By Mustapha K Darboe
In 2013, a guy called Bai Mass Kah— at the time a staff of Foroyaa newspaper— was arrested. His crime was that he told an NIA informant to “paste the photo of the President (Yahya Jammeh) on the sky…)”
Clearly Bai made Jammeh angry. His supporters too, for what was seen as his apparent assault on the ‘Nasirudeen’ and ‘Babili Mansa’. Well, as you guessed it, making Jammeh angry is not an offence under the laws. Thankfully, he had Gambia’s security architecture who serves—at least by their reputation—at the will of the President.
They found a charge for Mass. They made a mess of his life for what was a total expression of vengeance with zero connection to upholding of the law.
Momodou Sabally faces a similar fate today. For anyone with a simple understanding of Mandinka, it is preposterous to ascribe the audio he published to showing an expressed intent to overthrow a government. “Overthrow” is not in that audio!
In what I am made to understand was a meeting with bunch of UDP TikToks, Sabally was simply talking about how his party is going to take grounds, politically, from Adama Barrow. First, he started with a charge that they claim UDP is a party whose supporters are insulting people on social media. I made the following rough transcription:
“… They are accusing UDP of insulting people. But those who are insulting people on TikTok are known. You know them and we know them… It is now your responsibility to show the people what UDP really is. It is a party of respect, truth and peace. And that is what we will continue to show.
“We will no longer sit and watch anyone sell an agenda likening the UDP with an agenda that is not the behavior of the UDP supporters… WE WILL DO A MASSIVE AGGRESSIVE CAMPAIGN… Massive, aggressive, recruitment drive. That is what we will do. WE WILL TAKE THE COUNTRY FROM ADAMA BARROW EVEN BEFORE THE ELECTIONS. Even before the local government elections.
“What they are doing is disinformation, and misinformation to ruin the reputation of the UDP… ‘We will do this until its smokes at State House’. We will do it POLITELY but it will be intense…”
First, Sabally said they will do a massive campaign and take, in a metaphorical sense, the country from Barrow. A coup is an illegal takeover of a government with the use of arms. It is preposterous to even faintly suggest that one could campaign to stage a coup. A country is made of people. When you win their heart, you have taken the people. When you take the people, you take the leadership position…
Any supporter you take from a Barrow-endorsed candidate in the coming local government elections, is a supporter you take from Barrow. A local government election is a total and direct vote of confidence on Barrow’s leadership.
Excuses like it is not time for presidential elections and he is saying they will take the country from Barrow is ridiculous. That is a bias and I must add a deliberate interpretation of the facts in the audio to serve an unjustified end.
Moreover, he was directly campaigning on a party platform. The audience is UDP TikTokers. The platform is UDP. That is CLEAR in the audio. Who will take over? UDP. Any interpretation is a stretch of one’s imagination. Not backed by facts. So, one cannot isolate Sabally and ignore the context and the language. One would be creating your own facts away from reality.
In the subsequent conversation after the quote above, he talked about how they will win the local government elections. I think that is why he was arrested. He used the expression “amang maalu amang silaa”, referring to the President. Do I think that language is appropriate? No. But I am not the law.
But like Mass and Jammeh, Barrow’s anger, as may be the case, is not a violation of the law. It is his business and he will take a sip of water and go and sleep. Sabally’s arrest is a complete manipulation of the law. It has nothing to do with a coup. Except if the police officer who listened to it to reach an opinion that Sabally is talking about a coup is COMPLETELY ignorant of Mandinka…
There is absolutely no ambiguity about the motives of Sabally in that audio, if one listens to the full one. It is not surprising that the police went and published a redacted one which fits this ridiculous narrative. He even said they will do the metaphorical ‘takeover’ of government in ‘kuluwo kono’ (with discipline). How do you overthrow a government in ‘kuluwo kono’? what means does Sabally have to overthrow a government?
Clearly, this is an abuse of rights by a bunch of people who have shown deliberate intent to use the law in complete BAD FAITH. That is not justice. That is vengeance.
Sabally is nothing but a political prisoner! His rights to free speech are being deliberately denied by people paid and fed to protect it.
What kind of IDIOT goes to announce a coup on TikTok at least 2 weeks before the act? Is that the level of intelligence at the Gambia Police Force?