The Gambia: My last act; the last battle
July 07, 2012
I had a dream. Not a Martin Luther King Jr. dream. A Mathew Kali Jallow dream. I was home and out of my depth. But naivety did not take me back. My dream did. Home had turned into a whole new world of conflict and contradictions. And I was caught in its crossfire. I was a sitting duck in the crosshairs that lent pungency to the fear marked on peoples’ faces. Serekunda was bustling. But not how you think. It was a city in atrophy; the epicenter of a melodrama that was beyond the arch of my imagination. The battle-front had no lines. The war scars everywhere; enshrined in the timid swagger and muffled voices visible on the hallowed faces of the mosaic and tapestry that is Gambia. The moral limits imposed by social norms left no impression; no imprint on the code of our peoples’ lives. The paradoxically ubiquitous and invisible mine-field of state power that demands rigid compliance to unreasonable state order left a blueprint where everyone had to march in lockstep, and retribution against slight, real or imagined, was exercised beyond the forceful use of words. In the quite back-alleys of my old stomping grounds of Dippakunda, Sere Kunda, mud-drenched roadside ditches, uncongenial moon-crater pathways and Kilimanjaro-high road bumps, all seem to predicate the institutionalized excesses of state power. The fanciful regurgitation of state grit, monotonous and conspicuous on the airwaves, surpassed the limits of propaganda, to assume the dimension of psychological indoctrination.
And beyond the nastiness of the Ad Hominum propaganda attacks on the national airwaves, even the streets seemed to sense the treacherous subterfuge that consumed the state’s reckless exercise of authority. It seemed the more things had changed, the more they remained the same. The art of reasoning was crowded out by the drought of moral and ethical conventions, and robbed people of their dignities. On my nostalgic walk around the back roads Sere Kunda, I occasionally drowned in the unfolding drama of life; often becoming absurdly oblivious of my surroundings. And so, I tripped and stumbled with abhorrent regularity, and in a place where even the subtle nuances in life can be seen to reverberate hostile intent, I seemed to have lost the sound track of my life. And everywhere I looked, it seemed even the blighted dirt roadways were hostile, furious and unwelcoming. The streets seemed to speak to me laconically in an unintelligible, didactic language alphabetized in the characters of fear and terror. As the epitome of a political gadfly, I lost my edge and with it, the veneer of moral sanctimony that defined the proud legacy of freedom and liberty to which I am remorselessly wedded. And so callously threatening was the state of state power that it ignited the long running pedantic sermons for civility in the political discourse. But the aberration of the unethical and the immoral, exacerbated by the brutal ignorance of the state, had a grip on power under the spurious rubric of maintaining public order.
But as I walked around Sere Kunda in all deliberate haste, my eyes fixed for no particular reason, on the oncoming mass of humanity, minding my business, might I add, my calm demeanor did not betray the intense apprehension that consumed my thoughts. But, even in my complacency, whatever could go wrong was far from my mind. I, after all, imagined myself as the Gambian Centurion; with a tint of Wole Soyinka and a tinge of Chinua Achebe; and like T.S Eliot and Fredric Nietzsche, I belong to the pantheon of intellectual thinkers; making no apology for the depth of my curiosity. And this is neither a manifestation of arrogance nor is it a cavalier show of ostentatiousness. But now, standing by the dry river bed on the west side of Dippa Kunda, it soon became clear to me that in so many ways, Sere Kunda, was the poster city for everything that went so horribly wrong in the Gambia. For, Gambia was no longer recognizable, and it seemed as if I was in an enemy territory, a castaway into a pond where reptilian blood lust threatened to devour me in a frightening pandemonium of carnivorous feasting. It mattered not that I had just returned home, or rather, what I thought was my home from far away tubabu banko. In the asinine political unorthodoxy shamefully displayed in the hostile language of platitudes and rhetorical flourish, even I was a stranger in the backwoods where I lived and played all my life. Not even the fiercely apolitical, who by dint of the episodic bouts of chronic state fear, escaped the wholesale scrutiny and victimization that had metastasized into total lack of sensibilities and objective rationality.
The manifestations of state insecurity so characteristic of the repulsive indiscipline of unchecked power, was exacerbated by the fear of an intensifying groundswell centered on the singular objective of freeing Gambia from political tyranny. The state’s adventure into the depths of ignorance permeated every aspect of Gambian life, and the debilitating consequences of this morass has drawn Gambia towards the inevitable cusp of revolutionary political change. The constricting and claustrophobic lack of freedom mindlessly out of touch with the times has given rise to the impetus to splurge in a final act of patriotism; to free Gambia. And for starters, Gambians are increasingly transcending the fear that has for so long immobilized us into a state of apathy, self-pity and indifference. For Gambia, the corruption of absolute power is more than just pithy cliché; it is real and demonstrates the ham-handedness of the state’s tyrannical political polemics. But as my nighttime experience demonstrates, it was for me more than just a dream; it was real and it exposed a subtext the Yahya Jammeh regime brutally rejected by bohemians like myself. And for a person who has lived a life of political activism, my life-time experiences have more than once pushed me into despair, hunger and homelessness, but each time, I have risen and lived to fight yet another day. The struggle to push Yahya Jammeh out or die trying will be the culmination of my life of activism. It will be my last act of patriotism. It will be my last battle. But for now, the struggle continues.