Saturday, October 10, 2009

Jammeh’s latest move, an executive gimmicks?

What would make anyone lose sight of the fact that President Yahya Jammeh was bound to come up with something that would serve as a fitting distraction of the attention of the Gambian public from a self-inflicted nightmarish experience caused by the previous weeks’ horde of misfortune? There was a seemingly unending condemnation of his latest eruption, threatening to eliminate human right defenders; prospects of indicting him for gross human right violations gained momentum as human right groups intensified their moves; his plans to get the ECOWAS Court compromised thrown out of the window; and, as if all that was not enough, rumours too strong to be rumours went all over that a largely edgy military core was up to something dirty.

Since nobody among those around the president was ready to put their job on the line (and I will not blame anyone for that), the president had a tormenting air of guilt all over him as he would not have anyone to talk to him about this. And so to dilute the compounding feeling of tension within himself, he was desperate to create a scene that would keep the Gambian public (the media included) busy deliberating on. The so-called unexpected visit of parts of Banjul and its outskirts, military barracks included, was just a perfect way of starting this. As usual, Gambians will have to be made to believe that President Yahya Jammeh is not to blame for the fact that things aren’t going on well. And the characteristic threats of sacking, sacking and sacking ‘‘until I have the people who are ready to work…’’

Surely the living condition of soldiers in the barracks isn’t enough reason for any sensible commander-in-chief to axe their army chief. So, then comes the technical problem that prevented the presidential entourage from attending the UNESCO conference. General Tamba, the man credited for the famous abortive Col. Ndure Cham coup, was sacrificed.

This whole thing is getting messy and confusing. But wait a minute! Could this evolving situation be the ploy to legitimise the execution of the promise to clamp down on human right defenders? Well, journalists, opposition figures, human right defenders, beware, this could well be an executive gimmicks, because what is happening in Gambia is tantamount to a state of emergency. This is the line of action in the wake of every reported attempted coup.

But President Jammeh hasn’t been good enough to see that he can’t play this game well, because anytime he tries it, it only helps to accentuate his overall responsibility for the existing problems Gambians are going through. This, Gambians have become well aware of.

I think that what the Gambia needs today is not only a government of trustworthy people, but one with a leadership that is good enough to make a choice of the right people to work with for the achievement of its goals. In either way, both Yahya Jammeh and the APRC have failed Gambians woefully. They say ‘show me your friend and I will tell you who you are’.

It is a well known policy that President Jammeh does not tolerate any divergent voice around him. You can only get a ministerial post by being an ardent APRC supporter, and that would mean demonstrating unbending allegiance to the party’s supreme leader, His Excellency Rt. Lt., Rt. Cap., Rt. Col. Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh.

The question now is, by the number and frequency of changes we have experienced since 1994, is it not fair enough to say that the APRC lacks all its takes, in terms of human resource, to provide Gambians with their basic needs?

“I am sick and tired of going to tell people what they should know for themselves and come and tell me?’’ President Jammeh is reported to have said to journalists, a statement these very journalists have reported time and again by the very same president. It just serves as an indictment on his rule as it shows that either the people he works with have lost confidence in him, or he has lost confidence in them. It goes to prove that the APRC no longer has what it takes to steer the Gambia’s affairs forward. All Jammeh has to do now is to resign; that is if he is really a democrat. I can imagine him dismissing this suggestion of mine as democracy bullshit! Never mind.

True, true there is every reason to complain about the state of affairs in Gambia these days as nothing is working at all. But in my own opinion it is also somehow unfair for anyone to put the blame squarely on ministers or permanent secretaries, or security chiefs. The fact is that civil servants have been hired on the basis that they just have to serve the person of the president and they will be ok. That explains the situation of the Gambia police force. Forget about the structure. That force is among the most undisciplined in the sub-region. The whole world knows that if there is any security officer in Gambia who needs disciplining it is the head of the Gambia’s police force.

While I would not rule out the eminent existence of discontent within the ranks of the military (as the rather biased distribution of position within the security forces is enough to cause rancour within), I do have a strong feeling that Jammeh probably made up his mind at the last minute not to attend the UNESCO meeting as there happened to be bigger stakes for him being present at the Independence Stadium instead. What matters at the end of the day is what Gambians think.

Take a look at that photo on the front page of the Daily Observer’s Wednesday 7th edition, 2009, and you will see the powerful message embedded therein with that huge number of people at the background. But hey, my experience as a journalist at the Daily Observer is enough a reason not to have me carried away by such gimmicks.

Since the GFA got information about the coming of the trophy, they must have laid down plans to transport Gambians from the interior, who are busy working on their farms. But I do also know that 50% of those who eventually turned out at the Stadium did so purely out of their adoration for the game. Unfortunately their presence there has been exploited by Jammeh. And an innocent General Tamba and his men have been sacrificed.

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