Gambia: An Open Letter To Yahya Jammeh


Dear Mr President, I imagine that you are aware of the political, economic and social standing of our country and hope that sooner rather than later you will find it within yourself to do what is right for the million of Gambians who, in 1996, made a democratic choice and overwhelmingly mandated you to lead them ‘through election, conducted in the full glare of the world’s spotlight’.

You delivered a moving speech on in which you correctly elevated unity over enmity, foresight over hindsight, love over hate and democracy over oppression.

You explained, Mr President, that ‘our majority rule could easily turn into inhuman rule if we oppressed, persecuted or harassed those who do not look or think like the majority of us’. I am not precisely sure you are still in the majority but it was a point well made. ‘Democracy’, you said, ‘is never mob rule. It is and should remain disciplined rule requiring compliance with the law and social rules’. You explained further: ‘July 22nd  must thus not be construed as an instrument vesting individuals or groups with the right to harass and intimidate others into acting against their will’. Indeed.

22 years on, however, Gambia is stuck with the same head of state and government, and commander-in-chief of the defence forces. If you must know, Mr President, this tragic state of affairs has not come about of our own volition. The right to vote for a government of our choice has effectively been negated through APRC’s manipulation of the political environment by means of sustained violence, intimidation, abduction and unlawful killings contrary, Mr President, to your fine words of July 22nd 1994.

All these atrocities have been, and continue to be, committed largely by the government over which you preside. Given the protracted period of their occurrence and their sustained nature, it is almost impossible to suppose that this has all been happening outside of your knowledge. Indeed, there is compelling evidence both tacit and express that you have been and still are behind these inequities every step of the way.

I fail to comprehend how as a person and as a Gambian you choose to remain indifferent to the hungry, desperate and shuttered voices, loud and clear, of the very people you purport to lead.
Gambian culture enjoins me to relate to you with deference owing to the age disparity between ourselves but the truth of the matter, Mr President, is that I am literally disgusted by your sort of leadership especially in the light of your stunning indifference to a humanitarian crisis occasioned by your own greed and that of your stalwarts. The mere thought of your atrocities regime makes me feel like I want to puke.

Mr President, to the reality that APRC cannot and will not win in a free and fair election. At least not in the next 100 years.

What kind of a leader sets conditions for the salvation of his own people? Conditions to enjoy universally recognized basic liberties? Yet I am certain, Mr President, that if you could be trusted to make good your promise to allow democracy to prevail on those conditions being met:

It is not helpful to proudly declare that to stand for another term. Mr President, I implore you, in the circumstances, to find it within yourself to recognize the gravity of the crisis caused by yourself and those who had nothing to lose but everything to gain from your repressive rule. The starting point for this, Mr President, is that you swiftly prepare for your exit while helping prepare our country for the coming of democracy.

It is in the best interest of our country that you take this approach. Democracy is coming. You may succeed in delaying, but never in stopping, the coming of democracy to The Gambia. It is inescapable.

Yours sincerely,

Sulaiman Leigh


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