Tuesday, 5 January 2010
If you were in the Gambia at the period of the birth of the National Alliance for Democracy and Development (best known by its acronym as NADD) in 2005, and you were a believer of the possibility of a democratic change in Gambia, then you probably were in the same school of thought as me - NADD's untimely demise was the greatest missed opportunity for Gambians in history. Let me state why.
The brief semblance of unity, as it were, among well known strange bed fellows from across the country's opposition parties changed the whole arena with people beginning to take interest in politics and mobilising themselves around either NADD or the APRC, since the once divided terrain had become two. The very sight of heavy weight political figures sitting side by side, no matter how strange their past had been, galvanised and united supporters around the country.
APRC supporters soon began to realise that there were more opposition supporters than those on the other side as every time they engaged in political debate they found themselves out numbered and beaten from all corners. That sent shock waves among the leadership of the ruling class, forcing a clearly panic striking President Yahya Jammeh to take to his old ways, rekindling his paranoid threats to bury anyone who 'destabilises' the country, his usual rants when faced with heated legitimate dissent. As if he is the only one who wishes stability for Gambia, a country whose peace and tranquillity he threatened by taking part in an illegal act of overthrowing a democratically elected government in 1994.
Every other week Yahya Jammeh would rally his cabinet of mainly academics and non professional politicians to forge a counter move against the newly emerged political force whose popularity was growing like bush fire in the middle of harmattan.
Newspapers, including even the Daily Observer, were forced to frequently carry stories on NADD, to avoid been left out of readership interest, I suppose. And by mid 2005, NADD had caused so much headache for the APRC that Jammeh began privately contemplating reversing to the 50 percent mandatory toll to avoid a second round, which he cowardly did, fearing that his dwindling popularity could prove fatal under that system.
Yankuba Touray, the disgraced former griot of the APRC, clownishly composed a song, insulting, in his view, the new political force. He called it, in Wollof; Nadd dina jurr, do mi Nadd nina jurr. Meaning, NADD will breed, NADD's off springs too will breed. That ludicrous statement of the clown is opened to a number of interpretations, but what is clear is that Yankuba's prophesy proved to be the case as NADD continued to breed more and more supporters in the villages and towns.
Even Yankuba's master, Jammeh himself, had an insulting go at NADD. He simply coined his own idea of the acronyms - NADD, as representing National Association of Donkey Drivers. Although it was hardly noticed, but that cost Jammeh a lot of respect, as some of his traditionally sober supporters were flabbergasted by his childish demeanour. If Yank's miss behaved, Gambians could take it to some extent, but for the head of state to descend so low to the level of his clown of a praise singer was demeaning to say the least.
And as fate would have it, APRC engineered a bye election when, in its desperate attempt to destroy NADD, it exploited a legal loophole to force a bye election in some parliamentary constituency held by the opposition. This again proved the rising popularity of NADD. The only seat that went astray was won by the APRC through a massive, calculated intimidation and terrorising of a whole community of people in Salloum, by locking up elderly people in police cells for hours to prevent them from voting for the true choice of the people, the Honourable Amat NK Bah, one of the most efficient MPs Gambia ever produced. The APRC transported aliens to Salloum to vote their virtually unknown candidate, who was himself surprised as to how he got that win.
That brutal operation against innocent people was headed by the then transport controller and thug from State House, the late Manlafi Sanyang, who by the grace of Allah and the self inflicted curse he earned himself by maltreating the elderly people he persecuted, became a fatal is time of the stupid order he was defending. He died on day one of his trumped up prison term, clearly poisoned because he knew too much.
Again, always trying to find a chance to break up NADD, Jammeh shamelessly rounded up the party's leaders on his return from a humiliating border crisis talks in Dakar, in October 2005, presided over by Nigeria's Obasanjo, where he had been showered with embarrassing revelations on his subversive activities against the states of Senegal and Guinea Bissau.
His plan was to shamelessly pick up NADD leaders, falsely accuse them of unfounded allegations and even releasing a worldwide laughable press release that Halifa Sallah was on the run. Even Jammeh's own fifth sense must have told him that that was a blatant lie not even a dummy would believe. Halifa running away? Again it took Obasanjo to fly to Banjul, in February 2006, to drag Jammeh out of that embarrassment by brokering peace and a memorandum of understanding on the coming elections.
But such was Jammeh's frustration at the growing popularity of NADD.
It was at this point that I left the country, thinking that at long last the monkey had been held by the tail and cornered for a big show down. But alas, what did I hear? Stupid innuendoes forecasting the breakup of NADD started flowing from within the APRC leadership, from people such as Yankuba Touray. Instead of dealing with the clown by exposing his slavish mentality, the NADD leaders let the rumour grew and ate them on the day they selected to pick a flag bearer. The UDP internal quarrel, Darboe Vs Juwara, also factored in the process as Darboe believed that his arch rival, Juwara, who would rather choose Jammeh as leader instead of him, is pulling the rest of NADD leaders toward his anti-Darboe wagon.
Meanwhile, Halifa and others continued to preach theory, letter and spirit of the NADD agreement until the practicality of it collapsed.
In the elections that followed, all APRC supporters and even imported ones voted and they could not score half of the total of the registered voters. The bulk of the voters stayed away. That is the NADD story. A case of a missed chance.
--Reflections on last moments of slain Gambian journalist
It is not without good reason that Jesus’ “Last Supper” with his disciples has been made the subject of so many artistic projects over the centuries; here, at one of the last gatherings attended by all, Jesus delivered instructions not on how to enjoy the meal, but how to remember him once he is gone.
Having eaten what turned out to be the last meal of my brutally murdered boss Deyda Hydara, with the iconic martyr himself, and listened to his swung song speech, I feel I too owe it to the loved ones, friends and admirers of the departed to tell how his last supper went.
But before going furtherer let me state here that I have now resolved to eating only one meal every December 16 and certainly nothing with chicken on it for that recreates the sad story of the last barbeque with him at The Point Newspaper Offices.
Deyda Hydara's last Supper was well grilled chicken which was further cooked in sauce and decorated with all the ingredients that kept the good smell and taste until the last bone was chewed. But like Jesus' it was not the food that thrilled me, but the words with which he ate it, alongside all of us in attendance. On that fateful day, Deyda used his hands to eat - one of the rare occasions he did so. ''Today am like a child. I will eat with my hands. That’s what our forefathers did", he jokingly said as we ate.
Food has always been a great motivation for us (staff) at The Point Newspaper because once Deyda took up the responsibility to supply daily lunch for us free of charge, some of us who came from far and wide stopped worrying about where our afternoon meal would come from as we worked to meet the deadline. People like Justice Darboe, for example, hardly ventured out from the office no matter the urge once he realised lunch would soon be served. In the process, many stories would have been edited and others rewritten.
''Work is important but food comes first; after all we all work for three things: our stomach, clothes and shelter. I value all these but one must first eat to be able to think,'' Deyda would always tell the staff.
On that ill-fated day, when the food was served and he made sure that everyone had eaten well, he returned to his usual business minded attitude, trying to include all the latest activities on the anniversary in the next edition. Death, they say, is a bad harvester because sometimes it plunges off the unripe fruit. Deyda was a man in his prime, looking forward to read his anniversary stories on the following morning as he always did in his modest little office. Little did he know that he had just eaten his last meal only to be chillingly murdered by a coward’s bullet.
Saturday, 2 January 2010
I read your recent editorial on Freedom Newspaper comparing the late Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, to Gambia's very own version of the East African tyrant, Yahya Jammeh. And I felt an irresistible rouge to chip in my thoughts.
Yes, you are right there is striking resemblance in the two characters and ways of lives and reigns. But let me hasten to say that Idi Amin is the worst. Amin Killed some 100, 000 Ugandans and exiled 500, 000 more during his eight year rule of terror. Jammeh can never ever equal that number in both categories. However, I must also add that even a single life taken is as serious a crime as killing more.
That said, I would now go ahead to highlight the similarity between the two men. Idi Amin came from a small ethnic group found mainly around Uganda's Southern Sudanese border, with the bulk of their numbers in Sudan. They are known in Uganda as the Nubians and are known to be active in the then Sudanese rebel movement. By virtue of their ethnic background, Amin naturally supported, armed and financed them in their struggle across the border in Sudan, often providing them sanctuary amongst their kinsmen in Uganda. He even recruited Nubians in to the Ugandan army when he took full control in 1971, knowing full well that they are non citizens.
Since they did not know Uganda and respected nobody, they bore allegiance to only Amin and were capable of and indeed killed any person wanted dead by Amin - no matter the victims' standing in society.
Now, let's check this across Jammeh's record. A member of the Jola ethnic group (no offense intended here my fellow Jola countrymen), which is mainly and largely located in Cassamance where they are fighting a separatist war, which by the admission of Jammeh's own former soldiers and close confidantes, (and allegations by Senegal), he supported materially and financially. It is an open secret that the Gambian army is stuffed with elements from the Jola tribe with questionable citizen qualifications, who are loyal to only one person; Jammeh. These men have been indoctrinated to support the 'Jola cause' and are even powerful than their commanders. (This is why Lang Tombong and all the dummies just appointed to replace him are useless Generals, good for nothing, to borrow a line from thegambiaecho, who could be in and out anytime it suits Jammeh.)
Jammeh's real commanders are the hard core sworn Jola defenders in the lower ranks of the Army.
Back to Amin. The man believed in superstition, acted like the Buffon he really was, moving in long convoys with bulging pockets filled with money, which he threw about as he went; a penchant for dancing in public; organizing and watching multiple festivals; stole peoples' wives and girl friends; often smuggled in tinted glass cars to satisfy his unquenchable lust for sex.
Let us check this too against Jammeh's style and see the similarities.
Jammeh is utterly superstitious and embarrassingly buffoonery, the AIDS cure saga, the witch hunting, feeding bulls and lambs with concoctions before butchering them for distribution among the people in a bid to pacify their hearts, distributing money and biscuits in the streets, enticing women with cabinet posts and appointing female state house aides to enable good and disguised access to sex! They are there everyone knows them.
Also Idi Amin terrorized the nation through the infamous State Research Bureau headed by Mose Ali, Hussein Marella and the well known Malyamugu. They killed, tortured and gave dead bodies to crocodiles in the Nile River.
Didn’t we have the NIA with its Hydaras, Nurr Seckas? Hadn't the presidential guard even killers whom Jammeh himself nicknamed Malyamugu?
Finally, it took an old man in the neighborhood, Julius Nyerere, to remove Amin. Let us hope that the similarity extends to another old man in the neighborhood, Aboulie Wade, to remove Jammeh.