27 C
City of Banjul
Saturday, September 26, 2020

FTJ and the New Gambia: A plea for a smarter, wiser approach!

- Advertisement -

By Salmina E Jobe

Let me state at this very outset that the purpose of this article is not to ridicule Honourable Fabakary Tombong Jata, but rather to offer ideas on what I perceive a better and more progressive alternative direction in which to channel your emotions and discharge your energies more constructively in this new phase of life for this emerging (or better re-emerging) democracy called ‘The Gambia, our homeland’. Yes, it will be ‘hardtalk’ in places but the central thesis remains my humble opinion of the very important subject of the ‘National Healing Process’.

- Advertisement -

Having never played a political role or a card-carrying member of any political party in the country provides me a somewhat neutral platform on which to pronounce my ‘thoughts’ on the current charged political atmosphere that tends to be poisoned with acrimony, insults and near ‘hate’ speeches. It must be desired that when all is said and done, the country remains peaceful, united and forging ahead on a path of recovery, rehabilitation and rapid socio-economic advancement. I shall be appealing more to consciences, that hardly stray away from the truth of the protagonists, rather than to their spoken words of mouth which can go either way. I have no doubt that at your age and seniority, you will be very concerned with your legacy issues so that neither yourself, nor your children and their offspring will have no cause to bend down your heads in shame for whatever you have done or omitted in life.

The recent media focus on the political debates in the country has largely pitted Mr. Jatta and his APRC Party on the one hand against mainly supporters of the ruling Coalition and other concerned citizens on the other. These debates have become charged sessions on the FM Radios and the newspapers full of acrimony, accusations, counter-accusations and even insults and innuendos which are not really helpful in delivering the desired outcomes of justice, reconciliation and ultimate healings of the deep wounds perpetrated under the defunct Jammeh regime. Clearly for you, Mr. Jatta, your performance, by and large, points to the fact that you are on the wrong side of history as your spirited, unrepentant and combative defence of what is obviously indefensible is not the least helpful to your cause, whatever your legitimate grievances are ! Rather than playing to the gallows with your current attitudes, it would be in the best national and your own personal interest if you choose a reconciliatory path as I would suggest here. Indeed. Come to think of it, your admissive use of the phrase “….

mistakes have been made” is a clear euphemism for the two decades of massive human rights abuses such as unwarranted arrests, long detentions without trial, disappearances without trace and even summary executions under the dictatorship that you now seek to defend! Surely those crimes are definitely not ‘mistakes’ but consistent, coherent and systematic hallmarks of the regime committed against citizens and even non-citizens in the country.

Let’s face the facts squarely, the dramatic turn of events on December,1st, 2016 are nothing short of a popular revolution-hence deserved to be called as such:1st of December Democratic Revolution (1DDR) and is far more than the victory of an opposition coalition over an entrenched governing party, but that of a liberation of an oppressed and thoroughly humiliated people! Consequently, rather than owning up to the unenviable overall record of your party when it was in power, you have chosen a path of defiance and unrestrained defence of such terrible record! Why persistently banging your head against the stony walls when you can be a most constructive factor in the reconciliation process if you choose the better alternative language of repentance? To tell the truth as I see it, you (meaning APRC NAMs) were equally liberated by the 1DDR as all other Gambians because your former boss had scant respect and esteem for you and was always using you as willing ‘tools’ of his autocratic usurpation of power from Gambians by way of the enactment of draconian and most unfair laws in the National Assembly with your support! So the historic event ushered in your freedom as well from besieged consciences and a state of constant fear of what your fate would be from one day to the other, given the unpredictable and temperamental nature of the ‘Ogaa’! This was partly possible due to the undemocratic provision in the Constitution by which a NAM automatically losses his/her seat when kicked out of the political party under whose ticket he/she got elected. Well, the swift humiliation of many of your colleagues was enough to keep you all on your toes, doing everything you can in demonstrating total loyalty to him!

Exposure of state capture
That you, Mr. Jatta, can garner the audacity to label ‘hard’ evidences that are coming out of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into financial dealings of your former boss as “mere allegations” is not only a sad act of irresponsibility, but exposes you to all sorts of scorn and suspicion! This came even after shocking revelations are coming out at the Commission which exposes massive abuses of public monies! Well, if you have some old bones in your own cupboard, please ‘honourably’ own up to it when it ever comes to your turn at the Janneh Commission because the searchlight is getting brighter and could soon zoom in on it-just remember that even Chiefs from remote parts of the country have not been spared in the search to establish the truth about Jammeh’s unorthodox practices. Under the ex-president, there was no distinction between personal wealth and the state treasury as he dipped his hands into the public tills at such places like the Central Bank, GPA, SSHFC and other revenue generating public institutions as if they were his personal wealth.

 

There is clear evidence of ‘state capture’ by the guy and a few of his cronies. In one particularly treacherous case, a whopping 500 thousand dollars was commandeered from the SSHFC, the hard-earned individual contributions of thousands of Gambian workers, to compensate the families of a few dozens of unarmed and near-destitute young Ghanaians who met their painful ends here. They were allegedly caught in The Gambian waters on their perilous ‘back-way’ illegal voyage to ‘greener’ Europe. These youngsters, whilst offering zero resistance, were reportedly executed at the man’s orders, done out of sheer paranoia, without any investigation, no doubt by hired ‘brutes’ because no professional soldiers will just kill at will like that!
Everything about the incident was totally kept away from the Gambian public, including the pay-outs.

 

Now, the New Government will be compelled to use the taxpayers’ monies to replenish these funds to avoid devastating consequences to the true owners when they retire from service as the SSHFC has been rendered bankrupt by such huge illegal withdrawals. The sight of former and current civil servants at the Commission is pathetic as they are rightly made to shed light on such shady and often illegal embezzlement under the ‘directives’ of the former president! Failure to comply with these near-‘divine’ orders carried the risk of dire “consequences”- immediate dismissal, jail and the loss of all entitlements- and above all, the guy would get the monies anyway! The Commission is truly thorough in its investigations and effectively blocks all escape routes by often confronting witnesses with the paper trail of transactions under their guise so much so that the public is finding it a great learning platform about the seriousness of the responsibilities of public office. Where are the moral bases of enacting tough anti-graft laws like the Serious Economic Crimes Act when the highest officeholder of the country, who assented to the laws, can be found so much wanting whilst sending others to terrible jails even before proven guilty of violating the said laws? That is nothing more than the hypocrisy of the Century witnessed in this country.

Thanks to the Janneh Commission, we now know the true sources of all these monies that Jammeh had been lavishing in all directions which he blasphemously attributed to “Allah’s World Bank” as nothing but loots from state coffers! It would certainly be deeply embarrassing for a Jammeh loyalist like you, Sir, to be greeted by such telling revelations and hence, the empty show of defiance! Yet, in reality, there are better and more dignified ways of offloading the ‘moral’ guilt on your conscience as will soon become clear in this article.

Legal and political issues to contend with
There is no doubt that the current ‘transition’ programme will have to bethorough and far reaching as there are many issues that will  have to be squarely addressed with  a view to delivering a strong, democratic and rule-based society that both we of the current generation and future generations can be proud of. There are, for example, obnoxious and self-serving laws in the statute books that must be expunged.

 

The proposed Truth Reconciliation and Reparation Commission TRRC) will be expected to perform the marathon tasks of effectively examining the terrible past and chart a just and secure future for the country. I have mentioned the issue of the tenure of office for National Assembly Members (NAMs) who, despite constitutionally the most powerful arm of government with ‘powers’ to hold the executive to account and even impeach a sitting president, but most of who, sadly, became subservient to the immediate past president, thanks to a contradictory provision in the 1997 Constitution! This must go! Our APRC NAMs were particularly affected by this bad law and thus were reduced to playing the  role of latter-day Don Quixotes as they go all out to amuse the ’emperor’ in every conceivable way just to keep their seats in the National Assembly! The situation was quite reminiscent of the story of the ‘Naked Emperor ‘and his courtiers as flatterers.

The story, read in primary school by people of my generation, had it that when the Emperor became so power-drunk, he ordered for a dress that ‘no one had ever seen or worn’! Some clever men appeared and promised to provide the dress but only that no ‘stupid person’ would be able to see the dress! So they went ahead to set up empty loom and pretended to be making the ‘invisible’ best dress ever made in the world. The courtiers who were sent to assess progress of the dressmaking, fearing the consequences, reported back with glowing accounts of the ‘non-existent’ dress! When it was the Emperor’s own turn to examine the dress at the loom, well, the trick worked on him too as he had to pretend to be seeing a wonderful brocade to be worn on the day of his grand celebrations! When, the ‘D-Day’ arrived , the cunning men came to dress up the Emperor after first fully undressing him to the point of his total nudity! On the hour of the celebrations, the big guy walked into the public square with the usual majestic pomp but in ‘reality’ he was fully naked! At first the crowd, as usual, started singing his praises to the highest pitch but all of a sudden, an innocent boy clad to his parent, saw the abominable act before his eyes and ‘naturally’ reacted with dismay at the strange situation.

 

His shouting out of on the awkward scene reverberated among the puzzled crowd to a point that it became open gearing and the ultimate disgrace, and hence, destruction of the obsessed emperor! The essential lesson to take from this story is; repression, pride and vanity must be avoided as these ultimately ruin human beings if left unchecked: Absolute power corrupts absolutely!thorough and far reaching as there are many issues that will  have to be squarely addressed with  a view to delivering a strong, democratic and rule-based society that both we of the current generation and future generations can be proud of. There are, for example, obnoxious and self-serving laws in the statute books that must be expunged. The proposed Truth Reconciliation and Reparation Commission TRRC) will be expected to perform the marathon tasks of effectively examining the terrible past and chart a just and secure future for the country.

 

I have mentioned the issue of the tenure of office for National Assembly Members (NAMs) who, despite constitutionally the most powerful arm of government with ‘powers’ to hold the executive to account and even impeach a sitting president, but most of who, sadly, became subservient to the immediate past president, thanks to a contradictory provision in the 1997 Constitution! This must go! Our APRC NAMs were particularly affected by this bad law and thus were reduced to playing the  role of latter-day Don Quixotes as they go all out to amuse the ’emperor’ in every conceivable way just to keep their seats in the National Assembly! The situation was quite reminiscent of the story of the ‘Naked Emperor ‘and his courtiers as flatterers. The story, read in primary school by people of my generation, had it that when the Emperor became so power-drunk, he ordered for a dress that ‘no one had ever seen or worn’! Some clever men appeared and promised to provide the dress but only that no ‘stupid person’ would be able to see the dress! So they went ahead to set up empty loom and pretended to be making the ‘invisible’ best dress ever made in the world.

 

The courtiers who were sent to assess progress of the dressmaking, fearing the consequences, reported back with glowing accounts of the ‘non-existent’ dress! When it was the Emperor’s own turn to examine the dress at the loom, well, the trick worked on him too as he had to pretend to be seeing a wonderful brocade to be worn on the day of his grand celebrations! When, the ‘D-Day’ arrived , the cunning men came to dress up the Emperor after first fully undressing him to the point of his total nudity! On the hour of the celebrations, the big guy walked into the public square with the usual majestic pomp but in ‘reality’ he was fully naked! At first the crowd, as usual, started singing his praises to the highest pitch but all of a sudden, an innocent boy clad to his parent, saw the abominable act before his eyes and ‘naturally’ reacted with dismay at the strange situation.

 

His shouting out of on the awkward scene reverberated among the puzzled crowd to a point that it became open gearing and the ultimate disgrace, and hence, destruction of the obsessed emperor! The essential lesson to take from this story is; repression, pride and vanity must be avoided as these ultimately ruin human beings if left unchecked: Absolute power corrupts absolutely!It is an inexcusable paradox that ex-president Jammeh who made ‘rampant’ corruption in the First Republic and its stamping out his number one reason and mission for the military coup that he headed should himself fall so short of becoming a paragon of those very virtues! He subsequently set up Commissions of Inquiry that thoroughly investigated and severely punished so many people. What has become of his rhetoric’s during the early days of the 1994 coup like these:

 

“Transparency, Accountability and Probity”; “We shall recover every butut of stolen public funds”, and “Those who embezzle public wealth shall regret that they were born” etc? With these revelations now, isn’t there adequate justification for these same sanctions to apply to him? For most of the APRC NAMs under the Jammeh  era, there a number of issues for which the TRRC may require them to shed light on during its hearings and investigations. Three of these as as follows:

1. The enactment of the Indemnity Act of 2000 which gives blanket amnesty to security forces implicated in atrocities against citizens;

2. The enactment of  draconian media laws with the sole aim of muzzling the independent media outlets, and

3. The enactment of the unwarranted State of Emergency in January of this year and the illegal extension of Jammeh’s tenure in Office.Now, conventional wisdom is that such investigations start with the most recent issues working backwards to the initial ones. So, they may have their days before the TRRC at the very beginning of the hearings!Well, these previous NAMs could take solace in the fact that hardly any segment of The Gambian society was left untouched  by Yahya Jammeh’s obsession to make himself the absolute owner of all powers and all wealth in the country as he rules for a “billion years”! Members of the judiciary, traditional rulers, youth and even sections of the Muslim clergy went overboard in becoming his griots! Some Muslim scholars fell victims of what the venerable scholar, the late Sheikh Omar Bun Jeng, often lamented as the “disease of the moral doctors” as they prepared sermons, public preachings designed just to sing the praises of the man and endorsed even some pagan rites that he performed! This society must therefore engage in soul-searching endeavours to avoid the pitfalls of the recent past.

Constructive engagementFirst, let’s make it abundantly clear here that the APRC, as a legally-registered political party, has the same rights as any other party to engage in genuine politics of the country. Its disadvantage at this time in the country’s history, however, is that it carries the unenviable burden to prove that it can shake off the spectre or image of misrule and grand excesses that marked the reign of its founder over the affairs of this tiny country. However, it my conviction that the leadership of the party on the ground has a golden opportunity to make amends that will go a long in not only bolstering the party’s image, but contributing immensely to the national healing process if they are willing to demonstrate the moral courage to do so! All they ought to embark upon is to go down on their knees to repent the past misdeeds and apologize to the people of this country, particularly the victims and/or their families, and ask for forgiveness! This will NOT absolve those guilty of gross human rights crimes, but could greatly diffuse the current climate of acrimony, mistrust and calls for vengeance. I bet that this honourable act will have a transformative impact in reducing tensions among various communities, transcendental in its reach to the broad segments of society and decrease the pain and anger.

You will not be ‘surrendering’ to the ruling Coalition government or any other rival political party, but rather seeking forgiveness from The Gambian nation, particularly the victims of the atrocities and their families. Rather than wait to possibly break down before the TRRC, this voluntary repentance will be more dignifying, to say the least.Practically, it could be a grand press conference to be presided over by both the interim leader Fabakary Tombong Jatta and Mayor Yankuba Colley, the National Mobilizer with the presence of other top executives, and even more importantly, the victims, both those bearing physical scars and families of the departed victims, where they will repent and take political and moral responsibility for the past atrocities under the Jammeh rule. If they fix their thoughts firmly on the victims, empathize with their plight by putting themselves in their shoes, then they would be able to shed genuine tears, and not just crocodile ones. That would start a whole new chapter in the post-Jammeh situation in the country and pave the way for ultimate reconciliation of divided hearts and lighten the pain of the living victims.

It is a fact that Mayor Yankuba Colley was one of the most vocal sycophants during the political impasse, but apparently, there is now reason to believe that he has come to terms with the realities of the new dispensation a lot more than his elder, FTJ. An early wise action of Yankuba which he shared with FTJ, was their announcements that they would not be seeking re-election when their current tenures expired. That removed them from the firing lines of their political opponents and other aspirants. More recently,  Colley’s reported public appearance with Honourble Omar Jallow, a senior coalition leader, in a meeting during which the two shook hands with the former even going further to admit that OJ is his first political mentor, was an excellent political bridge building moment that should be encouraged among the leadership across the political divide in the country.

I urge both Colley and FTJ to take more similar positive steps in the right direction. They should not allow Coalition leaders to continue ascending the moral high ground by calling for forgiveness and reconciliation whilst they remain stuck in denial and self-defence. Finally, to every Gambian, let all of us start preparing well for a future united, reconciled and democratic era of peace, progress and justice as well as place the Jammeh era to just what its place in our history should be: a dark and sad chapter never to come back again! Human civilization has produced thousands of his kind but progressive societies always move on to make them bitter lessons to learn to avoid and thus limit their impacts on the future. Germany emerged from Hitler era stronger, and in Africa, Rwanda has moved from the genocide era of the 90s to becoming an African success story in current times.

- Advertisement -
Join The Conversation
- Advertisment -

Latest Stories

barrow 2

MAI WARNS BARROW AGAINST SELF-PERPETUATIONsays attempting to cling onto power...

By Momodou Darboe & Omar Bah The leader of the Gambia Moral Congress has warned President Adama Barrow not to crush himself by attempting to...
- Advertisment -