14 June 2012

OPINION: The Gambia: A nation tranformed into a country of liars, griots and self-serving megalomeniacs

By Mathew K Jallow
Outgoing U.S Ambassador, Pamela White, was diplomatic and gracious in her unambiguous assessment of the Gambia's predicament under Yahya Jammeh, but she did not mince words in her verdict of the country's sickening political culture and embarrassing governance system. Her contemptuous disregard for Yahya Jammeh was unmistakable and her parting words summed up the mess into which Yahya Jammeh has put the Gambia. It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that beneath the surface tranquility, the Gambia is a country in turmoil. Just two weeks ago, eight former senior government officials, three of them holding doctoral degrees and the rest possessing university degrees in various fields, were remanded in Mile 2 Prisons. At the same time, in faraway Abuja, Nigeria, Gambia's five-member permanent parliamentary delegation to ECOWAS, led by Paul Mendy, was meeting ECOWAS officials to discuss the Gambia's human rights crisis. But, unlike the eight former agricultural officials who were remanded in Mile 2 Prisons, none of the Gambia's ECOWAS parliamentarians has a high school education, not to speak of a university degree. The five Gambian permanent ECOWAS parliamentarians created a public outcry when one of them, Lamin Jadama, declared in Abuja, Nigeria that there were no human rights abuses in the Gambia. The five ECOWAS representatives, it turned out, are a microcosm of the broader Gambian National Assembly, where most of the National Assembly delegates have never seen the inside of a high school classroom.
Over the past decade and half, the Gambia has succeeded in creating the only society in West Africa where mediocrity and amateurism trumps professionalism and excellence; a country that values ignorance and timidity over intellectual curiosity and creativity. Lamin Jadama is a reflection of what the Gambia has become, and that fact that he courted the eerie of a segment of the GambiaĆ¢€™s population after his bold-faced lies to an ECOWAS committee probing into Gambia's worsening human rights violations, is a natural reaction to cultural decadence that has taken root in our country. His denial of human rights violations was particularly perplexing since Lamin Jadama knows the murdered Sgt. Illo Jallow, as his village Katamina and Illo Jallow village Sare Mali are separated by only a hundred meters wide cattle trail. But Lamin Jadama's denial is not a new thing, but he personifies the dumbing down of Gambian society. In lying to ECOWAS officials, he has become the metaphor of how ordinarily decent Gambians have by necessity turned into unadulterated liars. Today, every official of the regime has become a liar; a frightening development has totally changed the character of Gambian society. Gambia is now a place of make-belief; a place where deceptions, deceit and hypocrisy is the new normal. It is a social anomaly motivated by the necessities of self-preservation. It is a phenomenon that is particular to autocratic societies like The Gambia, where the rule of tyranny has replaced the rule of law.
Lamin Jadama's denial of human rights violations in the Gambia which came barely a week after Ousman Sonko's outrageous statement regarding Chief Ebrima Manneh, is a pernicious pattern that harkens back to the days of Ms. Marie Saine Firdaus and Edward Gomez and beyond. In countries ruled by dictatorship as in The Gambia over the past decade and half, the denial of the obvious becomes second nature to officials of the regime. And around the globe and throughout history, it is a practice that has stood the test of time and bought time for regimes that would eventually collapse under the weight of their own tyranny. As in The Gambia, lies, deception and deceit are designed to delay the inevitable day when Yahya Jammeh's regime will collapse, because there is not historical precedence where dictatorship have survived the lies and brutality they visit of their people. But, for now, given the caliber of the Lamin Jadamas and Paul Mendys who represent us at both ECOWAS and at the National Assembly, we cannot expect anything better than the nefarious and self-serving machinations used to drag Gambian in the proverbial mud. Paul Mendy who heads the Gambia's ECOWAS parliamentarians, is also the senior laborer at Yahya Jammeh's Kanilai Farms and his appointment to that position in late 2011, published as a Press Release in The Daily Observer on March 31, 2011, was greeted with absolute incredulity and reads as follows. "The Office of the President wishes to inform the general public that Honorable Paul L. Mendy, National Assembly Member, has been appointed as the Operations and Logistics Manager, Kanilai Family Farms Limited, with immediate effect. This information is also extended to all Farm Managers and employees of the Kanilai Family Farm." If this is not truly the picture of Gambia at its very worst abuse of power, then nothing else is, for we have become a country of liars, griots, and self-serving megalomaniacs 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This is a great article. Anyone who denies that there are no human rights abuses in Gambia is basically deluded.