By Foday Chorr
This is in response to the recent press release from the Gambian Government concerning a conversation between the APRC executive members. Gambians should be very concerned over the press release that was made as a reaction to a recorded conversation between the APRC Party founder and the Party executive.
As a Coalition government that presented a campaign largely based around freedom of speech and expression, its current stance would appear to be entirely contradictory and is further testament to the Gambian government’s continued fear of political opposition and in particular paranoia in relation to the APRC. One can only assume that this must be due to the continued size and strength of the APRC and the legacy of Yahya Jammeh. Recent elections have proven their continued magnitude.
It is stated in the press release issued by the government spokesperson Ebrima G Sankareh, that the government strongly condemns comments made by the ex president as being subversive and utterly reprehensible. On listening to the audio however the only conversation that can be heard is Yahya Jammeh discussing with a handful of executive members, issues that relate only to the internal mechanisms of the party. I therefore question the spokesperson’s assertion that the comments were reprehensible and profoundly shocking when no comments were made against the ruling government or any of the country’s affairs. They were entirely around party mechanisms.
It should be commended however, that Jammeh continues to call for stability in the APRC party and is heard in the audio advocating that party militants should be law-abiding. Jammeh, as the founding father of the APRC is afforded the highest respect amongst the members and the executive and as such may be involved in resolving internal party affairs by offering his advice and opinion. The audio also made clear that although he had an opinion on how a matter involving one of the APRC executive members should be resolved and indeed advised a course of action, that this was ultimately in the hands of Fabakary Tombong Jatta and the executive. It is then incomprehensible that this can be construed as being desperate to remain politically relevant and would suggest that Mr Sankareh is doing nothing more than attempting to inflame hatred against the APRC and its founding father by fictionalising elements of the conversation, perhaps knowing that many people may not listen to the audio and therefore abusing the trust afforded to his position. His statement, disappointingly from a politician in his position, serves only as an attempt to find an audience for him to engage in character assassination.
Here again we witness obsessive assertions of dictatorial rule, “trail of terror and economic crimes”. Many allegations have been levied against the ex-President, but to date none has been substantiated. The commission of enquiry should, if conducted fairly, with honesty and without bias reveal the truth. There is however no crime investigation, nor have any charges ever been made against the former leader. The only trial is that of by media, and the current government seems all too keen to capitalise on this. There has been a frantic determination to search under every stone in the hope of finding morsels of evidence that may incriminate the APRC or Yahya Jammeh himself: all desperate attempts to find anything that will support the slanderous stories that have spewed out to poison people’s minds against the former leader.
Ebrima Sankareh further goes on to state unconvincingly that Jammeh is heard “shamelessly bragging about his mysterious prowess” by, with the weakest of arguments quoting that “Neither man nor ginn can stop me from coming back to the Country” to support his claim. We need to be mindful here that there has never been any imposition by the international community for Jammeh’s exile. This was negotiated through the involvement of heads of state of Guinea and Mauritania, ECOWAS, AU and the UN.
After pleading with Jammeh to temporarily leave the country, self exile was agreed upon to enable the incumbents to form their government. President Barrow was quoted as saying they have “asked the ex-President to leave The Gambia until when they set up their government”, because at the time they could not guarantee the safety and security of the ex-President. Yahya Jammeh on his own accord, and putting the country first, thought it prudent to leave in order to avoid any social unrest that may plunge the country into chaos. The continuous peace, stability and security was the bedrock of him accepting to leave. It has since been frequently mis-reported in the media that he was forced into exile. A gentle reminder of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by all the stakeholders or parties who were involved in the negotiations during the political impasse will help to clarify the situation. ECOWAS, heads of state, UN, and the AU all agreed that Jammeh is free to return to The Gambia whenever he chooses to do so.
The spokesperson’s statement is clear evidence of a continued attempt to suppress the APRC. A concerted effort has been made by the government since it came to office to disable the APRC Party and to limit its ability to function. Its assets were frozen, vehicles seized, offices forcibly closed and Party members including the executive and the interim Party leader being intimidated. But still the party remains strong. In a further act of desperation, having not been able to crush the APRC and its popularity, the government is now seeking to manipulate the international community in a bid to gain support where they have failed. Ebrima G Sankereh, in his press release is seeking to coax the international community, namely ECOWAS, AU, EU, UN and the government of Equatorial Guinea into believing that the ex-President has mis-intentions and is employing subversive tactics.
It should however be clear that the ex-president is a staunch advocate of Pan-Africanism and believes in the maintenance of peace and stability. His exhortation for peace, directed to the Gambian government, was to fiercely guard the security and cultural stability of the country and that this should not be compromised.
The statement not only shows the continued efforts to suppress the APRC, but in doing so is a clear reminder of this government’s attempts to undermine democracy. The government continues to show their inability to communicate effectively and to treat all parties equally