The rumored return of Yahya Jammeh from exile in Equatorial Guinea is received with mix feelings. His sycophantic and megalomaniac supporters believed that it was his right to return to the country when his alleged crimes are been unraveled daily at the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). The revelations by the ex-jungulars at the truth and reparations commission and the defence testimony of the ex-director of Operations at the NIA, Sir Jeng, have all linked Jammeh to spate of killings and tortures, mostly through conspiracy and command responsibility.
The greater majority of Gambians, including I, do not want to see Jammeh in the country, at least for now. We believed that his grip on his men and women in uniform hasn’t loosen yet. In fact, the upholding of the conviction of some of the soldiers who are dubbed ‘WhatsApp Coupists’ by the Court of Appeal, and the willingness of the APRC supporters to lay their lives for Jammeh if he returns and was to be arrested, are strong indications that the country would reel in chaos if he returned.
From the onset, it must be stated that every Gambian has the Constitutional right of ingress and egress (see Section 25(3) of the Constitution of the Gambia 1997), meaning the right to enter or leave the country. Jammeh has that right by virtue of his citizenship of the Gambia. Can he be denied the right to enter the Gambia like he did to our exiled (and self-imposed exiled) brothers and sisters, and even to dead bodies of the Buba Baldeh and Kukoi Samba Sanyang? The answer is in the negative. We can’t be Jammeh! We must choose the higher legal and moral grounds!
Suffice to say that Jammeh would not be the first ex-leader or president to return home (if he ever returns!) There are a host of heads of states and governments in the world who had returned. Few examples are the return of Jean Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier from France to Haiti, Francoise Bozize from France to Central African Republic, Nino Vieira from Portugal to Guinea Bissau, Didier Ratsiraka from France to Madagascar, the list goes on. In all these returns, there are at least few outcomes that were constant: their homecoming created political turmoil and national security challenges, thus derailing the trajectory of governance, they did not assume power and some had unhappy endings. Nino was butchered, Duvalier died of hearts attack, and Bozize and Ratsiraka who are still unsuccessfully lurking for the presidency,
Let Yahya Jammeh come if he chose to exercise his right to ingress. Let him come to further push the spanner into wheels of justice and reconciliation. But, let him be assured that he will have his day in court one day if he returns. And, it will certainly be far easier to arrest and hand him over to any requesting international adjudicatory body from the Gambia than from Equatorial Guinea.
He may have or be assured of the current government’s protection from trial but he must know that governments change. Equally, he must know that some of the crimes he is alleged to have committed, do have some elements of high degree international crimes with extraterritorial jurisdiction.
The choice is Jammeh’s!