The Gambia: And so the unchained birds sing

Mathew K. Jallow

Mathew K. Jallow

Senegal and United States are the epicenters of horror stories told with uncommon eloquence and earthshaking disbelief. It is the story of a nation told in many different pieces, by many escapees. It is a bizarre story that portrays the obscene picture of a country devastated by an uncharacteristic political inertia and glaring ruthlessness. It is also the story of Gambia maligned by Yahya Jammeh’s tragic contempt for democracy and scathing ignorance of the rule of law; in a country on the precipice of unnerving political and economic debacle. The Gambia’s unfolding story highlights the tragic consequence of tyranny and the extent to which Gambia has become frozen in fear; inadvertently facilitating the mass human-rights violations that have made free people all around the world stand up and take notice. The bizarre stories told in Dakar, Senegal and Raleigh, North Carolina, reveal the existential threat Gambia’s military regime under Yahya Jammeh and his eclectic blood-drenched acolytes have foisted on a country once renowned as one of Africa’s undisputed bastion of democracy and rule of law. After a prolonged detachment from reality, Gambia’s chilling and heart-wrenching stories are finally being told with deliberate poise and easy persuasion, and in such detail and even greater clarity. To a country and people still speculating the irksome depth and breadth and gruesomeness of Gambia’s human rights abuses under Yahya Jammeh; the assassinations, murders, killings, tortures, arrests and forced disappearances, the revelations of brutality in Gambia is welcome news.

It is a tragic story that articulates Yahya Jammeh’s bothersome attachment to power, but more importantly, the shocking brutality that underpins the tactlessness of his demonic regime. The Gambia, a country that once sheltered Africa’s English-speaking victims of political repression decades ago, is now transformed into the true emblem of repression and vexing lawlessness. But the country’s crushing oppression goes far beyond Yahya Jammeh’s lust for power, to also illustrate his willful lunacy, devastating incompetence and celebrated ignorance of the values of moral and ethical rectitude. Gambia’s unfolding story catalogues the sanguinary character of Yahya Jammeh’s puzzling insensitivity and evident disregard for human life. But Gambia’s anachronistic descent into political and economic disorder, and the consequences of the social, political and economic disruption, is bound to have profound repercussion on Gambian society for years to come judging from the viciousness of its recent history of state-sanctioned crimes. The dangerous ramifications of Yahya Jammeh’s self-serving political manipulation and artificial reconstruction of Gambian society, will preface the gruesome chapter of a history written in blood by Yahya Jammeh’s persistent undermining of human rights and unyielding abuses of Gambians’ civil liberties. For years now, the Gambia, more specifically, Yahya Jammeh’s ad nauseam devastation of the Gambia’s true character, and the country’s social, political and economic foundering, has lent itself to an avalanche of speculations and denials about the extent of the regime’s crimes, but recent developments have left Gambians dumbfounded and the international community agash.

At issue is the anticipated royal confession of Yahya Jammeh’s former close aides; confessed former members of the secretive military assassin group Gambian know simply as; The Jugglers. The Jugglers, a dangerous group modeled after Haiti’s infamous Ton Ton Macout assassins, are complemented in lethality by an equally ruthless civilian killer group known to Gambians as; The Green Boys. The two secretive groups are primarily responsible for Gambia’s state-sanctioned killings over the eighteen years. But the first to confess their involvement in crime against Gambians so publicly to the defunct Gambian online newspaper;, more than three years ago, was a former member of The Green Boys, who for security reasons, gave only his first name as; Mendy. Mr Mendy narrated in chilling detail how Yahya Jammeh composed the group of assassins consisting primarily of young, innocent Jolas and a few Manjagos, and released them around the country to wreak terror on the Gambian civil-service. Their work according to Mendy was partly to falsely accuse Wollofs, Mandinkas, Akus and Fulas in the civil service of criminal conducts so as to replace them in short order with Jolas. Those accused would then be fired in immediately, dragged into the Kangoroo court system before criminal minded Nigerian judges, and often imprisoned. As incredible as this seems, it is the confession of an exiled former Green Boys member who is tormented by guilt for his role in creating Gambia’s darkest hour. But perhaps, the most damning confession came from Gambia’s exiled star-witnesses and a former Officers in the Gambian military; Bai Ebou Lowe and Sheriffo Gissey.

The depth and breadth of Officer Bai Lowe’s intimate knowledge of the letany of murders ordered by Yahya Jammeh is breathtaking. From the assassination of journalist and Gambia Press Union co-founder Deida Hydara, the forced of disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh, the execution of Daba Marenah and co. and to the cruel butchering of forty-four innocent Ghanaian immigrants bound for the Canary Islands, Bai Lowe’s scary accounts of the Yahya Jammeh’s gross human rights violations provide a background and reason for his removal from office and trial for crimes against humanity; not in The Hague, but in our own court system, the same court system Yahya Jammeh has falsely relied on to execute twenty-six prisoners from the notorious Mile 2 Central Prison, exactly one year ago this month. Bai Ebou Lowe’s shocking testimony, which was recently buttressed by Sheriff Gissey, another confessed ex-member of Yahya Jammeh’s assassin group, has cast the Gambian regime as the worst Africa has seen since Idi Amin Dada. Bai Ebou Lowe and Sheriff Gissey, both in separate marathon interviews with Freedom Newspaper’s Pa Nderry Mbai, divulged damning information about Yahya Jammeh’s orders to execute and Gambians opposed to his reign of terror. And today as we remember the nine prisoners, the regime confessed to executing at Mile 2 Prison prisoners, the Freedom Newspaper’s interviews of Bai Lowe and Sheriffo Gissey will refresh Gambian memories of the horror surrounding the deaths of so many Gambians and non-Gambians on Yahya Jammeh’s orders. And as the unchained birds sing to a dumbfounded audience, hopefully more Gambians involved in the murders will be incentivized to come forward and confess their roles, but more importantly, to tell the world about the criminality of Yahya Jammeh and his regime.


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