By Alf Soninke
As is typical of him, Yahya Jammeh “Supreme Leader” of the APRC, stunned Gambians on Friday evening by announcing that his party is not in any alliance with President Adama Barrow’s NPP.
Then, predictably, there followed the raining of insults and familiar characterizations of the man which have become some of the cliches Gambia watchers long ago got used to.
Some of his haters said he did not sound remorseful in his speech and tone. Well, as far as we know, throughout his around two decades stay in exile in Senegal, Hisene Habre never expressed remorse until his death recently.
But more important, perhaps, is the context and content of the swift Gambia government reaction.
Saturday was the weekend break from government business, but the government could not wait until Monday to respond to Jammeh’s unwelcomed pronouncement.
Indeed, within 24 hours, the Ministry of Justice in Banjul issued a statement reminiscent of how former Justice MInister Baa Tambedou handled Yahya Jammeh’s affair.
Two unambiguous lines from the press release: “The Ministry reiterates its continuous support for all victims of human rights violations and its commitment to the course (cause?) of the TRRC and Justice…
“The office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice wishes to assure all the victims, the Gambians, and partners alike that the government of The Gambia remains fully committed to the implementation of the recommendations of the TRRC in the best interest of the Gambian people without fear or favour.”
However, after his I’ll-advised marriage with the notorious APRC, will Jammeh’s victims and country’s development partners take Barrow seriously henceforth?
Will they understand and accept that, in an election year, Barrow was getting poor advice from his not too smart advisers, and that may be now the really educated technical advisers have the President’s ear – as evident from the contents of the weekend press release.
What is clear to the keen observer is that the Justice Ministry’s statement is a clear sign of a change of approach and advisers.
Who has lost and who has now gained Barrow’s ear – Barrow’s political adviser Jatta and co or his Justice Minister Dawda Jallow?
Also, is the government’s statement coming too late in the day?
Was it not obvious to a visibly desperate Barrow – see his announced visit to Kanilai to meet with members of the Jammeh Family clan – that he was on the wrong path in his pursuit of a coalition with the infamous APRC?
Now, Jammeh in his address to his party faithful; in renouncing the purported alliance with the NPP, also dismissed from his party the in-country interim leader FTJ and others in the executive, and announced their handpicked replacement.
What has since followed is that the replaced, and now hugely discredited persons, are putting a brave face to what is obviously their national humiliation.
They are also engaged in a display of unconvincing bravado – knowing that with Jammeh in exile and safe from his tentacles – they can now tell us that “no one person owns the APRC; that they will ignore Jammeh, and get on with the alliance.”
Definitely, it is clear to all right-thinking persons of sound mind that FTJ and co have lost all credibility – even in the eyes of Barrow – and the honorable thing for them to do is to resign from Yahya Jammeh’s party.
We will understand if they say they were sincere in their endeavors and that, since Jammeh does not appreciate their efforts, they have now decided to give up and step aside. That will enable them disappear with some modicum of respect.
It was unreasonable; far-fetched, in fact, to expect Yahya Jammeh to help the re-election bid of Barrow, who got support from Jammeh’s perceived arch-enemy, Senegal, to send him into exile in Equatorial Guinea.
Remember Barrow was the person who instituted the Janneh Commission, which declared Jammeh a corrupt leader and a thief, and then the TRRC whose live public hearings on violations and abuses of human rights committed under Jammeh’s watch were seen and heard worldwide.
Obviously Barrow was expecting too much, and asking for the impossible from an aggrieved Yahya Jammeh!
Yet, one must wonder why Barrow visited recently this year Guinea’s Alpha Conde. Was the latter mediating in rumored negotiations for Jammeh’s return to Gambia?
Definitely, Yahya Jammeh would have realized that with the intensified Jammeh2Justice campaign, his continuing escape from the long arm of the law is fast coming to an end.
Especially, when it became obvious that the Almighty was also doing His part, with the recent ousting of his backer, Alpha Conde, and after earlier losing another powerful friend in the person of the now disgraced ex president of Mauritania, who was convicted for corruption.
Fact is, the honorable thing is for FTJ and co to resign from the APRC and to apologize to Barrow and the Gambian people!
Even well before what we learned from the TRRC public hearings, many of us have called for banning the APRC – based on what we all were made to endure under the APRC leadership from July 1994 to January 2017.
And, it is not possible to forget that FTJ as APRC Majority Leader in the National Assembly was part of that leadership up to the impasse. And, in fact, continue to stand by Jammeh and defend him up to the last minute before Jammeh’s thunderbolt speech on Friday!
As for the others, such as Rambo, who like all Gambians were also victims of Jammeh, their ailment could be best described as the Stockholm Syndrome – as TRRC Lead Counsel Essa Faal and Dr Abdoulie Saine would characterize their behavior.
Indeed, what FTJ and his group cannot do is continue to pretend that they are the APRC; because what we all know is that the APRC is Yahya Jammeh’s party – and, if you have any doubts ask the IEC.
The APRC is definitely Yahya Jammeh’s party, just like the UDP is Ousaiinou Darboe’s party – again, if you have any doubts ask Adama Barrow – whereas the NRP is Hamat Bah’s party, and GDC was launched by Mama Kandeh, and so on.
We recall that when Waa Juwara fell out with the UDP leadership, he went away and registered his NDAM.
When Barrow as HE the President of the Republic of The Gambia became emboldened by the title, and attempted to wrest leadership of the UDP from Ousainou Darboe; he failed miserably, but did not insist on going ahead with the coup – he simply stepped out of the party and formed the NPP.
In the first Republic, when Sheriff Dibba failed to become leader of the PPP, he left and launched the NCP; ditto Assan Musa Camara!
If FTJ and co are sure of themselves, nothing stops them from continuing to support and work with Barrow.
However, suspicion of the motives of the protagonists will persist, and the question still remains – is the announced NPP-APRC coalition based on sincerity and trust or on need and the blatant pursuit of self interest – as is widely believed.
Another matter of public interest is whether or not the other NPP partners (NRP, PPP, NCP, GPDP) in what’s left if Barrow’s so-called coalition government felt sidelined since the announcement of the NPP-APRC alliance?
For instance, did Hamat Bah feel over the past months that he had lost his importance and value to Barrow? These are valid questions, and they need answers, and we are curious to know, considering all the fanfare that ensued after the announcement of the NPP-APRC rapprochement.
Indeed, all these provide food for thought!
In passing, if we are to continue speaking plainly, ethno-linguistic considerations and regional influences are quite strong in Gambian politics – just to add though that this is not peculiar to The Gambia.
Point is, the APRC is firmly embraced by the Jolas, whilst the UDP and GDC, for example, also rely heavily on a strong ethnic-linguistic support base, and so on. That is the stark reality!
We have said it before – that we all have the “tribalism” gene, as well as the genie in us, even though some of us have managed to tame in our psyche the latter; that is, nurtured the positive cultural aspects of ethnicity and discarded any anti-social inimical toxic mindset.
Coming back to the weekend debacle, some of us are on record as describing the alliance with the APRC a misstep, and a sure votes loser for Barrow.
Because of this incontrovertible fact, wisdom dictates that he quietly turns his back on the so-called NPP-APRC alliance promoters, and scramble to salvage what’s left of the little credibility he may still have with the electorate.
The Justice Ministry did come to the rescue, but one must now wonders if it is not too late in the day to help Barrow recover, with the win or die election – in Barrow’s thinking – just weeks away!