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Kulagbanda's Take on The Gambia's Presidential Elections

By Bob Umar (pictured left)

Winnipeg, Canada.

Yayah Jammeh and the Gambian people and my take on his defeat;

I was in the The Gambia when Yayah Jammeh toppled the Jawara government in 1994 in what was widely rumoured as a "Bloodless and long anticipated Coup". Right before my eyes, for ten years as I lived in that country, this soft spoken and mild mannered Lieutenant who had no eyes for material wealth became a ruthless dictator enriching himself and his cronies at the expense of a nation that had not known 'headship' since independence.

Although under his reign, The Gambia saw many developmental projects accomplished, the locals almost always lived in total fear of him and his Secret service, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). 

He was not only able to turn the country into an Infrastructural and educational paradise like reconstructing the Airport to an advance country standards, constructing first class roads, introducing Television for the first time in The Gambia, ending Gambia's reliance on other west African counties for university education by introducing and building a University, building an Airforce from scratch, fighting to end importation of Gambia' staple food, but he also succeeded in intimidating the Military and its top bras into total submission to him. Which left the civilian masses into succumbing to his will.

This guy, Yayah A J J Jammeh, is a Jolla by tribe and in the Senegambia region, this tribe was considered a bit inferior to other tribes like the Madinkas or the Woloofs or even the fullahs. Thus, the vast majority of Gambians never liked him nor appreciate his heavy handed nation building efforts.

As the years went by president Jammeh added more titles to his name (Dr., Prof), he imprisoned more political opponents, scared a score to exile as he hid behind his twisted version of Islamic believes. 

By the turn of the century, President Jammeh's self enggrandizement made him to believe that he was 'Allah sent' to lead the people of The Gambia and thus an indisputable Sultan of the people. 

He converted Kanilai, his home village of less than 20 inhabitants into the unofficial modern Capital and administrative City well fortified with well paid soldiers from his Jola tribe who were only loyal to him and takes orders from him and him alone. He even recruited Senegalese Kasamas rebel fighters who were Jolas to fortify Kanilai from any invasion from the national army. The Kanilai Army were also well equipped to foil any coup emanating in Banjul or Bakau military barracks. The Kanilai forces were equipped with fighter jets which were often in display during independent celebrations, serving as warning threat to anyone thinking of toppling his government. 

Yayah Jammeh was a king over his people, he was a fearlessly Ruthless King who was actually a coward. 

A coward because he could not face criticism from his own people, he couldn't face them to argue out his believes and how he intended to stir the nation. He was a coward because he held on to power possibly because he feared reprisal, retribution against him, his cronies and those of his Jola tribe.

Like so many people, am not sure why he succumbed to the will of the people to accept this presidential election results in which he lost despite prediction a landslide victory. Am not sure if he will peacefully transfer full power to the new President elect, Barrow. Or what's going to be the fate of hundreds of the Kasamas Military mercenaries who've kept Kanilai safe but are not born Gambians. Am not sure how this new young leader who's never held elected office will rid Gambia of Jammeh's wicked claws and influence. Am also not sure whether or not Yayah Jammeh is sane and under no spell as he called to congratulate the person who defeated him. Or was it a ploy to stage a big bloody military comeback?

What's even more baffling is the separation of the defeated president's personal wealth and assets to that of the State's. For instance, Yayah Jammeh has a private jet, a boing 747 purchased from or through Taiwan couple of years ago? or is it a private jet or is it owned by the State? Is the incoming president going to consider the fortified palace in Kanilai State owned? 

What about the tens of hundreds of revered National Intelegent Agency (NIA) officials? These secret service men and women carried out Yayah Jammeh's dirty work with in the country. Ranging from arbitrary arrests and detentions, turture and disappearing of political opponents to secret killing of disloyal government officials. Even top military brass, top ranking government officials and Ministers feared the NIA for there ruthlessness. What's their fate? 

My only advice will be! The people of The Gambia should threat this democratic victory very very carefully. As I know and possibly they know, Yayah Jammeh isn't going to relinquish power just like that. The president elect Barrow, should be prepared for a diplomatic battle to enable Jammeh handover power. He should be prepared to give Him, Jammeh, immunity concession to relax his fears against prosecution or possible extradition to be tried against 'crime against humanity'. Couple of things would ease his mind and feel secured to stay in the country or bolt out but peacefully relinquish power. Which I doubt. Just my thoughts 

This is a waiting game. Let's wait and see. But let's pray for that beautiful country and its beautiful people!