(JollofNews)—Last month as part of the Gambia’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, President Yahya Jammeh said in an interview with the state television, GRTS, that he is granting an amnesty to some his critics and opponents in the Diaspora.
Looking like the Roman god, Zeus, who chained Prometheus to a rock where an eagle ate his liver every day after he stole fire and gave it to human, Jammeh was neither sincere nor reconciliatory in the interview. He spoke and behaved like a bully who after punching and kicking his victim to ground, wants his victims to apologise to him and continue to live in fear.
“I swear to God, I have forgiven them,” he said. “They are free to come back to this country. However, I will not forgive for obvious reasons some of them, and they know themselves. But the rest are free to come home. Those who personalised everything, I will not let them to come back. If they come, they are going to jail. Those I am not forgiving are less than ten.”
Soon after the interview was broadcast in the Gambia, some friends started pleading with me to stop criticising ‘Oga or Chairman’ as he is fondly called in the Jola community to enable my safe return to the Gambia. Some even suggested that I quit journalism, a profession I love and have been practising for nearly 15 long years now.
As a soft hearted person, it pains me to see my friends plead with me, asking me to turn my back on something I am so passionate about. I don’t blame my friends because I know deep down that they cared for me and are afraid of the consequences of my criticisms of the brutal and undemocratic regime of Yahya Jammeh. And because of their love for me, they don’t want me to become another Deyda Hydara, Chief Manneh or Buba Baldeh, who died in Senegal and because of his vocal criticism of the Jammeh regime, was refused burial in the Gambia.
They want me put my principles of speaking out against injustice and be like some Gambians in the Diaspora who selfisly enjoy the freedoms they have over here but don’t want the same freedoms for their people in the Gambia. They want me to ignore the brutalities and failures of Yahya Jammeh and his regime and do my own thing for their sake, my own sake and that of my young children.
I do appreciate their concerns but did make it clear to them that the way and manner in which Yahya Jammeh is governing the Gambia is very very wrong and unacceptable in any civilise society and as a patriotic Gambian, I will not sit and fold my hands and allow Mr Jammeh to continue ruining the hopes and aspirations of Gambians.
I reminded them, that I do miss them and the Gambia, but I will NEVER stop speaking out against the oppression, arrest, torture and killing of Gambians by a regime that has ironically claimed to be their liberator.
I also reminded them that coming from the same tribe and locality with Jammeh does not mean that I will put my brains in my back pocket and be an opportunist or political prostitute.
I told them that the Gambia is a talk and do nation and those who can talk must speak out while those who can do must do everything they can to ensure that the principles of democracy and the rule of law, that are clearly spelt out in our constitution are adhered to by Yahya Jammeh and his regime.
Pissed off with one of them, I asked him to open his eyes and take a serious look at the Gambia under Jammeh.
“Bro, we are now a developed country and Chairman is building roads, schools and hospitals,” he fired back. “You people are brained-wash by the toubabos. Their democracy cannot work here in Africa, and remember that a log can never turn into a crocodile no matter how long it stays in a river.”
As we continued the argument, I made it clear to him that I will never apologise to Jammeh for criticising his lack of respect to the rights of Gambians and I am ready to stay in exile for the rest of my life and speak out against the APRC regime than return to Gambia and suffer the misrule of a failed regime and failed leader.
I told him that the APRC regime has failed the Gambian people and instead of accepting its failures and exiting from the corridors of power, it is using security officers to bully, intimate, torture and even kill people like me who dare to speak out against its shameful misdeeds.
“In the Gambia today,” I went on: “Utter disregard for the rule of law and democracy have led to a situation of uncertainty and Gambians are more confused by the uncertain direction of the July 22 Revolution- a revolution, which is supposedly guided by Jammeh in his wisdom and magnanimity as the saviour of the Gambia. Jammeh is ruling the country with an iron hand. His policy of making the lives of people who are against him as difficult as possible has put so much fear in the hearts and minds of many Gambians like you. And the more that fear remains in your hearts and you continue to remain silent about the deteriorating political situation in our country, the guiltier you are of strengthening dictatorship.”
Pressing on, I told him that I am not asking him to be martyr. “I am not seeking martyrdom either by critiquing the misrule of Yahya Jammeh but exercising my civic and constitutional rights as a Gambian,” I said.
“I chose to be a critic of the Jammeh regime simply because my conscience cannot allow me to turn a blind eye to the political situation in the country while a man who is ‘supposed’ to a servant of the people has transformed himself into their master and ruling them contrary to the democratic ideals. I cannot do other than to speak out against the regime and suffer the consequences. I have been driven to speak out for what I believe is right and try to sensitise the people with the hope of bringing out changes in our political system.
“I know that some of my criticisms have upset many but I don’t give a toss for I cannot be condemned forever to say nothing and do nothing. I am not the criminal here and will continue to do what I am doing.
“The criminal is the administration in Gambia, which is failing to govern the country according to the dictates of the 1997 constitution. And if me speaking out against injustice means I am never going back to the Gambia, then so be it.”
As the argument started to turn nasty, he slammed the phone on me but not before telling me how disappointed he was with me and what a disgrace I am to the Jola community.
“Yeah, yeah, I have heard all that before” I said as the phone went dead.