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Friday, June 21, 2024

The two faces of Mile II Central Prisons: The Heaven of Satan, The Hell of God

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Satan? I have never reasoned that He-She has a “heaven”? Anyways, who, but for this dilutional so-called Pan African child, in his sarcastic tenor, will suggest such a terrible characterization of what he would hitherto rudely call the alien divinities!

The other day, his bankrupt moral preacher, cautioned him, “that is blasphemous, if you were in Rome, in the days of the Crusade, you would have been beheaded without a second thought, not especially that you are a negro. So, speak good of the Gods child”, He presaged of a pending punishment in the underworld, unimaginably greater than any ‘worst condition’ of the Mile Two Central Prisons that brought us into conversation.

“Gods”! Did you just capitalize the “G”, and maintained the “S”? He stared. “Write good of the god(s) child” ….

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There I was, unbothered…intimidatingly staring at the weak-ill-informed fellow, and when he was done blabbering, “I will maintain my headline”, I whispered, with what was to him, an irksome smile.  In my mind,“what have the dominant forces of imperialism and brainwashed agents of the same not done to BLACKNESS”? I discounted.

If nothing else, I am (dare I say it?) an informed African youth walking on the path and resting by the ocean of liberation, ready to swim back home.

So, the tittle “The Two Faces of Mile Two Central Prison: The Heaven of Satan, The Hell of God” stood.

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In 1920, just when the Great, foremost political thinker and freedom fighter of The Gambia, Edward Francis Small, returned from the National Congress of British West Africa, held in 1919, Ghana and moved to establish a division of the regional anti-colonialism organization in The Gambia, the colonial administration, then headed by Governor Sir Edward J. Cameron who governed from 1914–20, before handing over to another exploitative string-puppet, Captain Cecil H. Armitage, coincidentally moved to establish the State Central Prisons, (Mile Two).

The kicks for liberation were already activated and began to take shape, and by this move, the colonial authority, have strongly considered and commenced implementing, the agenda of introducing to the natives of The Gambia, an alien, and yet a barbaric system of punishment, by means of exclusion (imprisonment) with stunning similitude to the treatment of slaves during the inhuman trans-oceanic slave trade. 

But let me be quick to bath some acknowledgment to Satan, the colonial authority, headed by the larcenous Queen of England, for failing the expectation of not the prophets of doom but of a people, who have sufferedenough on the unrelenting brazen colonial hands of her Majesty’s administration. 

This time, and for a rare “good”, the establishment of theState Central Prison, Mile Two, was ironically a blessing AT THE TIME. It was heaven, THE HEAVEN OF SATAN for some natives, especially for my runaway wives, the unique Serer saltigue of Banjul.

In a word, let us for once, trust Berkeley Rice, author of “Enter Gambia” (The Birth of an Improbable Nation), 1967 who, when sent by the untrusting colonial authority, attempted to the best of his sarcastic diction, to brace the Gambia with inconceivable negativity, all to prove the highly held defective notion that Africans, and Gambians particularly, are unfit to govern themselves.

For the conducive setting of the prison, author Berkeley Rice mockingly recounted that at independence, admittance to Mile Two Prison could be gained “by simply knocking on the prison gate”.

It was not an edifice, that a convict will be anxious about entering. Structural wise and noting the poor housing system that befell the country at the time, Mile Two, was no less a standard home than the masses of Gambians would not afford.

Built to house between 90-100 inmates at the time, the low crime rate made certain contemporary predicaments of the prison, such as overgrowing, unimaginable at the time. Of the many ironies of today, most of the criminals were “government officials” and “commercial clerks“, all charged with a common offense, “embezzlement (known as “fiddling)” and crimes of possession of the natural herb, the greater healer of the nation, Marijuana, was effectively non-issue.

So, how does it happen that embezzlement “IS NO MORE” a crime? I am too weak to speak.

“Planting vegetable and flower gardens…[and] occasional odd jobs of manual labor” were the lots expected of the inmates, who will still receive a “stipend” of “28 cents” at the end of the mouth. The memories of three decent daily meals need not be narrated!  It was a fashionable home for not today’s Nigerian or Guinean brothers but there was the Mauritanian and Senegalese who would prefer Mile Two to “on the outside”.

Save for lack of frequent visitation, which is supposed to be normal in every prison sitting, here is no complaint.

Of the many misapprehensions of independence during the birth of the “New Gambia” (not the newspaper), on the manifestation of their delusion, the prisoners, would even organize to put up some political agitations and called on Her Majesty, the Queen through a petition to the Prime Minister to grant them “freedom” because it was “independence”. It meant just anything chaotic. Can’t you see, it is difficult to appreciate in even a single bit, how D. K Jawara genuinely took steps towards true nation-building and political socialization. 

Independence arrived. The oppressed now turned liberated sons of the land took charge, and Mile Two Prison, the Heaven of Satan, converted to the “The Hell of God”. Lack of clarity and sense of direction dismally crept in the management of the prison system like is in every fiber of the administration of the State. Mile Two Prison became disregarded and not even Act no of 1953, (Prison Act) will be of great help.

By 1999 high mortality rates, overcrowding, inadequate access to healthcare, and violation of basic visitation rights, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and unlawful arrests leading the victims in Mile Two Central Prison became the hallmark of the narratives apropos the previous heaven of Satan.  This time, it is not the colonial authority that oversaw the admittance of Gambians into hell. It was, and it is Gambians against themselves.

The result was the manifestation of the master-racial imaginations of Eurocentric authors like Berkeley Rice. “Can’t you see, we warned-the negro can’t govern themselves, now…they are incarcerating and ravishing each other in our heaven, that previously was”. Political drunkards like my little cousin, Jammeh with his conning ingenuity resolved to use the heaven of Satan as an avenue to eliminate political adversaries. “The Babili Mansa’s Five Star Hotel”.

Of course, this is not the whole authentic history, and while many a horrifying testament of the conditions of Mile Two Prison have been recounted by all categories of persons of the Gambian society, not even the authorities in power who faced these dire conditions, care. A single fact then remains, of which I can vouch for: “WE DON’T CARE”.

Thus, however broadly and pretentiously discussed; and decorated with reassuring nonsensical rhetoric, this stainof Hell of God before a People with a relatively decent sense of humanity, is shameful. At most, however barbarous the shameless colonial lords were, we can, given these super inhuman conditions of Mile Two Prisons, that: WE JUST DON’T CARE, to throw brothers and sisters into HELL.

“How can the nation be living this way?”

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