What an interesting day in the Gambia! Thursday April 14, 2016 marked another historic day in the Islamic Republic of The Gambia where a reckless and dangerous incident called a political demonstration was organised by who are now clearly identified as bunch of thugs, numbering around 30 men, clandestinely mobilised by members of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) to demand for constitutional change in the country to suit the party’s unattainable political ambition. The action was not only reckless and dangerous but was as well rather selfish and exclusive of all other political parties in the nation.
The fact that the group surprisingly converged in broad daylight at the busiest traffic intersection in the nation – the Westfield Clinic junction of Serekunda – with a public address system trying to incite the public to join them in their disruptive behaviour illustrated an extreme resolve to destabilise a very stable country while the president was away on a foreign mission. It could in fact be best described as a potential breach to the national security of the country which in no way should be trivialised as a peaceful demonstration by ordinary civilians. Indeed, these folks were as later confirmed, thirty supposedly defiant thugs claiming to be members of the UDP youth wing, hand-picked from different parts of the country and tasked to demand for unspecified reforms in the country’s electoral laws with no regards to over 1.8 million Gambians having nothing against those laws. But when the security forces stopped them in their evil track their instigators as usual started crying foul.
It is obvious that the electoral laws in the country are derived from well entrenched clauses in the Constitution whose amendment require at least a referendum or a litigation at the courts. Nonetheless instead they chose to shock and surprise the peace-loving Gambians with violence and intimidation.
They very well understood that if they had conducted the protest in the manner they should with prior warning to the public of their appearance on Thursday, pro-government supporters would have perhaps come out in larger numbers to express their satisfaction with the regime and the electoral laws.
One could notice that when thousands of party supporters enthusiastically came out to welcome the President on Sunday, 17 April 2016 after returning from the OIC heads of state meeting in Turkey.
It is however unfortunate that among the contributing factors in the reckless behaviours of the opponents of the regimes is the incessant deceptive rhetoric aired by political dissidents abroad using social media and cheap internet radio systems to misinform these retards about the Gambian masses ever ready to join any political group willing to come out in the streets to change the APRC regime by force.
It was the same toxic verbosity applied in the past that members of the Gambia Armed Forces were fed up enough with the APRC government to support any armed group willing to enter the country with the intent of overthrowing President Yahya AJJ Jammeh. Then on 30 December 2014, a group of sponsored military adventurists from the USA and Europe entered the country and got exactly what they wished for the government. Ironically, while they were being hunted, killed and captured, their instigators through their radio networks gave minute by minute narration of how the insurgency had succeeded with the President deposed. The following morning all the perpetrators were either dead, captured or chased out of the country with not a single member of the security forces sustaining a scratch.
After it was clear that the whole adventure failed, their instigators once again blamed the government for the way they handled the remains of their “warriors” killed, demanding that their family members deserved to have and give them decent burials. It was like the sponsors of the master terrorist Osama Bin Laden blaming the US government for not handing over his remains after Seal Team Six killed him in Pakistan.
Since the failure of that armed attack in The Gambia over a year or so ago, the idea of soldiers being disloyal and willing to join foreign armed groups to overthrow the APRC government of President Jammeh seemed to have disappeared in their subversive talking points.
However, since then especially in the wake of the ongoing Senegal-Gambia border closure, going into its second month now, the negative rhetoric was again hyped up with similar false stories of The Gambia government suffering badly from its effect to the point of an imminent collapse of its economy and political foundation. They have been lying about food scarcity in the nation leaving the majority of the population unable to feed their families, shortages of foreign exchange money choking the import and export trade to the brink of irreversible destruction; that all the Gambians were fed up and that the international community was also ready and willing to support change in the Gambia by force and President Jammeh being so sick that he is almost on life-support. They even prescribed the kind of street violence applicable for success such as setting fire to public and private properties in the nation to render the whole country ungovernable.
And in the exact way the same dissidents living abroad falsely reported the armed attack in 2014 as being a success by lying about how the attackers seized the entire country and were mopping up the pockets of resistance when they were dead or captured, the twisted stories were again spread around about the whole Gambian civilian population coming out in the streets on Thursday April 14, demanding President Jammeh to step down when the insignificant offenders were being herded off the streets and in police trucks to where they rightly belong, JAIL! Now that the facts are out, it’s déjà vous, the blame game against the government all over again.
The December attackers came with very lethal weapons determined to change the government by force disregarding the possible consequence of hundreds of innocent Gambians losing their lives in the operation. If that was not a major threat to the national security of the county, I don’t know what was; but as their karma had it for them, they came for trouble and they got enough of the trouble they had wished for the country.
Invariably, I would assume that everyone involved in disrupting the peace and tranquility of the country on 14 Thursday April 2016 by resorting to such illegal means of jeopardising the national security of the country with no regards to their unintended consequences would have in their planning factored the possible loss of lives, including innocent people together with every one of them taking part in it. So I don’t see the justification of accusing the national security forces of using excessive force in this particular situation when within the hour of what was intended to be a destructive and protracted political upheaval, they professionally stopped the mayhem without a single innocent life lost. The illegal protesters who got their rear ends kicked absolutely deserved what they had.
President Jammeh has been warning these troublemakers for as long as one can remember about his zero tolerance for such irresponsible and risky behaviours which one would think had sunken into their brick heads by now. The peaceful coexistence of over 1.8 million Gambians in an atmosphere of prosperity and progress always takes precedence over the selfish interest of an insignificant fraction of the population.
People have argued that the demonstration was one way or the other a UDP effort to retain Lawyer Darboe as their flag bearer in the upcoming general elections who by his age is constitutionally disqualified to contest again as a presidential candidate. If that is the case, what a cowardly tactic from the party stalwarts to use a bunch of ill-informed men to initiate the dirty work for them!
It was also cowardly not to be blunt about their main objective of getting their disqualified candidate on the ticket which of course was not going to be supported by other opposition parties. Mr. Darboe, they said, had lived with the electoral laws, especially on the age limit since 1997 until it caught up with him this year which suddenly must be reformed to suit his continuous candidature as the owner of the party.
But by far the most cowardly act was to wait until the President left the country for them to start the trouble. Anyway, after the UDP overrated the power of their influence and naively tried to confront the government singlehandedly with woeful failure, the issue now shifts to demands for other opposition parties to rally behind them. If they wanted a genuine collaboration with all their counterparts, they would have sought it first before resorting to their defeated effort. People hate supporting or associating with failures.
On a final note I thought it necessary to share with all Gambians an event I witnessed at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Monday, 11 April 2016. It was the 22nd anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, organised to reflect over what had happened and how incidents like it should be prevented in the future.
After the opening remarks by UN Secretary General, Ban-Ki-moon followed by a special statement by Mr Mogens Lykketoft, President of the General Assembly, we first heard from Ms Frida Unuhoza. Frida’s most harrowing account was how as a 14-year-old Tutsi, she was buried alive in a shallow grave with 15 dead members of her family for many hours before being rescued. She was able to eventually write a book about her traumatic experience entitled, Chosen to Die, Destined to Live.
The second speaker was Mr Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations, the coordinating body for 50 national Jewish organisations. He captivated the audience by comparing what happened in Rwanda to what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany in that the whole world stood by and pretended as if it was not happening when in reality they knew everything about the genocide until so many people perished unnecessarily.
After Mr Hoenlein, Ms Nelly Mukazayire took the floor. As a Tutsi from her paternal side with a Hutu mother she grew up to the shock of her life for the role played by her mother in the ethnic cleansing. Her mother took part in massacring helpless Tutsi civilians that eventually landed her in prison for the rest of her life. She is now the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of the President of Rwanda and a celebrated advocate for ethnic tolerance and socioeconomic stability in Africa and the entire world.
The Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the United Nations, Eugene-Richard Gasana delivered the closing remarks with warning to the international community to stop trying to dictate how Rwandans should be governed when as a nation they are very much satisfied with the way their president runs the affairs of their country. It was their president, he emphasised, who rescued them from the brink of total extermination and built them a nation of reconciliation, stability and success.
Anyway in the general assessment of what compounded the problem in 1994 was the hateful incitement from certain radio stations in the country urging Hutus to go out and kill more Tutsi and even moderate Hutus. In hundred days, 800,000 armless civilians including babies were killed in cold blood for because of tribal hatred brutally manifested as political rights. It started as one political confrontation with government forces that degenerated into the genocide that still baffles the world. The Rwandans were not only betrayed by the international community for their failure to intervene when they could, but French troops equipped with adequate resources to stop the killing stood by and literally allowed the mayhem to continue.
His Excellency, Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh, Babili Mansa, is aware of the possibility of his nation being subjected to the same kind of tribal conflict if he doesn’t prevent it and will therefore do everything at his means to stay on top of things to avoid that.
Long live the peace and tranquility in the Islamic Republic of The Gambia!
Mr Samsudeen Sarr is the Deputy Representative of The Gambia to the UN, former Commander of the National Army and published author of several books.
Author: Samsudeen Sarr