By Madi Jobarteh
Our nation cannot enjoy peace and stability and therefore development without our people, individually and collectively accepting truth and justice. The incidents in Foni since Yahya Jammeh left raise fundamental moral questions from a historical point of view for the consideration of the people of the region. It is important that the people of Foni as a whole reflect on the role and position of their region over the past 22 years in order to reposition and rebrand themselves for their own good and for the greater good of the Gambia.
The narratives emanating from Kanilai in trying to blame Adama Barrow and ECOMIG are a diversion that does not help the region and the Gambia. Let Foni do self-examination in order to free themselves from the corrupt indoctrination of Yahya Jammeh from whom they benefited unfairly at the expense of the nation yet suffered miserably at the same time. This is the Uncomfortable Truth!
Yes, I have issues with Barrow and his government for not taking certain immediate actions to protect vital national interests. For example, I strongly hold that the moment Barrow took over power, he should have ordered all Yahya Jammeh properties to come under state custody until proper legal determination is made on their fate. These include the presidential compound and Sindola Camp in Kanilai and all properties, shops and farms of Kanilai Farms and KGI among others.
They should have all been under the guard of the State. This is because all those properties were intertwined with the State as Yahya Jammeh had utilized public resources to operate those entities. This is apart from the fact that the acquisition and ownership of those properties by Yahya Jammeh was simply possible because of his position as president. Hence no one should be in any illusion that those properties need to be thoroughly investigated to properly determinate their status.
That apart, the fundamental moral question facing Foni is to decide between the Gambia and Yahya Jammeh? Will Foni take the Gambia or will it forsake the Gambia and embrace a tyrant called Yahya Jammeh. I think Foni must reject Yahya and embrace the Gambia and here are the reasons.
For the first time in our history we had a president, Yahya Jammeh who diverted state resources to his home village, Kanilai where he built a palace, a range and zoo as a state house. He made the place a centre of state activity and diverted state services there. Secondly Yahya Jammeh had showered public resources and provided social services to Foni beyond and above what was made available to the rest of the Gambia.
Foni was the only region of the country that enjoyed an almost uninterrupted electricity supply where all villages and towns were equipped with streetlights. Foni was the only region in the country that went unopposed in favour of Yahya Jammeh. Foni was the only region in which the opposition was not allowed to campaign. Foni was also the largest beneficiary of government scholarships as Yahya Jammeh sponsored scores of their sons and daughters for higher education at home and abroad with secured positions in the public and security service.
Hence in the entire misrule of Yahya Jammeh, Foni was indeed a direct and an unfair beneficiary of public resources disproportionate to its land and population size and economic contribution to the Gambia.
While Foni was indeed a beneficiary of the dictatorship, the fact remains that Foni also became among the most oppressed regions of the country such that no son or daughter of Foni dare openly oppose Yahya Jammeh. He had insulted consistently the people of Foni. Yahya had also seized communal lands in the region and made his people work on those lands by force.
One of the most humiliating and painful episodes in Foni was the allegation of witchcraft where hundreds of the elders of the region were poisoned, tortured and killed. Above all, he had directly killed several natives of Foni with impunity.
Hence when we analyze these facts, the message one must give Foni is to recognize that, on one hand they enjoyed undue advantage over all other Gambians. For that matter they owe Gambians a sense of remorse and even an apology for the way and manner they aided, abetted and benefitted from the dictatorship. While Foni enjoyed those goodies, many Gambian communities were being deliberately denied these public services such as their next door neighour Kiang.
Many Gambian sons and daughters were being maimed and killed by Yahya Jammeh, hence the least Foni could do is to stand with Yahya Jammeh. More than any time in our history, today is the day when Foni needs to solidarise with the rest of The Gambia by rejecting Yahya Jammeh and not to celebrate him.
To celebrate this tyrant would be gross insensitivity to the victims and the grief that APRC and Yahya Jammeh unleashed on Gambians. Conscience demands that Foni repent and surrender Yahya Jammeh to justice. That way Foni would have atoned for its complicity in the atrocities and looting by Yahya Jammeh, and become one with the people of the Gambia.
The other moral question Foni faces is about its own dignity and pain, i.e. the extent to which Yahya Jammeh tormented the people of the region. For example, Foni must remember the looting of their lands and the murder of their parents, sons and daughters in the hands of Yahya Jammeh. For that matter, Foni must reject Yahya Jammeh and stand with the Gambia to demand that Yahya Jammeh be brought to justice. But to continue to defend Yahya Jammeh means Foni is therefore perpetuating their own humiliation, pain and destruction. Conscience dictates that no one celebrates a killer. Hence if Foni celebrates Yahya Jammeh then it means they are celebrating their own killer and looter.
Thus we need to help the people of Foni to recollect themselves to realize that Yahya Jammeh represents only humiliation and pain for them. While he unfairly showered public resources on them by denying the rest of the Gambia on one hand, at the same time he also subjected them to disrespect and pain. Foni must realize that Yahya Jammeh merely used them as a buffer to protect his dictatorship. Thus Foni was used as a tool in Yahya Jammeh’s carnage. Yahya saturated the military with his kinsmen and brought many more from Casamance only to make them weapons for his misrule.
Thus Yahya never loved Foni and whatever goodies the people of Foni may think Yahya gave them, they must realize that these were all part of a scheme to protect his evil regime.
Thus from a moral point of view, Foni must not continue to stand with Yahya Jammeh. They must reject him totally and stand with the Gambia. Failure to do so, then Foni is telling Gambians that they care less about the rest of us.
That will not serve the greater good of Foni and the Gambia in the long run. While it is true that the government and all Gambians must adopt inclusive strategies towards APRC folks in Foni, but above all it is those folks who need to also come forward to get involved in building the new Gambia.
They must not expect to be pampered as if they are the only victims. All Gambians are victims of Yahya Jammeh, but Foni also is the biggest beneficiary of Yahya Jammeh, unfairly and illegally. This is the truth that Foni must accept. Therefore let Foni set the truth free in order to free themselves from the trauma of Yahya Jammeh.
Finally, underneath all of this confusion lies the APRC. They are the very ones fuelling these tensions since they lost power. Therefore Musa Amul Nyassi, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, Rambo Jatta, Yankuba Kolley and Seedy Njie must be called to answer. They must be held to account for the riots in Foni and Kanilai in particular. They must be told to stop following Yahya Jammeh’s instructions to burn down The Gambia.
Foni, reject Yahya Jammeh and embrace The Gambia!