By Baba Galleh Jallow
The revelations are often mind-blowing, maddening, and mirth-inspiring at the same time. They are always edifying in the ways of human beings. They are very revealing in the workings of the shadow state: the parallel institutions and individuals created by corrupt African rulers in order to by-bass regular channels of doing government business in pursuit of their own personal agendas.
The unfolding tragi-comic drama of the Janneh commission reveals part of the inner workings of the shadow state. Other parts of Jammeh’s shadow state will be revealed through other investigative mechanisms like the proposed truth commission.
The genesis of the shadow state lies in the personalization of state authority by a shadow leader, whose primary motivation for seeking leadership is to monopolize political power and to exploit the resources of his country for his selfish personal interests. Once political power is personalized, it becomes imperative to seek ways and means of gaining personal and unlimited access to the resources of the country without going through the right channels or following rules, regulations and other established protocols.
In pursuit of this objective, the shadow leader starts creating alternative channels of exercising power and extracting resources. He creates shady companies to which state contracts are awarded without the normal bidding procedures. Payments to these companies are then recycled right back into the hands of the shadow leader. This is just one of several ways in which a shadow leader uses the shadow state mechanism to exploit the resources of his country.
The shadow leader creates an endless pool of accomplices to in pursuit of his insatiable greed for wealth and power. These are individuals who, once in the employ of the shadow leader are quickly and irredeemably compromised to the extent that their very survival both as public employees and as individuals depends on unquestioning loyalty to the shadow leader.
They are compromised in any number of ways: from being on the record glorifying the shadow leader in absolute terms, to being given favors they can never deny enjoying, to being reminded at every possible opportunity that their very survival depends on the goodwill of the shadow leader. These individuals could be sacked and rehired any number of times; and they are rendered so petrified and dependent on the shadow leader that the very idea of doing anything other than what they are told becomes taboo to their minds.
At the bidding of the shadow leader they issue illegal directives, they sign illegal contracts, they break official codes of professional conduct, they shut their eyes and minds to the dictates of reason, and they commit all manner of crimes against the state and against their own people.
They are given the impression that the only thing they have to fear is the shadow leader, who will always be the leader and is therefore the only constant in the general scheme of things. The possibility of regime or leadership change and therefore of exposure and questioning never crosses their minds or when it does, is conveniently repressed; and so they are tempted to take the easy way out and sheepishly do as they are told rather than risk incurring the wrath of the shadow leader.\
From morning to night they frantically dash around in a daze, playing their robotic roles as the hands, the mouths, and the teeth of a vampire shadow state feeding on the blood and sweat of an unwary public. And then when the day of reckoning comes – as it always does – they are at a loss how to explain their willful collaboration in what they very well knew to be a criminal enterprise of the highest order.
We hear witnesses appearing before the Janneh commission say they had no choice but to do as they were told by the shadow leader. We of course know that they always had choices; only that the choices they had always carried a degree of risk, the most obvious being that they would lose their jobs. They could also be seized and locked up or made to disappear. They could be dragged before the judicial arm of the shadow state, presided over by mercenary judges; or they could be killed by the enforcement arm of the shadow state which in Jammeh’s Gambia manifested as the NIA, the Junglers, the Bulldozers and other shady paramilitary and militia groups.
Through these armed elements of the shadow state, the shadow leader imposes his criminality. These shadow enforcement agencies are beholden to no law or institution in the country. They are beholden only to the shadow leader who created them and to whom they owed total and unquestioning allegiance. They too, like their civilian counterparts, are compromised to such an extent that the very idea of not doing as they are told is dreadful to imagine.
Mostly composed of non-achievers whose only claim to their positions is loyalty to the shadow leader and a demonstrated capacity for mindless brutality, these armed elements of the shadow state are quickly dehumanized and rendered totally amoral. They are handsomely rewarded for punishing and killing critics, opponents and anyone considered disloyal or dangerous to the shadow leader.
They are made to believe that they are soldiers of a just cause, that they are protecting and safeguarding the security of the state, and that ultimately, whoever they are told to neutralize is an enemy of the state. They are frequently reminded by the shadow leader that as soldiers and security personnel, they are always in a state of war against anyone who tries to compromise the security of the state. Because they are at once severely compromised and handsomely rewarded for their crimes, they also choose the easy way out by just doing what they are told to do.
A few find the courage to flee in order to maintain their sanity. They are an investment in which the shadow leader places much premium and controls with fanatical zeal. Just like their civilian counterparts, those armed elements of the shadow state who dare to question the shadow leader are swiftly neutralized.
The nature and workings of this enforcement arm of Jammeh’s shadow state are what the proposed truth, reconciliation and reparations commission will reveal. Through the revelations of the TRRC, we will know the truth behind the mass murders of soldiers on the night of November 11, 1994. The families of Basiru Barrow, Dot Faal and others will finally know what happened to their loved ones.
Through the TRRC we will know the truth behind the gruesome murder and incineration of Finance Minister Ousman Koro Ceesay. We will know the truth about the brutal drive-by shooting of Deyda Hydara. We will know the truth behind the disappearances and murders of the many victims of the shadow state like Chief Ebrima Manneh, Kanyiba Kanyi, Haruna Jammeh, Marcie Jammeh, Daba Marena, Manlafi Corr, Almamo Manneh, Ello Jallow, Tumani Jallow, Alhaji Mamut Ceesay and Ebou Jobe among others.
Both present and future generations of Gambians will come to know the dark and hidden history of The Gambia under Jammeh’s shadow state. The victims and their families deserve justice and as a nation, we need to heal by knowing exactly what enabled Jammeh to do what he did and putting in place mechanisms to ensure that no leader will ever be able to construct a shadow state in The Gambia again.