With Essa Njie
Time without numbers, Gambians continue to suffer the pain inflicted on them for 22 years. As Martin Luther King Jnr told African Americans way back in 1963, “you have been the veterans of creating suffering……..” When blacks were suffering in the hands of slave owners in America, Henry Highland Garnet told slaves of the United States at a Negro Convention gathering back in 1843, “the felon condition in which you are placed does not destroy your moral obligation to God, and that the diabolical injustice by which your liberties are cloven down, neither God, Engel or just men command you to suffer for a single moment. It is therefore your solemn and imperative duty to use all means moral, intellectual and physical that promises successes”.
These phrases of both Luther and Garnet certainly reflect the Gambian situation under Jammeh, when the majority of Gambians realised that no one could change their condition but themselves. The decision to vote out Jammeh and replaced his government with a new one was a significant step towards the promotion of durable peace and stability in the country. Arms were not used, violence was thrown in the trash bin, and the marble became the element of peace. If Sir Dawda could accept the overthrow without uttering a word, fled his country of birth; if Gambians could accept Jammeh and his military thugs in an undemocratic and unconstitutional manner, accept the banning of the PPP, voted for him from 1996 to 2011, supported his government all the way for more than two decades, I see no reason why some cannot accept the defeat of Jammeh and the APRC in the interest of peace and more importantly in nurturing our new democracy. It is no crime for one to align him/herself to a political party and show support in a respectful, orderly and peaceful manner, but it will constitute a parody for one to publicly glorify an individual who succeeded in inflicting pain and horror on innocent Gambians for 22 years.
There are children in this country that grew up without parental love because either their father or mother was killed or disappeared. Some parents and families continue to cry till this day, because they have lost their loved ones, either son or daughter in the hands of Jammeh and his men. If Jammeh who could sit on TV and publicly accept the killing of innocent Gambians without any remorse, balderdash the killing of journalist like Deyda Hydara, politician like Solo Sandeng and countless other Gambians, under what condition then should the same man be glorified by a group of people in the name of so-called democracy and freedom of expression and association? Criminalising public glorification of Jammeh may be seen by some as outrageous, but let us reverse to history. One of the world’s worst tyrants, Adolf Hitler killed over six million Jews in what is known as the holocaust. In Cambodia, Pol Pot massacred between 1 and 2 million people in what is known as the 1975 Khmer Rouge massacre.
But today, no one in any Jewish society dare deny that the holocaust had occurred which will be a way of justifying Hitler’s action. No one dare goes to Cambodia and justify the killing of innocent Cambodians. In essence, Hitler and Pot cannot be glorified by anyone among the Jews and Cambodians respectively. Therefore, the Gambia should not be an exception, open or public glorification of Jammeh which tantamount to endorsing his crimes should be criminalised to restore sanity in our country. To this end, legislation is needed to bring such into effect and ensure that victims of Jammeh’s crimes are not force to opt for vendetta. It must be understood that the APRC is a legal existing political party which one may associate with while Yahya Jammeh is an individual whose hands are not clean and deserve the greatest disrespect any other creature could get.
The incident in Busumbala was indeed unfortunate but certainly the cause of it was the provocation style of Jammeh surrogates. Personally, I would not therefore blame the youths and people of Busumbala by extension for acting the way they did, but blame the authorities for failing to take the right decision at the right time. An incident took place in your own village which could serve as a warning to the authorities that anything could happen while the APRC supporters were returning home. It was in my present while going to Bansang on Wednesday, that the APRC supporters and militants attacked a compound on the highway in Besse, Foni, the consequences of which I cannot tell for now. The roads were blocked and controlled by the APRC supporters with insults and chanting the name of Jammeh, showing his image and to the extent of attacking the compound of the Imam which were certainly responsible for the response by the people of Busumbala. This is not a matter of blame game but setting the record straight and urging for the right action to be taken. Criminalising public support and glorification of Yahya Jammeh does not in any way violate the right of any citizen to freedom of expression and association but would constitute a move to nurture peace and stability and heal the wounds.
The APRC is a political party while Jammeh is an individual. The two must therefore be separated. Do not underrate any violence with the belief that it would not result in anything serious. Self-crowned Emperor Jean Bedel Bokassa as powerful as he was had his marching orders from power when he underrated the students and other civil servants, well that was the best for the people of Central African Republic. We cannot afford to belittle this pocket of agitation as it could pose threat to peace in our country, and the only way to keep our peace is to act by first and foremost criminalising public glorification of Yahya Jammeh. This should start with banning the wearing of T-Shirts, dresses and any other materials bearing Jammeh’s image as well as utterances of statements of solidarity with Jammeh by any individual. Images of Jammeh should disappear for good. Nobody should take the law into their hands as it is here to protect all without belonging to an individual.