Should July 22 Be Celebrated?

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EX President-Yahya-Jammeh

By: Basidia M Drammeh

Nowadays, some Gambians often say: Well, if Yahya Jammeh was here, this or that wouldn’t have happened, or during Jammeh’s time, this never happened. These sentiments manifest a sense of nostalgia that some of Jammeh’s die-hard supporters still have for that era- as dark as it was, Ironically, some of these sentiments are expressed by a section of Jammeh’s sworn enemies and adversaries reflecting a deep sense of frustration, disappointment and resentment vis a vis the current state of affairs in the Gambia: Electricity supply is scarce and erratic. 

Water is in short supply, particularly in many urban areas. Prices are skyrocketing by the day as the value of the local Dalasi currency continues to plummet, with the country almost importing everything in hard currency. Many families need more than three meals. Beggers are on the increase. High-profile scandals are surfacing nearly now and then.

Yes, those nostalgic for the Jammeh era might have a reason. Jammeh, we must admit, has made numerous remarkable achievements: In his way, he managed to ensure security., stabilized prices, and embarked on countless ambitious infrastructural development projects, notably the Gambia & Television Services, the University of the Gambia, the Kombo Coastal Road, the Senegambla Bridge, numerous schools and healthcare centers across the nation, to name a few. 

On the other hand, we cannot ignore or underestimate the downside of his iron-fist autocratic rule, which led to extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, suppression of independent media, and restrictions on individual freedoms.

Why are some Gambia nostalgic for the Jammeh era?

When Gambians booted Jammeh out of power, they hoped for a departure from that dark traumatizing era characterized by gross human rights violations. They hoped for better living conditions. The then Coalition promised wide-ranging reforms that would ensure the proper running of government, combat corruption, introduce a new constitution to usher in the Third Republic and improve people’s lives and livelihoods. Down the line, none of those promises were fulfilled.

Should we celebrate July 22?

Despite the country’s challenges, July 22 should not be celebrated because the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission has unearthed and cataloged the extent and the scale of gross human rights violations under Jammeh. Some members of society are still agonized by the trauma inflicted upon them by Jammeh’s despotic rule. Their wounds are still fresh; hence any celebration of the July 22 coup is a mockery to them. After all, how could we celebrate an unconstitutional change in a democratically elected government?

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