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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Good and evil: Is Yahya our only problem?

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By Eden Sharp

As we go behind each other trying to destroy each other, I thought to repost this from a year ago! June 6 2017. Look at what happened at the Commission, SSHFC, Cabinet reshuffling etc! People you’re supposed to be on the same team with just going behind your back to destroy you!
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had rather heated discussions with folks who posted some flattering write-ups about certain influential individuals (Omar Faye and Lang Tombong Tamba) who supported Yahya Jammeh, condoned his evil and defended his excesses. The vacuous bromide of excuses such as “he was working for the country” or that “he was working within the system to defeat it” aside, some of these folks tell me how good Isatou Njie Saidy is or how kind Ousman Sonko is! But is it possible that that there is a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde within Isatou Njie Saidy? Is it possible that she is actually a good person but also evil? Do we all have good and evil personas within us? If so, when do we project these personalities and what factors influence that projection? How overpowering is Yahya’s evil to the extent that it managed to suppress the good in Ousman Sonko or all of us for that matter? Yahya Jammeh personifies evil.

But is he the only evil person in The Gambia? When it’s all said and done, Yahya Jammeh had a whole coterie of cheerleaders that not only supported his evil, but also went out of their way to defend it. They called him Sheikh, some called him Babili, Mansa Duri Mansa they sang, our pride of a referee, Papa Gassama, and his ilk called him their Father!
Fred Katz, in Ordinary People, Extraordinary Evil, advises that we need to adopt “a new way of thinking about evil, a way that looks for the foundation of evil” not in monsters like Yahya Jammeh, but in “ordinary human behavior that all of us share.” James Waller also theorizes in the book Becoming Evil that “the dark nature of human nature- that evil is in all of us… that there are cultures of cruelty which promote professional socialization, that is a ritual conduct which represses the conscience…

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” Conscience repressed!! Is that what it is with us? It is comforting to think that Yahya Jammeh is an aberration; we seek solace in the falsehood that he is not one of us; that Gambians are not as greedy as Yahya Jammeh or as evil as he is. We argue that Gambians did not deserve Yahya Jammeh, as in “bad things happen to good people.” Yahya Jammeh is a bad thing that happened to “good” Gambians. But are these notions conscience-soothing denials or plain dishonesty?
Prior to usurping the stage, not many of us could foretell the evil side of Yahya Jammeh. Even those who knew him when he was growing up cannot tell you they ever saw him killing dogs and cats or other animals; usually a harbinger of those we consider “evil”. Over the last 22 years, and even before he was forced out, perhaps the only people who deny that he is a killer, a rapist and a thief is Yahya himself! From the November 11 incident to the murder of Mamut Ceesay and Ebou Jobe (RIP), we all knew Yahya was bad news.

Yet some continued to promote him as a good leader, true blue supporters hailed him as benevolent and told the world how good he is. But to those they trust, they will murmur how stupid and ignorant and unpredictable he is. Why did you continue to support or work for a killer, a rapist and thief I keep wondering? The smartest of his cabal pledge allegiance to The Gambians but carry water for Yahya Jammeh. And we think that is ok? Some say we shouldn’t talk about it. Some say we should move on. Some say we should not call them out. Our government picks willy-nilly who they desire among Yahya’s fiefdom and reinstate them. What criteria they use for their misplaced reconciliation, only they know! The fact remains that, over the last 22 years, we came to know Yahya as a pure coward, a so-called lover of Gambians who conjured his misplaced rage from ignorance and feigned righteousness out of depravity.

As supporters of Yahya Jammeh become bolder by the day with headlines in the Daily Observer commemorating Yahya’s made-up birthday, while some of those who defended and promoted him try to sanctify themselves, it is important that we hold each other accountable for our collective failure in allowing Yahya Jammeh’s evil to hold us hostage for 22 years. Conscience-soothing proclamations such as “I was working behind the scenes to stop the evil” or that “I didn’t have a choice because I have to feed my family” are vacuous bromides and non-starters. In our culture as Gambians, we pride ourselves on honor. We say death rather than dishonor (at lest that is what my Fulani ancestors say). Or does that honor we all claim not matter anymore? Let justice guide our actions towards the common good; and not the individual good.

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I am aware that there are some Gambians both in the country and outside of it, who did what they could to stand against the evil of Yahya. I commend them. I am also aware that there are vulnerable folks who could do nothing about their predicament. I understand their plight. These people neither have the means nor the influence to affect their destiny or that of our nation. It is also a fact that there are some people who chose to align themselves with the evil machinery of Yahya knowing full well its morbid composition. In the dark days of Yahya, nothing was more disheartening than to hear of a well-qualified Gambian or a Gambian that many of us thought highly of, being appointed by the monster. Once appointed, these people curtail their footprint on social media and limit their interactions to the few who hail their brilliant decision, even if everyone knows the Dictator will soon get rid of them. Some have been fired, rehired and fired again. Few have ever resigned.

Then they will write their own epitaphs thanking Yahya for the appointment and pledging their unvarnished support to the monster. Is this a moral failing on their part or an abiding greed for “position” or “prestige”? How one is able to see prestige in any Yahya appointment is beyond me! I have no answers beyond admitting that it is very nuanced and a little complex. At the very foundation of their actions is greed as posited by another brother Mr Bah. I personally know one or two people who left the shores of the West and ran into the employ of Yahya because they could not just make it in the West. It is as simple as that for some.

It is extremely hard to hold our government accountable while you wine and dine with someone that refuses to even acknowledge their role in abusing Gambians much less owning up to it. My friend Njundu lamented the presence of Netanyahu at the ECOWAS summit and the election of Faure Gnassingbe as Chair. Our leaders do as they please because few, if any of us, will hold them accountable. If a friend or family member held a position of influence in any of Yahya’s maze of fiefdom, you adamantly guard your family or friend’s turf deflecting any criticism. It does not matter how genuine the criticism is to you. Your duty is to protect your friend or family member. Your obligation to Larger Gambia does not factor in your equation. Uncle or buddy plays the “I am above responding to criticism role” and allows you to play the Rock of Gibraltar defender!
Now more than ever, we must hold one another accountable for our actions, to jealously guard our new found freedom, to ensure when we say never again, that we mean never again. Let us hold ourselves and each other accountable first and then slowly, our government will be inevitably held to account as well. They will not have a choice. Once there, we won’t be stuck at the juncture of good and evil; we will choose the good road. For then we will truly be each other’s keeper, then we will renew our promise, that to our beloved little Gambia, our improbable nation, we will remain: EVER TRUE.

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