TRRC: Jammeh uses religion  to consolidate  dictatorial regime

Feb 3, 2022, 11:24 AM | Article By: Ali Jaw

In its report submitted two months ago to the Barrow Administration after about three years of intense investigations, the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has uncovered Jammeh’s use of religion to consolidate and solidify his dictatorial regime to cling longer onto power.

According to the report, “former President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh knew that religion was a potent weapon he could use to solidify his dictatorship. Jammeh would over the years appear in public dressed only in white ‘khaftan’ cultivating the image of sainthood and purity.”

“He would always carry a Qur’an and praying beads to build an aura of religiosity. He so cultivated this image to the extent that people started entertaining the idea that he had supernatural powers. This was all the more so when he started the Presidential Alternative Treatment Programme (PATP) during which he claimed to have received a mandate from God who gave him the power to cure HIV and AIDS and other diseases.”

The TRRC reports also states that with his influence of religious leaders on the populace, Jammeh took them along with religious organisations to prop and maintain his dictatorship. “Jammeh shrewdly utilised the ideological zeal of members of religious organisations such as the Supreme Islamic Council to perpetuate an image of a righteous God-ordained leader. This appealed to the majority Sunni population who believe that God chooses leaders and that the people should keep that leader in position until God removes the leader.”

It is explained that belief that former President Jammeh possessed supernatural powers was not only limited to private individuals, but top religious leaders such as Imams. “An example of the grip Jammeh had on the Islamic religious leaders is captured in a video which showed Jammeh pouring water at the steps of the grand entrance at the statehouse and the Imam and other persons present scrambling to touch some of the water as if it were holy or spiritual water.”

The report further states that over the twenty-two (22) years of his regime, former President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh destroyed all religious and cultural institutions that posed the slightest potential to challenge his narrative and co-opted those that fed into his narrative, which further entrenched and solidified his rule.

The reports further stated that the Supreme Islamic Council was gradually altered and deviated from the objective which led to its formation and was used by Yahya A.J.J Jammeh and the military junta as a potential tool that could help him consolidate his persona as a “gallant champion” of the Islamic religion and helped him maintain his grip on power.”

“From the onset of his quest to hold on to power, Jammeh exchanged the military uniform for the big white flowing gowns generally worn by spiritual or religious leaders in the subregion. The choice of white represents a symbolic notion of purity and goodness, which resonates with the deeply religious/spiritual Gambian public. To advance the image of a spiritual, divinely guided man, Jammeh began to carry the Qur’an in one hand and a sword in the other. Jammeh then pushed the awe-inspiring persona a notch higher by announcing that he could cure a plethora of ailments, including asthma, infertility, diabetes, hypertension and even HIV/AIDS.”

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