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9/12/ 2016-20/1/ 2017: The Gambia’s 40 days of terror!

(Americans had their September 11, we Gambians had our December 9)

By: Hassoum Ceesay, historian

The period from the night of 9 December 2016 when ex-president Yahya Jammeh attempted to reverse his December 1 polls loss to President Adama Barrow until last Friday when he ‘relinquished’ power in the face of an ECOWAS military intervention, is rightly Gambia’s 40 days of terror.

For over a month, Gambians have lived their longest nights, darkest days, and grimmest weeks. We saw our hopes for peaceful political change after 22 years of one- man rule, dashed to smithreens. Trauma afflicted all of us. During these 40 days of terror, we have become Internally Displaced Persons, refugees (yes, Gambians became refugees for 7 days) and exiles. We have been subjected to untold psychological torture, economic deprivation, and moral atrophication. The name of our dear country became associated with ‘election dispute’ ‘political impasse’ ‘political deadlock’ and similar unsavoury adjectives. In a swoop, celebration of democratic gain through a free and fair election had  turned into a funereal cat and mouse game where the little left of the dignity of critical state institutions  was squandered as they tried to defend the undefendable. Also squandered during the dark days of 9/12/16-20/1/17, was the honour, professionalism and dignity of certain Gambians who should have risen up to the occasion to defend justice and freedom and they did not.

The whole 40 days of terror was manufactured and largely useless. Manufactured because the volte face which led to the deadlock was uncalled for and only self serving; useless, because it took the putschist back to square one: relinquishing power peacefully (as was earlier promised) to the democratic elected President Barrow. This is why the whole charade has the hue of an elaborate scheme in vindictive collective punishment of Gambians irrespective of political persuasion. Or was it the madcap antics of a deceiving despot to cling to power?

Yet, our 40 days of terror were also  of hope. Gambians suddenly became patriotic. People will tell you of  the sleepless nights and the days of worry and mental anguish they had since December 9, all because they care so much for the fate of The Gambia.

The universal national condemnation of the December 9 charade was also unique. From the Bar Association to the Teachers’ Union to the Bankers Association, University students and ordinary people, all sectors of Gambia rose up against the attempted putsch on the December 1 Verdict. Gambians for once woke up from their slumber, stopped being in denial and launched a sustained assault against the attempted electoral hold up. This to me marked the start of Gambian Civil Society, and I am confident this patriotic fervour generated since December 9 will not die. It will remain to help us be master and mistress of our own destiny.

In many ways, we are all victims of December 9. Yet, we are also all perpetrators. Why? Because, we kept quite and played it safe and allowed our country to descend into the abyss of one man rule.

Never Again! Never Again! Never Again!

Hassoum Ceesay a noted historian, author and curator is the author of many books and essays on aspects of Gambian history.

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