Pulse Blogger How Jammeh killed my cousin and ruined lives

My sense is that most of us like me looked the other way, selfishly occupying ourselves with daily life without protesting.

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With two days left of his mandate, President Yahya Jammeh has caused a political crisis by refusing to step aside play

With two days left of his mandate, President Yahya Jammeh has caused a political crisis by refusing to step aside

(Gambia Radio and Television Services/AFP/File)
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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and his mediation team were in The Gambia to help resolve the current political stalemate.

Nigeria, despite its internal security troubles with Boko Haram and a secessionist movement in the Niger Delta, has raised a reactionary force that is 800-man strong to help Gambians boot out the 'Butcher of Kanilai', Yahya Jammeh.

Despite this, Nigeria is involved in a healthy debate on the merits and demerits of a military involvement in the Gambia.

In today’s Nigeria, the president can’t just unilaterally make decisions on his own like Jammeh does in The Gambia.

It gives me great pride that my own in-laws to the South have stood firmly with us the Gambian citizens even when it would have been convenient for them to focus more on their own security problems.

Nigeria has also gone a step further by offering asylum to Jammeh through the legislature. I strongly encourage him to take that option and save face while it is still tenable.

Think about it - there is no Gambian family that Jammeh hasn’t oppressed.

I have an uncle who Jammeh detained without trial for over a year and even he is not vengeful but an advocate of peace for he’s a soldier and knows what war can do to a country.

Another cousin of mine was detained without trial, tortured, and released a very broken man, and died soon after.

Even he didn’t disclose his horrific ordeal in prison and stayed true to the path of peace. I have an in-law framed by Jammeh and his thugs, and imprisoned for a decade whose only crime was refusing to carry out an illegal order to kill someone Jammeh wanted dead.

These folks suffered some of the worst cruelty under Jammeh’s reign yet they continue to live decent, dignified lives for they all know that nobody wins when a country is divided into irreconcilable partisan groups.

They continue to prevail on me and everyone that will listen that following the path of peace doesn’t mean turning the other cheek in the face of cruelty but can mean being firm, standing tall and refusing to be dehumanized without resorting to violence. 

Let’s look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves what we did while Jammeh insulted us, detained several people without charge for years, executed prisoners of conscience, disappeared individuals without a trace, openly looted our country’s coffers, clandestinely supported the MFDC insurgency in the Cassamance, shot innocent students, tortured, and humiliated elderly Imams, used our country’s territory to illegally transship drugs to western countries, embarked on a witch hunt that killed and maimed many, and on and on and on.

My sense is that most of us looked the other way, selfishly occupying ourselves with daily life without protesting. We justified our positions by saying to ourselves, “I’m a weakling and I can’t fight Jammeh with bare hands”, “it’s not my problem to solve”' “they brought it on themselves, we’ve warned them not to work for Jammeh”, “it’s a military issue, I’m a civilian, they should sort it out themselves”, etc.

We chose self-preservation to shield our families from Jammeh’s wrath. It is said that love often marks the death of duty. If you don’t understand this logic, then, you probably haven’t fallen in love or had children.

Now, we have no excuses, The Gambian people tired of Jammeh’s misrule have voted him out of office and he’s hell bent on usurping the people’s victory. What will we tell our children and children’s children when they read the history books and ask what we did to stop Jammeh?

Negotiation is an art form and a crucial discipline. There are three ways to resolve disputes;

(1) reconciling issues, (2) determining who’s right, or (3) determining who’s more powerful.

Interests underlie negotiator’s positions. Rights are formalized into law or customarily accepted standards of conduct, Power means coercing someone to do something they wouldn’t do under usual circumstances.

Examples of issues are Jammeh wanting to keep his loot, wanting to avoid jail time, etc.

Rights are like challenging election outcome in court. Power is just plain old “Jaaye Dolleh”.

Several strategies can be employed to further the three issues of interest, rights, and power.

An Avoiding (lose - lose) strategy requires withdrawing from or avoiding active negotiation. An Accommodating (lose to win) strategy involves backing off one’s concerns to preserve the relationship. A Competitive (win–lose) strategy involves trying to win at all costs without regard for the future of the relationship.

A Collaborative (win–win) strategy considers both the outcome and relationship resulting in a solution that suits both parties.

A compromising (split the difference) strategy meets in the middle with nobody getting all they want but leaving satisfied it was a fair deal.

Above all, in negotiations where parties have taken extreme positions, it is often necessary for one party to provide concessions to the other for them to save face, declare victory, spin the issue and move on with dignity.


I have come to the conclusion that providing concessions to Jammeh is a good idea. Gambia does not need violent confrontation.

War is an ugly thing and has the potential to set us back decades. War always results in misery for innocents.

As a child, I witnessed widespread looting of neighborhood shops by armed vigilantes, the constant whirling of ambulance sirens transporting the wounded and the dead, the fear in grown men when gunfire erupted close by, endless queues of women at the market and shops around Bartez for rice, cooking oil, and household items, decent people turning opportunistic criminals, and above all, there’s a mass grave between the Christian and Muslim cemeteries in Banjul as a result of the 1981 violent conflict.

Our country faces a very complicated and potentially violent confrontation. In the past few weeks, I have done some soul searching and actively expressed my displeasure with Jammeh’s position on the stalemate. 

At times, I’ve been funny, sarcastic, or downright dismissive of Jammeh and the potential for violence. The truth is, I’ve been doing a lot of praying for a peaceful end to the stalemate.

I don’t know what impact that will have in the end but I hope to be able to tell my kids someday that when Jammeh chose to usurp the people’s power, I protested the injustice and made it known that in the case of Jammeh versus the Gambian people, I’m firmly in the people’s corner.

I echo the sentiments from my uncle, cousin and in-law by saying “let Jammeh get his amnesty” and consider it a down payment on the bright future our country will gain from the peace and stability derived from it.

The coalition can only offer him immunity nationally, Jammeh will have to negotiate his own immunity with international courts.

I’m not the religious type. In thinking about the election crisis, I have at times crossed into territory wanting Jemus’ head on a platter. I’m not a violent man. In a movie I watched a while back, one of the characters asks the other, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”

Being right in most complex disputes usually means another party is wrong resulting in a period of overall unhappiness.

Choosing the path of happiness requires some sacrifice in the short run to gain long term happiness.

On the issue of Jammeh versus the people, I choose happiness over being right and dare say “Vengeance is mine” as in the following scripture passages.

Romans 12:19 says, "Never try to get revenge: leave that, my dear friends, to the Retribution."

Deuteronomy 32:35 reads: “Vengeance is mine, I will pay them back, for the time when they make a false step. For the day of their ruin is close, doom is rushing towards them, for he will see to it that their power fails. that neither serf nor free man remains”.

1 Samuel 26:10: “As Yahweh lives,' David said, 'Yahweh himself will strike him down: either the day will come for him to die, or he will go into battle and perish then.

Jeremiah 51:36: "So, Yahweh says this: Look, I am taking up your cause to make sure you are avenged. I shall dry her river up, make her springs run dry."

We face a tough challenge that requires courageous leadership. Courageous leaders make the tough calls they know will be unpopular but the right ones. I say, provide Jammeh with his immunity and take heart that “vengeance is mine”, he will get his comeuppance in due course.

Providing him immunity in The Gambia doesn’t preclude him from being tried abroad for his crimes.

If we become vengeful, we can win the war and lose the peace. George Bush Snr, during the Gulf War, had the wisdom and fortitude to fight a just war of necessity and restraint with his advancing forces when total annihilation of Iraqi forces was within the grasps of his generals.

And of course George Bush Jnr was taught a lesson when, in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks, he became too eager to go to war with Iraq without a plan to win the peace.

In war, once the first shots are fired, no one, I mean no one can tell how it will end and what impact it will have on people, infrastructure, and the flora and fauna.

Just think about it, I don’t have to be right or wrong, and you don’t have to be right or wrong on the issue either. Just think about it, mull it over and give peace a chance. Our children and our children's children will thank us for it.

I’ll be praying for peace tonight, and I’ll be bracing for war should it come knocking on our doors.

THIS ONE IS FOR YOU: To Dr. Ebrima Jogomai Ceesay, Barrister Ebrima Chongan, Capt. James Johnson; and Major Dennis Coker, this one is especially for you! The long nightmare is almost over.

"Yalla Mo Ham Yep."

By Matthias Greywoode

A Securitization Accounting Consultant, Director, Strategic Initiatives, Jurarim Organization for Youth Excellence (JOYE), US/Gambian NGO empowering young people through education and community programmes. Greywoode is a Gambian citizen living in the US (married to a Nigerian national).

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