Two scores and two- Gambians have spoken!!
How and why did Jammeh become the Baabili monster?
Apart from his own personal psychological predispositions identified earlier, by 1994, Jammeh, the young lieutenant had had his baptism and thorough induction into the excesses of the public officials and their cohorts in civil society. He saw firsthand what obtained at the citadel of power-the state house and the quadrangle. By now he was smitten with resentment and hate owing to his peculiar position as a guard and his own warped sense of justice and oppression. As a soldier, he also saw how easily one could seize the reign of power. July 22nd 1994 was the D-day and he and his band of rebel soldiers prosecuted a neat, swift and clinical bloodless take over.
Mr Jawara, like his successor Jammeh wondered why they had lost state power when they did. It was a shocking experience for both of them. Power is like a gravy train and its passengers never know when to descend as their journeys have no termini.
At the coup in 1994, Mr Jawara had spent umpteen hours negotiating with the boys in green but the boys refused to take his bait and he could not lure them into some form of partnership between his regime and the military. That was the end of his rule and ever since then, the rest is history.
I am not sure how many of you had had the chance of following Donald Trump in the US in the past few days in relation to banning Muslims’ entry into the US (from the seven Muslim countries he does not have any direct business interest in)? One of the main executive orders includes one of his election pledges which he says he wishes to make America safe. There is a lot of opposition to the order and he is currently being sued as his action is said to be illegal according to US law. I mention the Trump saga with Jammeh’s to draw a parallel. When Jammeh took over, he made a lot of pledges. His major pledge was to right the wrongs, bring the perpetrators to justice and go back to barracks. Twenty two years on, he was still here and wanting to stay some more thus plunging the country into a crisis of epic proportions-not known to Gambia and Gambians. Small wonder why fifty thousand people fled the country. The University, the students, the school pupils and other key institutions of government refused to execute their duties and he did not even bat a wink at the protracted civil disobedient he had in his hands.
This goes to show how unfeeling dictators can become and quite remarkably, that in our own way; we have made an effective opposition against his regime, something no one could contemplate a month earlier. We also refused to be drawn to a fist to fist fight, to go on a tyre burning rampage and go out in hoards in public protest. This was what the monster wanted in order to declare a state of emergency, kill, mangle or maim people and subvert the emerging democratic process, but we did not oblige him. These actions are uniquely Gambian. The lesson here is that you can neither import or export revolutionary strategies nor tactics. Each strategy and tactic must reflect the nature and character of the people and it must be borne out of the specific historical circumstances on the ground. In other words, you cannot prescribe the same potion for different ailments, pardon the metaphor!
During the first few days of the coup in 1994, Jammeh rounded up all the king pins in key executive positions and all the members of cabinet, all holders of ministerial positions and put them into custody. He then paraded the officials in and around the streets and egged on the lumped element to jeer and heckle them. His action was in part to humiliate them and in part to demonstrate to the public that he means business. This gave him some cheap popularity. He went around the offices and gave direct instructions to the heads of department to either remove or to deface the photos of the deposed President Jawara as he stood and presided over the ‘ceremony’. (Doesn’t history have its own curious way of repeating itself or is it the law of retributive justice taking effect)?
In addition, he gave the former ministers of state, intermittent access to the media under gun-point and under duress. All of them were either tongue tied, incoherent or just simply garbled along, reflecting their deep states of shock, distraught and demoralisation.
These were personages that were held in esteem, even in awe by the society at the time and the deflation of their egos will have had a colossal effect on them and even to larger society. We may not have realised that we had witnessed and internalised such acts of terror but twenty two years down the line, the actions of his cabinet and indeed his own members of parliament’s behaviour demonstrates amply, their fear of Jammeh himself and his tight grip over all of them to the extent that he was taking them down the path to treason and a total breach of trust of their constituents and they were prepared to go down with him down that line…”It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere;”:says Voltaire - [François Marie Arouet] (1694-1778).
Jammeh knew pretty much as Fredrick Douglas has articulated that “Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down”. Where is the ‘New Citizen'? Where is Deyda Hydara? Where is Radio 1? Why have some journalists and academics fled the country and are languishing in sad exiles in Europe and America?
Jammeh may not have been au fait with Nazi tyranny or their methods but his actions could have come directly from a leaf extracted from a text book by Hitler, Ikeman, Goebel and so on as to how one can break, dehumanise and totally demean the other.
These seemingly innocuous acts may not have any symbolic significance to the everyday onlooker but for a psychologist, they have had deep psychological overtones/undercurrents en-masse that will stay not only with the victims of public humiliation but to the general public, a deep and enduring effect on all of us to this day and perhaps the rest of our lives.
From the very beginning of his reign, a state of real fear reigned supreme in our collective consciousness. All of our actions, thoughts and feelings were guided or directed by it. The psychological conditioning of our minds was now total and complete owing to fear. This is the subject that I will now turn to.
Fear is said to be a natural, primitive and powerful reaction that has evolved both in humans and in animals. It warns us of the presence of danger and had helped us to stay alive ever since we set foot on this planet. Psychologists have divided fear into two stages. The first is biochemical and the other is emotional.
We see the bio-chemical reaction daily. If you chase a dog, it will run away. However, if you corner it and it cannot escape, it will turn against you. This is known as they flee or fight response, whereas the emotional response is the response to fear. It is very individual in nature. We may sweat, develop an increased heart rate, experience high adrenaline levels, shake or break-wind or climb up as they say.
To be continued