Controversy is not new about The Gambia’s irrational and psychopathic leader. He takes pride in killing and burying citizens 6-9 feet deep and his distaste or dislike for the ethnic Mandinka group in the Gambia has never been a hidden agenda.
While serving in The Gambia National Gendarmerie, Yaya Jammeh had always singled out Mandinka’s as bad people. As an acting Sgt at the time, he had either directly or indirectly attacked Mandinka’s in comments and remarks. As a former officer of the Gambia National Gendarmerie, I can fully recall Jammeh’s ruthless and disrespectful encounter with a Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) Kebba Dibba, largely on the bases of his ethnicity as Mandinka. Similarly, Yaya Jammeh’s encounter with Captain Ebrima Camara remains fresh in our memories. As a Second Lieutenant Jammeh brandished a pistol and threatened to shoot Captain Camara in front of the Commander’s office at Fajara Barracks during the tenure of Lt. Colonel Pa Jagne (AKA, Press Jagne). Both these encounters were entrenched in Jammeh’s deeply rooted hatred for the Mandinka.
Upon coming to power in 1994, Yaya Jammeh briefly but in a brilliant fashion shoveled aside all anti-Mandinka sentiments in the early years of the coup for two main reasons: first to consolidate his power across government and security landscape, second to win the hearts and minds of ethnic Mandinka’s across the country to support his dubious political intentions of transitioning to a legitimately elected leader. This was evident in Jammeh’s administrative tactical deception that ensued promotion and designation of command and responsibility within the armed and security and other government institutions. It was similarly evident in the Gambian leader’s use of former foes, Retired Captain Yankuba Touray, Retired Captain Edward Singhateh, and Retired Captain Kaba Bajo as mouth pieces during political campaigns, largely to bring Mandinka’s onboard his grand scheme of hanging on to power.
Old habits don’t die or fade away quickly, and this is true with the human nature of the Gambian leader. No sooner than President Jammeh consolidated and entrenched his power base, the anti-Mandinka rhetoric and hatred in him came to the forefront of his political leadership. Throughout his two decades rule in The Gambia, President Yaya Jammeh’s divisive politics has repeatedly singled out Mandinka’s with hateful remarks such as ” Mandinka’s are foreigners, Mandinka’s think they own Gambia, Mandinka’s are evil, And Mandinka’s will never assume political leadership of The Gambia”.
The most recent irresponsible and inflammatory threats against Mandinka’s did not come as a surprise either. President Yaya only truly confirmed his decades long hatred of Gambia’s largest ethnic group; hatred that is driven by ego and low self-esteem on the part of the deranged Head of State. The Gambian leader’s historic argument about the non-existence of Mandingo’s in The Gambia before the 1860’s is both unfounded and a travesty to Africa’s rich history. The distinguished Ghanaian historian, Professor, Adu Boahen (1964) opined that influence of the Manding people in West Africa dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Adu Boahen’s historical account noted that, what started as a petty kingdom of Kangaba in the 12th century gained influence in West Africa to include in the north, Ghana and southern regions of the Sahara, Senegambia in the West and the gold producing regions of Wangara, Bambuk and Bundu in the east (Boahen, 1964). Evidently, historical accounts of Professor Adu Boahen, and the famous Arabic historian, Ibn Khaldun, showed the Gambian leader’s historical deposition about Mandingo’s as both misconstrued and unfounded. Thanks to the efforts of the broader Gambian civil society at home and abroad, and Gambian citizens across all sectors, that Jammeh’s divisive ethnic politics is increasingly challenged in all domains.
Perhaps the Gambian leader failed to realize that such inflammatory remarks inciting tribal and ethnic tension only put him on an international spot light as a predator of peace and stability. As a global community we have moved from emphasis on state centricity that killed millions of world citizens to new norms of collective responsibility, emphasizing the protection of all citizens irrespective of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or political affiliation. Under such norms, states have a responsibility to protect all citizens from Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing, Crimes against Humanity, and War Crimes. When states are reluctant, unwilling or fail to protect its citizens from such grave crimes, it is the responsibility of the International community to provide protection.
In sum, threats and inflammatory remarks against any ethnic group are irresponsible and repugnant of a national leader. President Jammerh must resign in the interest of peace and stability in the Gambia and across the sub-region.
By Professor Binneh S Minteh