His Royal Highness Professor, Dr. Yahya Abdul Assize Jammeh had been King a long
By Bamba Mass (UDP/UK)
Fellow Gambians let us stop living in a dream world. Or is it that we did not see it coming so soon? Ok now let us reflect
on events since Yahya Jammeh stepped into state House.
Every Gambian born before July 1994 when the military of the Gambia took over the reigns of power from the Jawara
government should be able to take stock of events that took place to be able to critically analyze if the Jammeh
administration has been a blessing or a curse for Gambians.
Biography of the Coup Leader:
Born May 25, 1965, Kanilai village, Foni Kansala district.
Career: After completing his High School education under a Government Scholarship at the Gambia High School,
Yahya Jammeh joined Gambian national police force as a private in1984; he became sergeant, Gambian National Army
in 1986; became escort training instructor, National Police Training School in 1987; became an army cadet officer in
1987; became second lieutenant in1989; in charge of presidential escort, Presidential Guards in1989-90; high-ranking
member of Gambia Military Police in 1990-94 until he led a coup without bloodshed in July of that year 1994 and
assumed post of Chairman of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council and head of state at the age of 29years.
During those years and even before he became head of the military council virtually little or nothing is known about the
coup Leader Yahya Jammeh. When the names of the coup members were announced over Radio Gambia that evening,
I was sitting beside one Badibunka man and as the name Lt. Yahya A.J.J Jammeh was announced, he jumped high in
the air and dropped himself rolling on the ground claiming to know the coup Leader that he was from Illiassa Tamba
Jammeh Family. But I knew it must be Yahya Jammeh Lebage Bojang’s Cousin. I remember one time walking with his
late cousin brother LEBAGE BOJANG who was a very good brother, a man with a hearth of gold and friend when we
were both teaching at Saint Georges in Basse (May His blessed soul rest in perfect peace). I came across Yahya
Jammeh in his uniform. He was ok when we were introduced and I also remember meeting him at the Tourist
The Coup and aftermath:
The young officers most of whom were under 30 years of age at the time, proclaimed they had established a new
government, with Jammeh as provisional ruler of a five-man military council together with Vice Chairman Lt. Sana B.
Sabally, LT Edward Singhateh, Lt.Sadibu Hydara, LT. Yankuba Touray. There were jubilations on the streets of Banjul
when Jawara fled to United States warship docked in Banjul what for?, no one truly knows only that it had come for a
supposed military training. Many even rumored that it was a deal between Jawara and the young soldiers (Radio
Kankan) which Gambians are well known for and even despite the United States government calling for Jawara’s
restoration to power; Gambia’s new leadership also had American ties. It should be remembered that the Coup Leader
Lt. Yahya A.J.J.Jammeh, had just before the execution of the coup returned to Gambia from a military police training
program in the United States The new military council promised every thing new and transparent and accused the
Jawara administration of rampant corruption and mismanagement of public funds with government officials leading
flamboyant lifestyles at the expense of the poor tax payers who continue to live in virtual poverty for 33years of misrule.
But when they newly took over, the junta called it self “Soldiers with a difference”, but as things began to unfold with
mistrust creeping in amongst the ranks of the military High Command and after a while I began to ask to myself is this
man not the same Yahya, LEBAGE introduced me to as very strict? How can he allow Sana Sabally to terrorize torture
and abuse Gambians unabated? Then came Baba Jobe and I said waau that is it. These soldiers are indeed soldiers
with a difference!
The coup marked a turning in the democratic process in Gambia, and international condemnation was strong. However,
Jammeh promised “a coup with a difference,” and truly a Facts on File account of the regime’s early days showed so
many projects being started. He pledged an early return to civilian rule and a commitment to follow through projects to
alleviate some of Gambia’s most pressing material needs. Jammeh seemed inclined to defy world opinion. Gambia
suffered a cut off in American and European aid, and tourism fell sharply. A lot of people lost their jobs and people
began to take stock of what military rule really meant.
Of cause Jammeh did some property grabbing and did some developments to strengthened his grip on power
The AFPRC froze financial accounts of individuals under suspicion and prohibited the transfer of their property. In
particular, the former Auditor General, Abou Denton, and Modou Dibba, a former official of the now defunct Gambia
Cooperative Union (GCU), were evicted from their homes Also former ministers Bakary L.K Sanyang, Alhagie Yaya
Ceesay, Bakary B. Darboe, Saikou Sabally ect, had their properties confiscated. Denton and Ceesay in particular were
accused to have acquired several luxurious homes at government expense. .There was an everyday program on Radio
Gambia of the Brikama Area Council saga Sarjo Sanneh errand Boy and co with their embezzlement of State funds.
These measures received mixed reactions, not so much over the seizure of homes per see, but in the manner in which
these individuals were evicted and humiliated.
These property seizures and subsequent release of dissidents occurred amidst preparations for the presidential
election and Jammeh was seen as a hero sent from heaven to save Gambians. But behind the scenes, the abuse of
individual human rights by the AFPRC was done with no clue as to who was responsible for those crimes. Gambia was
entering a deteriorating national hardship as the economy tethering on collapse further violated the economic rights. To
tell the truth, Jammeh's rule also opened up access to government scholarships for study abroad among those most
unlikely to win them, the poor. It was common knowledge in Jawara's time that these scholarships went predominantly to
the children of elite and wealthy Gambians with some poor sons and daughters having their luck in the hands of God.
Independence Day celebrations on February 18 at the State House became an affair not only of the elite but common
Gambians as well. An air of optimism and confidence filled these festivities. Indigenous music and guests clad in
traditional garb added color, pomp and loads of our religious leaders could be seen at State House sharing food with
the new leader.
Jammeh did deliver on some of his promises. Although the country seemingly had little wherewithal to generate income
aside from its chief cash crop of peanuts, Jammeh broke ground on a new hospital, the first since independence, and a
new international airport. A new national television station began broadcasting. He also set in motion other
telecommunications improvements, and repaired many of Gambia’s roads. Sixteen new schools were built in 26 months.
The government erected a splendid, 115-foot-high replica of the Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph) in Paris on one of
Banjul’s main boulevards. According to the Economist, when Jammeh was asked how the arch was financed,
He replied, “I got the money from Allah’s bank.”
In fact, the arch was completed with financing from the government of Taiwan who were using the Gambia as a mouth
piece at the United Nations for its legitimate purposes. Jammeh also cultivated relations with Libya who sent him one of
longtime Gambian dissident Baba .K. Jobe who came to Banjul with lots of aid from Col. Gaddafi and Baba set into
motion in creating a replica of the type of movement Gaddafi set when he took over power in LIBYA. Former government
dissidents were deployed into positions of power or prestige. In fact, it seemed as though the only qualification one
needed to be in a position of power or prestige was to have been a former dissident. Civil servants suspected of loyalty
to the deposed government were sacked or prematurely retired. In the course of six months, the AFPRC succeeded in
supplanting the civilian political class with growing politico-military elite, including four women in the Council. This is an
unprecedented number in Gambia's political history. A university Extension-Program planned in the Jawara era with a
Canadian university was given momentum. These were coupled with reforms in education, the major effect of which was
greater access to high school education for Gambia's growing primary school student population. Sanitation in Banjul
improved and was accompanied by a beautification program. Markets and food stores were adequately provisioned with
the basic staples - rice, cooking oil, tomatoes, and basic commodity prices sky rocketed.
Suddenly everything changed
AFPRC’S Transformation of the Gambia!
Thus the birth of the JULY 22nd movement when Baba Jobe set into motion a Libya style of terror by opening 39
Branches of the July 22 Movements across the country. It became both the propaganda and intimidation arm of the
AFPRC/APRC, Party to give Gambians a sense of belonging to Jammeh's historic experiment in "populist Military and
social change." The July 22nd Movement boys and girls became even more powerful than the police and army.
Young boys and girls were being sent to Libya for training. (They are called today as the Green Boys), Cuba, Venezuela
and Iran too weighed in sending aid to the young leaders. These are states viewed as outcasts of the world community.
Libya was reportedly supplying Jammeh’s regime with military aid. There were unconfirmed reports that the Jammeh
regime was involved in drug trafficking. Gambia’s at the time ambassador to the United States, Crispin Grey-Johnson,
denied reports that Libya was exerting undue influence over Gambia. “Our policy is to be friends with everybody,” he
was quoted as saying in the Washington Times.
The new Gambian leadership took steps to establish its legitimacy in the eyes of the international community. , The
plans for democratic elections were eventually pushed back. Jammeh, quoted in the Economist, darkly warned that "if we
don't want elections in the next 1,000 years, there will be no elections. We will make sure that those who want elections
will go six feet deep, and there's nothing anybody can do about it." He strengthened his firm grip on power through rapid
promotions of himself through the ranks of the armed forces and that of his stout supporters in the army some of whom
we later realized were being promoted just to keep him in power at what ever cost. He then retired so that he could claim
that he was running for the presidency as a civilian candidate. A new constitution was drafted, and put in place in time
for the election.
However, the new constitution with the help of veterans but greedy lawyers Fafa E. Mbye, Pap Keyasin Secka and
others, carefully crafted to minimize Jammeh’s potential opposition with provisions in the new Constitution removing the
well anticipated presidential term limits and putting in place an age ceiling which eliminated Jawara as a candidate and
any other prominent former political heavy weight within the PPP and several political parties connected with the former
ruler were banned. Jammeh likewise banned other parties from campaigning until a month before the election, making it
impossible for them to gain a foothold with the Gambian electorate. He also threatened violators with execution. With
such obstacles in the way, the National Democratic Institute, an organization of independent electoral observers,
withdrew from the country. Jammeh faced opposition from only one serious candidate, lawyer Ousainou Darboe. Darboe’
s supporters were often attacked at pre-election rallies. Although the turnout of registered voters was high on Election
Day, the election was marred by widespread voting irregularities with intimidations of opponents by his newly created
July 22nd Movement.
Jammeh was elected with about 56 percent of the vote, and his party took control of Gambia’s new legislature in
elections held in 1997. Despite the questionable freedom of the elections, Jammeh seemed to have general popular
support among the Gambian people. In 1999, unlike other West African leaders, Jammeh refused to institute a ban on
the traditional African practice of female circumcision. He also served as a mediator in negotiations that brought an end
to a civil war in neighboring Guinea-Bissau with calling into Banjul the warring factions late president Nino Vierra and his
then chief of staff Late Gen. Ansumana Manneh. But inside the Gambia itself, despite his heavy-handed political rule,
Jammeh appeared poised to remain on the Western African political scene at the dawn of the 21st century.
With unabated human rights violations the period of military rule (1994-1996) traumatized the Gambia's civil society
beyond belief. Gambians today are engendered with an atmosphere of fear, insecurity, suspicion and recrimination. To
many observers, AFPRC human rights performance was relatively poor when compared to the record of the deposed
president, Sir Dawda Jawara and his ruling Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) government. Jawara ruled Gambia, first, as
Prime Minister from 1965 to 1970 and as President from 1970 until his overthrow by the military on July 22, 1994. During
his tenure in office, Jawara enjoyed international acclaim for his commitment to multiparty democracy, the rule of law and
an open market economy. To his detractors, however, Jawara presided over a very corrupts and decaying political
system that had lost touch with the aspirations of common Gambians. To supporters of Lieutenant (later Colonel)
Jammeh, the AFPRC regime promoted human rights from a socio-economic, "right to development" perspective and
provided Gambians, especially the poor, with needed schools, health-clinics and roads. These competing perspectives
on human rights and their effects on Gambians and the transition program in particular, Yet Jammeh's continued
emphasis on "faith," as an important ingredient in solving social problems, has not lost its appeal in a country where 85
per cent of the population is Sunni Muslim. In the aftermath of the July 22, 1994 coup d’état, Jammeh reminded religious
leaders of evils in Gambian society and singled out "baby dumping" and "improperly dressed women" as un-Islamic. He
also opined that democracy under Jawara was "no democracy" since Gambians did not share in the country's wealth.
Thus, human rights protection, even if only in rhetoric, was an important cornerstone in Jammeh's sometimes vague and
contradictory human rights pronouncements. His insistence on probity, accountability and transparency in affairs of
governance led him to urge the independent press to "criticize" him and serve as watchdogs over his administration.
Alas little did the Gambian press knew that it would cost them dearly for criticizing Jammeh and his administration.
After the election which was marred by fraud and accusation of the opposition on the impartiality of the chairman of the
electoral commission Gabriel J. Roberts who was seen as a very strong Jammeh sympathizer .Jammeh had him removed
but he Roberts had already served his master’s purpose by declaring him winner and he was replaced by renown and
respected religious cleric Bishop Solomon T. Johnson who instigated the suing of the government on its continued
failure to enact the local government bill. The then Attorney General Pap Cheyassin Secka was furious and he went
behind the scenes to get Johnson gone and who can make it happen, Jammeh!
New Chairman Bishop Johnson’s move had angered president Jammeh so much and he did not see Bishop Johnson
exercising his constitutional rights as Chairman of a supposed Independent Electoral Commission but Jammeh thought
Johnson was going to sell his integrity and citizenship rights to him like Gabriel Roberts had done. He wasted no time to
use the very constitution that empowered him to appoint the chairman in the first place then fires him as he had done it
before and the opposition said nothing when he fired the first one even though it was unconstitutional. So in 2000 when
he dismissed Telewa Johnson and reappoint Roberts, the opposition cried that it was as he expects them to do but now
what can they do? Jammeh has made first on constitutional and the opposition accepted or ignored it.
In April 2000 his soldiers open fired on a peaceful demonstration of students killing fourteen when the student were
merely expressing their right to have those who killed one of their college in Brikama be brought to justice. Jammeh was
away out of the country at the time. But his vice president Isatou Njie Saidy a medical practitioner by profession and a
mother was heard on national radio that it was the student who first fired shots at the soldiers.
Again when he came back, he appeal for calm and promised swift action against those responsible. He set up a
commission of enquiry to look into the incident which led to a national tragedy.
In January 2001, the commission set up to investigate allege murder of 14 students in April 2000, reported that senior
official including the then interior Minister Ousman Badgie were to be held responsible for crimes committed. The
Jammeh Government rejected the commission’s findings and later Pap Cheyassin Secka was dismissed from his post as
Secretary of Justice, news welcomed by most opposition as he Secka was accused of being behind Electoral chairman
OJ Jallow a former minister in the first republic filed a law suit in the courts challenging the validity of degree 89 AT THE
Court of Appeal after the High Courts rejected it in 2000 saying it does not have the authority to hear the case. In April
of that year wide spread public dissent was reported after the state parliament passed the infamous indemnity bill put
before it by interior minister Badgie that indemnify all found to be
In July Jammeh wisely stepped in and repealed degree 89.
Jammeh and the press
Not withstanding Jammeh's call for the press to "criticize" him, according to Ebrima Ceesay, a former Editor of The Daily
Observer and an exile living in the United Kingdom, "the first casualty of what was to be the beginning of an eternal
gagging of the press was Kenneth Best, the Liberian proprietor and Managing Editor of The Daily Observer. On October
30, 1994, just three months after the coup, Best was deported from Gambia." Since then, more than a dozen non-
Gambian journalists have been expelled, simply for writing newspaper articles the AFPRC did not like. Many Gambian
journalists were also arrested, in some cases detained and later tried in court for articles critical of the regime. The
brutal beating of Abdullah Savage, arrest and detention of Ebrima Sankareh and harassment of Momodou Kebbeh, both
of whom were high school teachers and journalists and now living in exile in the United States ended the honeymoon
between Jammeh and the press. There was more to come as Jammeh saw the press as the most powerful tool that can
stop him in his tracks to reign in the Gambia for as long as he thinks he can.
In late March 1995, a new round of arrests of journalists began after The Point carried a report of a riot at a jail where
most of the regime's political prisoners were being detained. Three journalists of The Point, Pap Saine, Alieu Badara
Sowe and Ebrima Ernest were taken into custody and charged with "publication of false news with intent to cause fear
and alarm the public." They were later acquitted but Saine's passport was seized and Ebrima Ernest was deported to
Sierra Leone. In March 1996 a renewed campaign against the press began with the regime's decision to order the
Government Printing Department not to produce independent newspapers. In January 1997, three foreign nationals all
employed by The Daily Observer, were deported. In November, the Editor-in-Chief, Ellicott Seade, a Ghanaian was
expelled from the country. Gambian Journalist Baboucarr Gaye, editor of The New Citizen, was the primary victim. In late
1998, his independent and most popular local Radio station, Citizen FM, belonging to Baboucarr Gaye, the owner of
the now defunct The New Citizen, was confiscated ostensibly to silence him and closed down, barred with arm guard to
this day. Also, the passage of Decrees 70 and 71, requiring all individuals wishing to start newspapers to execute a
bond of D100, 000 ($10, 000 US) and all existing newspapers to post a bond of the same amount was yet another
attempt by the AFPRC to muzzle the press.
A couple of days later the editors of The Daily Observer, The Point, and Foroyaa were taken to court and charged with
a technical breach which was later dismissed in court. Loraine Forster, the Advertising Manager of The Daily Observer
was detained for reporting the defection of the regime's Spokesman Captain Ebou Jallow to the U.S with millions of State
funds. Additionally, Baboucarr Sankanu was detained for filing a report to the BBC, and a Nigerian journalist, Chikeluba
Kenechuku, was arrested and beaten up. He too was later allegedly deported out of the country. Journalists continue to
be harassed and Decrees 70 and 71, introduced in 1996 remain in force. But we need to know that AFPRC rights
violations were not limited to journalists alone. The mass arrest of some ex-politicians and citizens were common. We
remember the trials of Momodou C. Cham, Omar Jallow and the ex-president's brother in law, Ousainou Njie in October
1995. They were arrests in relation to an alleged planned demonstration on behalf of the ex president. These indicated
a rising tide of rights violation by the AFPRC. In addition, the frequent arrest of Waa Lamin Juwara, a former Member of
Parliament, Pa Modou Faal, president of the Gambia Workers Union, Ousainou Darboe, leader of the United Democratic
Party and ex-ministers of the erstwhile Jawara government, continued through 1995 to early 1996. Also, the premature
retirement of seasoned civil servants or their termination from government service and those who left out of job
insecurity has adversely affected state capacity. Consequently, the instability created by Jammeh's frequent dismissal of
cabinet ministers at one time or the other and including individuals such as Bakary. B. Darboe, Fafa Mbye, Mustapha
Marong, Nymasata Sanneh, Kumba Ceesay-Marraneh, Musa Bittaye, Balla Jahumpha, Fatoumata Tambajang, to name
a few, reflected growing splits between the Council's civilian members and Jammeh. The one time soldier with a
difference had turned an arresting president.
Dissent by military members of the council against Jammeh was also common. The brutally crushed countercoup against
the regime on November 11, 1994 led to the deaths of about 40 soldiers and the alleged summary executions of many
more by the then V. Chairman Sana B. Sabally with Edward Singhateh and others. The arrest of Chairman Jammeh's
closest associates who single handedly architect the coup, Vice-Chairman Sana Sabally and Captain Sadibou Haidara
in connection with an alleged assassination attempt against Jammeh on January 27, 1995 was evidence of splits within
the AFPRC. Also, the arrests and imprisonment of Captains Sheriff Mbye, Mamat Omar Cham and Samsudeen 'Sam'
Sarr, who were appointed to cabinet posts after the coup, started a trend in regime insecurity. The sudden deaths of
Interior Minister Sadibou Haidara and Finance Minister Ousman ‘Koro’ Ceesay, 19 days later in a burnt-out car, remain
a mystery to this day in spite of opposition demands for an investigation. The failure of the regime to investigate these
deaths has resulted in mounting suspicion of Yahya Jammeh and Edward Singhateh of having a hand in those deaths.
By August 1994, the arrests of Lt. Alhaji Kanteh and Captain Kambi had brought the number of military and police
detainees to around thirty. These arrests were made based on Decree No. 3 which gave special powers to the AFPRC
Vice-President "in the interest of National Security" to arrest anyone, including members of the AFPRC. The AFPRC
also engaged in the seizure of private property and travel documents and often placed armed guards at homes whose
owners were suspected or proven guilty of embezzlement or misappropriation of Government funds.
The death of Ousman Koro Ceesay, a civilian cabinet minister of the AFPRC has given the Gambian public enough raw
material for the manufacturing of rumors. Some section of the national media has gone to the point of hysteria by
making emotional appeal to Mr. Jawara not to send mercenaries to The Gambia. This shows how absurd reasoning can
get when it is not bound by objectivity. Minister Ceesay's vehicle and his charred body were found at a culvert between
Jambur and Jambanjelly in the Kombo South District, on 23 June, 1995, at night. This sent shock waves and rumors of
foul play across the entire country. Finance Minister Ceesay was said to be seen on 23 June, 1995, at Banjul
International Airport to see Chairman Jammeh off. According to the paper, there was no evidence of anybody seen or
spoken to Koro after he left the airport, that evening Eye witnesses have seen the burnt vehicle close to the wall. They
indicated that they have inspected a vehicle with a serious dent at Kotu which is said to be the Mercedes Benz which
was removed from the site where a vehicle burnt.. a person who claims to be a close friend of Koro indicated that the
dent he saw on the transport was not there when he saw the vehicle before its removal. He expressed concern that a
dent has appeared. Asked why he suspected foul play. He indicated that he suspects that the Mercedes Benz is diesel
engine; that such engines do not get burnt; that the Mercedes Benz Koro was driving belongs to the latest models and
has an airbag which protects the driver from injury during accidents. He asked what Koro would be doing in such a place
and why such was never the case when he had accident only to be burnt like that. But it was claimed by unconfirmed
reports that Yankuba Touray Edward Singhateh notorious Alhagie Kanyi (Commonly known after the November 11 as
the killer), killed Minister Koro in Yankuba Touray’s House with a golf club stick and had his mutilated body driven to the
area where he was found burnt in his official car while in the service of his country.
International pressure prompted the government to mounted an investigation but to no avail. Also the issue of Female
Genital Mutilation (FGM) , outside pressure prevented the government from prohibiting the state radio from
broadcasting programs critical The practice. FGM is common in Gambia and there is mounting domestic and
international pressure for its eradication. It appears from his pronouncements that Jammeh supports the practice and
perceives efforts to eradicate it "as attempts by foreigners to undermine Gambian culture." In fact, the January 1999
Cabinet reshuffles in which four Secretaries of State were terminated could have resulted from their disapproval of the
President's position on FGM. Mrs. Isatou Njie-Saidy, the Vice-President and Secretary for Health and Women's Affairs
are vehemently opposed to the practice of FGM and advocate its eradication but she was spared the axe. That was
done to show outsiders that clearly, Jammeh's tolerance for opposition, even within his owns cabinet and civil society.
The "culture of silence" continues despite being challenged by some opposition party members.
In June 1997, the Imam at the State House, Abdoulie Fatty, criticized the Ahmadia Islamic Sect which violates our nation’
s tolerance on freedom of religion. The Head of State remained silence on the issue and as the insults continued
unabated, the Ahmadia leadership and their expatriate staff left the country in protest and returned only after the
government intervened which again Jammeh wants to be seen as a good statesman. Gambians are predominantly
Sunni and the Imam's criticisms of the Ahmadia, bordered on intolerance and growing Muslim activism spurred on by
Jammeh's born-again posturing and rhetoric. Imam Abdoulie Fatty's growing intolerance of contraception and his
support of FGM have made him vulnerable to criticism from moderate Gambia Islamic scholars and women's
organizations. Jammeh was seen in those days wearing an Osama Bin Laden type of fanatic head scarf despite the
extreme heat in the Gambia. But that was just temporal as in no time he was seen differently in another style.
While some international economic aids to The Gambia have been restored, economic activity remains sluggish, partly
because of Senegal's continued border closure. Tourism, which is now Gambia's principal foreign exchange earner after
the collapse of the groundnut industry, is now picking up, after a British Government travel advisory after the coup,
almost wrecked it. Dire economic conditions, a skyrocketing cost of living and unemployment have made life for the
average Gambian more precarious.
Meanwhile, Jammeh continues to promote military personnel into higher positions of power and privilege. Colonel
Babucarr Jatta, who since the coup was the Commander of the Gambia National Army, was promoted to the rank of
Armed Forces Chief of Staff and Lt. "Sam" Sarr, released from detention in May 1995 was also promoted to Commander
of Gambia National Army. Also promoted was Lt. Colonel Momodou Badjie to Commander, in addition to the promotion
of three Captains, Ndure Cham, Biran Saine and Momodou E. Dibba to the rank of Major. What this means is that
Gambia's political economy is controlled by few members of the military class who use the state to redistribute national
wealth and income in their own favors and also to enable these men to use their positions to help Jammeh firmly on the
throne. Meanwhile, the political rights of Gambians worsen, with diminishing prospects for improved living conditions.
In the course of two years and some months later, Gambians were beaten, brutalized and their fundamental rights
violated. Recrimination, fear, regrets and disappointment replaced the euphoria that greeted the coup. Brute force and
intolerance came to replace promises of democracy and human rights. Instead of accountability, probity and
transparency what we have in Gambia is corruption, secrecy and unaccountability. The APRC government seems bent
on flouting the very principles and promises they made to the Gambian People upon winning the Presidential and
National Assembly elections.
In fact, Chairman Jammeh was and is currently guilty of every excess he accused Jawara of or worse. Like Jawara
before him, his image adorns stamps, not the national currency but government public buildings. He rules not because
of any gift or moral authority but solely on the basis of brute force and intimidation. Jammeh's re born Muslim image
borders on insincerity, at best a tool to win him legitimacy and foreign aid from the Islamic World. The fragmentation of
civil society and the weakened state of opposition parties like Jawara before him have enabled Jammeh to centralize
power in the Presidency. Also, like Jawara's Parliament before him, his National Assembly rubber stamps his decisions
and those who do not agree with him in his Cabinet are sent packing. A vocal opposition notwithstanding, the
machinations of the Speaker, Mustapha Wadda and their limited number in the National Assembly leave them
outnumbered and overpowered. Under Jawara Gambians enjoyed a free lifestyle amidst "dignified" poverty. Under
Jammeh, poverty and repression make them refugees in their own country.
The initial euphoria, which greeted the coup, has evaporated; the military regime may acquire civilian trappings. For
example, it may hold presidential elections and seek to build a national political party linked to and controlled by it. This
is precisely what the AFPRC did which brought the birth of APRC removing the F. In efforts to acquire legitimacy in the
eyes of Gambians and the international community, the AFPRC included civilian members in their ranks. The AFPRC’s
own chosen Gabriel Roberts as chairman of the IEC, helped them rigged the presidential election and as they
“magically" transformed themselves into a civilian government, most Gambians were still not realizing as to what extend
the soldiers would be willing to go. There was division amongst Gambians as some opposition sympathizers thought
their party that had suffered struggling since the first republic and now the oldest Party would benefit from all these and
they refused to compromise with any who would not go with their ideology and thus dragged their leaders with them.
Sam afraid that was what happened to P.D.O.I.S a party I still have so much respect for and whose leaders are real true
sons of the land. Supporters of Late Sheriff Dibba veteran opposition leader thought that Jammeh would rule for just a
few years and hand over to sheriff. What a fallacy? That was indeed laughable.
But all the same what this suggests is that even regimes that with some justification intervened to restore democracy or
rehabilitate a declining economy may be sucked into politics. The AFPRC's initial post-coup pronouncements that they
were "soldiers with a difference" seemed to have won some believers. In time, however, they became indistinguishable
from the politicians they deposed. Despite its image of integrity in the eye of many Gambian in pre coup days, some
people show it coming that our men in uniform may not in fact provide a cleaner and less corrupt administration. The
only potential threat to Jammeh’s ambitions was Lawyer Ousainou Darboe apart from the military and all efforts should
be made to put fear into his growing support group. Tirades of smear campaign were heard from all corners as if it was
only Darboe that was oppositing Jammeh. As if that was not enough, Momodou Soma Jobe, the Assistant Commissioner
of URD has threatened some UDP chairman and supporters in Tumana, Jimara and Basse Mansajang.
The UDP leadership therefore urged President Jammeh to make concrete efforts towards peace and mutual respect for
basic rights of all Gambians as the custodian of the constitution. Little did they knew that the UDP convoy that was on a
tour would have their share of Momodou Soma Jobe who was then so powerful and with the help of Alhagie Banta
Camara then national mobiliser of the APRC had stationed some hundred youths at the Chamoi Bridge in Tomana
District. It is a bridge covered by small bushes near Basse from Fatoto Kantora. The July 22nd Youth attacked Lawyer
Darboe and his convoy as they were about to enter Basse from Kantora and there was scuffles which resulted to the
death on one of the assailants and confiscation of 100 sharpened cutlasses. Jammeh’s government went ahead to
arrest lawyer Darboe and members of his entourage and charge them of murder a case that dragged and dragged on
for years and finding that he could not send Darboe behind bars falsely, the charges were dropped as it was
systematically thrown out or defeated at court.
As is usually the case military regimes generally improve the pay and conditions of service of the armed forces and like
the civilian politicians before them have often enriched themselves at the public expense. The frequent promotions
within the military, together with the increase in pay that accompany such promotions, strongly suggest that the AFPRC
and the APRC and their supporters in the military have been the main beneficiaries of the coup that was believed by
most as a savior saint for all. Furthermore, there is strong indication that the AFPRC military leadership is just or more
corrupt than the politicians they overthrew. The Swiss Bank accounts, the alleged theft of $3m by the ex-Spokesman of
the AFPRC, Ebou Jallow, and a $35m loan contracted with Taiwan which no one ever show and yet to be accounted for,
may be the tip of the iceberg. Thus, the coup shifted national income and wealth in favor of the Jammeh, the AFPRC
and the building contractors that constructed the schools, clinics etc.
The National Security Services (NSS) of the first republic was transformed into a National Intelligence Agency (NIA). This
institution had so may managing directors fired for not heeding to the regime’s request of inculcating So when National
Intelligence Agency has a new die-hard Jammeh loyal Daba Marrenah who had been deputy to many former managing
directors as managing director. Daba went into motion to build a new torturing ground behind the office building by the
sea. It is an underground building and no one can hear any cries however loud they might be. These grounds are called
Bambadinka and there are all forms of torturing tools. Those who have pass through there, dared talk about it even
when abroad due to the kind of torture they have experienced. Also at numerous locations in the country, centers have
been built and run by the other feared Green Boys (formerly July 22nd Boys). Some have been built in Jammeh’s own
farms across the country.
Two deaths (Almamo Manneh and sergent Dumbuya) resulting from an alleged counter coup and the injury sustained
by other military personnel in January 2000, attest to the measures which Jammeh will take to hold on to power. By all
accounts, the alleged counter coup was staged in an effort to rid the regime of potential and /or imagined enemies. And
despite government promises to root out official corruption, Jammeh himself is dogged by allegations of corruption and
theft of money from Nigerian donated oil to Gambia, popularly dubbed the "Nigerian Oil Saga." With presidential
elections scheduled for October 2001, there is mounting international and domestic pressure for free and fair elections
and not a repeat of the rigged presidential elections of 1996.
Also the defeat by Abdoulie Wade of Abdu Diouf in Senegal's run-off presidential elections in March 2000 had shaken
the regime in Banjul quite a lot and the new Leaders wasted no time to bring in modalities to intimidate people with bags
of white elephant promises as vast majority of Gambian are poor, Baba Jobe again was said to have taken billions of
Dalasis to build people’s houses and give landlords thousands of dalasis to buy them out into joining the APRC. We all
have heard of the MORNEY SHOP on Kairaba Avenue were men women and children would be seen going in and out to
see the new household name Baba Jobe. Jobe became so powerful that he was only next to the president himself. Even
ministers not dared him least they get the exit door in no time. Many civil servants who would not burg got their
terminations within days even soldiers can be fired by the mighty Jobe. Opposition supporter were harassed, detained
and tortured without any justification.
Drafted legislations were put in place by legal cronies of the new leader to see to it that no arm of any legal frame work
would defeat Jammeh. Mercenary Judges were hired from neighboring English speaking countries of Nigeria Ghana and
Sierra Leone who would do as the president wants no matter how unjustified and unconstitutional it may be they are
there to serve the master and nothing else. All military components were changed and heads of branch divisions had
either NIA drivers or implants within their ranks to reports any suspicions to the president alone. He had the National
assembly was also not spared. Draft legislations were presented to parliament to indemnify him and other perpetrators
against any future legal counter-measures; impunity was being made a centerpiece of his political outlook and a fetish of
his passion. Now firmly in control, Jammeh has his hand everywhere and now has everyone in suspicion of each other.
Branch directors of various departments could be seen forcing their staff to go to the president’s farm so as to show
their loyalty to the leader and those who refused to go get the exit door.
When Jammeh aw his friend and strength Mr. Jobe was on the international radar accused of blood diamond saga with
Charles tailor and crimes of arms smuggling, his government accused the International Organization of falsely accusing
an innocent good citizen of the Gambia and it went as far as to defend Baba at the UN. But alas there can never be two
presidents in one country when Jammeh’s own position is threatened as Baba’s power seem to go nation wide and
people started contemplating who was actually in charge, Jammeh wasted no time showing who actually was in charge.
He had Jobe accused of economic crimes. Jobe had a powerful lawyer in Ousman Sillah who was renowned but few days
into his trial Lawyer Sillah nearly missed death when he was shot while coming from dawn prayers. He miraculously
survived to the sadness of his assailants and joy of all true Gambians and his Family. There was public outcry but no
demonstration as Gambians are so scared that everybody is left to your own fate when you land into trouble and this is
known to the one who might have wanted to see Sillah dead.
There was also Lang Conteh who was accused of collaborating with President Jammeh in slicing more than D200,
000,000 from our national coffers amongst them. Lang used to be called the Bill Gates of Banjul with his Camelot near
the Kairaba Police station. He too was later cercrificed by the Boss. But Lang was no Baba Jobe and he for once did not
remain silent thinking things would be alright. He threatened to talk which led to conditions being a bit better for him.
When Jammeh publicly commented on the attempted assassination of Lawyer Ousman Sillah, President Jammeh told
the audience that he was aware that he was the main suspect of the lawyer’s shooting but if the hit-men were his men
they would not have missed fatally hitting the lawyer and lawyer Sillah would have died which shows that our Soldier
president who paraded himself a true son of the land, a patriot, defender of our Constitution, can publicly state on
national media that he has men capable of shooting and never missing. Baba Jobe was sent for years behind bars when
now Attorney General Mr. Edward Gomez was chosen to replace the fatally wounded Sillah to head Baba Jobe’s
defence team. Everyone knew from then that Baba Jobe who at the time had created many enemies would now go
down. Members of the APRC who were seen following Baba Jobe like trained Dogs connived to sack him from the party
and have Hon. Churchill. F. Baldeh as Majority Leader while Baba was in the hot soup all betrayed him under orders
and those who chose to side with him had themselves arrested with various accusations raging from money laundering
to spreading falsehood. Every member of the APRC became scared you are known while in but once out no one would
visit your house or talk to you became the order of the day.
But Gambians were in for more surprises as less than a year late, when he commented on those opposed to his Media
Commission Bill, President Jammeh said “journalists opposed to the bill can go to hell.” Soon after, on the 16th
December 2004 at around 11.00pm, one of The Gambia's leading journalists was shot dead as he drove home from
work shortly with two young female members of his staff were also critically shot and would have died as well but the
marksmen were sent only to kill Deyda 58, who was editor of The Point newspaper and correspondent for the AFP news
agency, was shot three times in the head killing him on the spot. The police appeal for calm as they knew Gambians are
afraid to die and they would dare publicly demonstrate and they promised to get to the bottom of the killing and bring
those responsible to book as soon as possible. The Gambian authorities promised to investigate Hydara’s murder but
no serious investigation was ever carried out. A “confidential report” by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) was given
to the press in 2005 but it contained little aside from some absurd theories about his death. It was the only official
document about Hydara’s murder ever released by the authorities. 16 years to date, nothing came up Journalist were
heart broken and Reporters Without Borders after carrying out its own investigation in Banjul, issued a report entitled
“Deyda Hydara, the death of a journalist under surveillance” in which it said there were serious grounds for suspecting
that the Gambian security services, working with a semi-clandestine group of Jammeh supporters called the Green
Boys, killed Hydara because of his frequent criticism of the government and his ability to influence his fellow journalists.
The shooting occurred two days after the Gambian National Assembly passed two contentious pieces of media
legislation that Hydara, along with other local independent journalists, had strongly opposed. One of the new laws
imposes lengthy jail terms for reporters convicted of defamation or sedition.
We all knew Deyda was one of the leading men of the campaign against the bill got and he was murdered in an
execution-style killing that is yet to be seriously investigated. Less than a year later, in July 2005 fifty West African
nationals from Ghana who on their way to be smuggled to Europe, but mistaken for possible insurgents, were hounded
and killed by Gambian security men allegedly on the direct orders of the Head of State, as witnesses have alleged. After
an initial announcement of the discovery of ten mutilated bodies at the Tanji beach-site by the state media, the news
was never again mentioned by official Gambian media until four years later in June 2009 when a so called investigative
report cleared Jammeh of responsibility. It was in fact in a triumphant television interview after the release of the report,
President again left all Gambians dumb founded when he stated on national media that Gambians should go and ask
Deyda Hydara who killed him as if that was not enough, he went on as far as to suggest that Deyda Hydara might have
been killed by a Senegalese man whose wife Deyda was allegedly said to have been in love with! What an insult to our
Nation? How can our President utter such words in front of the Nation without regards to the decease’s family or even
have respect for the dead as that was at least common amongst Gambians? These statements however angered
Gambians both at home and abroad and it prompted the press statement from the Gambia Press Union again with the
help of his Hench men, most of the senior members of the Gambia press Union were rounded up and detained.
In February 2006, Jammeh had warned; live on state television, that he could kill twenty-thousand Gambians to “save
the country.” This falls firmly in place with Jammeh’s fetish notion of human sacrifice. Not long, journalist Ebrima Chief
Manneh of the State owned News Paper was reported by Sarja Taal Managing Director of the Daily Observer and the
most feared N.I A took him from work never to be seen again. UDP’s Kanyiba Kanyi Ousman Rambo Jatta and a former
head master were picked up and detained at various locations. Rambo and the head master were later found and
released despite many open denials by the security forces of not having them in their custody. Mr. Kanyiba was still
nowhere to be seen.
Jammeh is now the only remaining member of the original coupists who brought ex-President Sir Dawda Jawara's 32year
rule to an end. Having marginalized all his colleges one way or the other and had them all out of the way. That is what
betrayal of once fellow cause. Jammeh former collaborators all today regretted why they helped him in the first place
and now they can do little or nothing to correct the wrong they had created. Most of all Edward Singhateh and Yankuba
Touray who would always remembered in History as butchers of Banjul.
Daba Marenah himself landed into Jammeh’s net when he was himself accused of having a hand into former CDS Col.
Ndure Cham’s coup where with Manlafi Corr Alpha Bah and two others. They were said to have escaped while being
transported to Janjanbury Prison when their vehicle somersaulted en route. They are feared dead as still nothing is
been heard about them since and the state seem not bothered pursuing them or turning all stones to find them. The
rest suspects or less trusted men in uniform accused of taking part were sent to the State Central Prison at mile 2. They
were named as Cpt. Bunja Darboe, Cpt. Yahya Darboe, 2nd Lt Faring Sanyang, Lt Momodou Alieu Bah and Cpt. Pierre
Mendy were tried and sentenced to various prison terms ranging from life imprisonment to few acquittals some time
latter by then Navy Commander Rear Admira Sarjo Fofana during the court martial.
Lang Tombong Tamba was said to have helped Jammeh suppressed the coup and made it unsuccessful for the
president to return from a trip to Mauritania. He was rewarded as expected and promoted to CDS of the Arm Forces. Not
knowing he too had few years to see his own fate. On 22 March 2006, he was appointed as the chief of defense staff,
Defense Headquarters with duties to oversee the Army, the Navy and the National Guard. Prior to this appointment, he
was the State Guard Commander, being responsible for the personal security of the Gambian president, Yahya
Jammeh. He was seen as a key Jammeh loyalist until his sack, arrest and detention on 9 October 2009. Allegations of
an attempted coup plot were then preferred against him, along with seven other accused persons. He denied the
charges, insisting on his innocence, and absolute commitment to President Jammeh's government. Lang Tombong
Tamba and Momodou Bo Badjie; Kawsu Camara (alias Bombardier), Rear Admiral Sarjo Fofana a top Army officer;
Modou Gaye, former deputy Police chief; Ngor Secka, Yusuf Ezzedeen, Abdoulie Joof all faced treason charges.
The high court in Banjul sentenced all of them to death, for their alleged involvement in the coup.
Even today Journalist are not free in the Gambia in June 12, 2009 – The editor of a private newspaper in the Gambia
has been in police custody since Wednesday because of a story that falsely reported the sacking of two government
officials, according to local journalists. Abdulhamid Adiamoh, at left, managing editor of the daily today, was held in a cell
at the Major Crimes Unit of police headquarters in the capital Banjul. The journalists told CPJ. Not long, authorities
arrested seven journalists for printing a statement critical of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh. Another journalist was
arrested a few days later for taking photographs at the bail hearing for the seven detained journalists. June’s flurry of
arrests and detentions was just the latest chapter in Jammeh’s war against the press. This is a man who once declared
to Reuters, “If I want to ban any newspaper, I will, with good reason.”As if there are no provisions in our constitution
safeguarding the welfare of Journalists. One observer indicated that, Jammeh might be the most dangerous dictator in
the world most people have never heard of.
July 22nd is now called 'Freedom Day' in Gambia.
For supporters of President Jammeh, this is the day he put his life on the line and rescued the country from the brink of
failure. Jammeh's supporters insist he is the solution to Gambia's problem. And in terms of infrastructural development,
they have a lot to show for this. His mark on the country also extends to the sectors of education, health, the economy,
etc... President Yahya Jammeh himself never misses an opportunity to stress his indispensability in the country's
development strive. In fact, some two weeks back, he went as far as warning that he would never develop any region in
the country where the people do not vote for him.
He said if Gambians wanted development they must “join the majority and support him but if any area chooses to be with
the opposition, let them go ahead and expect no benefit from his government but he went short of telling them he would
even refuse their taxes as they are oppositions.” For Jammeh's opponents, however, such statement only corroborates
fierce criticisms against his “anti-democratic” credentials and aversion for civil liberty. Like many other tightly controlled
African nations with the hallmarks of autocracy, you can hardly hear any dissenting voice from within the Gambia, not
that it doesn't exist. Jammeh's uncompromising attitude towards dissent has effectively transformed the country into a
When there are no elections, no political party, other than his APRC, convenes any gathering. The campaign manager
for the country's main opposition United Democratic Party renowned Mr. Femi Peters was sent one year in jail term for
defying that order. There was a worldwide protest calling for his immediate and unconditional release but Jammeh gave
a deaf ear it any form of call. Femi Peters was convicted for organizing a political rally without a permit. But as Mr. Peters
defended himself in court, the APRC National Mobilize was on a countrywide tour, holding rallies ahead of the 2011
elections without any need for permits.
But despite the endless genuine complaints against his APRC government, President Yahya Jammeh has solid reasons
to argued in favor of his “July 22nd Revolution”, despite having clearly broken so many of his promises. From education
to health, to infrastructural development, etc, Gambia has seen an enormous leap from its 1994 status. References to
such are what characterize all major national occasions, much so 22nd July anniversaries.
16 years on Thursday since he assumed power, President Yahya Jammeh's opponents say his government has become
the most culpable in light of his famous accusations of 'corruption' and 'nepotism', among others, leveled against the
ousted PPP regime. But the strongest charge he faces, especially among the international community, is his alleged
human rights violations.
Worldwide protests on the eve of 'Freedom Day' celebrations, Amnesty International issued a statement, calling it “a
shameful travesty.” As he presided over what is arguably the biggest annual party in the country, the rest of the world
protested against Yahya Jammeh's excesses. There were demonstrations in 14 countries across the world. Arbitrary
detentions, unfair trials, appalling prison conditions, persecution of journalists, witch hunting, are just a few amongst the
charges leveled against the Gambian president and his government. Civil society organizations signed a petition, under
the auspices of Amnesty International, calling on the Gambian government to, among other things, “stop human rights
violations and comply with obligations under the African Charter with regard to the right to liberty, freedom from torture,
right to fair trial, freedom of expression and of association.” While there are enormous evidences against him for these
charges, President Yahya Jammeh hardly make references to allegations from people he has previously referred to as
“enemies” of Gambia (human rights defenders and journalists).
The Senegal based human rights group made an unusually scathing attack on the Gambian president, describing him
as a “paranoid” leader who “sees coup everywhere.” This followed the sentencing to death of eight (8) former senior
members of his government on charges of attempting to overthrow his government. One of the men on death row,
former Chief of Defense Staff Lt. General Lang Tombong Tamba, faces another coup charge allegedly attempted earlier
"Since the accession of Captain Yahya Jammeh to power in 1994, the state of democracy and human rights in the
Gambia continues to deteriorate… in a country where everything has been clocked and where there is intimidation and
terror that spares no political actors (opposition and ruling party),” the Dakar based Assembly for the Defense of Human
Rights, known by its French acronym as RADDHO, said in a statement.
According Amnesty International “Naming a day when arm was taken to topple a regime as ‘Freedom Day’ is a shameful
travesty: President Yahya Jammeh’s government has cracked down on political freedom and commits widespread
human rights violations with total impunity. Freedom remains an illusion for most Gambians, who live in fear of arbitrary
arrest, torture, incommunicado detention, unfair trials, rape, disappearance, and extra-judicial executions” July 22nd
celebrates the rape of our democracy, the violation of the sovereignty of electorates and subversion of the will of the
Just recently some chiefs headed by ignorant Chief Bekai Camara of Foni Brefet are said to have gone on campaigning
across the entire country that Gambians should Crown Yahya Jammeh King because of his immense developments
contributions to the Gambia, for Gambians.
The new was received with mixed feelings with some opposition and some quarters within the civilian bloc accusing the
President of being behind it all. But I beg to differ from those people. I think Jammeh had been King long time ago. He
only never wore a crown and had no coronation.
(1. Where were we when Jammeh changed the constitution to appoint our village Alkalolus and District Chiefs? Chiefs
play crucial roles in our societies and once they are not elected by the very people they serve, who would they owe
(2.If state meetings can be held in the president’s home village with no provisions in the constitution stating that Kanilai
has now been our capital,
(3. If the well known historical Roots Home coming festival meant for Jufureh in relation to Kunta Kinteh can be diverted
by Jammeh to Kanilai as the Kanilai festival,
(4. If no state machineries can function without Jammeh physically stepping into get it done
(5. When even meat, bread and basic edible commodity are only sold cheaply by Jammeh,
(6.When today no name can be heard without Jammeh’s approval.
(7. When Jammeh can send anyone to jail as he wishes with mercenary judges hired outside the country without regards
to our constitution.
(8.When the same Jammeh can boast in front of an entire nation while our so called independent Electoral Commission
looks on that NO ONE CAN REMOVE HIM FROM POWER. That He will rule the Gambia until anytime he chooses and
leave when he decide to leave! What then is the use of elections? At least there might be hope when there is unity
amongst the opposition but alas we keep fighting each with the haters of Ousainou who has the closest tool to remove
Jammeh wanting Jammeh to remain as long as Darboe refused to let another opposition leader lead a coalition. We all
play in to Jammeh’s trap all the time.
(9. When Yahya Jammeh can threaten any citizen and get anyone arrested or make anyone disappear for as long as he
What else constitute a King? Maybe I don’t know apart from a Coronation
As we may never know the extent of Yahya Jammeh’s ambitions, but time will tell.
God Bless the Gambia and her people, Aman!
By Bamba Mass(UDP/UK)