Thursday, December 24, 2015

How the Christian community should use Jammeh's D 1 million "gift"

The Gambia Christian Council 

Gambia's status as a secular state has been threatened since 1994. President Jammeh's decision to build a mosque at State House was the first warning shot against the Christian Community. 

From time immemorial, Christians and Muslims have lived harmoniously, in dignity and respect of each others religion with little or no favors, interference from the Government.  In fact the Colonial Governors never made any attempt to build a Chapel or Mosque at State House or at any colonial building because they believed in the Secular State - a concept carried over and observed at Independence.   

Although the Constitution of 1997 declares The Gambia a Sovereign, Secular Republic, the Christian Community - an entrenched clause that can only be modified through national referendum -  it didn't deter Jammeh from unilaterally and without warning, declare Gambia an Islamic State.  The action was contemptuous of all Gambians, Christians and Muslims alike. 

Pulling his favorite divisive tool from his tool box,  Jammeh have since been able to appease the Christian community - at least a portion of it -  with his childish rants about Muslim men being beggars and criminals. All these statements were certainly geared towards creating a friction among the religious groups. The irony here is that an insult against any Muslim has an adverse impact on Christians as both of them are interrelated. 

However, my Christian brothers never saw the need to be cautious with Jammeh's dishonest overturns. In fact, President Jammeh’s decision to deny Bishop Tilewa Johnson's family access to McCarthy Square for a fitting State funeral clearly show his vindictiveness against people who challenged him in the past.  

No one was more offended than us at the Sidi Sanneh Blog at the disrespectful manner the late Bishop was treated in life as in death by the Jammeh regime which led us to pen the blog post entitled "Let the Archbishop rest peacefully" and another a few days later entitled "Yaya Jammeh robbed the funeral of solemnity" in February 2014. To add insult to injury, Bishop Johnson is yet to be afforded a posthumous award for being the First Gambian to occupy the office of Archbishop of Church of The Province of West Africa. Instead, the same President Jammeh is granting awards to Yai Compins and party mobilizers for partisan activities.

As we have said earlier, Jammeh has no power to declare The Gambia as an Islamic State because it is unconstitutional and can only be introduced after going a long hurdle leading to a referendum. In fact the constitution makes it illegal for the National Assembly to pass any law which establishes a state religion or one party state. However, the lacuna in this constitutional provision is that Jammeh can easily give the National Assembly unlimited powers to pass any laws. 

Another interesting aspect of this scenario is for long Jammeh has been violating the 1997 Constitution. In fact it is only in the Gambia that one can be a head of the Civil Servant and still occupy a Ministerial Post. We all saw how the nicely tailored constitution has now been sexed up several draconian amendments in which the Presidency or Incumbent having unlimited powers to impose despotism 

Finally, we now learn of Jammeh’s hypocrisy in the whole affair by giving the Gambia Christian Council D 1 million as part of their Christmas present, in place of the traditional turkey and we wonder why. The representatives will be a big disservice to the Christian Community in accepting such funds from Jammeh without inquiring the source of such huge donation.  We were wondering if we should read anything into the conspicuous absence of representative of the Catholic Church at State House?  

All the same, it is our solemn view that The Gambia Christian Council should not be accessory to Jammeh’s lavish and irresponsible spending of public funds, as the D 1 million could have been better used to assist others who are in desperate need of help. Perhaps, the Christian Council should consider the following;

  • Use the D 1 million to buy grocery (food stuff) and donate to the Gambia Prison Service or the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital
  • Donate to families of victims of the Jammeh regime, including those who have been arrested, tortured and illegally detained to help defray their legal expenses
  • Set up a Trust Fund towards helping the victims of April 10 and 11th massacre in 2000
  • Set up a Legal Defense Fund for any religious leader, be it Muslim or Christian being persecuted for exercising their constitutional rights.