conducts dictate that criminals can always bank on a false equity of forgiveness even for the most heinous crimes? What lessons are we teaching by making the plights of the victims secondary and forgiving arbitrary assassination in the name of reconciliation?
To be continued……
[email protected] @jamaldrammeh