Over the weekend of December 14, the APRC party held their Congress in an unsavoury classroom in Bwiam where they issued a very tragic resolution confirming former dictator Yaya Jammeh as their party leader and flagbearer as well as calling for his return. It appears the members of this party need to get the facts of the circumstances of Yaya Jammeh so that they reposition themselves to address this matter more realistically.
In the first place Yaya Jammeh was not forced into exile by the Gambia Government. Rather Yaya Jammeh left the Gambia based on the terms of the UN, AU and ECOWAS following their mediation efforts. This terms are contained in a declaration to which these three organizations agreed and signed on 21st January 2017. The following paragraphs in the declaration set the stage for the departure of Yaya Jammeh out of the Gambia:
11. ECOWAS, the AU and the UN will work to ensure that host countries that offer “African hospitality” to former President Jammeh and his family do not become undue targets of harassment, intimidation and all other pressures and sanctions.
12. In order to assist a peaceful and orderly transition and transfer of power and the establishment of a new government, HE former President Jammeh will temporarily leave The Gambia on 21 January 2017, without any prejudice to his rights as a citizen, a former President and a Political Party Leader.
13. ECOWAS, the AU and the UN will work with the Government of The Gambia to ensure that former President Jammeh is at liberty to return to The Gambia at any time of his choosing in accordance with international human rights law and his rights as a citizen of the Gambia and a former head of state.
This declaration did not indicate in anyway if and how Yaya Jammeh came to agree to go on exile. The declaration did not also say if Pres. Barrow or the Gambia Government had asked that Yaya Jammeh to leave the Gambia. Hence one would have to ask UN, AU or ECOWAS on one hand and Pres. Barrow as well as Yaya Jammeh on the other hand if any of them had agreed to the exile of Yaya Jammeh.
But that aside, one need to realise that this UN, AU and ECOWAS Declaration did not just come out of the blue. Rather it came out of a specific context that cannot be denied or ignored. More than anyone, APRC knew that there was an election on 1 December 2016 in which Yaya Jammeh conceded defeat on the second day only to turn 360 degrees to reject the results seven days later. That rejection of the verdict of the people plunged the country into a legal and security crisis hence setting the stage for international intervention into the country.
The background to that context was that the Gambia, under the watch of Yaya Jammeh and APRC, witnessed gross violations of human rights and plunder of public wealth with impunity among other criminal activities perpetrated by the regime. These crimes were not only endured and recorded by Gambians alone, but the international community had also followed these crimes and obtained incontrovertible evidence to that effect.
Hence since his departure there have been numerous local, regional and international efforts to bring Yaya Jammeh to justice. Hence anyone asking Yaya Jammeh to leave Equatorial Guinea and return to the Gambia is effectively pushing him to his arrest and trial and possible conviction. Anywhere in the world, including the Gambia where Yaya Jammeh steps his feet, it is clear that he would be arrested. This is because he bears the greatest responsibility for the massive human rights violations committed under his watch as the Head of State of the Republic of the Gambia between 22 July 1994 and 18 January 2017.
One evidence of that is the recent US State Department declaration banning Yaya Jammeh and his family from entering the US. Secondly the Ghana Government has already agreed to allow the trial of Yaya Jammeh in Accra for the killing of tens of their citizens in 2005 following huge efforts by human rights organizations at home and abroad. Thirdly the arrest and trial of former Interior Minister Ousman Sonko in Switzerland is another indication that Yaya Jammeh faces the same fate if he tries to enter any country in the world.
Hence APRC must remove emotions from their chest and face the reality. The reality is that Yaya Jammeh was a brutal despot in the footsteps of Idi Amin, Mobutu or Saddam Hussain among others. He is a persona non-grata and a person of special interest around the world. APRC must realise that if they wish for peace and safety for Yaya Jammeh then they must leave him to remain in Equatorial Guinea. Apart from EQ, no place is safe for Yaya Jammeh again in this world because anywhere he goes, he will face justice!
APRC must come to terms with these facts and realise that the Gambia is bigger than APRC and Yaya Jammeh. Even APRC is bigger than Yaya Jammeh. The party members must realise that they cannot scrifice their sovereignty as citizens and dignity as human beings in favour of a man who was a rapist, looter, thief, liar, hypocrite and killer!
By their Bwiam Resolution, APRC has once again demonstrated that they care less about the Gambia and her people. They have demonstrated their denial of the fact that scores of Gambians were tortured, raped and killed under the watch of their party which had legal and political authority in the Gambia for the past 22 years. Their resolution only exposes their insincerity and undemocratic tendencies to accept the will of the Gambian people.
If APRC is indeed composed of smart and patriotic citizens, they must realise that there is nothing in their past about which to be proud. Rather they must show remorse and regret for their dark history and demonstrate their patriotism by rejecting Yaya Jammeh and his misrule. The party will only harm itself if it seeks to embrace Jammeh while attempting to separate the dictatorship from the APRC.
In a multiparty democracy, a government is run by a political party because it is parties that put up a candidate who seeks the mandate of the people based on the party ticket, manifesto and campaign. Hence when a candidate wins his government becomes the ruling party. Therefore, when Yaya Jammeh won on the APRC ticket that government became the APRC Government just as how we claim Barrow’s Government to be the Coalition Government. Therefore, we cannot separate the ruling party and its presidential candidate from the government in power.
Therefore, let APRC stop seeking to separate the bad decisions and actions of Yaya Jammeh from their party but are quick to take ownership of anything good they think Yaya Jammeh did for this country. Someone needs to remind them that they do not have the liberty to pick and choose. If you claim Yaya Jammeh did well for building a national television and a university among other development projects in the country then you must also take responsibility for his killing of Koro Ceesay, massacre of 14 students and murder of Deyda Hydara among other atrocities.
I may be prepared to join the APRC but only if it accepts the truth about itself and seeks to repent and renew itself. For example, the party must embrace the Gambia by first seeking the forgiveness of Gambians and then declare their commitment to ensure justice for victims of the APRC Regime. APRC cannot fight the Gambia and expect to win. No way. Let them not alienate themselves from the people by aligning with a despot who had harmed Gambian people.
For The Gambia Our Homeland