Tuesday, 27 July 2010
A SHORT WALK TO THE COMMONWEALTH SECRETARIAT
By Suntou Touray U.K
On the 22 of July 2010, I was among a group of Gambians from different parts of Britain to protest against the lavish and spend-rift wastage under the guise of the ill-fated July 22nd Revolution.
After picketing at the Nigerian high commission, a so call West African super power, our team walked a mile to the Commonwealth Secretariat at the prestigious Pall Mall in the heart of the magnificent landmark of Great Britain. Trafalgar Square embodies all that is great in her Majesty’s England. Richard the Lion heart must be envious of the giant lions, the statues of great military figures, the water falls, the tranquil surrounding and the ever present diversity of tourist from all the four corners of the globe. Indeed, coming to England without visiting Trafalgar Square would be missing out a lot. Our mission to the Commonwealth, a selected port of call by Amnesty International, was to appeal to the good spirit of the Secretariat, by highlighting the wayward behaviour of one of her member Presidents, the outrageous mafia President of the Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, a man with all known titles.
Pall Mall is a sizeable area; however the point of interest for Malick Kah, Chairman Coalition Of Gambian Human rights U.K, Abdoulie Bojang, former Gambian High commissioner to London, Sarjo Bayang, editor In-chief of the Allgambian newspaper, Saptieu Sarr, a UDP Supporter, a representative of Amnesty International and my humble self. Is that, human reasoning and self-respect is something for all human beings to have. The short walk from the Nigerian embassy to Marlborough House was not less emotive, the feeling of seeing fellow human beings treated with dignity and respect. The orderly fashion in which everything happens, without elaborate pressure or control hindering the freedoms, or interaction of citizens and visitors results in sincerity and admiration of the tranquillity in a higher human consciousness.
The history of the Commonwealth is rooted in her Majesty’s administrator’s post-colonial overhang. The effect the lowering of the Union Jack has in many former colonies was enormous. And to fill the void the Commonwealth of Nations was created. The congregations of former British colonies, appropriately, more or less, the union gave added leverage to Britain in asserting its past glories with further diplomatic advantages from her former colonies. The Commonwealth, we know does not publicly reprimand her members except in extraordinary circumstances like the Zimbabwe saga and the suspension of Mugabe. However, we the powerless citizens of the Gambia matched to meet the Public Affairs Division Adviser and Human Rights representative with few fundamental questions.
- Will the commonwealth continue ignoring the actions of dictators and tyrants?
- Isn’t the commonwealth aware of the manic witchdoctor, HIV and AIDS curer, Yahya Jammeh?
- Is the Commonwealth Secretariat afraid, that should she be tough, the tyrants will abandon it to form Unions of their own, entailing a weaker English speaking block, reliant on the United States in matters of diplomatic wrangling?
- Is the Commonwealth actually aware of Yahya Jammeh’s continuous and persistent human rights abuses and what is the motivation for not severing ties with him?
The defenceless, faceless, powerless Gambian people hereby call the attention of the Commonwealth. However, our spirit is such that, we will continue the standoff until the end of the pain and suffering. And that the sooner Institutions like the Commonwealth speak for the weak, the better.
A TWIST IN THE TAIL
45 years ago, the tiny impoverish nation of the Gambia gained her independence, albeit reluctantly from the empire of Great Britain. The reluctance was not due to any tangible benefit Her Majesty’s government was gaining by her rule of the Gambia; it was in fact the fear that Gambia may fail. The country lacks natural resources other independent African nations have and utilises to bargain for their survival.
All being equal, after independence, African countries demanded that they be left to govern themselves independently, freely and without any preconditions or arm-twisting in any form. The notion of liberation and sovereignty echoed loud and clear in the consciousness of the African. “No nation or institution should tell us how to run our affairs; we are equally good to take ownership of our affairs without recourse of seeking advice from anyone”.
However, with the departure of the last colonial administrator, Africa or more important to us, the Gambia has a Commander In-Chief who swears regularly to bury the good citizens six deep should they object to his tyranny. The President regularly travels the country threatening opposition supporters of leaving them out in the allocation of development projects. He arrests perceived or alleged enemies of his government. The demarcation between being a friend and a foe to the mystical President, Yahya Jammeh, is so thin that no one knows who his enemies will eventually be.
45 years after independence, the Gambian President cracks down very hard on opposition politicians, the media and human rights groups, trumped up charges take all the time of courts in Gambia. This madness has not lightened up since 1994 when Ousman Koro Ceesay was burnt alive (the young Captain, Yahya Jammeh´s first victim), the mass killings of the alleged November 11 1994 military officers, the shooting of Students in April 2000, the regular arrest and torture of journalist, the disappearance of Ebrima Manner, kanyiba Kanyi and others. The long sentencing of military and civilians on false treason charges, the famous sedition trial of Journalist and activist Fatou Jaw Manneh, the jailing of UDP campaign manager Femi Peters this year and the recent concluded farce trial and sentencing of the former Gambia army chief of Staff, General Lang Tombong and six others to death.
One would have thought, after independence, Africans would treat each other better. That the dignity believed to have been taken away during the long and painful colonisation period will never again happen to any African. Today, in the year 2010, the prisons are overcrowded and impunity supremely rules in the actions of the government. The fear instilled administration is such that, men and women do not dire criticize the government. The President tours the country, insulting the opposition supporters and sacking any civil servant sympathizing with the opposition. And the trigger-happy torturers of defenceless Gambians are even more disheartening. The electrocutions, blind folding, solitary confinements, the hunger induced conditions, the poor prison conditions, the mosquito invested tiny cells and many more secretive horrors make us look and feel ashamed.
What can the Commonwealth do:
- Call on the Ambassador of the Gambia to Britain, express the unacceptable nature the President is presiding over the affairs of the country.
- Strongly emphasise the zero tolerance on human rights abuses.
- Simplify the reason d’être of the Commonwealth, and remind the ambassador of the possibility to suspend the Gambia from the union of nations should the President continue on its oppressive endeavours.
- The Commonwealth should regularly update on its website, the conditions in each of her member countries. Look for independently verifiable information instead of state controlled lies and fabrications.
- Create the Commonwealth member country human rights index; this can be review at regular intervals discussed publicly at its annual meetings.
- Be tough on persistent offenders by advising donor countries against patronising tyrants since the funds are squandered and spent on politically manipulated projects.
The commonwealth need to raise the importance of member countries living up to the universal standard of respect for citizens. The observations of due processes by independent judiciary are a matter which cannot be compromised. Notwithstanding other mechanisms to send wakeup calls to tyrants
Finally, the commonwealth Secretariat was reminded and refreshed with vital information about events unfolding in the Gambia. We know, this is a small step, but it is a necessary piece in the jigsaw. Since the lifeline of tyrants is power and control, we will show them that they cannot bully or control us and thereby achieved a huge score against their psychotic mental state.
Long live the struggle for a dignified democratic Gambia for all.