Archive | August 2015

Yahya Jammeh’s Oppositions can only be Different when they are Tolerant of Opposing Views and Ideas: A token to be reflected on

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The Editor Freedom Newspaper Pa Nderry Mbai and Activist and Human Rights Advocate Banka Manneh

The Gambian society has some way to go in order to fully and wholly tolerate, accept and respect each other’s views, opinions, ideas and beliefs without resorting to public spat and manifestation of intolerance and boorishness. A classic example of which had repeatedly happened between Yahya Jammeh’s oppositions and to name but few in particular, Pa Nderry Mbai, Banka Manneh, Bamba Mass, Fatou Camara et al., and these are people who supposedly are meant to set examples for others to follow. Now before we go further it’s absolutely vital to make this declaration that this article is not meant to cite or lecture anyone but to put records straight as the author has no connection with anyone individual but Gambia and her people.

Tolerance of persons, what might be referred to as ‘civility,’ can be equated with the word ‘respect.’ This is the orthodox characterisation of tolerance’ “the freedom to express one’s ideas, opinions or views without fear of reprisal.”

We respect those who hold different views, opinions and beliefs than our own by treating them politely and allowing their views a place in the public discourse. We may strongly disagree with their ideas and enthusiastically contend against them in the public square, but we still show respect for the persons in spite of the differences.

However, what we need to note here is that, respect is accorded to the person, here. Whether his/her behaviour should be tolerated is an entirely different issue. This is the second sense of tolerance, the liberty to act, called tolerance of behaviour. Most of human laws validate that a person may believe what the individual likes and the person generally has the freedom to express those beliefs, opinions or views but the individual may not behave as he/she likes. Some behaviour a threat to the common good or immoral so rather than being tolerated, it is restricted by law. As the former US president Abraham Lincoln put it “There is no right to do wrong.”

Tolerance of persons must also be distinguished from tolerance of ideas. Tolerance of persons requires that each person’s views get a courteous hearing, not that all views have equal worth, merit, or truth. The view that no person’s ideas are any better or truer than another’s is irrational and absurd. To argue that some views are false, immoral, or just plain silly does not violate any meaningful standard of tolerance.

These three classifications are frequently conflated by topsy-turvy sages. If one rejects another’s ideas or behaviour, he/she’s automatically accused of rejecting the person and being disrespectful. To say I’m intolerant of the person because I disagree with his/her ideas is confused. On this view of tolerance, no idea or behaviour can be opposed, regardless of how graciously, without inviting the charge of impoliteness.

Historically, human culture has emphasised tolerance of all persons, but never tolerance of all behaviour. This is a critical dissimilarity because, in the current pomposity of doctrine, the concept of tolerance is most regularly advocated for behaviour and they are two different issues all together.

Ironically, though, there is little tolerance for the expression of contrary ideas on issues we differ. If one advocates a differing view or associate with different people, he/she is soundly censured and denounced. The tolerance issue has hence gone chaotic: tolerate most behaviour, but don’t tolerate opposing opinions about those behaviours. Instead of hearing, “I respect your view,” however, those who differ in politically incorrect ways are bigoted, prejudiced, and narrow-minded.

Cases in reference are attacks by Yahya Jammeh and his supporters who labelled everyone as unpatriotic and bad Gambians when you differ with them in views and ideas. Also, those who oppose Yahya Jammeh and co. who show or manifest no tolerance at all as anyone who oppose or challenge their views or ideas are labelled as agents of Yahya Jammeh’s regime or destabilisers of the struggle.

Meanwhile, for a better Gambia we need to be tolerant of opposing views no matter how much we disagree with them. To conclude I borrow a quote from Plato “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” JARAMA, ALA-BARAKA, JEREEY-JENJEFF

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The Gambia: A Country with Two Tales that Needs to be Told Part 2

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Lt Yahya Jammeh and Co

Like has been mentioned in the first article that Jawara’s administration has its own deficits not withstanding the numerous development in terms of democracy, peace, rule of law and order people had cherished and enjoyed during all those years of his administration. However the second republic led by President Yahya Jammeh had its ow story that also need to be told.

On a fateful Friday morning of 22nd July 1994 The Gambia and her history has been changed and rewritten by Lt Yahya Jammeh and Co who led a military coup against a democratically elected government in The Gambia. The premise of the coup was there was that there was rampant corruption and lack of accountability in Jawara’s 29 years of governance and the military came to salvage the country from that. The initial propaganda from the then military government called AFPRC was they will not stay no more than two years in power and no other leader could rule for more than two elected terms of five years each but that’s where those promises started and ended.

Meanwhile, to begin with positives if there is or was any, it is during President Jammeh’s tenure that the country has had her own television station called GRTS which was opened in 1995 a year after he took power, however, the TV station has been monopolised by Yahya Jammeh since then as he is on record to say that the TV station belongs to him. Furthermore, it was Jammeh’s administration who first brought a university education in the country which is helping the country to proudly produce her own locally trained medical Doctors albeit most of them needing further training in advanced institutions outside the Gambia. In addition, during Jawara’s tenure there was fewer primary, secondary and high schools which led some students trekking 10s of miles every school day, but most of that seized during Jammeh’s administration by increasing the number of schools in the entire country especially up country. Also there has been an increased in the number of feeder roads, main highways and bridges which made the movement of people lot easier now than during Jawara’s time more so those in the North Bank of river Gambia, Badibu and the rest. Hospitals have also increased in number from two to five but most of which are white elephant projects as they either lacks Doctors or medications which led some critiques arguing that the country needed doctors and medical equiptments and drugs but not all those hospitals built by Jammeh’s administration.

However, Jammeh administration’s first atrocity was to seized power from people and the second one was the murder of the then Finance Minister of AFPRC government Ousman Koro Ceesay and all the evidences are pointing fingers to Jammeh and his men but up to this hour no body has been held accountable for his murder. Meanwhile, Koro’s murder opened the flood gate of murders in The Gambia since 1994 up to now. November 11, 1994 also saw the brutal murder of alleged coupist led by the then Lt Barrow and Co. Meanwhile, fast forward to 10th and 11th April 2000 which were another fateful days in the country’s history that witnessed the gruesome murder of 16 innocent students and maiming of hundreds more by Yahya Jammeh just by exercising their God and constitutional rights to hold a peaceful protest to demand justice for their colleagues. However, for now Jammeh has ensured that no body is accountable for those heinous crimes by indemnifying the murderers of the students.

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The opposite of Yahya Jammeh’s promised back in 1994 “We will never introduce dictatorship in this country”

As was highlighted in the first article, the Gambia used to be a tranquil country where everyone was your neighbour’s keeper but now, Yahya Jammeh has turned the country into a police state where you cannot even say his name without saying anything positive about him else you brace yourself for an arrest and subsequent torture. Now the security forces can killed, torture and falsely imprison anyone in the country with impunity just like they did to the students in April 2000 and recently to Ya-Binta Jarju as well as Minah Manneh and many other people in the country. The Gambia has been turned into full fledged dictatorship in the 21 years of Yahya Jammeh’s misrule and irresponsible way of running the affairs of the country, which led to the country’s lost in all credibility in the sub-region and beyond. Jammeh has also been linked with the 2004 massacre of 44 Ghanaian migrants and 10 other ECOWAS nationals at a forest in Brufut.

Yahya Jammeh became the first leader to pull out of the Commonwealth unilaterally since President Robert Mugabe chose to withdraw Zimbabwe in 2003. Jammeh, who claims to have personally discovered a cure for Aids, has been accused of widespread human rights abuses, notably by ordering a national campaign against “witches” in which over 1000 people were forced to drink poisonous concoction.

The Gambia as was known ‘The Smiling Coast’ used to enjoyed stable and vibrant economy which was dictated by natural economic forces and supported by effective and efficient public and private sectors during Jawara’s tenure but those are history now. The jewels of the nation Gamtel, GPA, GIA, GCAA, GGC, NAWEC etc have all been bankrupt by Yahya Jammeh thanks to his lack of fiscal and economic discipline and unwanted interference with economic forces. Jammeh meanwhile, continues to be richer than the entire country as he engaged in all sectors of the country’s economy which is categorically forbidden by the constitution of the Nation, however, becuase he is the judge, jury and executioner at the same time, nobody in the dare challenge him else you find yourself either six foot deep the ground or in Mile II in which the later is the best case scenario for you. Meanwhile, Yahya Jammeh’s crimes and failures are never ending as journalist like Dayda Hydara, Chief Ebrima Manneh, lawyers like Ousman Sillah, politicians Femi Peters, Amadou Sanneh, ordinary citizens like Binta Jarju, Minah Manneh, the list goes on and on, have all been victim of Yahya Jammeh’s crimes.

If there is anything the Jawara and Jammeh’s regime shared in common is longevity which in 1994 the people decried Jawara’s regime of but its clear now that Jammeh is even going to be worse than Jawara as he planned to stay for at least a billion years in power. However we shall see.

The Gambia: A Country with Two Tails that Needs to be Told

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The Two Ever Leaders of The Gambia Since Independence: Alhagi Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara And Lt Yahya A.J.J Jammeh

The Gambia a former British colony, is a Small West African country and the smallest in mainland Africa, bounded by Senegal, with a narrow Atlantic coastline. It’s known for its diverse ecosystems around the central Gambia River. Abundant wildlife in its Kiang West National Park and Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve includes rare birds, monkeys, alligators and hippos. The capital, Banjul, and nearby Serekunda offer access to beautiful beaches running south from Bakau to Kololi. It has been one of the favourite destinations for Western tourist in many years. Due to the hospitality and peaceful nature of her people the country was nicknamed “The Smiling Coast”. The “Domodas and Benna-chins” became the envy of our sub region that Ghanians and Nigerians claimed to be the originators of such beautiful food recipes.

However, what lies beneath the beauties mentioned above are stories that need to be told. Since her independence from colonialism in February 1965, the country has had only two leaders, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara who ruled from independence until his overthrown in July 1994 by the then military junta leader, Lt Yahya Jammeh who continued to rule till this day 21 years and counting.

Meanwhile, in a short but precise note on Jawara’s administration, it had its own flaws such as insufficient infrastructural developments, quality but not enough educational institutions countrywide especially at the tertiary levels where there was no university but only a college. Furthermore, another irony of Sir Dawda’s 29 years of presidency was NO TV station, either state or private while the next door neighbour Senegal, had theirs since the year Gambia gained her independence in 1965. In terms of transport infrastructures, there was not enough highways or feeder roads in the country and the energy sector also leaves much to be desired.  In addition, the dispensing and delivery of health care was free, but not enough health facilities countrywide and these were some of the major deficiencies in Dawda Jawara’s 29 years of presidency.

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Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara at Glasgow University

However, during Sir Dawda’s reign, the country enjoyed stable and vibrant economic developments which was not interfered with but dictated by natural economic forces and the entire country used to have their fair share of it. The educational institutions as mentioned earlier were not enough, but standard of quality of education was second to none in the sub region. Like education, the public transport infrastructure was inadequate, but there was a public transport corporation that was efficient and effective both at sea and on land in transporting people at south and north banks of the river Gambia. Furthermore, during Jawara’s time, there were vibrant, effective and efficient public institutions that were the envy of Africa in general and the sub region in particular. Such institutions include, Gambia Telecoms company (Gamtel) which was second best in Africa only to South African telecoms. At the time, the country’s Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSFHC) was the blueprint of Africa and such was its vibrancy that countries like Kenya, Uganda and even the mighty Nigeria do send delegates to come and take a lesson or two from their counterparts in the Gambia. Independent, effective and unbiased police and armed forces who were the beacons of our peace and stability was maintained throughout the first republic and the mass arrest and detention of people was alien in the country.

Meanwhile, Parastatals like Gambia Ports Authority, Gambia Civil Aviation Authority, Gambia National Insurance, Gambia Public Transport Corporation, Gambia Groundnut Corporation etc., were independent of political interference and all having lead in pencil. GPA was the epic centre for re-export trade which used to yield the much needed foreign currency for the country. President Jawara’s administration also made the hotel and tourism industry another cornerstone of the country’s economy, which became the envy of not only Africa but the world at large. Farming, which was the country’s biggest employer and the highest contributing sector in terms GDP was protected and cared for by Jawara’s administration, so much so that it became a constitutional requirement for the president to tour the country and meet the farmers at least once a year to discuss their plight and needs.

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African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies 1989- present

The most important achievements of Sir Dawda’s 29 years of presidency were his institution of democratic values in the country. To begin with, unlike many of our regional neighbours, under Jawara, Gambia has never experienced any religious, tribal or ethnic problems at all, people lived and intermarried harmoniously regardless of one’s religion, tribe or class, without anyone discriminating against the other. People, the press and opposition parties were free to exercise their democratic rights without the fear of arbitrary arrest and persecution. Such was the civil liberty given to people, in 1994, shortly before Yahya Jammeh and Co., illegally seized power, there was a massive protest against the Brikama Area Council for their planned to sell water from the street or public taps and when people have shown their disapproval, the  Area Council backed down from the plan and abandoned it all together. Such was the power given to the people during Jawara’s reign that almost everyone knows this phrase “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people”. Such was Jawara’s true to democracy that the tiny West African country became the home in 1989 to a huge institution, African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS). During Sir Dawda’s administration, the ruling and opposition parties were given equal access to the country’s public radio station before, during and after elections. Most importantly, everyone was free to show your support to any party of your choice regardless of your status, class or background without the fear of being sacked from your work as a civil servant or being denied your developmental needs as a community. The list goes on and on and on, but what is clear was the freedom and liberty given to people to exercise their God and constitutional rights was unbreakable until the fateful day of 22nd July 1994 when Yahya Jammeh and Co seized the country from her people ILLEGALLY. End of Part one (1), check out for part two (2) in a moment.