It pains me to have to do this but in the interest of peace and the future of this great nation of ours, I am compelled to make certain things public. This is not in any way meant to cause discord or condemn any of the great work that is being done in ensuring the advent of democracy and rule of law in the Gambia, but rather to put the coalition and the peaceful transition back on the right track. I am, and have worked closely with the Coalition since negotiations were underway in October last year. Between then and now, we have had a lot of amazing people all working to put an end to 22 years of misrule by the Jammeh dictatorship. The great dedication and unity that led to the historic victory on December 2nd has begun to crumble and metamorphose into something I can’t even recognize anymore. I have chosen to make these revelations through you solely because I believe that you are unbiased and will offer a voice to any objective speaker irrespective of their position. I have had my differences with a lot of things you have published in the past but at this point I feel the future of our country is more important than any of us or our egos. As I write this rather long report, I have had to send my entire family out of the Gambia because I fear for were we are heading come the 19th.
On the election day, we were mildly optimistic on the morning of the elections that we will be victorious by day end. However, we were also realistic in noting that we couldn’t put anything past Jammeh to rig this system. This believe was further re-enforced when early on election morning we got numerous reports from our polling agents of issues in the voting process. In certain areas, there were less polling streams than were programmed for thus meaning that 100s of individuals were unable to cast their votes. In other areas, some of the electorates had voters card numbers that did not match the card numbers on the electoral list. This was the case in Dippa Kunda which needed the timely intervention of O.J at the IEC, before some voters were allowed to vote. As the day progressed however, and we began to receive information from our various field agents. We began to become confident of a Coalition victory. The truth is although we had all worked diligently and pulled all stops for a victory it still came as a shock to us. This was further enforced by the phone call by Jammeh accepting defeat and conceding. Bala, the SG of the APRC had earlier that morning called Halifa to inform him that Jammeh would be calling Barrow to congratulate him and concede defeat. What a Shocker!! Until that moment, we had truly not realised the magnitude of moment.
All week leading up to the Elections, we had our well elucidated plans in the event of a victory. The CEC under the expert guidance of Halifa and come up with plans for the transition as well as the urgent work to be embarked on by the coalition government during the first 100 days. We had no shortage of brains advising the coalition; from former UN and AU staff to current International Civil Servants and members of International NGO’s and even some members of other Governments. The moment Jammeh conceded defeat it is like all the plans we had in place and the calm and collected nature in which we had dealt with issues up until then flew out the window and was replaced by Panic and Paranoia. I recall during the meeting that afternoon of December 3rd, some voices within the coalition urged the group to proceed with caution as they thought Jammeh was up to something with this concession. This was not made any easier by the involvement of Mankeur Ndiaye, the Senegalese Foreign Minister, who would from time to time call Mai Fatty for updates and to offer advice. He stated that they had come to power through a coalition arrangement and therefore were best placed to offer some good counsel. Thus, the first three days of victory were characterised panic and paranoia. On Monday, the next week, a call came through to Halifa Sallah, from Sul Samba the SG at Office of The President seeking to know who the spokesperson for the President Elect was and wether they will be available for a meeting on Thursday at midday to meet the Jammeh and his Cabinet to commence the transition process. They promised to get back to him after considering the issue within the CEC. Sul and Halifa have a long and cordial relationship with each other.
When the issue of the meeting at OP was brought up, while Halifa was of the opinion that the meeting was a good idea and will serve as the right forum to reassure the nation that the Coalition had things under control, certain members especially Tambajang were of the opinion that there should be no meeting with Jammeh as he could not be trusted. In spite of attempts by Halifa to get the meeting to reason, after Mai threw his weight behind Tambajang, the meeting agreed that they would not honour Jammeh’s invitation; this was the first mistake. This also marks the beginning of the rift in the Coalition as we have now all seen. Halifa Sallah was the Spokesperson for the Coalition and in most of the meetings led discussions and commanded the respect of the other members. His opinion seemed to always carry the day and his influence was significant. This evidently did not go down well with Mai Fatty who felt that he deserved a more important and visible role in the coalition seeing as he is the only member of the coalition who had been in coalition with the UDP party since 2006 and had most of the contacts with the Senegalese government. You will notice how certain press conferences are led by Halifa while others are by Mai Fatty. I will cover this in more detail below.
After the elections, while Mai Fatty was of the opinion that the team should stick to the 3-year transition plan that had been put in place for the holding of fresh elections, Halifa Sallah was of the view that three years would be too short to bring about any concrete economic and social change and that besides the constitution provided for 5 years being the presidential term.
Furthermore, and most importantly the other difference between what was increasingly becoming the Mai Fatty Camp and the Halifa Sallah Camp was the need for foreign Military intervention. This issue had been brought up and discussed way before the Jammeh reversed his decision to concede the elections. Mai who was constantly in touch with Mankeur and Abdoulaye Diallo ( Senegalese Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Interior Respectively) was of the opinion that even though Jammeh had conceded defeat, one of the key points that the Coalition had been unable to resolve up until that moment was how the army and security services were going to be reformed. From 1994 till date, the Army has been built around Jammeh. It had a broad Jola base and officers personally loyal to him at all levels of the Army. Going about reforming the Army and putting in place a new professional and disciplined security apparatus without stepping on certain powerful toes and possibly sending the country into chaos was a nightmarish task. To do this would mean letting go of some top Army and Security officers who had strong support bases within their various security services. Furthermore, unlike other areas of the government were the coalition had strong support and loyalty, the Army was strange territory. Mai was therefore of the opinion that irrespective we would need some sort of external force to intervene in order to neutralise the top echelon of the army. He also added that the Senegalese had registered their willingness to make themselves available but only upon request from the Coalition and only after the 19th after they had become an official government. You would recall that the Senegalese Ministry of Interior and Public Safety had already sent in 6 Military Intelligence Officers to ensure Barrow’s security and that of the Coalition members. They are from the same Unit as those used in the Hissen Habre trial and you would easily notice them around Barrow, from their Military style sun shades and Khaki uniform.
Halifa Sallah was utterly opposed to this proposal and insisted on the sanctity of the Gambia’s constitution and Sovereignty. Since from the pre-election coalition negotiation period Halifa had already gained a reputation for always being idealistic and always playing by the book. All opposition for Mai’s proposal however melted once the topic of personal safety of the President elect and the entire new government was raised. Tambajang noted that once they took office they could not trust this same Jammeh Military to protect them or the same PIU officers who beat up and maimed their brothers just a few months back to ensure their safety and the safety of their families. She stated that although she has always been opposed to any such external intervention especially having worked in Liberia and seen what could happen she thought for their safety such intervention was utterly necessary. This was finalised and Mai was tasked to talk to his contacts in Senegal on this. This was a very chilling moment for a lot of us who felt this was a mistake and that the Gambian people will not be happy.
Barrow was scheduled to address the nation on Friday the 9th on GRTS to disclose the plans for the transition as well as reveal his ASSED plan which was geared at bringing together imminent Gambian Intellectuals and practitioners to come up with a road map for the economic and social development of the Gambia. On the evening of Thursday the 8th, Halifa informed members of the team that he had received a call from Sul Samba informing him the Jammeh was angry at the fact that the Coalition had refused to honour his invitation that he had also been informed that the Coalition was planning to bar him from retiring to Kanilai and that there were plans in place to immediately arrest him and prosecute both him and his wife. One of the Presidential Planes which was also scheduled to go to Venezuela for maintenance had on Wednesday been denied the rights to fly over Senegalese air space for fear that it had Jammeh on Board. This was all in reference to an interview granted to The Guardian by Tambajang on Wednesday afternoon before the court house. It was decided that no member of the coalition be allowed to speak to the press except through authorised press conferences. Halifa was also mandated to communicate to Sul that it was all a misunderstanding and the Coalition would meet Jammeh over the weekend but at Coco Ocean and not at State House.
Again, why Tambajang’s statement departed from the Coalition’s point is that the Coalition had put an effective transition plan in place especially as concerns Justice and accountability for acts committed during the Jammeh regime. The coalition with the assistance of some very smart Gambians had decided that rather than prosecutions there will be a Peace and Reconciliation Commission. One of the main architects of this was Ba Tambedou. You will recall he was one of the lawyers who defended the students and fought for their release after the April 10th Protests. He is a very astute fellow who has worked with the International Tribunal for Rwanda and so has extensive knowledge on Peace and Reconciliation as an alternative form of justice.
On the Morning of Friday the 9th, we were informed by Lamin Manga that GRTS would have to put the planned recording of Barrow’s speech on hold until later due to certain technical issues. This sounded fishy and our suspicions were confirmed when word filtered through from one of the coalitions only contact within the Army that Jammeh had met with the top brass of the military and security forces who had all registered their fear at what could befall them after he handed over power. Jammeh had also been briefed by the NIA that Senegal had received an informal request for a military intervention effective the 18th of January 2017. He stated that Jammeh would address the nation that evening to deny the results and annul the elections. Mankeur was immediately contacted and informed of this development, while Halifa was tasked arrange a meeting between Barrow and Jammeh that afternoon. This proved impossible as the Chief of Protocol at the State House kept on dodging all calls. Thus we all waited for the doom to befall us.
Upon the announcement, the coalition received calls of support from Senegal and especially the US ambassador to the UN, a lady. A meeting was called early the next morning. Again, while Mai informed the meeting that this declaration was a blessing in disguise as it would present the best pretext for external intervention before the 19th, Halifa to the chagrin of many kept on insisting that he was still in communication with Sul Samba and that he believed the situation could be salvaged through negotiation but by this time there was a lot of anger and rage going on around the room. A smaller meeting of the CEC was called while we all went out. I understand during that meeting Mai Fatty informed the other Coalition leaders that Senegal had assured him of international support for the Coalition. He added that in a conference Call with Barrow, Mankeur and the US lady who is Ambassador to the UN, they had been assured that the ECOWAS was going to throw their support behind the coalition and Senegal was ready to offer military support. They were also informed that the US State Department will be writing to the Zeinab Jammeh to pressure her to ask her Husband to step down and leave the country where he will be offered asylum in Kuwait, Qatar or Romania. Barrow expressed some reservations at this plan and stated that his desire was for there to be a historic transition with all two former Presidents present and that his desire was for Jammeh to remain in the country and participate in the transition process.
Of course, we all know the rest of the events of that weekend. Although there was some tension there was at least some comfort in the fact that Jammeh would be forced to step down and depart the country and if he did not, he would be taking off by military force. The Mai-Tambajang camp were thus in control again with their plan being the likely outcome. I must confess at this point most of us were beginning to accept the external intervention option as a means of ensuring a fresh start. Jammeh’s Friday declaration has just made that option easier. Jammeh has always felt that he owns the country and that all the citizens in it are his private property. This ego and alternate reality are what drove him to make such a senseless and unconstitutional statement. That statement proved to be the first nail in his coffin.
The Coalition was again thrown into confusion when word came from some private lawyers that they had been approached by Bala Jahumpa to file a petition on behalf of the APRC contesting the results of the election. The rug was pulled from under our feet. Jammeh had legitimised his illegal act by filling a petition before the Supreme Court. This spelled trouble for all the coalition’s plans. A petition meant external intervention and influence would have to be reduced significantly given that the matter was now before the Courts. We were also mindful that yes there had indeed been some mistakes by the IEC although we did not believe this were enough to cancel out our victory. At a planning meeting on Sunday, the coalition was informed by Ba that only the Antony General, Mama Singhatey could be behind this petition and that is was a risk not worth taking. The decision was therefore made to ensure that the Petition is not heard and that the Court does not sit. He promised to meet with his older brother, who he said was heading the Bar association and lawyer Bensouda, later that day to discuss the issue.
On Monday morning, in a smaller meeting comprising the sub-committee on legal matters, Ba told the meeting that the Supreme Court would sit in January and Jammeh had hired a lawyer from Ghana to prepare his petition. He also noted that all the members of the bar who were approached had declined to represent the APRC despite being offered huge sums of money . He also distributed some documents which showed the list of Supreme Court Judges, their appointment letters and letters concerning the Supreme Court session scheduled for January 2016. The plan was to ensure the the Supreme Court is discredited as much as possible and that the judges are all contacted personally to ensure that they do not come for the session. Another sheet was passed around containing some of their addresses and one some their phone numbers or names. He assured everybody that the Bar was going to hold an emergency meeting the next day to release a statement condemning Jammeh’s declaration and disparaging the Supreme Court. Halifa was in support of the statement but also said he did not believe that rubbishing the supreme court was a wise move. The documents before us showed that the Judges had indeed been appointed since June, the judges were selected and proposed by Nigeria, not by Jammeh and that since the overturning if the Lang Tombong case the previous year, he believed that they would be impartial given the stakes and the international attention. He went into a long sermon on democratic structures and how they were put in place for a purpose. He believed that the Coalition had won fair and square and that no Court would declare otherwise. He said publicly tarnishing the images of such respectable judges proposed by a sister country and calling them mercenary judges could soil the relationship between the new government and Nigeria. He maintained that unless there was solid evidence that the court was impartial or there was foul play the court should sit. Anything short of this could only complicate matters further. Mai Fatty backed Ba’s plan and he was tasked to ensure that the statement was released before the Ecowas Presidents arrived in the country. As we all know the statement was released, which stated that there was no court and no judges and that any judges will be handpicked by Jammeh. This led to public outrage and of course Ecowas paid no heed to talks about resolving this impasse through constitutional means. As a result of this statement, Ecowas was of the opinion that all legal means had been exhausted and therefore were left with no option than to authorise the Ecowas Stand By Force. This quickly led to public panic and a mass exodus of the public who had no shortage of stories from the Sierra Leone and Liberian civil wars that we had heard from the thousands of refugees who for those of us who remember flocked in here in the 90s and early 2000s. I was able to keep a copy of the documents during the meeting and have attached them below.
The above documents show when the Judges were proposed by the Nigerian Chief Justice back in June 2016 upon the request from Chief Justice.
The invitation for a meeting of the Judicial Service Commission to go through the CVs and select new Judges.
Meeting Agenda (Item 1)
Minutes of the Judicial Service Commission.
Proposal for appointment of Judges.
Letters for October/November session of the Supreme Court. Based on the documents shown us, this could not happen because the Nigerian Judicial Service Commission had not yet approved the appointment of the judges.
Letter ratifying the appointment of Judges only received on 10th November.
Some of the Judges only accepted their appointments at the end of November making impossible for the Court to sit that month.
As much as we all are eager to see the dawn of a new Gambia, I would not be one of those to see it dawn on a foundation of lies. We have won free and square, we do not need to play Jammeh’s games of lies and manipulation of the public to get what the people have already freely given us.
Having personally tasted what it means to be on the receiving end of Jammeh’s wrath, I am in support of any peaceful means that will ensure that he becomes history and that the Gambian people can turn over a new page in which people can speak freely without fearing that you will disappear the next day or even as a government official you can sleep easy knowing that the next day your job will still be there waiting for you. Where I do not agree with some members of the coalition and what has led me to speak out is on this determination to ensure that there is some manner of external military intervention irrespective of if Jammeh steps down peacefully or not. I disagree with Mai Fatty’s position on the need for external intervention. Interestingly, the only members of the coalition or key coalition supporters and backers who are advocating military intervention are either out of the country or most/a substantial part of their families are out of Gambia. This is unfair to us, who have extended family here and have all our lives and investments here.
All through the past weeks, Senegal, has been looking for an opportunity to intervene. I understand they cannot intervene legally unless either their nationals in Gambia are in danger from the Government’s actions or the civilian population are at risk of harm from the government. We have been very lucky that as Allah SWT watches over us there has been peace all along which has meant there is no excuse for a military intervention. This has been very frustrating to Senegal, as they already have intelligence officers on the ground monitoring the situation.
We have been glad that there will be no need for intervention especially after Jammeh spoke about Amnesty and the need for mediation. The day after that speech and for the first time since the second, Halifa was able to personally meet with Jammeh much against the will of some members of the Coalition. Halifa and a team from the coalition are due to meet The Minister of Justice and the Majority Leader of the APRC on Monday to look into the terms of a Blanket Amnesty. Once this is finalised and communicated to the Ecowas heads of state and endorsed by them, Parliament will approve it paving the way for Jammeh to step down. He has however insisted that even if he steps down, he will still pursue his petition and that he has no desire to leave the Gambia. This could be negotiated further but at least with this there is some hope of peace. Inshallah!
The unfortunate thing is that certain members are still all the same keen on having a military intervention in the Gambia. After the meeting of the Ecowas heads of state in Banjul, the decision was taken for Barrow to go and address the France Africa meeting in Bamako. He was scheduled to travel with our very respectable member of the coalition, Dr. Touray. At the last minute, however, she was replaced by Mai Fatty upon recommendation from Mankeur Ndiaye. He was scheduled to return to Banjul the next day following discussions between Mai Fatty, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Liberia and Mankeur Ndiaye, a proposal was made for Barrow to go to Senegal until the Inauguration. Barrow has always been safe in Gambia and there has so far been no sign that is going to change. Secondly at this point in time it is important for the morale of the public for their president elect to be in the country. We were only briefed yesterday morning that the reason for this is to give Senegal a pretext to finally have boots on the ground in Banjul. The point is until now there has been no justification for an intervention as I had explained above, but now Senegal has stated that in order to ensure that Barrow, gets to Gambia, safely on the 19th, it would be essential for him to be escorted by Senegalese air force and infantry. I do not believe this is a genuine need for Senegalese intervention as we are close to resolving this issue peacefully and by ourselves. I also believe this could jeopardise the peace deal that is currently so close to completion which will ensure that Jammeh steps down on the 19th. I also do not see how an armed confrontation will be avoided with Senegalese military openly gloating in our faces and that of our military. Talkless of having to hear for the next century from Senegalese on how they had to save us twice.
I must clarify that I do not believe any of the above actions above by some members of the coalition are born out of malice of ill will but simply out of desperation to see that we never return to the last 22 years again. I commend their zeal but also state that at this historic moment we can’t afford to lose focus and give in to emotion. We must be driven by reason and with the welfare of the Gambian people in mind. As much as we love the coalition, we must hold the new Government accountable and demand the best of them if we are to be a strong and democratic forward moving nation. I call on the Coalition to without delay release their cabinet list and put an end to speculation. I also call on Jammeh Cabinet Ministers to step down from their posts come the 19th and hand over to the newly appointed Ministers. I make a special plea to President Jammeh to respect the terms of the ongoing interparty negotiation and together with all Gambians come to the Bakau stadium on the 19th and make history by peacefully handover the mantle of leadership to H.E Adama Barrow. Gambia belongs to us all, let us guard it jealously…. To The Gambia ever true.
Written By A Concerned Gambian