Wednesday, 19 September 2012 15:03(Column) – I never thought I would ever say this. But for the first time in my life, I’m saying well done to my brother from another mother, President Yahya Jammeh for granting an amnesty to Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh and Tamsir Jasseh.
The two Gambia-born American nationals, who were serving life sentences at the State Central Prisons in Banjul, were released from custody yesterday and have since arrived in the US.
Their release was facilitated by Reverend Jesse Jackson who arrived in Banjul on Sunday to help save the lives of death row inmates,who were threatened with execution by Mr Jammeh.
However, while I commend Mr Jammeh for granting an amnesty to the duo, I would urge him to go further and release other low risk political prisoners in the country. Jammeh’s amnesty to Janneh and Jasseh would have no meaning at all should he fail to release other political prisoners currently languishing at the Mile Two Prisons. In fact, any failure to release the other political prisoners would be seen as hypocritical and selective.
This is because Dr Janneh was arrested and jailed together with Modou Keita, Ebrima Jallow and Michael Uche Thomas for printing and distributing T-shirts bearing the slogan 'Coalition for Change the Gambia, End Dictatorship Now'.
Dr Janneh was the one who contracted the men to print the T-shirts. And if Jammeh can release him despite the gravity of his crime, then his colleagues on lesser charges should also be given back their freedom.
Secondly, Tamsir Jasseh was also arrested and jailed together with some civilians for treason. And the same amnesty should also be granted to his colleagues. Until that is done, Jammeh's amnesty to Janneh and Jasseh would be seen as act of double standard.
What is good for the goose should also be good for the gander.
President Jammeh should use this window of opportunity to try and rebuild his battered image. He should end the human rights abuses, end the clamp down on the local media, set up a commission of inquiry into the torture and disappearances of Gambians, set up a presidential term limit and apologise to the Gambian people for his excesses.
Gambians are very forgiving, and I believe that despite his poor human rights record, they will forgive him. Jammeh needs to know that he cannot continue to hold the Gambian people in contempt. The only way to bring peace and stability in our country is not by intimidating the people, but by respecting theirs rights, freedoms and governing them according to the laws of the country.
Recently announced plans by Sheikh Sidia Bayo to create a Gambian government in exile in neighbouring Senegal within days are completely ridiculous and can best be seen as pure political opportunism.
Bayo is trying to use the public anger over the execution of the death row inmates to build his own political career. He is trying to ride on the corpses of the executed inmates, and the climate of uncertainty facing political prisoners in the country which is very dangerous.
Until the story was published on the BBC website, Bayo was an unknown figure in Gambian politics. And in my 13 years of journalism practice, I have never heard him condemning the numerous cases of human rights abuses of the Jammeh regime or doing anything to help restore democracy and the rule of law in the Gambia. His motives are really questionable.
Mr Bayo’s plans are very laughable and I cannot see any serious country abandoning the Jammeh regime to set up diplomatic ties with a self-appointed Bayo government anytime soon. I also cannot see the National Transitional Council of the Gambia (CNTG) working in Senegal. I don’t think President Sall would be so daft to allow his country to be used as base for a rival Gambian government. Such a move would be very dangerous and would cause an irreparable damage in the relationships between the two countries.
In as much as I don’t see Jammeh as the right man to lead the Gambia in this 21st Century, I don’t believe that Bayo’s CNTG holds any solutions to the Gambia’s problem. And no wonder all opposition leaders in the country have kept their distance away from the CNTG.
Is Bayo really serious? I think not.
Written by PK Jarju
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