28 August 2012

The Gambia: The Balangbaa Uprising

(By Mathew K Jallow)

Their persistent denials rang hollow. Yahya Jammeh’s spokes-people Njogu Bah and Mahamadou Tangara towed the line prescribed by Yahya Jammeh, and in the process managed to create only doubt, yet their guilt-ridden diplomatic offensive did nothing to dissuade Gambians familiar with the regime’s pattern of lies, deceit and denials. The ugly and unimaginable slaughter of innocent and defenseless Gambians was already spreading around the world like wildfire, and Gambians both at home and abroad were left utterly dumbfounded by these egregious acts of violence. What happened on the night of Thursday August 23, 2012, is beyond description and spells the beginning of the end for Yahya Jammeh and his Neanderthal regime.  Like the students’ massacre on April 10, 2000, the mindless slaughter of nine Mile 2 Prison inmates on August 23, 2012, will forever remain etched in the collective memory of the Gambian nation. At exactly 9.30 pm on August 23, 2012, the frightening sound of heavy metal doors broke the stillness of the night. One by one, nine selected inmates were led from their dark, dingy concrete-walled cells and out under the dark open sky above Mile 2 Central Prisons. It was the last time anyone of them would see the mosquito infested cells or smell the overpowering stench of rot, death and human feaces of the dungeon each had called home for so many years. It was the last time they would lay eyes on the four fellow citizens who loitered around aimlessly and who out of despair and despondence had developed severe psychological problems and become mad inside the hellhole of Mile Two Prisons.

Today, it is almost one week since nine Mile 2 Central Prison death-row inmates faced the firing squad that cut their lives short with a hail of bullets. The nine were among forty seven Gambians and non-Gambians sitting on death row who were removed to a central holding cell after Yahya Jammeh threatened to execute them. And as they were being led away to their deaths, one of them, Lamin Darboe shouted out for all the prisoners to know they were being taken away and perhaps never to come back. And he was so right. Since Yahya Jammeh made good his threats and ordered the execution of nine inmates, international pressure and outright condemnation has severely undermined his efforts to rationalize his crime against humanity as an application of the letter of the law. The extremely un-Gambian enforcement of the death penalty and the use of the firing squad as an instrument of death for convicted prisoners and terror against the living dead, by a corrupt judicial system that had long ago lost its credibility, have put the Yahya Jammeh regime on notice. Understandably, the mass murders committed on the orders of Yahya Jammeh last Thursday August 23, overshadowed the brutal execution in Foni, of two sibling elders from the village of Kanunorr, Wuyeh Colly and Enor Colly. Their executions were carried out with a mind-bugling casualness and nonchalance that defy imagination. And today, nearly one week after the executions of nine prisoners that traumatized a nation, another inmate, Musa Badjie, collapsed and died inside Mile 2 Prisons, a testament to the brutal and harsh prison conditions.

For seventeen long years, Yahya Jammeh has tested the will of Gambians with periodic adventures into the Machiavellian world of Stalinist brutality. Since 1994, more than two hundred Gambians and non-Gambians have been murdered on orders of Yahya Jammeh, as many as thirty Gambian men and women have disappeared from the face of the earth after their arrest by regime agents, some as long as twelve years. But the executions of nine innocent prisoners last week brings to mind the brutal execution of forty-four Ghanaians nearly ten years ago, in addition to the vehicular murders of twenty children, run down by Yahya Jammeh’s speeding motorcades. And besides the witch-hunting that killed ten elderly men and women, an average of ten murders are committed each year on the orders of Yahya Jammeh. But there is still a lot we don’t know about the brutality inflicted on Gambians by Yahya Jammeh and his agents of death. Last week alone, two innocent Jola elders from the village of Kanunorr in the Fonis were abducted and murdered on Yahya Jammeh’s orders. Since then, it has come to light that Foni Jolas are under siege with frequent abduction and disappearances and of the known twenty Gambian forced disappearances over the past decade, most are Foni Jolas and include several murders in Kanilai village. Fellow Gambians, of recent, we have all been united by a deadly hatred of Yahya Jammeh, and the time to make him taste his own medicine has come. The time has come for the Gambian Diaspora, civil society organizations, the political establishment, and Gambian’s military and security services, to come together and reclaim our country. As we strategize on how to rid The Gambia of Yahya Jammeh in the coming weeks and months, we implore the military to help us make Yahya Jammeh history. The Balangbaa Uprising is coming, and must happen to free our people from bondage. The time is NOW.

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