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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

On Moja-G and Jainaba Bah’s historical anecdote (Part 1)

I am a little different to Amadou though, in that I was a Moja-G insider (a member) and knew Jainaba Bah, whom we fondly called Sister J. I belonged to a Moja-G ‘Cell’ (not a police cell, a cell in Moja-G language was a number of members working together at a particular place and time) when I was a teacher at Bansang Primary School, at a time when one of my cell mates, in fact, the cell leader, had a quite cordial relation with Jainaba’s family in Sweden. She and her family, the husband, Sarjo Jallow, then called within our circle as ‘Mawdo Sarjo’ and their son were already in Sweden the time I joined the movement. I remember having come across a number of her son’s (Wurry) photographs with my cell mate at a time when the boy was a baby. He must be an old boy now, because this was in the mid-1985, about 27 years ago. 

Ours was an active cell. We used to carry out assignments like writing the message: ‘STOP THE RETRENCHMENT, SCRAP THE ERP – MOJA – G’ with red oil paint on the outer walls of classroom buildings at the Bansang primary and secondary schools. I was the one who actually did the writing. The writings were done clandestinely at night. The same message also appeared on walls at public places in other towns and in Banjul City by members of other cells.

I can also remember myself and my cell mate clandestinely dropping a lot of Moja-G new year message fliers at various government offices and places in Basse the night before a PPP congress held there around 1985. We dropped a lot of copies of the fliers with strong anti-government messages indiscriminately everywhere outside and inside the halls prepared for congress. We also dropped the fliers around the commissioner’s residence at Mansajang and other public places.

Moja-G was a very organised movement. Our Bansang cell had only three members, but we had a brand new Suzuki 100 motor bike for mobility to carry out assignments at distant places and also to coordinate the activities of other cells and members in villages like Bruko, Nyanga Bantang, Kaur and Jamwelly in the Central River Region. By this time, there was a little improvement and members did not have to walk on foot from village to village like Saiks and Sister J in the Baddibus and Upper Niumi as recounted by Jainaba in her series. I can remember the coordinator at Jokadu stationed at Kuntaya also had a Suzuki 100 motor bike and the anti-Apartheid movement coordinator at Brikama also had same type of motor bike. The motor bikes were used for area coordination work of the cells and members and were also used to take visiting members around from other places.

Most of the cells in the rural areas had fundraising projects. For example, the Jamwelly cell usually cultivates a village vegetable garden and an ‘organisation farm’ during the rainy season. Organisation farms were fundraising and income generating projects put up by the youth members of the movement in the rural areas. Products cultivated were usually wonjo, groundnut and millet. There was also an active village garden coordinated by a registered civil society organisation of the Moja-G, the Gambia Youth Federation (GYF) at Macca – Farafenni in the North Bank Division. This project later had benefited from a Belgian couple volunteers. There was also a bene seed oil pressing machine for the Macca – Farafenni project, a timber splitting machine project at Serekunda, a nursery school project at Manjai Kunda and a large scale fishsmoking project at Tanji. The Bokaloho Skills Training Centre and the NGO, Gambians for Self-Employment were all originally the movement’s projects.

The Nyanga Bantang cell had no farm and no funraising project such as a local bread bakery as obtained at Kerr Amadou in Jokadou, because the cell did not have many members. This particular cell was largely made up of a strong member; Kaw Mamut Sabally and his family members, with may be a few other villagers. During our weekend coordination treks with my Bansang cell mate, we usually sleep over at Kaw Mamut’s home. Kaw Mamut Sabally, like most of the village cells members, was illiterate, but he was a very determined peasant member. Proletariats of peasantry background as Kaw Mamut, were, as a matter of organisational principle, looked upon as the leaders of the revolution based on the Marxist–Leninist principle of ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’. Kaw Mamut Sabally was a popular revolutionary peasant elder of the movement. But unfortunately, for reasons unknown to members of the movement, he left his family and village to an unknown destination and never returned. Since 1986, his family never heard from him and no one knows whether he is alive or dead.

There were active members and cells in Brikama and a house rented by the movement called the ‘organization house’, at which visiting members from outside, particularly in the provinces would lodge. I can remember lodging at the house several times on visits to Brikama from the provinces and also fondly remember having a Brikama member preparing rich beans with smoked fish dishes most of the time as well as the animated reading and discussion of books by Marx, Engels and of VI Lenin among others. There were organisation houses at Serekunda, Banjul and at most of the big towns where there were active members and cells. The Bansang cell organisation house keys were kept by myself.

Members in Brikama at the time, along with others from Serekunda, Banjul and other areas of the now Greater Banjul Area, formed the Gambia Anti-Apartheid Movement, a symbolic front to campaign for support to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa with a hidden agenda of the Moja-G national liberation struggle against the PPP regime. This was also during the time of the national liberation struggle and war of the South West Africa Peoples’ Organisation (Swapo) of now Namibia against colonial rule. The Gambia Antiapartheid Movement had a strong link with the Swapo and used to receive a lot of the Swapo liberation struggle and war newsletter, The Combatant. The Anti-Apartheid Movement was a legally registered group and held public activities and even had a drama group, but it was actually a front for Moja-G. Most of its members, if not all, were aware of this, but a majority of the Anti-Aapartheid Movement activists were as the Organ of the Revolutionary Students (ORS) sister J mentioned in her story,  not Moja-G members.

Moja-G also had links with a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary black American movement whose newsletter The Burning Spear was distributed among the cells and the members.

The movement had a lot of books, and educated cell members used to have what were called ‘study circles’ at which members read and discuss books by Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, VI Lenin, Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, Kim Il Sung and so forth. So too books on Ho Chi Ming and the Vietnam war, Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution, Ernesto Che Guevara and the Cuban revolution and his other revolutionary activities in Bolivia and Congo, Joseph Stalin, Trotsky among other revolutionaries including Guinea Bissau’s Amilcar Cabral, and PAIGC’s leading female guerrilla war combatant against Portuguese colonial rule, Titina Silla, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba and Mandela, et cetera. 

Common titles also included books authored by Amilcar Cabral, Nkrumah, and the great Chilean author Paulo Freire, particularly his popular title Pedagogy of the Oppressed as Jainaba mentioned in her series, given to her by Nana Grey-Johnson. Members were also familiar through the study circles with the Guinea Bissau liberation struggle and war against Portuguese colonialists through a good number of books on the PAIGC led struggle by the British journalist, Basil Davidson. Other common titles shared included Franz Fanon’s two titles, Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin White Mask, as well as the Caribbean historian Walter Rodney’s Grounding with My Brothers and Nelson Mandela’s The Struggle Is My Life.

 Definitely, Amadou Bojang is quite right, Moja-G was “a Movement that demonstrated the qualities needed in the launching of a successful revolution”. 

 

By Ebou Sohna

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