It’s been a crazy beginning to August. The weather has been moody and the sun has refused to show its face. This sort of weather suits perfectly the culture of attaya in street corners, Sidney Sheldon novels under flashlight since Nawec is still trying to get its act together and full moon lovemaking (legal and legitimate though). Meanwhile I’m stuck in the office well past closing time listening to Chronixx. For my people born before computers, he is this generation’s Bob Marley…okay this generation’s Bob Marley is still Bob Marley but I’m sure you catch my drift.
My office has a beautiful view of New Gambia. By New Gambia, I do not mean the political slogan of our current state but the new settlements of Brusubi and our beautiful coastal villages. The colourful tapestry of people going about their business around what is perhaps the ugliest roundabout in roundabout history is an inspiring image. Perhaps I should, like many others call it a turntable for it serves a better purpose in DJ scratching than in beautifying our country. But that is The Gambia and that is what our country has always been – people like me walking busily around the elephant in the room not even realising the filth…well until recently perhaps.
So after the Bar Association publicly made statements and followed up with actions against the former President’s rejection of election results, there was a hint of politics in it. Well at least I felt there was…but that is stale news reporting. I questioned the benefits to the state of certain actions, most importantly the boycotting of the courts…but then again, I am a layman and I am excused for being ignorant.
When a week ago, I was directed to read an article online which carried a letter from Ms Yassin Senghore of the Bar Association, not knowing the woman personally and not being good at discussing people, I half expected the usual. As boredom took over down the week however, I found myself browsing through my phone for the article. It was a gem of a letter. As I read threw the lines, I felt myself for the very first time in my life falling in love with the pen of a legal practitioner (and there is no pun intended here…I am as straight as a die…no, the right simile would be an arrow). I mean these people speak a language that is foreign to simple-minded people like me. So here was a woman at the height of her profession and simple me got her! It was beautiful! There were fireworks over my head…a cock crowed from the mango tree…birds came to my window singing Disney songs and stars shone during the day.
It wasn’t even the content of her well written and seemingly well thought out letter. It was the poetry in it and how beautifully she wove her way through what should have been a tough read. Yassin Senghore (oops…I meant Ms Yassin Senghore – I once forgot to identify a learned woman I was visiting as Ms Ida Drameh and I discovered it is not a joke to take these titles lightly). So in essence, I read a public letter from Ms Yassin Senghore and I immediately wished it was a book…until I got to the part about the SIS/NIA…and then I wished it was a Warner Bros production. There was such literary subtlety in her truth that made her words feel like ice-cream on a sunny day…smooth and creamy.
When later on I read of a soldier that allegedly got tortured in custody by the NIA (by virtue of my rights in this new democracy I prefer to use the name as unchanged by the National Assembly – thank you Ms. Senghore) I had to go back to the letter. Again a fear I had one August crept in as I looked over my shoulder everywhere I went. We used to laugh about stories we had heard before of testicles that received some not so tender treatment which encouraged the culture of hygienic clearing and cleaning of certain areas in case of an arrest…but those were always laughter filled with fear. So here was the story of a man who according to the online reporter received some lighter burns for four hours under his feet. The curious me, got a lighter and tried it for a second. I discovered that was certainly not the life.
A couple of days later, an estranged sister of mine, who is always a better sister far than near published a clarification from the alleged “coup plotter” or “conspirator”. Apparently, the gentleman, from his hospital bed explained that he wasn’t tortured by the S.I….oops…NIA. He explained that they lost the keys to the handcuffs that were locked around his hands and so they had to employ the services of a hacksaw to free him. I believe the explanation. I honestly do. I mean it wouldn’t make sense for someone who had undergone torture to try to spare his torturers…and deka bi sah amatut sutura. However, how embarrassing must it have been to lose the keys to the handcuff? I can imagine my agent friends screening around the “dark room” for the keys. Of course it would be impossible to find keys in the darkness. Is it even allowed to light a torch in that darkness…or a candle…or a lighter? Well unless of course someone’s feet needed some heat treatment.
However, this brought me to one conclusion and recommendation. As the Facebook world got crazy over Ms Senghore’s letter and her good name, reputation and that of the bar received insults and attacks, I thought, some white wigged (or was it black?) important former PoTUS once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. So I asked myself what I could do for my country. It’s clear that the forensic lab idea is already sorted. The Nawec debacle is water under the bridge. The NIA is now the SIS. The upper age limit for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency has been deleted from the Matrix…meaning if Mugabe got a Gambian passport and lived in Gambia for nangam years, and gave up his Zimbabwean citizenship (if the dual-citizenship issue isn’t also resolved), he could run for president…no? So things got tough in my head until I saw the story of the hacksaw and the handcuffs.
So I got a light-bulb moment. You know…I jumped up, punched the air and lay flat on my back in satisfaction. I assume our Police Force (or is it service?) has archived documents on the best thieves to ever walk the streets of The Gambia. I am sure we have some skilled lock-pickers that have gotten away from the authorities for decades. Perhaps the NIA needs to put up a tax-free ad in the Observer…well I assume their own crisis has been resolved. Dama gaeja read news bi ndaham. The Ad would read, “Consultant Needed – The National Intelligence Agency (location classified *coughs*) is in urgent need of a professional lock picker who is well acquainted with locks of all types most especially handcuff locks. The professional will be required to train all the staff of the NIA on opening locks especially in the dark in case keys are misplaced or lost. It would be preferred if the locksmith/lock-picker has never been apprehended by law enforcement agents thereby showing serious professionalism. Please include a CV indicating years of experience, areas of operation and success rate. Please send all applications to…ummmm…ok please call…ummmm…ok just drop it at The Observer or your nearest police station.”
I mean, forget burning someone’s feet; forget passing electric current through someone’s testicles; forget waterboarding. Just lose the keys to the handcuffs and ask the suspect to search for the key – in the dark!
So I must say, truth be told, The Gambia has changed…somewhat. I remember the only time I ever wrote about the NIA (ok the few times I did), it always took me a few hours to pen it for personal reasons…dor de ham bilai. This piece took me a little over twenty minutes because perhaps the only thing to fear is fear itself…or not?
So this is a piece coated in plausible deniability. I guess New Gambia has inspired this new version of Red Black Nonsense…or Not. It is a piece swimming in Wakh Wakheet…just in case I wake up in the morning and it turns out everything that happened since this time last year was a dream and a no number plate, tinted glasses, not stopping for traffic police pickup truck decides to pay me a visit. So yeah…I said everything in this piece…and I didn’t. With The Gambia anything is possible…or Not.