Pa, the 400 years the British ruled the Gambia was marred by relative peace and stability in the country. When they left, we got independence in 1965 and that ushered in the Jawara administration. The Gambia was still very peaceful and for that matter we did not even have an army until after the Kukoi Samba Sanyang coup in 1981. Even after Jawara returned, arrests were made on suspected coup plotters but no one was killed in the process. He eventually had to pardon them and the peace and tranquility of the country continued. The only person former President Jawara put to death was Mustapha Danso who had killed the then Field Force Commander Eku Mahoney. Even after the killing of Danso, the Gambia was very peaceful.
At the 1992 P.P.P Summit in Mansakonko, former President Jawara announced his intention to step down but that was met with a lot of resentment because the likes of Saihou Sabally would not buy that. I was present at that summit and heard everything the old man said. Two years after that, jolting Jammeh who was right at the summit as a guard took over the reins of power in a bloodless coup that later turned bloodier as time went on.
Thus, a sad chapter opened in the Gambia on the day he set foot at state house and announced himself as the head of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council. Of course, as with many military takeovers, they had so much lofty promises for the Gambian people. I remembered the day when Jammeh as the then head of the AFPRC came to the court house in Banjul as a witness in a diamond dealing case he had investigated when he was in the military police. Those days, he wanted to prove to the Gambian people that he was transparent and has the interest of the people at heart but little did we know that there were so many trenches down the road that would be the grave of so many young Gambians.
The then Jawara administration’s chapter was closed with relative peace in the Gambia and so much happiness. Yahya Jammeh’s chapter brought in misery, untold hardship, so much poverty, deaths, disappearances and so much antagonism against the Mandinkas lately. Such things had never happened in the Gambia be it under the 400 years of British rule or under the 30 years former President Jawara ruled the Gambia. Families started losing loved ones gradually at the whim of Jammeh. Unexplained deaths, disappearances etc became a trade mark under Yahya Jammeh’s administration.
In as much as we want to forget the past and continue, there are wives and children who still labor in pain because the head of the household was either killed or could not be found anywhere in the Gambia. Pa Nderry as I write this story, my cousin Ousman Jammeh is still unaccounted for since the day Yahya Jammeh ordered for his arrest. This is very painful.
Added to that, one family alone in Dippakunda suffered so much pain in the hands of Yahya Jammeh; Sandeng Kunda. Before Solo Sandeng it was Sadibou Hydara who was the husband of Aja Sandeng. Jammeh ordered for Sadibou’s arrest in a so called orchestrated coup and he was tortured to death. Then he took the life of Solo Sandeng who was just involved in a peaceful protest and even refused to produce his body after acknowledging that he died in detention. Right, we understand but where is Solo Sandeng’s body. His family should be able to put the matter to a close.
Interestingly Pa, after his defeat in the recent elections, Yahya Jammeh had the courage to call President Elect Barrow and told him that he had plans to go back to Kanilai to farm but what about the people we could not account for?. So he can go to Kanilai and farm and still make money and leave so many families in so much grief and sadness. In fact, everything in Kanilai belongs to the Gambian people. Even his animals should be transferred to the Abuko Nature Reserve so that government can raise revenue through tourism.
Pa Nderry, even though we want to move on, it will be very difficult for so many people to forget the brutality of Yahya Jammeh because he had affected so many families in the Gambia and to say that people can forgive him just like that will be very hard to comprehend. Jammeh refused to see the writings on the wall that his time was up. The Arab Spring could have taught him that the people are more powerful than the army so if he thinks that his army of Cassamance rebels could stop the Gambians from voting the person of their choice, that was a big mistake.
By Ebou Ngum, Everett Washington