By Momodou Darboe
A former minister in the Jawara regime Omar Amadou Jallow, has registered the 1994 July 22nd military take-over as the darkest episode of Gambia’s history.
It is 26 years today since soldiers toppled the 30-year PPP administration in a bloodless coup.
At the time of the coup in 1994, Jallow was the minister of agriculture but went ahead to lead the PPP through many years of dictatorship after the ban on political activities was lifted.
On the 26th anniversary of the event today, OJ told The Standard that 22 July 1994 led to the demise of the best civil service in Africa, decline in the quality of life for Gambian farmers, violations of rights, pilfering of public funds among many ills.
“When the coup happened here, by then I was a minister and I said it was unfortunate that the worst episode in Gambian history has taken place and I was proven right,” OJ said.
He continued: “What happened under Jammeh is not only the violations of human rights, the killings, murder, disappearances, torture, dismissals of people from their jobs but the destruction of the best civil service in Africa.”
He said Yahya Jammeh could be remembered as among the worst despots.
“I can remember Yahya Jammeh as the worst despot and I compare him to despots such as Bokassa, Idi Amin, Mobutu, Mengistu Mariam and Charles Taylor. They are the people who treated their African brothers and sisters worse than we were treated by the slavers and colonialists,” he fumed.
The former PPP interim leader maintained that the level of corruption under Jammeh was unprecedented.
“We have seen the magnitude of corruption where Sir Dawda, for 29 years, owned only two compounds-one in Fajara and one in Buckle Street. Yahya Jammeh in 22 years has 183 properties. Sir Dawda had three vehicles for 30 years. Yahya Jammeh in 22 years had over 100 vehicles and the most expensive vehicles whereby one of his vehicles could have bought all the three vehicles of Sir Dawda.”
When asked whether some of the accomplishments of the 1994 coup makers such as roads were not plaudits to them, OJ said: “ The Kombo Coastal Roads…the last paper that Hon. Mathew Yaya Baldeh, as minister of works, presented to Parliament before the coup was that we have already got the funds to build those coastal roads. The university… go to The Observer, you will see that Hon. Kama Badjie had already set up a team, the design for construction of the university was completed. How can anybody establish a university within two years? It is not possible.”
The former PPP leader, who suffered 22 arrests in Jammeh’s 22-year reign of terror, reminisced that Gambian farmers were better off under Sir Dawda than Jammeh as the PPP established cooperatives that gave loans and equipment to farmers.
“We exported 165,000 tons of groundnuts in 1993 but this dropped to 35 tons in 2015. We were exporting 90 tons of vegetables every Thursday but when Jammeh came, he made sure none of this happened. And Gambia was second to Mali in cotton export in the sub-region,” he recounted.
OJ cautioned the military to resist the temptation of power, as according to him, soldiers have their place in the society.
“Any soldier that wants to be a politician, do as I did or what Sir Dawda did. Resign from your job and come and be a politician,” he advised. “Soldiers have their roles to play in a state. And from the history of Africa, we have seen countries that experienced military coups are the most unstable countries up to today because soldiers are always despots.”
He finally made a strong call for national reconciliation and peace through justice, reparation and forgiveness.