Gambia: President Jammeh’s use of uncouth language

Demba Jawo

Demba Jawo

While most people will no doubt agree with President Yahya Jammeh’s condemnation of the British government for besieging for over a year the Ecuadorean embassy in London, apparently in a bid to apprehend Julius Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, as well as his criticism of the US government’s desperate attempts to get Edward Snowden extradited to the US for blowing the whistle against its internet surveillance program, during his most recent exclusive interview with the GRTS as part of the commemoration of his 22nd July “Revolution”, but his approach has been quite abominable, to say the least.
It is certainly completely out of place for a head of state of a respectable country to be always swearing and using inappropriate language to make his point on any issue. And that is exactly what Mr. Jammeh seems to be doing whenever he talks about the West and his opponents and perceived enemies; using such inappropriate words and phrases like ‘fucking’, ‘satanic’, ‘ungodly’ ‘go to hell’, etc., which are quite undiplomatic and very much incompatible with his status as a head of state. Even in the crudest of street language, people avoid the use of such inappropriate words in public.
One would therefore wonder whether President Jammeh ever considers the embarrassment he causes to most Gambians when he uses such undiplomatic language, which only tends to further transform our dear country into the laughing stock of the sub-region.
While some Gambians may not agree with a lot of the things President Jammeh does, but as head of state, his every action and utterance directly reflects on the country and its people. Therefore, we expect him to always weigh the implications of every word he utters as well as his actions.
We are told that the Information Minister, Nana Grey-Johnson was present during the interview, and we can certainly imagine how embarrassed he must have felt with such undiplomatic utterances by his boss, regardless of his own conscience. In any other normal situation, therefore, we would have expected Mr. Grey-Johnson to muster the professional courage to render some gentle advice to Mr. Jammeh about the inappropriateness of using such language for public consumption. However, in the Gambian context, it would be like Mr. Grey-Johnson would be asking for not only an immediate sacking, but even being charged with “giving false information to a public official” which has recently become the bête noire of the regime.
After being almost two decades in power as head of state, we expected Mr. Jammeh to have learnt at least the rudimentary of diplomacy, but with the type of crude language he often uses in public, it would be a misnomer to say that he had indeed learnt much on the job.
Of course the Western nations have quite a lot to be criticized for, but there is a much more appropriate approach to lash at them than the type being employed by Mr. Jammeh. He should also realize that hauling insults at the West will not make them, and indeed all people with conscience, stop demanding that his regime abides by the basic standards of democracy and good governance, particularly if he wants to benefit from their financial assistance. For instance, despite the mobilization of Gambian civil servants and APRC stalwarts to haul insults against the 17 point demands made to his regime by the EU sometime last year, we have recently seen his regime resuming dialogue with the same EU, apparently because the regime cannot afford to lose the millions of Dalasis “chicken change” they receive from the EU. We all know that most of the projects that his regime makes so much noise about are being financed by the “chicken change” from the “Fucking Evil Union”.
Also in the same interview, President Jammeh was quoted threatening to abrogate military cooperation with the United States, including the sending of Gambian soldiers for training in US military academies. One would therefore tend to wonder who stands to lose more from such a move; the US or the Gambia. We have already seen the rubber-stamp National Assembly recently reject a bill for maritime security with the US, no doubt at the instigation of the executive.
It is quite unfortunate that President Jammeh either does not seek any advice before making some of his utterances, or he does not care about their impact, but certainly, most of those utterances and some of his actions are neither in the interest of the Gambia nor for his reputation as a head of state, and the sooner he realizes that, the better for everyone.

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