Ambassador Alieu K Jammeh: A pious Muslim, an incorruptible leader, and a man of the people

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By: Baboucarr Camara
I woke up this morning to take a bath; I couldn’t help but sit there on the toilet seat and stare at my bathroom walls, wondering and pondering. I wept uncontrollably at the realization that, indeed, my man is gone and gone forever he is. I looked at his face at the mortuary on the morning of his burial, but he looked to me as someone sleeping. I also stood there as his body was lowered into the grave in a private burial attended by family and close associates.
Despite a sea of mourners attending the beginning of his return to his Creator, few were allowed access to the burial in Illiasa. Even this couldn’t make me realize that my friend was no more. But this morning, the reality began to hit me that my Badara had indeed succumbed to the cold hands of Azrail. He was 51.
Our paths first crossed in 2008, and from his time as Deputy Permanent Secretary to Permanent Secretary and eventually Minister of Youth & Sports, we were there through thick and thin. Until he left for Foreign Service, a single Friday never passed without our usual delicious “Mbahal” lunch at his house whenever we were in town. Oh, how I love the culinary skills of widow wife Isatou (Janha) Gassama.
Even the day Jammeh rejected the results of the 2016 Presidential Elections, he, Sulayman Joof, and I had lunch at his house. The latter left us to run some personal errands, so I was seated in the front of his Ministerial Pajero heading towards Elton Bijilo when he received a call from the State House protocol that there was an urgent Cabinet Meeting he needed to attend. He dropped me off at Sulayman’s house and asked to meet me there when he returned to dissect what happened because he sensed something fishy was about to happen. Unfortunately, he stayed so late that we couldn’t meet again that night, albeit we spoke on the phone.
Perhaps only a few knew this, but Alieu was the first Minister to resign from the Jammeh cabinet and convinced many to dessert him. He never even attempted to take any credit for it, but those of us closest to him know everything. However, even before that, he instructed the National Sports Council, a Department under his Ministry and one of the first to call on Jammeh to accept the results, to denounce his actions with a statement. He wrote his resignation letter less than two weeks into the Impasse. The only reason that delayed the letter submitted to Jammeh was that he thought he was making significant progress in convincing Jammeh to accept the results. They’ll negotiate with the Coalition leadership for him to remain in the Gambia and live in dignity.
He only got to know that he was dealing with wolfs and hyenas who had already sacrificed him to the Dictator when he cheated death at the seat of the Presidency. They were all seated at No.1 Marina Parade waiting for an inexistent Cabinet to be addressed by Jammeh, not knowing that he was to be assassinated that night for being a “supposed traitor,” and many of his colleagues with him knew of the plot.
A pious Muslim, an incorruptible leader, and a man of the people, Alieu would always go to the Masjid to pray even when he was attending Cabinet, and faith had it that it was only him amongst his colleagues that decided to participate in the afternoon prayers that day when the wait for Jammeh became too long. When he had already prayed and was tying the laces of his shoe, it was then that one of the soldiers assigned to assassinate him that night whispered into his ears to leave the country immediately; otherwise, he’d be a dead man by daybreak. But Alieu wouldn’t ditch The Gambia that night without submitting his resignation letter to the State House.
A holder of a double Master’s Degree in Political Science and Post-war Conflict Resolution, my man recently defended his Thesis. He was waiting for a Doctorate Degree in Local Governance. We planned to release his second book to chronicle everything that happened in Cabinet that one month, one week, and five days of the Impasse. That book was to send shockwaves within and outside the country and would’ve ruffled many feathers currently serving high positions in government, and he knew. However, he was still determined and committed to publishing it. Unfortunately, that book may never be printed again. That would be a real shame because it would deny Gambians first-hand information by giving them a new picture of what occurred at No.1 Marina Parade.
Alieu was the true embodiment of a quintessential gentleman. A real man of the people and that pillar that bind family and friends together. This man was the actual definition of a patriot, with selfless service and love for country and people. He was passionate, determined, committed, and truthful. Alieu wasn’t an autocrat or a dictator. He was an honest man of the people, and his capacity to listen, engage and integrate with even the mentally challenged constantly beat my wildest imagination. But despite all these great character traits, he always had an aura of invincibility and authority.
Alieu was born a leader and died one. He was the bravest Gambian I’ve ever known and would make decisions, even in the height of the dictatorship, that few, if any, would’ve dared to contemplate. Yet, he always believed in his convictions.
Alieu left with huge ambitions, and the magnitude of the loss to the Gambia is incomprehensible. I wouldn’t attempt to chronicle his impact in his short stay on earth because I wouldn’t finish talking about them. Still, there is no way we can talk about the remarkable progress made in Gambian football without singling him as the architect. He was bold and had to hold the bull by the horn to make the painful but necessary decisions to save our domestic game.
You will be dearly missed by your ‘Ababacarr…..’ but shall never be forgotten. Adious, Alieu; until we meet again in Heaven; only that I pray it isn’t anytime soon as we commit to ensuring that your legacy lives and contribute our little quarter to the worthy courses you have started.

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