Most of you people know how bitterly I wrote and spoke against Yahya Jammeh, I did it not that he was the one who began tribalism, killing, jailing of innocent, torturing, and miss management of our economy, but because he refused to choose the path of love.
If you are under 30 years old, there are possibilities you may know nothing or very little about what happened during Sir Dawda”s times, as the president of the Republic of The Gambia. What Sir Dawda did was, he refused to build schools; he kept 75% of the population uneducated and uninformed, plus there was nothing like the Internet, social media, no television, only one state-owned radio station to connect and inform the people.
Jolas were housemates, drivers, watchmen, and etc. Sadly, some Jolas changed their family names so that they can be accepted or have a decent job.
Manjakos, Karonikas, and Balantas were treated as lesser human beings. Majority of these tribes cannot even mix with the population. Some Manjakos and Balantas changed their family names to Manneh, Drammeh, Njie, and etc. Some Karonikas also chose to be Mandikas just for them to feel being accepted in the Gambia.
Fulas were aliens in the then Gambia. In those days, many Fulas were being deported to Guinea and Senegal, and their businesses were the targets of Gambian Security Forces.
Wollof stayed in their own communities, support and defend each other. They too faced tribalism but stood up to fight back.
It was under Yahya Jammeh, that all these minor tribes for the first time proudly identified themselves as Gambians without being discriminated.
Then came 1981 Coup, led by Kokoi Samba Sanyang. That Coup was successful, but the then commander of our Field Force, Tambajang “betrayed” Kokoi and joined with Senegalese Forces to fight and took back the country. It was a time too when a lot of Senegalese Soldiers took advantages of our women and left their children behind with those poor women as single parents.
It was during that fight, Mustapha Danso was caught but Kokoi escaped. Mustapha Danso was taken to firing square and they killed him. According to PPP led government report, it was only Mustapha Danso that faced the death penalty, that wasn’t true. So many people were disappeared, forced into exile, and some faced unfair trials at government-backed courts without any form of media coverage. Years even after the coup, PPP government kept on arresting and jailing of innocent people. In the 90s, some of our class teachers were arrested in school.
In 1982 to 1984, there were TB and cholera out break in Mile Two Prison. So many prisoners including the innocent ones were killed. In 1990, our Silver Jubilee Independent Celebrations, Sir Dawda “pardoned” all those “involved” in 1981 coup. The truth was, prisoners were tortured, and all were sick, and only to be released to their families and loves ones to die.
According to PPP Government reports to the international communities, about 500 to 800 people that were killed. To me, those figures were downplayed, there are possibilities the number of people killed was more than 800.
Under Sir Dawda, religious leaders were jailed, journalists were jailed and deported, and the list goes on. There were corruptions, nepotism, tribalism, and witch hunting.
Under Yahya Jammeh, is less than 100 people were killed in 22 years in a country with the population just under two million. While under Sir Dawda Jawara, nearly 1000 people were killed in 32 years in a country with a population of less than one million. So, who is the real “monster”? Whatever evil Yahya Jammeh did; from tribalism to killing was also done in the Gambia by Sir Dawda and his government. If Yahya Jammeh is a monster, what of Sir Dawda?
Coming to 53 years of nationhood, there is one chain of evil passing down from one generation to another. We need to be honest about this evil and also cut it off if we are to be that great and beautiful nation. This can only happen when we learn to forgive and forget the past.
Sir Dawda failed The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh too failed The Gambia, and Barrow is walking on the same path. But let us choose the opposite path which is love, and also put country first.