The Gambia: Yahya Jammeh admits to 9 executions, but is the real number 18 or 26 massacred?
Gambia's bloody dictator Yahya Jammeh defies international calls not to kill prisoners
The oldest inmate, Lamin Darboe, had his death sentence commuted to a life in prison years ago by former President Dawda K Jawara. The youngest, Buba Yarboe of Busumbala village, suffered severe mental illness and was totally incapable of making rational decisions, much less have the capacity to understand his surroundings. And beautiful Tabara Samba, the female in the group, with little children at home, tried and sentenced for murder in an apparent manslaughter case, was gang raped by her captors. This is not a preamble of the opening chapter of an Agatha Christie crime novel, it is real, and it happened in The Gambia. What all three individuals shared in common was their cruel, mind-numbing execution at Mile Two Prisons, an act of brutality so unimaginable, it left an entire nation numbed by grief, disgust and utter disbelief. On that fateful August night last week when nine inmates were led out of their concrete-walled and steel door cells and executed in cold blood with such willful disregard for human life, the Gambia descended further into new depths of mindless barbarity.
Yahya Jammeh has finally dug his own grave. This time around, his fate will not be determined by the primitive superstitions and customary devil worship that have dictated the way he ruled Gambia with bewildering ignorance; instead his life now rests in the hands of the Gambian people. For the first time in seventeen years, Gambians both at home and abroad cry out in deadly rage with a united voice and a determination never before seen in all these years of tyranny and political madness. For seventeen years, Yahya Jammeh has ruled The Gambia with an extraordinary cruelty and mean-spiritedness, in the process turning himself into an object of hate and scorn, but it is his extremely vexing detachment from reality that has locked him into a perpetual state of delusion and illusionary grandiosity. The relationship between Yahya Jammeh and the Gambian people is a marriage that has never worked well, not even for a single day, and the time for it to end came and went with each extraordinary abuse of power that has included the deaths of fellow citizens. But the recent execution of as many as twenty-six helpless prisoners is the straw that broke the camel’s back and sealed Yahya Jammeh’s fate.
The executions in Mile two Prisons of so many innocent Gambians is more than anyone can bear, and if Yahya Jammeh thinks this egregious act of violence will just go away like the massacre of the sixteen students or the execution of forty-four Ghanaians, he is clearly underestimating the resolve of the Gambian people. But more baffling still, while the regime admitted to the execution of nine inmates, the real number could be as many as twenty-six people executed on the orders of Yahya Jammeh, and unless the regime can produce all the inmates to the public, Gambians and the international community will continue to assume that twenty-six inmates were executed. This case is similar to the Ghanaian massacre ten years ago when the regime admitted to eight murders instead of forty-four who were really executed. To make matters even worst, rumors of the use of the body parts of the executed in ritual sacrifice are rife. Given Yahya Jammeh’s extreme dependence on primitive African belief systems, these rumors are not all that far-fetched. But if the ritual sacrifice rumors are proven true, this will further aggravate Gambians and animate even more violent outrage among Gambians and the international community.
Today, ten days after Yahya Jammeh executed as many as twenty-six Gambians and Senegalese, lost in the conversation is the issue of burial of the dead. So far, families of those executed have not received the bodies of their loved ones in order to give them decent burials according to local customs and Islamic tradition. The relatives of the executed are urged to go to the Banjul mortuary and demand to be given the bodies of their executed family members for burial. In the same vein, the Gambian public is urged to support the quest by family members to retrieve the dead bodies of their relatives from Yahya Jammeh. The Senegalese community in The Gambia should also congregate at the Banjul mortuary to demand the surrender of the bodies of Tabara Samba and Gibbi Bah for repatriation to their villages in Senegal for burial. This effort should be supported by the Senegalese government, and besides, President Macky Sall must independently demand the return of the bodies of his citizens to accord them the proper burials they deserve in Senegal. Yahya Jammeh has no authority under any law to continue to detain the bodies of the executed. The family members of the dead have the rights to demand the return of their dead relatives and not let irrational fear of Yahya Jammeh force them to abandon their obligation to their deceased relatives.
This week, Gambians across the globe will express outrage with demonstrations, a move complemented by Senegalese demonstrations for the execution of their compatriots. In stark contrast, in The Gambia, even the media appeared timid in their reporting, but it is the outrageously tepid “so-called” Group of 6 (six) letter that is so aggravating to the Gambian public. And more puzzling still, the cowardly “so-called” group of six’s letter to Yahya Jammeh arguing the legal basis for the executions is completely misguided, out of line and irrelevant to the situation. The illegality of the executions is an established fact, and besides Yahya Jammeh does not respond to legalities or simple common sense. Time and again, he has shown unwillingness to respect our Constitution and the laws of the land and scores of letter from politicians over the years have been ignored with recklessness. As it is, the time for the politicians to overcome their fear is now and what Gambians expect from Ousainou Darboe is to call the country out in a massive show of force to demonstrate until Yahya Jammeh leaves. Today, hundreds, if not thousands of Diaspora Gambians are ready and willing to join nation-wide demonstrations seeking the forced removal of Yahya Jammeh. We can no longer afford to be held back by fear, and besides if such blatant acts of violence against fellow citizens do not embolden us with resolve, it will mean the acceptance of the devaluation of Gambian life,
With the massacre of as many as twenty-six Gambians and Senegalese a done deal, the broader debate has to shift focus to the removal of Yahya Jammeh by hook or by crook. After the latest act of unprovoked violence against innocent citizens, Yahya Jammeh has shown himself unqualified to continue breathing God’s air, and Gambians urge members of our military to show they care by mustering the courage to dispatch Yahya to a state of perpetual darkness. It is hoped that soon a united Diaspora front will seek to work hand in hand with the political establishment in order to force Yahya Jammeh’s removal from power. It is unconscionable and outrageous that our military and fellow citizens to continue to wallow in a senseless fear of a handful of MFDC Cassamance rebels who have no business whatsoever being in our country. The rebels who provide Security for Yahya Jammeh do not have a monopoly of mean-spiritedness or the determination to fight. Each one of us has that reptilian cruelty in us that can manifest in extraordinary violent acts. Besides, the more than half million young patriotic young Gambians under thirty years of age who can be mobilized to take up arms to free their beloved country are no match for the mere hundred and fifty Cassamance rebels. Today, Senegal and the broader international community are also ready for Yahya Jammeh’s departure from the face of the earth. For, apparently, Yahya Jammeh did not get the memo from Liberia’s Samuel Doe, Libya’s Mumar Khadaffi and many other tyrants of the past. Those who live by the gun will die by the gun.