Dear Mr. Holder,
(JollofNews) – The Committee for the Restoration of Democracy in The Gambia (CORDEG), an independent, non-profit transnational democratic umbrella organisation that is home to political parties and groups in The Gambia and its various Diasporas, writes to express deep concern over gross human rights violations in The Gambia, following the alleged foiled coup of December 30, 2014.
Reported cases of indiscriminate arrests, and torture of ordinary Gambians, as well as the alleged execution of three accused coup conspirators without due process, is deeply disturbing.
Since coming to power in a bloodless coup d’état against a democratically elected government in 1994, President Yahya Jammeh has engaged in systematic destruction of state institutions- notably the press, and civil society organisations, including opposition political parties, in order to maintain complete control over affairs of state and a population mired in harrowing poverty.
President Jammeh has, likewise, undermined fundamental political freedoms, which have resulted in denying Gambians a voice in the day-to-day administration of their country. To these must be added a repressive state machinery under President Jammeh’s watch that routinely disappears, maims, tortures, imprisons and sometimes kills ordinary Gambians in order to keep Jammeh and his underlings in power, President Jammeh has, specifically, targeted gays and lesbians in The Gambia with unsavoury invectives along with draconian laws to severely punish members of this community, in part, to garner needed financial assistance from African and Muslim/Arab allies. Passage of these laws followed in the heels of European Union withdrawal of crucial development assistance and Gambia’s suspension from AGOA by the United States. Herein lies the political context for the alleged December 30 foiled coup.
While CORDEG insists on peaceful democratic change, the events of December 30, 2014, were a last ditch effort to make change in a country where all democratic means had failed.
Mr. Cherno Njie and Mr. Papa Faal, who are currently in US custody in Oklahoma and Minnesota, respectively, are law-abiding Gambian-American citizens. Both gentlemen are also widely respected in their communities for their philanthropic activity and service to the United States Armed Forces, respectively.
Both Mr. Njie and Mr. Faal also enjoy rich family lives and subscribe to strong family values. They embody the best qualities and professional best practices that this great country upholds- having arrived in the United States as students several decades ago to achieve the proverbial Horatio Alger story.
Keeping Mr. Papa Faal and Mr. Cherno Njie in custody or meting out severe punishments for an extended period, will only play into the hands of President Jammeh. It would unwittingly embolden him, sanction further repression and delay long overdue political and economic reforms in the ancestral home of the renowned African-American poet, Ms. Phyllis Wheatley.
I am happy to answer any questions you may have about Gambia’s political situation, as well as provide character references for Mr. Njie and Mr. Faal.
Abdoulaye Saine, Professor, University Distinguished Scholar and Chairman, CORDEG Department of Political Science, Harrison Hall #224-225, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056 (513) 529-2489 (O).