For over 20 years, numerous people have been highlighting the killings of Yahya Jammeh and his ‘Junglers’. You heard of the killings, rape and graft. But you chose to be silent. The dead were not family to you. Your personal property remained safe. The raped were not your sister. They just never shocked your conscience. Until now, or so you say!
Koro Ceesay’s killing did not shock your conscience. You chose to remain silent because Koro was not your friend or family. The killings of Basiru Barrow, Faal and others didn’t shock your conscience. You chose to remain silent. Innocent students were killed in broad daylight. Not only did some of us choose to remain silent, some went to Gambia to be appointed to political positions working for Jammeh yet others chose to remain silent. You knew or at least heard Yahya was a killer but the position he offered you was too good to turn down. That position meant more to you than the lives of the innocents. At the very least you could have raised your voice to condemn the barbarity. But you chose to remain silent.
You studied hard in school so that you could get a good job and settle home in The Gambia. Saying anything about Yahya’s evil could dim those chances. Who would choose to be a refugee in a foreign land? Or you had a very good job back home and living your dream. You were the sole breadwinner of your family. You believe in God but you don’t trust Him to take care of you. Silence was the easier choice. So you chose to remain silent.
You heard or read about the numerous disappearances and killings through Foroyaa or other online mediums, but you were too busy with your studies or engaging in dawa’a or running your business. In fact it was more profitable to counter those highlighting Yahya’s evil. So you became a mouthpiece and defender of Yahya’s evil. If you didn’t defend, you excused his excesses. In the beginning, you used to criticise Jammeh’s evil. Until he hired your friend or family. Then you chose to remain silent!
When others asked you political questions, you claimed to not be a politician. But you will discuss world politics all day and you have an opinion on everything else in the universe. But when it comes to the abuse, rape and killing of your fellow countrymen/women, you have no opinion. So you chose to remain silent. You had a platform to highlight the suffering of those you call brothers and sisters, but claimed to be apolitical and refused to discuss the suffering of Gambians because that was the easier choice. So you chose to remain silent.
You heard of the illegal incarceration of Dumo Sarho. You heard the cries of Anita. You knew of the arrest and detention of political leaders. You heard of the detention of Fatou J Manneh and many others, but you chose to remain silent because your yearly trips to The Gambia meant more to you. Your status in The Gambia meant more to you.
You knew of the abuse, you knew of the killings, you knew of the rapes. You witnessed it all. But you chose to remain silent. You called Joe Sambou a liar. You called Kebba Dampha angry. You called Yusupha Jow a liar. You called Saul Saidykhan an alarmist. You called Baba Galleh Jallow a trouble-maker. You accused Sigga Jagne of wanting attention. You claimed Fatou J Manneh is troublesome. You said Hamjatta Kanteh was seeking attention. That Ebrima Sankareh is a liar. That Sarjo Bayang is a liar. That Jollof News are liars and so are Kairo and Kibaaro. Ditto Gainako and Fatu Network. You found fault with everyone and anything except when it has to do with Yahya and his evil. So you chose to remain silent.
You found every reason under the sun to soothe your conscience and deny that indeed Yahya is a killer, a rapist and a thief. So you ignored the suffering of your fellow Gambians and you remained silent. You’re quick to quote religious text and preach till thine kingdom come, but you were afraid to preach against Yahya’s evil. So you condoned it, folded your hands and prayed for manna in the form of your freedom. And you continued to remain silent.
To this day, I haven’t heard/seen you take responsibility for not just remaining silent but for working hand in glove with Yahya to help further the abuse, rape and killings of Gambians. When Solo Sandeng was killed, you went about your business and claimed he committed suicide because he should have known. You chose to remain silent. Even when people you call family or friends get arrested or killed or disappeared, you claimed it was God’s will. Even when you yourself got arrested, you claim it is God’s will. So you prayed and remained silent.
Today, you tell me you’re shocked because hidden graves have been found in the Fonis. Today, you criticise everything that works under the sun in The Gambia. You tell me you’re outraged because all along you didn’t know that Yahya was this evil! Today, you assure me that never again will you allow our country to be abused, raped and killed. My fellow countryman, can I trust you? Should things go wrong again Mr/Mrs activist, can I, as your fellow Gambian trust that you will at the very least speak up for me? I hope you understand my hesitation in not opening my arms to you Mrs/Mr activist. Out of fear, you abandoned me to Yahya. I hope you understand why I sleep with one eye open around you! Someday, I may trust that when we call each other brother, we actually mean it!
There is something called “judicial activism”, a certain pro-activity which admits that a law may be “constitutional” and yet “bad” or out of sync with the realities of the people.
Our parliament has made laws which were more “political” in nature, to safeguard a certain political interest even if out if sync with human rights or international best standards. Judicial activism comes in handy here.
Thus, the Judiciary does not just interpret the law but examines how that law conforms to a country’s obligations and commitments under international law, best practices from other jurisdictions and how such a law enlarges freedoms and rights. The judiciary is citizens’ last bastion of hope and security and their best bet for the greater enlargement of freedom and rights. Judicial activism helps….
The Public Order Act or its challenged provisions may be “constitutional’, the lords say it is. But is it a ‘good” piece of law, one necessary in a democracy, in line with our commitments, enlarging our rights and freedoms? The lords were tasked with its interpretations and they argued it is constitutional.
Judicial activism may have helped to put the search light on the contested law, if it was actually in the best interest of human rights and necessary in a democracy.
Njundu Drammeh, CPA