Ex-Captain Bunja Darboe
Ex-Captain Bunja Darboe

(JollofNews) – I am not a politician and I am not a tribalist. Though I have some little knowledge about politics but I have always distanced my myself from political wrangling. Thomas Sankara once said: “A soldier without any political knowledge is a virtuous criminal”. So I have some little knowledge about politics but I also have my misgivings about how politics is done in Africa.

I had not joined any social media network before. It was my desire to seclude myself and concentrate on writing my book. To me, that is my priority number one.

However, when Yaya Jammeh openly and maliciously insulted and castigated the Mandingos of The Gambia, my pride was hurt. As a bona fide Mandingo, I decided to break my silence. The only way to do that is to join a social media and speak out. I know that, there are thousands of Mandingos in the country who must have felt the way I felt by Yahya Jammeh’s hateful statements.

It is a plain fact that, the Mandingos in The Gambia have for centuries harmoniously live side by side with all the tribes in the country. All these tribes have inter-marriages with the Mandingos and verse versa.

Why should Yahya Jammeh utter such cynical and hateful statements when most of his formidable supporters are Mandingos. The likes of Baba Jobe, Yankuba Touray and many others who had played significant parts in making Yahya Jammeh what he is today by the will of God of course.

This is a man I used to respect and admire when he was commanding the Military Police (MP) unit of the then Gambia National Gendarmerie. I had just graduated from the Gendarmerie Training School as one of the best graduates and a newly decorated officer cadet. I was posted to the Intelligence Liaison office then under Major Sheriff Mbye. It was Major Mbye who attached me to the MP as he put in his own words “to learn from the ground”. This was how I went to the MP unit under Yahya Jammeh. I became his 2ic. I was fresh from the training school as a young officer cadet with little or no experience.

Ex-Captain Bunja Darboe
Ex-Captain Bunja Darboe

I am grateful to Yahya Jammeh for one thing. It was he who taught me how to write Military Police report. When I mastered the report writing skill, I used to do all the report writings and he would do the vettings and approvals. We had a good working relations to an extent that we used to go out together in the MP jeep to attend certain social programmes.

In those days, he used to defend the rights of many Gendarmes who for one reason or another had felt apart with the Gendarmerie command and administration and were brought to the MP for either investigation or punishment. What actually makes him changed into the biggest violator of the human and civic rights of ordinary Gambian citizens is beyond my comprehension.

Is it power or wealth or fame? If that is so, where are the Mobutus, the Samuel does, the Ghadaffis just to name a few. Power, wealth and fame are elusive. They will not stay forever. What actually stays is the good legacy that one has impacted on the people.

I truly admired Yahya Jammeh as a lieutenant but I don’t admire him as a president. As a president, he had made so many political as well as social ethical mistakes. His recent resentful statements about the Mandingos of the Gambia have attested to such political and ethical blunders. His human rights records are presently the lowest in the West and Central African regions.

Where was Yahya Jammeh’s political conscience before making statements that have the potential of plunging the Gambia into a Rwandan like ethnic cleansing if we are not very cautious. I don’t think his tribesmen and other tribes will take his statements seriously for I know some very good Jolas who are straightforward and they see only the Gambia.

Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara was a Mandingo president but he had never uttered any negative statement against the Jolas or any other tribe in the Gambia. He had a good human rights records and that is why he was able to pardon all those accused of the 1981 abortive coup d’etat who were given life and death sentences. None of them spent more than ten years in prison.

Comparatively, 1981 coup d’etat was the most intense and bloodiest in the history of the Gambia. But sir Dawda was able to pardon all of them without much fanfare. His magnanimity in pardoning prisoners on every independence day celebration was an example of a considerate leader. I have the privilege of reading his autobiography book, Kairaba and by the time I finished the book, I could not control my tears because of the struggles Sir Dawda went through and how he became bankrupt in the UK.

Those are touching narratives of a man who has always been humble and has had the Gambia in his heart. Gambia today needs a president like him but who is not going to stay in power and in the presidency like he did and like what Yaya Jammeh is also doing now. We need a term limit.

I conclude by telling the Gambian people to be their own judges. You should judge between right and wrong and you should defend what is right and reject whatever is wrong. The ball is in your court now. You are to decide.

The author is a former Captain in the Gambian Armed Forces.