‘COLLECTIVE SILENCE IN THE FACE OF GROSS INJUSTICE IS A CRIME,’ CJ AGIM
By Emmanuel Agim
I had decided not to make any more comments regarding the state of affairs in The Gambia for the simple reason that I had made it a closed chapter after departing the shores of The Gambia and moreover my busy work schedule may not allow me to make informed comments about the current state of affairs about The Gambia. That said, I find it difficult to detach myself completely from what is happening in a country that I served for over 12 years in very high positions and interacted with very powerful people. I think I owe it to my conscience to at least intermittently throw in some few comments and give my inputs on some legal and governance issues affecting the country.
The arrest and detention of Amie Bensouda, Imam Baba Leigh and the recent arrest of Mr. Mambouray Njie a former Minister who has held many portfolios in Government have been prominently reported in the online newspapers that I occasionally read.
The sigh of relief on my part is that at least nobody this time attributed their alleged unlawful arrest, detention, torture and mistreatment to Emmanuel Agim as was always the case with such high profile cases. People were always eager to blame me and my foreign judges while conveniently ignoring the fact that the people who were always instrumental in the arrest, detention, prosecution, torture etc are all Gambians. Gambians please note that the Attorney General & Minister of Justice, the Solicitor General, the Inspector General of Police, the Head of the NIA, Director of Prisons and all Heads of Security agents are all GAMBIANS.
By the same token, those who also allegedly torture, maim and even kill Gambians are GAMBIANS. I am not aware of any Nigerian and or foreign personnel engage in such alleged acts. This was indeed the theme of my earlier goodbye messages which I was made to understand did not go down well with some people.
I again beg to ask my favourite questions- what effective steps did the Gambia Bar Association take when a very senior legal practitioner was arrested on alleged flimsy reports that she was investigating the plausibility of criminal convictions etc? What did the Islamic Council, the Imam Ratib and Muslim elders and opinion leaders say or do when Baba Leigh was arrested, detained and allegedly tortured by Gambians? I am sometimes choked by the hypocrisy, two-facedness, pretense and insincerity of a nation who claim to be religious and God fearing.
Talking about God fearing, what strike me about Gambia is the religious façade all around with men especially carrying long prayer beads in public. People claim to be religious and tolerant of all other religions and yet my experience with a good number in government that I interacted with is that they would like Sharia Law to be imposed in the country and some even arrogantly express their secret contempt and disdain for other religions and yet they are the first to organize and board flights to Taiwan with their begging bowls and also accept Japanese and South Koreans donor aid money- incidentally all the aforementioned countries do not subscribe to the Abrahamic faith i.e. they do not subscribe to the Islamic, Christian or Jewish faiths. Perhaps Gambians should tone down their so called religious fervor and emulate the aforesaid countries where hard work, honesty, moral uprightness and democratic principles are adhered to and valued. Holding prayer bids in public, praying 5 times a day and going to Church everyday does not make you better people. I have seen this in Nigeria my own country where Sharia Law and the new brand of Born Again Christians have brought only misery and despair to the people while corruption, dishonesty and immorality thrives in abundance all in the name of Islam and Christianity. Respect for humanity and the adage “do on to others as you would like them to do on to you” should be the religion of Gambians if are to prosper.
I am sure most of you are probably saying “look who’s talking”. You must have hard the proverbial saying “do as I say and not as I do” and in addition being an independent observer, a non-Gambian and having worked in your country at a very high level and interacting with Gambians who run the country gives me the locus standi, temerity and audacity to say all these things. My advice to Gambians is that they should start serious dialogue through the media- especially TV and radio to address their issues frankly and openly. You do not have to look far- look at your neighbor Senegal where civil society effectively and constantly engages the government. Honestly speaking however, I think this frank discussion is still far away as most people are grip with fear and likewise opinion leaders, religious leaders, and professional associations are afraid, unable and or reluctant to engage themselves and the government in any meaningful and genuine dialogue. My sincere warning to Gambians however is to remember that when the rain falls, it does not fall on one man house hold. Collective silence in the face of gross injustice is a crime. Don’t cry foul only when your relatives are picked up otherwise no one will come to your rescue when you are picked up and remember do not blame your woes and problems on outsiders. Stop looking for escape goats.
I have just reliably learnt that there is a newly appointed Acting Chief Justice in the name of Raymond Sock. Congrats to the establishment for appointing a Gambian to that position. I have worked with Mr. Raymond Sock and I know him very well and can bear witness to the fact that he is of sound legal mind. Having said that however, many things have been said about him being a push over, his lack of strong character and moral conviction to stand up for what is right which makes him unsuitable for the job at hand- a trait found in many Gambians and not only in Mr. Sock I hasten to add. For now I reserve my comments on my learned colleague’s suitability or unsuitability thereof. My warning to him however is that Gambians are watching you and the whole world has put the spot light on a former and first Director of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies who is now the Chief Justice of a government that is relentlessly accused of flouting the rule of law.
Good luck Gambia.