I came across comments about the 2016 elections and the narrative was that Jammeh was removed through the ballot box and that most people didn’t believe that Jammeh could be removed through the ballot box. Well, the “most people” that didn’t believe Jammeh could not be removed through the ballot box are not entirely wrong because the ballot box alone did not remove Jammeh. Jammeh eventually only left after ECOMIG FORCES surrounded him! He didn’t leave just because he lost the elections. A confluence of events led to the downfall of Jammeh and it is important that these events are not consigned to footnotes when narrating the history of Jammeh’s forced exit. For reference, let’s take it back to Yahya and his announcement of rejecting the elections:
“I announce to you, Gambians, my total rejection of the election results and thereby annulling the elections in its entirety,. We will go back to the polls because I want to make sure that every Gambian has voted under an independent electoral commission that is independent, neutral and free from foreign influence.” Yahya Jammeh.
Yahya only agreed to leave because he knew he stood no chance against the ECOMIG forces. The “ballot box only” narration of history is promoted to vindicate the view that Jammeh left because people voted against him as a result of the efforts of our mighty politicians. While that narrative is correct to some extent, it also conveniently shortchanges the efforts of other entities and factors that significantly contributed to the forced exit of Jammeh. It’s definitely not enough to say that Jammeh left through the ballot box and leave out other significant events that facilitated his forced exile. I call the political narrative an incomplete narrative because it’s self-serving to the politicians and neglectful of the efforts of others. Jammeh’s forced exit is not fully narrated when limited to the position that a coalition was formed, it campaigned effectively, free and fair elections were held, Jammeh lost, Barrow took over, Barrow was supported to renege on his coalition promise of three years, and therefore, we conclude that the change from Jammeh to Barrow was peaceful and came though the ballot box! And all praises are due to our gallant politicians who someone engineered all these events. There are many gaping holes in this narrative. Not only does it minimize the critical role of others, it conveniently forgets that were it not for certain events taking place, coalition attempts would likely have resulted in the usual bickering on who should lead it for 2021 as has happened at every other attempt. And no, Jammeh didn’t leave peacefully! He was forced out! “Peace does not mean the absence of war…” There was conflict in The Gambia and that is why we call it an “impasse” and that was why ECOWAS had to send in ECOMIG. Perhaps we should widen our understanding of what “peace and conflict” means.
It’s very important that the historical narrative reflects all the facts that contributed to the forced exit of Jammeh. I mean it’s not like any of us had a roadmap on how things were going to unfold or that anyone accurately predicted all that led to Jammeh’s exit. We can all thump our chests today and say what we did, but it will be nice to throw some credit crumps at others for their roles too. Heck even my Bandam calls himself a lion slayer! I’m not sure which lion he slayed alone but I would like to see the tail. It’s a confluence of various events that led to the forced exit of Jammeh and the votes of the people, while a critical factor, is arguably not even the deciding factor because Jammeh discounted those votes and wasn’t going push-palass teh ken munut si darra.
In the end, it was the presence of ECOMIG that tipped the scales against Jammeh when he refused to leave! But the role of ECOMIG somehow gets either minimized, or as I have seen some do, called unnecessary! Since we don’t know what would have happened had ECOMIG not come to our rescue, let us stick to the facts. The facts are that ECOMIG came in, surrounded Gambia, and Jammeh knew what time it was. His stepchildren claim he didn’t want war and that’s why he left! That’s such a mesmerizing lie if one doesn’t know any better. Thankfully, some of us know better. Jammeh had soldiers manning key locations and infrastructure in a defensive posture all over The Gambia. He wanted to fight to cling on to power for a billion years as he’s wont to quip. Go and listen to the testimony of Major Bubacarr Bah, an explosives expert, on why he was locked up by the NIA during the impasse. He was locked up in an NIA compound in Jeshwang because he refused to do what Jammeh and Saul Badjie asked him to do! Don’t take my word for it. Go and watch the testimony on YouTube!
A critical factor that the politicians love to ignore and you’ll hardly, if ever, hear any of them speak about, is the burning down of the APRC bureau in August 2016. These gallant soldiers saw what Yankuba Colley and Jifanga Jammeh brought to Yahya at State House and decided they will not stand by and watch their country get cheated at elections again as has been done since 1996. If you care to recall, you’d remember Jammeh saying thousands of his supporters didn’t get to vote. He wasn’t referring to the Jinns who he said will vote for him if Gambians don’t, he was referring to those cards that perished in the fire at the APRC main political bureau. In those days, who honestly believes that anyone could deny Yahya Jammeh supporters the right to vote? If those cards were not burnt by these gallant and patriotic soldiers, the coalition would have stood little to no chance because Yaya would just pad his numbers and get sworn in as president as he has done since 1996. Tumani Jallow was killed by the APRC Government simply because he was in contact with these soldiers when they fled to Senegal. But hardly, if ever, would you hear any of the politicians mention this important act of patriotism because it does not fit their political narrative of “Jammeh was defeated through the ballot box alone.” But I guess there’s a reason Barrow also feels that he must thump his chest by insisting that his efforts in the coalition were second to none. Very convenient political narrative and sadly, there is not a shortage of individuals willing to swallow these narratives hook line and sinker. I guess if you support a political leader, it comes with the requirement that you must agree to everything they say! And we want to blame regular Gambians and say they are not politically mature. But us the politically matured ones are tied to the hips of our dear leaders and agree with everything they tell us. But I digress.
If you listen to the politicians tell it, you’d think that if it wasn’t for them alone, Gambia would still be in the clutches of a rapist and murderous tyrant. While the politicians played a significant role, it’s also important that we do not devalue the roles of others such as the ordinary man and woman that voted against Jammeh, young soldiers that burnt down the APRC bureau, the diaspora Gambians who contributed their hard-earned money, the politicians like Kandeh who risked going against a dictator even if he enabled that same dictator, foreign minister Mankeur Ndiaye through the Senegalese Government, and ECOWAS, who mobilized ECOMIG Forces to finally force Jammeh out. The online media platforms and the journalists that ran them, those who initiated platforms like Gambia L and Gambia Post, The Gambia Has decided movement, Sigill Gambia, Sukkal Suma Reww, Kalama Revolution, The Gambia Bar Association, even if they were a day late, all played very significant roles in removing Jammeh from power. Come to think of it, I will begrudgingly even add the role of the opportunistic and spineless evil peddlers masquerading as ambassadors who saw Yahya’s ship sinking and buried their fangs in the flesh of a dying regime they happily served all that while. Give the devil his due even it serves his interest. These days, we hardly ever hear of the efforts of the people that championed that risky slogan. It is all about our gallant politicians. I understand that bay kaffor ela borri lehyeh tew, (everyone promotes your own run) but that does not mean conveniently forgetting the others that ran the relay race too.
The critical role of the voice of the victims whose cries galvanized the conscience of the world against Yahya Jammeh and his evil machinery, disguised as a government, must not be forgotten, but those voices are conveniently made a footnote in the political narrative. You see how the victims got conveniently forgotten by parliament as they debated the last funding request. The victims are slowly becoming a footnote in our history. Many have since climbed the narrative tree that if it were not for these politicians alone, Yahya Jammeh would have still been hosting parties in Kanilai. And I know some of us are incapable of seeing the Gambian forrest because of all the political trees we climbed and can’t come down from and I understand. But when it’s all said and done, the narration of history must not be self-serving to the point of discounting the efforts of other trees around you. It should depict an accurate account of events and give credit where due. It is titillating to lionize oneself and consider everyone else’s effort minimal but as prophetic as we assume ourselves to be, none of us was prophetic enough to know how things were going to unfold. It is easy to claim knowledge of the past today because hindsight as they say is twenty-twenty, and there is a reason Barrow and his people were desecrating graves to bury jujus and he has the guts to tell us of these efforts. There are many events and many people that contributed to the forced exit of Yahya Jammeh. Not all efforts were equal, and they could not have been, but no effort should be diminished or obliterated from history simply because our lionizing politicians want us to think that it was all because of them! We can amplify our individual roles, or party or group roles, without diminishing the roles of others! You don’t have to dim anyone’s light in order to shine yours especially since we all carry our own lights.