Fatou Jallow’s Rape Allegation On International Media Is A Fake Media Campaign To Seek Public Sympathy For Prosecution Of Former President Yaya Jammeh And Financial Exploitation Of TRRC

A recent international media campaign that suggested that “a 23-year-old former beauty queen in The Gambia, Fatou Jallow, was raped in 2015 by former President Yahya Jammeh when he was in office” is a pure media PR campaign designed to seek public sympathy aimed at prosecuting former Gambian President and to exploit the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRRC) and wider international justice system for financial gains.

The TRRC is established to find facts about crimes committed during Jammeh’s 22 years of dictatorship. Since the establishment of the Commission, credible witnesses appeared before it but it is also true that many misguided statements and unfounded allegations were made to deceive the Gambian public. Many of these false testimonies were meant to exploit the Commission for financial gains in the form of monetary compensation victims are expected to gain. Any act to deceive Gambians unravel the truth during testimony is unfair. This means our quest to find the Truth is not only defeated but also the basis of the Cmmission to pave the way for new beginning based on building National Reconciliation, Cohesion and Development will be compromised.

The story of Fatou Jallow, which was prominently featured in New York Times and many Gambian online media, is a classic example of Media campaign to put a face on sexual assault and violence movement designed to make a case in the Gambia and international community against former President Yaya Jammeh. It is very clear to every genuine citizen that former President was indeed a cruel leader who has committed horrendous crimes against many innocent Gambians and citizens of wider international community. But Gambian people must not allow the TRRC to be used as an exploitative mechanism to exaggerate Jammeh’s Crimes for financial exploitation. Fatou Jallow and her enablers are truly using TRCC to prematurely gain guilty public verdict for former President and subsequently earn financial compensation. It is common practice we have seen in many sexual allegation cases for victims to embark on public media campaign to gain support of pubic opinion. This is exactly what Fatou and her supporters are doing without presenting any factual evidence in the public space. Fatou Jallow as a victim of rape or sexual violence should have first appeared before the Commission rather than embark on any international media campaign to make her case. This would give credibility and fair process to all those who are involved or interested in establishing truth about Jammeh’s sexual allegations. She must be supported to appear before the Commission and share her story first. Since the victim has decided to make her case before the international community then it is equally fair to know who is actually Fatou Jallow and what is her motivation to speak to international media as first venue to seek justice if it is not to gain public support and sympathy. In this era of “Me Too Movement”, any attention seeking woman could come up with sexual allegation, especially in the Gambia where we have seen many self-proclaimed victims coming forward. If Fatou is a true victim she must be commended for coming forward instead of being used as a tool for wider international media campaign for Jammeh’s alleged sexual assaults. The story of Fatou Jallow crowned as a beauty queen and subsequent sexual allegations truly needs to be told for the sake of establishing truth for the benefits of wider Gambian public and international community.

Who is Fatou Jallow?

Fatou Jallow is a 23 year of Gambian female currently living in Toronto, Canada. Her mother is Awa Saho and father is Alpha Jallow. Fatou’s story first appeared in 2015 on various Gambian online media where it was alleged that “former July 22nd beauty queen of the Gambia had gone missing for several weeks after being placed under house arrest for rejecting President Jammeh’s inappropriate advances towards her”. Fatou was subsequently offered an asylum on this pretext in Canada. She was not the only Gambian who made serious allegations to secure political asylum in many western countries. In fact, it was common trend among Gambian immigrants at the time.
During her testimony with Human Rihts Watch, Fatou Jallow alleged that “she was raped by former President Jammeh at State House in Banjul in 2015 after she was crowned the queen of beauty pageantry at the age of 18.” But the true story of Fatou Jallow from the beginning of beauty pageantry to current publication of sexual allegation against former President Jammeh was based on deception and fabrication of facts. Fatou was unfairly crowned as a queen of July 22 beauty pageantry simply because her mother Awa Saho used her closed connection with the minister of education to stifle competition. The minister was also a friend and boss of her mother Awa Saho, a senior education officer at the Ministry of Education at the time of Fatou’s crowning. Currently, Awa Saho is a senior education officer at West Coast Region. It was the Ministry of Education which worked with Jammeh’s State House to organize beauty contest in the country purportedly to empower young Gambian girls for various educational opportunities. There were many girls who were crowned as beauty queen before Fatou Jallow commonly known as Toufah Jallow. Some of these women currently work in various responsible positions in public service and private organizations in the country. None of the former beauty queens made sexual allegations against former President Jammeh and none of Fatou Jallow’s fellow contestants has substantiated her allegations against former President Jammeh. Many of her supporters were surprised to see her crowned as a beauty queen. In fact, many people who were closed to Fatou at the Gambia College have admitted that Fatou was never interested to participate in beauty pageantry but she was initially encouraged by her friends and mother to contest because of her popularity among students at the college. Fatou eventually contested and was selectively nominated as a beauty queen. The organizers of the pageantry at the Ministry of Education knew at the time that former President has high affinity for light-skinned women and Fatou was used as a bait to gain attention of former President Jammeh. Jammeh eventually became interested in Fatou Jallow and started pursuing Fatou for relationship. According to State House insiders, Jammeh offered Fatou Jallow a job as a protocol officer and intelligence officer but Fatou politely declined the offers. She suggested that she wanted to study abroad and began working with Jammeh to secure college admission in the United States. This was in the early February 2015. It was during this time that Jammeh expressed his interest in Fatou Jallow and contacted her mother Awa Saho for her blessing. According to various State House insiders who were closed protection officers of President Jammeh, Awa Saho was extremely pleased and happy to see her only daughter having a closed relationship with the President. Following the establishment of the relationship, Jammeh contacted National Water and Electricity Company and arranged for installation of plumbing materials in Fatou’s family’s house, which did not have running water at the time. New furniture and wardrobe arrived for the beauty queen after the approval of her mother Awa Saho. Sick relatives were shuttled to doctors and electronic devices like iPhones and iPads were supplied to various family members. Daily delivery of meats and fish to Awa Saho’s home from the State House house became common knowledge among State House protocol officials. Fatou Jallow was offered various gifts including a gold necklace for her birthday, coin and even a brand new car was offered to her parents. Alpha Jallow and Awa Saho both started driving cars. Awa Saho’s resident was upgraded. Jammeh opened a bank account for her. Fatou was given tens of thousands of Dalasis every single visit to State House. She eventually bought a piece of land for herself.

During the peak of their relationship, Jammeh “dedicated Jarra Soma-Basse Road to Gambian women for their constant support to him and all his initiatives since 1994.” He as well renamed the road as “Queen Y2J Highway” as reported in Daily Observer May 12, 2015. The renaming of Jarra Soma-Basse Road as Queen Y2J Simply mean “Queen Yaya Toufah Jallow.” In the same month of May 2015, Jammeh with the agreement of Fatou Jallow ordered a billboard which featured Fatou’s image to be installed at Westfield Junction and Brikama Highway. Fatou later changed her mind and asked the former President Jammeh to remove the billboard because it brought too much attention on her. Former President ordered his closed aides to remove the billboard which featured Fatou Jallow’s picture as the Beauty Queen of the country. Former President Jammeh provided financial assistance and even offered Fatou Jallow a classic mansion to live in. Fatou’s mother was informed of every single decision and that she approved every offer. State House protocol officers frequently visited Fatou’s home where she would talk on the phone with former President Jammeh for hours. Fatou planned to move to new mansion during the month of Ramadan but eventually changed her mind and left the country with the help of a Gambian who lives in USA. According to one senior protection officer to the president, Fatou’s security was ordered by the former President and coordinated by General Alagie Martin who placed plain clothes officers to protect Fatou Jallow at her family house. General Martin was a top military officer responsible for Jammeh’s security and was State House Commander at the time of Fatou’s departure from The Gambia. Gambian people would recall that on June 25, 2015 two days after Fatou Jallow unexpectedly left the country, newspapers across the country and online media published a headline titled “the Gambian president Yahya Jammeh has fired his long term State Guard Commander Brigadier General Alhagie Martin from his position as the State Guard Commander with immediate effect”. Brigadier Martin’s firing was done as a result of Fatou Jallow’s unexpected departure from the territory of the Gambia. When Fatou arrived in Senegal on Monday June 22, 2015, she was taken to the UNHCR office following the publication of her story on Gambian online media, according to Senegalese security agent. With the publication of her story and the help of President Macky Sall, UNHCR and a Gambian in USA, Fatou quickly gained political asylum in Canada. President Macky Sall’s involvement was done to accelerate her asylum process to avoid conflict between The Gambia and Senegal because former President Jammeh was extremely upset about the sexual allegations Fatou leveled against him. Thus, Fatou’s allegation has significantly led to worsening relationship between the two leaders. Fatou’s allegation against former President Jammeh also gained steam among diaspora dissidents who used her allegation against Jammeh as a political tool to expose Jammeh’s human rights violations. Fatu Radio in particular became the main media house which prominently featured Fatou Jallow’s story in the fight for regime change in the Gambia. Fatou Jallow eventually settled in Canada and married the Gambian who helped her to safely leave the Gambia.

Fatou Jallow continues to work with Gambian dissidents who still want to see Jammeh’s prosecution and responsibility for human rights violations in the last 22 years. Today she is the face of the sexual allegations movement designed to prosecute former President Yaya Jammeh. Although Former President Jammeh has committed so many horrendous crimes against many people but various reports suggested that Jammeh never sexually abused or raped Fatou Jallow. In fact, reports indicate that Jammeh was very generous to Fatou and was very much in love with her. Fatou’s mother Awa Saho has played key role in her relationship with former President Jammeh. Immediately after Fatou’s departure, Awa was called to State House where she had a meeting with former President Jammeh. According to the various security officers, Awa was encouraged to ask Fatou to return home and Jammeh assured Awa and her family full security. He was concerned about his political future if Fatou’s sexual allegation continued to make international headlines. As Gambian activists across the globe continued to use allegation of sexual exploitation as a political weapon, Jammeh was worried and came up with new strategy to divert public attention. On July 25th, 2015 , President Jammeh offered an amnesty to more than 200 prisoners including past coup plotters. This has diverted public attention and Jammeh eventually became refocused on government daily functions, according to former regime insiders. Jammeh also heeded to the advice of trusted aides who insisted on safety of Awa Saho and her family since the sexual allegation was internationally known. Awa Saho and her family were never arrested or intimidated, despite Fatou’s sexual allegations against former President Jammeh.

If Fatou is truly a victim of sexual exploitation she should have faced the truth and reconciliation commission first before embarking on international media campaign against the former president Jammeh. People like former Junta Vice President Sana Sabally who have committed heinous crimes appeared before the truth and reconciliation commission without any media campaign. In fact, none of the victims or perpetrators have done any media campaign to highlight crimes meted on them. So why Fatou Jallow on international media campaign to showcase her rape allegations against former President Jammeh without her testimony in front of the commission? This is an important question every citizen must ask. The truth and reconciliation commission should look into Jammeh’s financial dealings with his various mistresses who benefited from taxpayers money. It is not only Fatou Jallow who was given monetary compensation for consensual sexual relationship, there are many more Jammeh’s mistresses who were given financial assistance at the expense of poor people of the Gambia. Many of these mistresses felt honoured and Proud to be in a sexual relationship with Jammeh. Today many of the same people are changing colours claiming to be sexually abuse victims. The commission should also look into monetary benefits these people received. After 22 years of lies and fabrications, Gambian people need not to fall for cheap propaganda for selfish individual interest and political expediency. It is shameful to see the Ministry of Justice to Publicly comment on a rape allegation without having the so-called victims and perpetrators in court or face the commission. Politicizing current commission is injustice and that it will defeat the whole purpose of justice and reconciliation. In as much as majority hate the former President, we must allow due process to take its course and we must not let our individual selfish interest override our collective desire to treat each citizen fairly no matter who is the victim or perpetrator. We as a country also need to do good job of investigating every single story before we jump to conclusion. Fatou Jallow’s media campaign is a tragedy spearheaded and sponsored by powerful international activists for financial exploitation and perfect deception to defeat justice in the New Gambia. May justice guide our actions towards the common good. May the Almighty Allah bless our country with honest citizens who truly believe in doing the right thing for common good of our citizenry.

Mustapha Touray

Ends

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