Two scores and two - Gambians have spoken!!
No single epoch in history has ever led tidily on to another. Each era, carries with it a burden of the past, a mentality, perhaps, a set of paradigms, ideas, values, sets of beliefs even bits and bobs of an outmoded mode of production. Such changes, are inevitable and will occur because they are thrown up by specific historical circumstances. We see it daily all around us because life itself is a moving and changing dynamic entity.
Out of these new changes in the Gambian geo-politics, one could readily glean a defacto, frittering alliances of sorts, new associations, a re-grouping of the old and new orders and perhaps other emerging forces and shifting perspectives, values and attitudes, all of which will go to join the fray in penning a new history and therefore a new destiny for The Gambia and for whichever society these changes are taking place.
No society is immune! No society can claim not to be undergoing such transformations. The Gambia is not precluded. This unassuming tolerant but resolute society was one of those places where these changes were least expected. It took a long time coming and the writing on the wall has been there for every one to read but every one was blinkered by an overwhelming form of threats and military dominance. The saber rattling from a beligerent President was also quite beguiling. Now, the country has spoken and is boxed in the frame within which the Gambian nation has to find her way in the world.
The last seven weeks have sent people reeling from the dramatic events and still mulling over their fate. Every body especially the Gambian diaspora, those in-country, those fifty thousand people fleeing and seeking refuge outside of the borders of the land to escape the imminent confrontation between Jamme’s loyal forces and the forces of the West African economic community.
Equally so, the world community have been held captive by straining tenter hooks and fraying nerves, sitting at the edge of a cliff hanger while diplomats shuttle back and forth with the hope of giving diplomacy a chance. What became apparent to all was Jamme’s escalated daily shenanigans he had deployed to Gambians for the past twenty two years. His intrigues were laid bare for all to see. In this instance, he was clearly buying time to get the best of concessions, to get amnesty and to invoke loyalty from a toothless, spineless lame-duck house of parliament. All of these were in aid of identifying those wavering and disloyal members of his party and to coerce his MP’s to rubber-stamp an illegal extension of his mandate and to declare a preposterous state of emergency that he himself had little faith in. He would also use his time on the tight-rope for the cynical manipulation of the judiciary and his bewildered supporters, to garner all his accumulated material treasures and to complete his alleged loot of the Gambian vaults.
Diplomacy did triumph! Not a single drop of blood was shed and no damage or loss to life, limb and property occured.
To some, Jamme has got away lightly and should have been captured and both him and his booty arrogated for later consideration in courts of law or other appropriate commissions of enquiry. Maybe through a truth, justice and reconcilliacion or perhaps through some other outfit for the dispensation of justice and redress. I emphasise justice because a lot of people’s rights were violated in other truth and reconcilliations commissions and they are still carrying the scars and hurts and still need closure. So, let us not jump the gun! We must find what is adaptable and appropriate in our situation. We will come back to this later. I will argue though that this was the best deal for The Gambia and her people.
What is certain though is that life will never be the same again in the country with the smiling coastline post Jammeh. It will be weeks, months and even years before we can fully assess the full impact of Jammeh’s twenty two years watch and its impact on the Gambian mind-set, on her general body-politic and on her on going and future relations with her sister states within the ECOWAS, in the African Union and the rest of the world’s committees of nations.
At Jammeh’s departure on Saturday, many a tear were shed. Some were crocodile tears, most were tears of relief and joy and happiness, some shed genuine tears and yet some tears of varying tinges were also shed.
Some people’s faces were long and morose and their expressions were dour. His sycophants had tear tracks in their faces! The same men and women who rejoiced at his defeat in private yet, lay prostrate in grief mourning the fall and departure of their ‘hero’ and sobbing in what looked like inconsolable sorrow and grief in public. For the majority of his flunky’s; this was their long-held narrative. The same narrative that they play acted; cooked-up in the deep cauldrons of Kanelaay, peddled and gobbled up whole even by his own stalwarts and the starving communities.
January the 22nd , 2017, marks a significant turning point in her history. Gambians have woken up to a new reality. Still dazed up and in semi-comatosed states of being, they are pondering what has happened to them and their country. They are trying to get their heads around the departure of their ballyrags leader who has ruled the country for the past twenty two years and wondering what the future holds in store for them.
However it is important to distinguish between tears and sorrow that were shed out of expectations or tears shed out of a fait accompli and those that emanated from a recognisable psychological condition inherent in the group dynamic. In some instances, massive grief is exuded by the crowd out of a general herd instinct. Crowd behaviour is something psychologists have studied since the thirties and there is overwhelming evidence to attest to these different shades of grief.
Be this as it may, it is important to note that this phenomenon of public grief is something that many cannot fathom out. In some instances and in some ways, in certain places or in peculiar circumstances, there exist invisible bonds linking people to one another through the personification of their commonality. They may even grief over the death or departure of tyrants and dictators who had subjected them to untold misery. I have also learnt from unconfirmed sources that in Ghana, there are professional mourners who shed tears and grief for a fee and booze.
Most of the youth and young adults in their thirties and up to their forties in The Gambia, do not know any leader but Jamme. For twenty two years their formative minds had been mesmerised by Jamme’s sadistic love of power, his occultism, his pseudo pan Africanist vision, his irascibility, his anger and his malevolent desire to ridicule, humiliate and to wrong-foot people in positions of authority as a way of projecting himself as the saviour and saint from Eden.
What I present below is a rapid analysis of his reign and its impact on the evolution of the local politics and foreign relations. It is a small contribution towards making sense of our new reality. I hope that it might generate some discussion around ‘wither Gambia’ and where do we go from here? It is by no means a blueprint for development and its intensions must be viewed entirely from what it says it sets out to do. The lessons we can learn from this period are numerous, most of which are chilling reminders of what people who have experienced authoritarianisms both in Africa and beyond her shores underwent. I will argue that Jamme did not descend from ether. He is in fact a product of this society, our society! I will also by the same token, refute the adage that people get the leaders they deserve. The Gambians did neither deserve the despotism that was meted out to them nor did they deserve the prolonged state of jitteriness they experienced in the two scores and two years.
It will be instructive later in our conclusions to briefly examine the impending work of the coalition government both in the near and distant terms. I will conclude that they are beset by so many pitfalls and so many other constraints such as resources, capacity issues or a lack of it and the expectations of a populace with such lofty aspirations, high ambitions and dreams for the change they hope for now, not later. I shudder at the thought of the mammoth tasks that lay ahead but thankfully, if they listen to sound advice from the very people they will govern, they will find answers if this is done in a cordinated way and if they adopt a modest/humble tack in their dealings and approaches with the people, they will find the answers to and meet the challenges ahead.
I will finally comment on my vision for both the coalition and the future of The Gambia.
To begin my analysis, I would like to start conveniently by examining the mind of Jamme himself, his party hacks and the resultant psychology of a people whose narrative is consigned to the tales of subjugation, oppression, dupery; a people forced-fed daily, a diet of brutality smeared on sacrificial oxes, biscuits, dates and sugar pelted at them with such derision as to remind them of their place in the scheme of things and to confirm Jamme’s delusions of grandeur. The grandeur of the benevolent lord of the kingdom, a kingdom bestowed to him through divine intervention to rule for a billion years.
I will also look at why his reign of terror has persisted for so long and why his own party never presented any opposition to his misrule and how we as a people have imbibed his ways and world view. Some of the answers are deeply embedded in our subconscious! It is to these unconscious, repressed feelings, thoughts and fears I now turn to in order to explain why we have acted the way we did, the ways we ought to have or should/could have acted but did not for the past several decades.
I hasten to say that this is by no means a way of castigating Jamme. His deeds are there for the people themselves to assess, evaluate and pass judgment on. I also do not wish to descend to his level by using his methods to crucify him. The idea is simply as oppressed peoples, we need to get behind the causes and consequences of tyranny and its effects and try to understand it and how it feels. It is, if you like, a catharsis-a purging of emotional tension, an exorcism; a coming to terms with so that we can close the circle and heal. There is no doubt that people’s rights, liberties have been violated causing frustration and anger. What we need to do now is to talk about it in order to give ourselves the chance to heal. . .
Baaba Sillah mu Sabel