Unity

Daily News, Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dear Candidate President,

I had a dream about you an hour ago Mr. President. I had never dreamt about you before in all the time I have known you, but I have woken up out of a dream about you.

I normally dream about something if it is the last thing on my mind as I fall asleep. You were the last thing on my mind when I fell asleep today.

A true Gambian friend, who nevertheless prefers not to be known by his fellow Diasporan Gambians as my friend because of my past association with you, rang late last evening. And he talked and talked and talked. My letter to you in 2006 entitled “Dear Candidate President” was one bullet my friend fired in my direction.

Then he tossed a hand-grenade by referring to my 2005 article entitled “The Peace Imperative” – praising Gambia’s peace. When the hand-grenade failed to finish me off, my friend detonated a powerful Improvised Explosive Devise:

“Your friend Baba Jobe and yourself were in Soma exactly 10 years ago this month campaigning for Jammeh. Look what Jammeh did to Baba”.

That did the job. Even Halake must fall under such heavy fire.

And yet, I wouldn’t call my Gambian friend Brutus, for he has always been true.

I say my Gambian friend is “true” because, Mr. President, when you arrested me in 2008 and I had to leave The Gambia, this Gambian, who had warned me not to accept your offer of a job as Daily Observer MD, provided me with money when I flew to Senegal to bring my Gambian daughter back to the UK (on that flight of 10th May 2009, Mr. President, I met your Police Chief who assured me that you loved me and tried to persuade me not to stop in Dakar – but that is another story).

Of course, I am glad that I rejected my friend’s advice and accepted the Daily Observer job because it was an education better than all my university and college education combined.

My friend’s “Baba Jobe” IED worked as effectively as the Taliban ones against the Americans. I went to bed, Mr. President, with my “illusions” about you fatally wounded.

My Gambian friend’s “Baba Jobe” IED has killed off any romanticism I still entertained about you, just as surely as the wailing of the widow Tida and other Gambians at Baba Jobe’s RVTH death-bed killed off any admiration or sympathy you had left in Jarra Soma.

You know, Mr. President, my 2001 Soma speech to the crowd ended with “Jammeh Kanilai! Baba Jobe Soma!!” The Jarrankas loved their Baba. And so did you – or so both Baba and I thought.

As we drove back to Banjul on that 2001 night, your telephone call to Baba was constant. Baba Jobe’s driver, a driver borrowed from Charles Taylor, was amazing as he drove at break-neck speed along that dangerous road.

But you kept calling every five minutes. And the driver drove even faster. You rang again and said all those dignitaries at the Kairaba Hotel function would have to wait because you wouldn’t go until Baba arrived. And Baba’s driver drove faster and faster. But enough about Baba – I let my friend rest in peace.

My dream about you Mr. President was simple. You simply collected together all your supporters, civilian and military, and left The Gambia in the middle of the night! That’s it. Just like that.

In the only issue of X-Press Magazine that appeared in 2002, the publisher Sheriff Bojang, now proprietor of the Standard, wrote as follows: “If the 2001 election had gone the other way Baba Jobe would have had nowhere to run”. To which I replied that “Baba Jobe is not the running kind”.

You gave Baba Jobe a chance to run before you had him arrested Mr. President – I was on the phone to him from UK. But Baba never ran – may my friend’s soul rest in peace. I mention this piece in the X-Press because, Mr. President, I don’t think you will ever run away from The Gambia either – though Pa Mbai seems to think you may seek medical retirement in France.

I say you will never run away from The Gambia for three reasons:

Firstly, I have been with you in Kanilai and in the bushes. Your love for the soil you walked, and the soil you held in your hands was obvious. I cannot imagine you running away like Idi Amin to die in an Arabian desert – even if it may be an air-conditioned palace in Doha. I do believe you when you say you will die in The Gambia – as you have said so many times.

Secondly, I have read Lawyer Darboe’s Serrekunda Rally Speech. It is powerful, the most powerful speech Lawyer Darboe has ever given – and it reads like an Opening Address to the International Criminal Court by the Prosecutor.

Thirdly, I covered your State Opening of the Gambian Parliament on the 31st of March 2008. You invited ex-President Jawara to the occasion and said to him “Welcome My Uncle, Father of the Nation”. I wrote an editorial which ended with a new President of The Gambia addressing you as follows: “Welcome My Uncle, Father of the July 22 Revolution”.

I believe, and I know that you believe, that your future attendance at a Gambian State Opening of Parliament with the words “Welcome My Uncle, Father of the July 22nd Revolution” ringing in your ears is still possible – but just.

I say “just”, because I have begun hearing “The Drums of War”. The Treason Trial involving Dr. Scattred-Janneh is evidence of that. The Treason Trial and death sentences meted out to General Tamba and his co-accused is evidence of that. The death of popular Baba Jobe in state custody has heightened the tension. In the words of the Opposition Candidate Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, “Enough is Enough”.

Where will the statement “Enough is Enough” lead the country if Gambians wake up on 25th November 2011 and decide that the opposition have been “robbed of victory”?

I fear an explosion of anger that will simply be un-containable. I fear it so much that I think the British Foreign Office has a duty to tell their citizens to cancel all planned travel to The Gambia this week.

I am aware that you have, Mr. President, vowed to keep the peace. I am aware that you have clearly stated, Mr. President, that you will not tolerate an “Ivory Coast Scenario”.

An Ivory Coast scenario will only arise if the Opposition feel that they have been cheated out of electoral victory. They may be right, or they may be wrong. But what will matter is how a sizeable number of ordinary Gambians will feel on the 25th of November 2011. And if there is such anger, will Lawyer Darboe come into the television studios with you again and shake hands and accept defeat as he did ten years ago? Going by Lawyer Darboe’s “Enough is Enough” speech this week, I doubt that very much. And then what if out of frustration disturbances occur in places such as Serrekunda and Brikama?

Will Gambian security forces shoot to kill in order to control the situation?

Mr. President, bear in mind that one poor little street-vender, harassed by the police in Tunisia, killed himself – and in the process destroyed Tunisia’s president, Egypt’s President, Libya’s President, Yemen’s President and now Syria’s President.

Don’t go down that road Mr. President. Young Gambians are already angry. I saw things I never thought happened in The Gambia when you locked me up. When I was in the cell at Serrekunda Police Station, I saw dozens of boys marched in off the streets by over-zealous police who were simply extorting money (500 dalasi a time) from the relatives who had to come and rescue their sons and daughters. I hear this has got worse. Anger and frustration is in the air. I believe the only peaceful way out of the situation is genuine compromise.

If APRC and yourself were to win this election Mr. President, an immediate Government of National Unity (with Lawyer Darboe as Prime Minister and Mai Fatty as Attorney General) should be announced before the IEC announces the election results. The GNU must include Hamat Bah, possibly as Minister of Tourism and Halifa Sallah, possibly as Minister of Education.

Lawyer Darboe should be the one to announce a Government of National Unity as Prime Minister – to ensure his supporters accept it.

Mr. President, Gambia has always been known as a peaceful country and this must continue. But Gambia must see no killings of Gambians by Gambians in the name of maintaining peace. Peace, especially in Africa is fragile … and Gambia must cherish and maintain its peace. But it would be a contradiction to claim to be maintaining peace by killing people.

This is a new world and Gambia is part of the world. Dictatorship can no longer be enforced at the barrel of a gun. Only genuine negotiations can keep the peace.

Peace is like virginity, purity. Once lost, it can never be regained. Please safeguard Gambia’s peace – by sharing power with all Gambians.

Lawyer Darboe’s long and moving speech will go down as a turning point in Gambia’s history. The APRC Government must not dismiss the “Wind of Change” that is blowing across the world.

Lawyer Darboe’s speech was strongest and most moving in its condemnation of the APRC’s flagrant abuse of Human Rights and the dignity of Gambians (and foreigners like me too). The APRC must accept that, and if the APRC win the elections, give Lawyer Darboe as the Executive Prime Minister, the power to put that right.

Lawyer Darboe’s speech was weakest in its refusal to accept the APRC’s development of the nation’s infra-structure, but I suspect that is because you, Mr. President, have used the term “Dictator for Development” to justify your dictatorial rule. I don’t think it is necessary to argue about “Jammeh the Builder” – that speaks for itself. But, I must also say as one who once totally supported you, Mr. President, that in the last 40 years arguably the biggest “Developer” of an African country was Libya’s Gadaffy.

As Rome’s Brutus put it, “Caesar Loved Rome, so I loved Him. Caesar became a Dictator, so I slew him”. Caesar’s fate befell Gadaffy – and the civil strife that befell Rome befalls Libya today.

Mr. President, think “Peace”, act “Peace” and live “Peace”. Peaceful Gambia demands it. You have done much to develop The Gambia, and in spite of the abuses, it has remained a peaceful country during the 17years of your rule.

In spite of what your enemies say, you have not been “another Idi Amin”. But if chaos and civil strife descends on the country after this election, and you are forced out like all the other dictators through civil strife, then your enemies wishes will be fulfilled and you will be seen in Gambian history as another Idi Amin. Libya’s fate must not befall The Gambia. Your historical legacy demands that of you.

A genuine Government of National Unity, it seems to me, is the only way to maintain peace in The Gambia after this election should the APRC and yourself win. Lawyer Darboe and the opposition must share effective power and help guide the future of a peaceful and democratic Gambia.

Then, maybe, in 20 years time, another Gambian President will welcome Yahya Jammeh of Kanilai to a State Opening of Gambia’s National Assembly with the words “Welcome My Uncle, Father of the July 22 Revolution”.

Author: Dida Jallow-Halake, London, UK. 17th November 2011.

 

Author’s note 3 years on:

This was published by the Daily News in The Gambia itself & by the Gambian on-line media. Unfortunately, there was no GoNU, no reaching out to the opposition, the Daily News was soon closed down, and those ghastly Mile 2 executions took place. For the past three years I have had nothing to say, because there was nothing more to say. But I hope readers will agree, at this moment when Burkina Faso burns as a result of a 27-year dictatorship, that a Government of National Unity is the best hope of uniting Gambians and building a durable peace in the Smiling Coast of Africa – however hopeless a hope it may sound.

 

Ends

 

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