(JollofNews) – Exactly 22 years today, President Yahya Jammeh became leader of our small but blessed country when he and his fellow soldiers overthrew the government of Sir Dawda Jawara.
President Jawara had over-stayed in power and there was euphoria in the streets of Banjul, Brikama, Serrekunda and even Futa Torro when Gambians heard the crackling voice of a young army Lieutenant announcing the regime change on Radio Gambia.
The change was welcomed by many Gambians who bought Mr Jammeh’s rhetorics that Jawara and his cohorts were corrupt and lived a flamboyant lifestyle at their expense.
Promising the world to Gambians, Jammeh acted as a puritan and a Messiah, handpicked by God Himself to cleanse the country of its ills.
He sold Gambians a lie and they bought it. Like a dodgy salesman, he promised to transform the Gambia into a financial centre, a tourist paradise, a trading, export-oriented agricultural and manufacturing nation, thriving on free market policies and a vibrant private sector, sustained by a well-educated, trained, skilled, healthy, self-reliant and enterprising population and guaranteeing a well-balanced eco- system and a decent standard of living for one and all under a system of government based on the consent of the citizenry.
The vision sounded great on paper but Mr Jammeh has only succeeded in making things worst for the Gambia and Gambians. The only people benefitting from the July 22 military coup is Jammeh and his cohorts.
What was bad in the Jawara regime has become worst under Jammeh. His promise to instill accountability, transparency and probity in the heart of government is dead and buried 360 feet deep. The regime is not accountable to the electorates, nor is it transparent and trusted by the very people it claims to be serving.
The average Gambian is poorer today than they were before 1994 and many families are struggling to make ends meet. Youth unemployment is at record level and many young Gambians are now forced to take the long and dangerous journey across the sea in search of greener pastures. There is no bright future for those Gambian youths at home.
Jammeh has ditched the principle of democracy and the rule of law and has become a tyrant. He is tightening his grip on power every day and is ruling the country with an iron hand, showing no mercy to his political opponent and critics.
He uses his National Assembly Members who forms a large majority in the National Assembly to manipulate the country’s constitution left, right and centre.
The executive is firmly in his grip and ministers are hired and fired left, right and centre without any explanation. Civil servants suspected of being opposition sympathisers are sent packing from their office or jailed on fabricated charges. Police officers, members of armed forces, NIA and other security officers openly manifest their loyalty to the president and they never hesitate to harass opposition supporters and critics of the regime. Many security officers have been sacked for merely being impartial in the execution of their duties.
The judiciary has lost its independence to administer justice in a free and fair manner.
Judges and magistrates are under constant pressure to deliver judgements in favour of the state or risk being sacked, arrested or jailed.
While the Gambian constitution guarantees rights and freedoms of citizens, the government continues to violate them without giving a monkey. Freedom of expression is not tolerated as journalists and other media practitioners are persecuted left, right and centre.
Private media houses are shut down by the state without any court order and journalists are killed, arrested, tortured.
Political opponents are arrested, tortured jailed and killed with impunity. And as Jammeh has given security officers the carte blanche to kill anyone who is against the status quo and bury them 90 feet deep, Gambians are today living in constant fear and wondering who is next on the feared National Intelligence Agency’s (NIA) list.
Today, almost every Gambian has got a close or distant relative who is either jailed, killed or exiled by Jammeh for one unexplained reason or the other. Our name as the Smiling Coast of Africa has disappeared. We are no longer a beacon of hope. We are not being governed according to the motto – peace, progress and prosperity that is inscribed on our national coat of arms.
We at JollofNews are afraid about the future of the Gambia under Jammeh because despotism, irresponsible governance, violations of people’s rights and freedoms, lack of respect for the rule of law among others which are a recipe for political instability are ripe in our country.
So, if Mr Jammeh really loves the Gambia the way he wants us to believe, we urged him to immediately release all political prisoners and free up the democratic space. We also call on him to apologise for his misdeeds and compensate the families of all those innocents souls he wrongly took or harmed.
There cannot be progress and development in the Gambia without peace and justice. Gambians would rather live in mud houses in peace than live in skyscrapers in oppression and bondage.
Jammeh has failed the leadership, credibility, honesty and whatever test you could think of. He has caused so much harm to Gambians and is not capable of uniting the Gambia. He has failed woefully and should step down for the sake of the Gambia and Gambians.