President Yahya Jammeh has been in office for the past 22 years, he joined the Gambian national Army in 1984, and became an officer in 1989. On Friday 22 July 1994 he led young officers in a military coup that ousted the government of President Dauda Jawara and became the new President of the Gambia.
Many of the African civil society activists , myself included, would have at a period in time attended the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights sessions in Banjul, we always breez in and out of Serekunda, a tourist area and we believed all is well with the Gambia. That time was 2005 when I joined Amnesty International at the International secretariat, with a responsibility to campaign on the Gambia. My early desk research revealed a totally different country than the one I had visited in the past.
My first official mission to the Gambia was very revealing and mostly fruitful in a way because I was a able to come back to London with a precious souvenir, a small portrait of President Jammeh which I placed in my office. For the next few years I studied this picture everyday to get some insight about the character of President Jammeh and what made him to do what he was doing in terms of the widespread human rights violations and abuses.
Most Gambians in Diaspora believe that jammeh is unpredictable, in my subsequent missions to the Gambia, I met with United Nations Development experts who were minding their business rather than raising fundamental human rights concerns with the Gambian Government. I have met international organisations whose approach was to use seductive strategic approach to mainstream human rights concerns to government policy. I have met the Chief Justice of the Gambia who confirmed that orders come from above. I have seen a Bar Association powerless to act. I met with a press association that accept that sword is powerful than their pen. I met civil society communities that have been so cripple and resorted to faith rather than make effort to stand up and act. You now come to the civil service that trend carefully in the discharge of their duty. I met politicians that individually they are very articulate, but collectively that are divided and inefffective. All these because of the strong convinction that President Jammeh is not predictable, hence all directives will have to come from HIM or his office.
Examining all these scenarios resonates that there must be a key that will open the door of opportunities for the needed CHANGE in the Gambia, then the picture in my office provided the answer, which is the fact that we can predict President Jammeh in an unpredictable way , this entails that for every campaign plans we have to predict possible outcomes not one outcome. There is need to be two steps ahead of Jammeh and it becomes easy to set him on a path or propel him to respond in a way, this practically means that his unpredictability character is a tool for us to predict him.
The whole Gambia change agenda is a multifaceted and independent approach. The human rights approach focus more on generating interest on the Gambia by the International community, Of course we knew what Jammeh would think, his thought would hover around the fact that the strategy aim was to embarrass him internationally, once that is established we can predict his response. This approach provided some protection for our campaign. In actual fact the whole internationalisation of the Gambia human rights campaign was for the Gambian people, it was to connect the international community with the plight of the Gambian people given the fact that it was clear from the beginning that only Gambians could save their country.
When we went for the most important mission in the Gambia , the possibility of arrest was on the table, so we were not surprise, when it happened because we could predict him.He was happy when we left the country, but we went back few months after to complete our research, but this time we were only being followed by the NIA, we knew that would happen because we could predict him. It is being patient for his intimidation to run out of fuel that always break him. Of course, some would say, it is not mere intimidation, some have lost their lives and freedom, yes I know that, but in change agenda, the theory still stands.
I have had the opportunity to meet gallant Gambians in Diaspora; they are intelligent, strategic and extremely patriotic to their country. I met family of those who have sacrificed their lives, I have met those who sacrificed their freedom, Ihave met those who sacrificed their proximity to their families and loved ones and went on exile, I met them in Dakar, New York, Geneva, Amsterdam, Stockholm, etc. There will be other opportunities to name the heroes of this freedom, but I am extremely moved by the patrionalism of two Gambians that we work closely.
Writen By Ayodele Ameen