The other day I was discussing with a friend of mine, our discussion centered on the many missed opportunities that abound for citizens of the Senegambia region, which remains far out of reach as a result of the mostly abrasive relationship between the two countries. Or is it the countries or merely the leaderships? Like my friend who hasa dual Gambian and Senegalese citizenship put it: ‘‘the common people are barely aware of their (the leaders) trivial personal problems, yet the implications are felt by us.’’
Just a couple of days or so later, I bumped onto a well authored article giving an academic view of this very same subject. I felt impressed. But it left me immersed in bemusement as to what would limit so much needed understanding and cooperation between the two leaders of what are arguably the two most identical countries in the world. It soon downed on me that there are more to the situation surrounding Gambia and Senegal than some of us might care to know.
Not so long after, on October 20, President Yahya Jammeh made headlines, calling on an imaginary audience of belligerents to halt fighting in the Southern Senegalese Region of Casamance and to resort to the discussion table. An official presidential statement from State House in Banjul aired on the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS), quoted the president as saying, ‘‘both parties to the conflict should know that the solution to the problem of Casamance is not a military one. The Gambia, as a peace loving country, cannot be indifferent to the escalating violence in Casamance…’
This statement by the Gambian leader was met with a strong force of dismissal from so many quarters, not least from among his own compatriots, all of whom appeared unanimous in their belief that despite portraying himself as some kind of a mediator, Jammeh is in fact a part and parcel of the problem in the Casamance region.
Because of some unwarranted behaviors of Yahya Jammeh towards his Senegalese counterpart, I am inclined to believe that there is some truth in all these allegations against him regarding his role in the Casamance affairs and his status as an impediment to potential integration of the two people. Take a look at this headline story: ‘IMF scandal rocks Senegal…Wade’s reputation discredited.’ It appeared on the Daily Observer, a paper owned by Yahya Jammeh. But the fact that he owned this paper is not the issue here; the issue is that it is him who passed the directive that this article be published, as a way, I guess, of amplifying Wade’s political woes. This news item apparently hits the headlines towards the end of October. The Daily Observer is only publishing now, after Jammeh apparently came across it.
Earlier on February 8, 2009, the same paper published another article ‘‘‘I am not a Freemason anymore’’ - President Wade’, again at the directive of Yahya Jammeh. I was there then. He ordered that we search for the news and publish it. What for? - was the question that then lingered in the minds of everyone there. Even some people who portray themselves as arch supporters of his criticize this rather baffling attitude of his.
In May 2007, a similar scenario occurred which cost some innocent NIA officials their job, thanks to the hurtful nature of a conceited president. An article had been published on the Daily Observer the previous day, which could only have set out to set alight the two countries. That incriminating article had been penned by Yahya Jammeh himself in his office, on his table at State House, and given to the then editor-in-chief for onward submission to Dr Taal, the then MD of the Daily Observer, for publication. The order was that the article be published verbatim. And so it was.
Taken aback by the move, and knowing very well the relationship between the Daily Observer and the Gambia government, and what the article will mean for the relationship between his country and Gambia, the Senegalese ambassador in Banjul apparently became convinced that this was not fitting. He contacted some one highly placed within the Gambian security establishment. Eventually some foolish senior NIA official ordered a couple of his men to take up the issue with the Daily Observer. Just like it had been published on Freedom on its May 18th 2007 edition. Both Dr Taal and the editor-in-chief, as well as the senior news editors at the Observer then knew very well that the article was from the desk of the president, yet they would not tell the innocent investigating NIAs who were there on assignment, only to find out how the story came about. Eventually the information reached the president. He ordered that all the NIA officers and their superior who assigned them be sacked ‘‘for daring to investigating the president.’’
How on earth could these people have known that they were investigating the almighty, vindictive president? As a matter of fact, those junior NIAs never got to know the reason for their sacking. They were innocent, executing an assignment they had been tasked to do, in the interest of safeguarding regional peace, a peace that had been put at risk by the head of state.
This is how many people, very many people in the Yahya Jammeh government since 1994 to date, have had their jobs terminated. And the impression we get is that these sacked people are the bad ones. No!
The special interest Jammeh shows in these kind stories demonstrates his wily and vile feeling for Wade and the rest of the Senegalese people. You can not hate an innocent leader and you claim to like its people.
Now if you were in the place of the Senegalese president, who is old enough to be his father, how would you treat such a person who is supposedly a brother to you? I do not know if Wade is doing something similar to Yahya Jammeh, or if he is aware of this irrational behavior of someone who portrays himself as the ‘champion’ of piece in the world, but I am quite certain that the political maturity in Senegal would not allow Wade to indulge in such, and beside, the Senegalese president has got far more important issues to deal with than to indulge in this kind of nonsense.
This sort of mortifying small-mindedness is the distasteful side of Yahya Jammeh his supporters do not seem to know about. Or are they just ignoring it?
I believe President Wade, like every other human being, feels just as bad as Yahya does when something of this nature is highlighted about him. Nonetheless such are a frequent occurrence in the Senegalese press, and despite occasional outcry by members of the press, the situation is far above 100% better than what you can find in Gambia. Gambians do not even have the right to what the constitution guarantees, let alone matters on the person of the president. This explains the level of proliferation of Gambian owned online papers abroad.
But the point I am trying to make here is that Yahya Jammeh is fund of preaching decency, yet it turns out that he very much subscribes to this sort of unethical behavior. In Gambia the media is wrong only when it focuses negatively on Yahya Jammeh. The narrow minded president himself uses the media to blast at his opponents or insults the whole, and sometimes the whole world, and he does not see anything wrong about libel or deformation until he becomes the victim.
For those of us who have been around long enough to know some little about this man, his dishonest preaching for peace in the rest of the world is typical of him, despite his global condemnation as an epitome of a repressive Africa. Paradoxically, the words ‘peace and stability’ have become permanently part of his vocabulary, yet all his dealings from the dawn of the day to sunset are full of contradictions of threats of torture and killing. How can you claim to want to bring peace to someone else’s country when yours is in disarray in the first place? Isn’t that hypocrisy in the highest form?