Janko Camara

Suntou, thanks for provoking this debate. I have a slightly different view on The Gambian “intellectuals” debate. Instead of focussing on those of our “intellectuals” who have been silently (but surely, with amusement) watching the daily drama in The Gambia over the last two decades, I think we should rather beam our microscope on those of them who, having seen Yahya’s true character unfold over the years, still decided to join him and became ready tools in the execution of the heinous crimes against our people. The reasons for my postulation are:
There are some of our people (whether intellectual or not) who, as a matter of principle, believe that joining the Jammeh government, from the onset, was not an option for them. For this group, not only has Jammeh assumed political power through illegitimate means, but also the man’s lack of decorum and absolutely uncouth character, over the years, have brought to bear on governance in terms of policy formulation and implementation. Obviously, their role of providing professional guidance based or knowledge and integrity, is incongruent to the governance atmosphere created by Jammeh. Therefore, for such people, the earlier Jammeh quitted the seat of power, the better for the country. However, joining the so-called “Struggle” does not appeal to them either, as “The Struggle” for the emancipation of The Gambia appeared to have lost its essence long time ago. Therefore, the phrase “The Struggle” is fast becoming a misnomer. It is more of a “Collective Madness” were we compete to tear each other apart. In this “Collective Madness”, objectivity is not only an anathema but anyone trying to be objective is in fact the mad one. We have seen what has become of some of our HONEST intellectuals who decided to join the fight against tyranny in our country. Have they not been the subject of ridicule with everything under the sun said about them? So who, among our HONEST intellectuals, (note my emphasis on the word “honest”) will not learn lessons from this? Our good people (whether intellectual or not) get scared that in venturing into this hostile territory, they risk not only being ridiculed, but most importantly, they risk losing their integrity. The obvious question, therefore, becomes: Is it worth it? So on this point, I entirely agree with Dida Halake.
Secondly, as mentioned by earlier contributors, quite a number of our brains are working for World-Class institutions where there are clear-cut policies as to how one should comport oneself. Most of these institutions do not condone their employees being engaged in things that either could interfere with their work or could impact the name of the institution. For such people, conforming to institutional requirements becomes their overriding consideration. Obviously being Gambian and having their families and/or relations residing in The Gambia, means they are interested in and keenly observing the goings-on in Banjul. However they must, first and foremost conform to organisational requirements. Therefore, for the reasons above, we need to let them be. I will say something here. Most of these HONEST intellectuals are not DESPERATE. So they might not be interested in any future jobs in The Gambia even after Jammeh’s departure. The joy of having a stable country where their families and/or relations can live happily and enjoy the basic freedoms universal to all humans is enough for them.
So to get the quality of people we need (people with intellect and proven integrity) in the fight to restore sanity in The Gambia, we first need to re-define our objectives and align them for the benefit of the nation and nothing else. We have to recognise that our individual differences do not really matter so long as our ultimate objective is the salvation of our motherland. That means, at some point, there will be a convergence of the individual differences. Do we all have the same objective? I very much doubt. If our differences remain irreconcilable, that clearly means not all of us are thinking of the national interest. It is this simple: we can take different roads but if the destination is the same, we shall all get there – and getting there is what matters.
Now, so much of the first group of intellectuals. The group that, in my opinion, we need to focus on is the group of those so-called “intellectuals”, who decided to join Jammeh even after seeing and knowing the true colours of the man. To me, anyone who joined Jammeh’s government after 1996 could not claim ignorance or naivety about Yahya Jammeh and the type of government he headed. This is because by 1996, we had already seen the worst bloodshed in our history (with the exception of the 1981 mayhem caused by some naïve adventurers) as a country since independence. By 1996, we had become used to the uncouth Press Releases that were more representative of a string of national embarrassments than anything else; arbitrary detentions without trial; the inhumane tortures of detainees; the summary dismissals of Civil Servants; the daily violations of the rights of the man in the street, the November 11 1994 bloodshed; the cold-blooded murder of one of the country’s finest brains – the former Finance Minister; the internal power struggle among the “Council” members which could not be managed out of public glare; etc. To me, by 1996, things have clearly fallen apart within the AFPRC and the Falcon could no longer hear the Falconer, borrowing from Chinua Achebe. So we were headed for the worst experience in our lives.
I would have to admit that The Gambia was entirely new to Military adventures/misadventures in governance. Therefore, when you have high-sounding speeches – Transparency, Accountability and Probity – coming from vagabonds like Yahya Jammeh, an ordinary, clueless man-in-the-street type could easily fall for the trap, as most of us did. These were new and strange times in Banjul. However, if after all of the above-mentioned rude-awakening events, one still felt the urge to join the Jammeh regime, that can only be deemed as an adventure to further one’s own interest, not the National Interest. This is why I think maybe we need to refocus our attention and carefully evaluate our “Intellectuals” who decided to put everything at stake by accepting Jammeh’s poisoned chalice.

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