By Mathew K Jallow
His decision to challenge the status quo was a courageous act of political defiance; if not a daring assault on sixteen years of state impunity and uncaring nonchalance. Still, Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh was under no illusion about the fortified wall of resistance that loomed menacingly ahead of his aspirations for our country. But the paradigm shifts evolving from Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East have provided Gambians with a blueprint, an impetus and the moral obligation to take back control of our country from a regime that continues to abuse and manifest its deadly contempt for our people.
After a long hiatus from reality, Gambians can no longer continue the unsustainable paradox of luxuriating in political amnesia, as the country continues its degeneration into a morass of economic blight and social disintegration. While a hopeless sense of collective apathy and defeatism have permeated every aspect of our lives and made it difficult to extricate our country from the overpowering political quandary that has devalued our self-esteem and bankrupted our sense of moral rectitude, much of the blame for our subjectivity rests on our collective puerile naivety and callous indifference towards our country and to each other.
With The Gambia held captive in a vortex of social, economic and political degeneration, the pathway to our political liberty rests on a determination that values our and our posterity’s humanity and self worth. Still, as the banality of our paralyzing fear of Yahya Jammeh’s absolute power continues to hamper our ability to rationalize our national interests, our degeneration into lawlessness and anarchy is increasingly exemplified by an emerging national psyche that is devoid of empathy. Our duty to ourselves, our children and future generations must remain the cornerstone that inspires and motivates us to stand our ground against the ruthless machinations of a regime that is both arrogantly numbed to reason and calculatingly self-contradictory in its use and exercise of state power and authority. But the predilection to take Yahya Jammeh’s gross abuses lying down, has predictably worsened our chances of freeing ourselves from political bondage, prompting Professor Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh to deliver lectures that radiated the need and ideality of freedom and liberty for our downtrodden people. But increasingly too, the international community is focusing attention on Yahya Jammeh’s cruel dictatorship, and needless to say, sooner or later, his sadistic disregard for human life and morbid obsession with absolute power, will be his own undoing. But nothing in recent memory has perplexed Gambians and the international community as the arrest and detention of Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh, whose brush with the regime showcases Yahya Jammeh’s regime’s lethargy to freedom of speech, and more so still, its freefall into a pariah nation.
But Dr. Janneh’s arrest and continued detention have exposed, most notoriously in the blogosphere, a new dimension of the cruel underbelly of the Gambian society, where the abominable contortion of facts over the past three weeks is disgustingly surreal and sickeningly mischievous. The Ad hominem attacks on Dr. Janneh for his service under Yahya Jammeh’s regime, so pitifully devoid of sober judgment, says more about the superficial sanctimoniousness and provincial mentality of his nemesis than of Dr. Janneh. The viciousness and ham-handed approach with which Dr. Janneh’s arrest and detention were received by a scornfully misguided few, will never stain the integrity of an honorable man who decided to stand tall, so we all may follow his example out of the dungeon of political servitude; if anything, it will backfire miserably on those whose dark motives and off the wall comments are typically spawned by mean-spiritedness and lack of objective rationality. For a man who dared to do what most of us can only think, Dr. Janneh sits in prison, the victim of the dithering stupidity of a paranoid regime easily agitated into unnecessary acts of revenge and vengeance against perceived threats to its existence. Any malicious efforts to aggregate the pain of Dr. Janneh’s unnecessary incarceration by a regime that has proven time and again, that it lacks the legitimacy and the credibility under the eyes of the plurality of Gambians, will fail hands-down. The parochial mentality exhibited by a handful of Gambians in Dr. Janneh’s arrest and detention, even while the vast majority of Gambians and the international community are rallying behind the only man who had the fortitude and the guts to represent what every Gambian only dared think, is under-whelming to say the least.
And, equally important, Yahya Jammeh’s political subterfuge designed to mask the reality of his less than noble intentions, has become an all too familiar fact of life in The Gambia. But as Dr. Janneh and his codefendant’s sagas, which are the latest in the never-ending stream of arrests and detentions of innocent Gambians shows, Yahya Jammeh will stop at nothing in his attempts to silence voices that have worldviews contrary to his. And Dr. Janneh, by dint of his outspokenness about the restoration of democracy in a country wallowing in political misery, has become only the latest victim of a regime that is maddeningly intolerant to even the most innocuous political dissent. This is the daunting issue facing Gambians; an issue so critical to our freedom and liberty, and so challenging to our sensibilities, as to wake us up from the selective amnesia and intellectual quandary that has corrupted our rationality. Together, we must rally around the common interest of our people, rather than be drawn into the dangerous depths of our narrow, self-serving prejudices.
For like it or not, Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh has become the first real symbol of resistance to the dictatorship in our country; the Lui Xiaobo of The Gambia, if you will. The non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in The Gambia has the undivided attention of the international community and Gambians should never rest until the murders, disappearances, tortures, intimidations and mind-numbing plunder of our wealth and national resources ends, and The Gambia can once again join the community of free, democratic nations of the world. Gambians must commit to nothing less than a country that is free of tyranny; a country where the values of caring, sharing and empathy, which we hold so dear to our hearts, are once again restored in our lives.