jammehBy Ousainou Mbenga

Now that the desperate Jammeh regime has rolled – up the blood-stained carpet after the welcome of his special guests to the annual Roots Homecoming Festival; it wouldn’t be long before he rolls it out again to commemorate July 22, marking 20 years of ruthlessness towards Gambia and the dishonor his regime has brought upon our ROOTS and “NATION”. This year’s special guests included Mutabaruka, Sizzla Kalonji and Erykah Badu, who backed out due to a fierce criticism of her history of entertaining despots and tyrants. Without much publicity, the RHCF guests included Julius Garvey, the son of the mighty Marcus Garvey and one Professor Runoko Rashidi, who in his internet posting characterized the trip as a “royal welcome”.

The festival came about as a commemoration of Alex Haley’s classic book Roots, which validates the historical fact that: the blood that binds us is thicker than the waters that separate us. The story was eventually made into a movie making Gambia a household name to the rest of the world.

The Roots Homecoming which was hijacked to Kanilai from Jufurreh – the village Kunta Kinteh hail from and the July 22 festivities have become the two major events Jammeh uses to drum up support for his bloody regime. In the past 20 years, the Jammeh regime has lavished the “nation’s” meager resources to entertain an array of guests ranging from heads of states, prostitutes, artists and dishonest academicians.

Indeed, the Roots Homecoming Festival should be an honorable celebration for Africans all over the world under normal conditions of peace and freedom from neocolonial repression. But the Gambia is a “nation” behind bars; where arrests, imprisonment and indefinite detention are the order of the day. Gambians disappear without a trace and live under constant threat and fear of Jammeh’s “security bandits”.

No Time For Celebrations, Jammeh Must Go!

The dying but not yet dead regime now resorts to cultural opportunism by using the festival to cleanse and sanitize his blood-stained “pan African” image by associating with so called progressive artists, the likes of Muta, Erykah Badu, Sizzla and academicians, the likes of Dr. Rashidi and Julius Garvey.

In fact the festival remains poorly organized since its inception, even at the level of attracting tourism because of the insincerity of the state apparatus, especially with the Jammeh regime.

The Democratic Union of Gambian Activists – DUGA wrote to Muta and provided him with a mountain of evidence about the tyrannical regime with additional independent sources for his reference. But Muta said he can’t just go by our letter and the evidence we provided to make an informed decision whether to go or turn down the invitation. He wants to find out for himself from the people on the ground and will get back with us.

Fair enough brother Muta, but we – and this is not only DUGA – know and feel the repression. We can’t wait for you and the other guests to find out who Jammeh really is. 20 years is too damn long to have put up with Jammeh’s brutish ignorance. We can’t stop any African from going to the motherland because” Africa is for Africans at home and abroad”. But for us there will be no compromise, no surrender in this fight to uproot the tyrannical Jammeh regime from our beloved Gambia.

Cultural Opportunism And Blood Money

Categorically, my take is not anti – Jamaican or “African American” (a contradiction in terms). This is about Muta, Runoko Rashidi, Julius Garvey and Sizzla Kalonji, four Africans born in Jamaica and U.S respectively, who knowingly accepts blood money from an “oppressor man”, worst, and the oppressor, is African.

Dr. Rashidi is a historian that perambulates the lecture circuit on African anteriority. He has resolved himself to “lectures” as if that in itself constitutes the struggle for African liberation. It is quite interesting to see how elated the professor was about his invitation by an African tyrant; a counter revolutionary at best. Waxing important and dignified, he characterized his welcome as “royal”. One would expect the professor, a historian, to investigate the history of the regime- just as he gathers historical facts about Africans around the world – to scrutinize his invitation by this neocolonialist gangster, Jammeh. But the professor clearly demonstrates where his interest lies; MONEY.

Professor Manu Ampim in his book, “Towards Black Community Development: Moving beyond the limitations of the lecture model”, lamented on how the “lecture circuit” became a hustle for money and women at the expense of genuine black community development. To my knowledge, only the late Professor Ivan Van Sertima  fessed – up to the criticism.

In Mutabaruka’s case, since he is a poet, we are reminding him of the saying: “A poet on a king’s pay roll gets his tongue cut off”. With Jammeh’s aspiration for kingship, poets like Muta will ultimately become muted poets.

Sizzla seems to be a regular guest of Jammeh’s birthday celebrations and other occasions. But his “minstrel show” for Jammeh at Kanilia only surpasses Jammeh’s buffoonery. All doubters can see for themselves on youtube as Sizzla makes a mockery of himself.

It is during hard times and difficult moments in life that we distinguish the real revolutionaries and progressives from the “rapper – lutionaries, cultural pimps and hustlers. These include artists, athletes and academicians alike. This brings to mind one of the greatest athletes ever; the people’s champion, Mohammed Ali. Ali, under pressure and coercion to fight for U.S imperialism in Vietnam said: “Damn the money”, my people’s freedom is worth more than money. That’s why Ali will forever remain the people’s champion.

Finally, the infamous July 22 celebrations are in the making and Jammeh will roll out the same blood – stained carpet to welcome his opportunist guests to prop up his staggering regime. The AFPRC – APRC is in deep crisis, Jammeh cannot rule in the same old way he used to. Whether it’s realized or not, we have dealt a few staggering blows to his ego and pierce through his armor of invincibility. Desperate to keep his regime afloat he has elevated July 22 to erase memories of February 16 as the “independence” day of Gambia.

After Jammeh is gone, we will restore the integrity of Roots Homecoming in a Gambia where African life is given the greatest of value and dignity. And July 22 will remain a day of infamy in the annals of Gambian history.

“ONWARD FORWARD DON’T STEP BACKWARD”

ONE AFRICA! ONE NATION!

Ends

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