By Zakaria Kemo Konteh
Public and private accounts of many who knew Yahya Jammeh have a striking convergence of his unmistakable cowardice and his trademark bravado which he often displayed with naked arrogance.
An Army Officer who was dragged by the arm and sandwiched in the vehicle just to thwart his attempt to chicken out at the last hour during an illegal but dangerous military expedition, Yahya Jammeh’s rise to the pinnacle of power was extraordinarily out of pure luck. I can understand why: Jammeh was aware of his deficiencies as a soldier. He was neither a trained combat officer nor experienced in leading men into battle and was not trusted or respected by infantry soldiers. Jammeh was simply the commander of a section-size military police. Therefore, his decision to stay behind was out of self-preservation since he suspected that he wouldn’t likely have survived any potential firefight especially in the buildup areas of the Capital City.
But after landing the most powerful and coveted position in our country accidentally through the effort of Edward Singhatey, Yahya Jammeh wasted no time to spill blood of his fellow citizens in order to assure or satisfy his insecurities.
The first crucial challenge to Jammeh’s personal security and perhaps the first test to his authority came when the AFPRC was alerted to an alleged counter coup plot led by the late Basiru Barrow. They hurriedly mobilized the troops loyal to them and launched a preemptive strike, capturing the alleged conspirators alive without resistance. The carnage that followed though would shock the conscience of our country for eternity.
Conspiring amongst themselves and acting on the murderous orders of Yahya Jammeh, the AFPRC Council Members went ahead to kill, in cold blood, the alleged ring leaders of the coup plot. Even after Basiru Barrow and Dot Faal were initially murdered, Yahya Jammeh still insisted that they go back and finish the rest just to make sure they never had the chance to escape, according to one of the confessed murderers, Edward Singhatey. Yahya Jammeh was of the belief that neutralizing those officers and men was the only surest or guaranteed way to restore his security.
This, however, would not be the last or the only time Yahya Jammeh’s paranoia and cowardice would send him on bloody overdrive.
Terrified and scared to death of his Vice Chairman, Sanna Sabally, Yahya Jammeh had convinced himself of a phantom coup plot and hatched a devilish plan to take him down. To succeed, he preyed on Edward Singhatey and exploited his rift with Sanna Sabally, topping it up with a disgustingly ritual exercise of burying a Ram alive. The rest of Yahya Jammeh’s 22 years of autocratic Presidency was replete with similar backstabbing, bloody and ritualistic exploits.
In fact, those who were so close to Yahya Jammeh and understood his inherent cowardice and insecurity took advantage of him to settle personal scores, to bring down their perceived enemies and to cause politically motivated firing of others. The quickest way to gain Yahya Jammeh’s attention and/or trust is to make him believe that his security was under threat and to be willing to do his dirty work.
We do know that Yahya gave the order for the students to be gunned down in broad daylight after being told that the opposition politicians were behind the Student demonstration. The killing of Alimamo Manneh, the massacre of West African migrants, the murder of Daba Marenah and co and the witch hunting exercise that targeted the elders of Foni and other regions, among other heinous crimes, were all consistent with Yahya Jammeh’s paranoid state of mind and his underlying deficiencies.
Thus, Jammeh’s supporters and APRC can paint him in positive colors all they want or even attempt to distort history and facts but the conscientious Gambians will continue to see through their weak arguments and translucent ramblings and put Yahya Jammeh in proper context; that he is nothing other than a bloody murderer, economic criminal and bitter and spineless coward. Period!