Wednesday, April 27, 2016

GAMBIA: Power belongs to the people

If the adage that power belongs to the people was a vague concept to those born and/or grew up during the twenty-two years of dictatorship, the spontaneous singing of Gambia's National Hymn by calabash- and cooking-utensils wielding women demanding justice transformed it into a real live concept.

Women, young and old with calabash and blue spoons in hand were at the Banjul High Court to show solidarity with and support of Ousainou Darboe and others facing charges of inciting violence during peaceful protest demonstration.

The first sign of open deviance by protesters led by the United Democratic Party's youth leader and party executive challenging the absolute authoritarianism that comes to represent the Jammeh regime occured only a couple of weeks ago but it has since come to represent the start of a people's revolution that continues to gain momentum.

The reason why peoples' power is on the march in The Gambia is because THE PEOPLE have successfully overcome the fear instilled in them by a regime that used fear to rule over the Gambian people for over two decades.

For twenty two years, the regime applied severe forms of torture, including breaking victims skulls with hammers, to eliminate its enemies, real and perceived.  Death squads and the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA) agents have been used to kill and main ordinary Gambians for the sole intent of instilling fear into the population. That fear dissipated a couple of weeks ago

The leadership provided by Solo Sandeng in open defiance of the threat posed by Jammeh's authoritarianism led to his death that provided the spark needed for Ousainou Darboe, the leader of the UDP to spring into action.  It was the protest demonstrations he led in protests over the death of Solo Sandeng and numerous others that led to the arrest of most of the top-tier leadership of the UDP.

Protesters vow to continue to defy the dictatorship as long as their leaders and supporters remain in custody and Solo Sandeng's body and those others feared dead are not released to loved ones.  The open revolt against the Jammeh regime has ushered in significant transformation worth noting.  In less than two weeks, the Kalashnikov-wielding paramilitary policemen have been replaced by police with riot helmets and batons who appear to be in crowd-control mode, at least based on still photos transmitted via social media.

It is the same paramilitary forces that mowed down fourteen unarmed students in 2000 for simply protesting against the death, in custody, of a fellow student and the raping of another by members of the security forces.  Those responsible for the atrocities were later indemnified.

The difference in both attitude and comportment of the Jammeh's security agents on display in the past several days has been remarkable.  Their professional behavior appear to have changed for the better in part because the message that power belongs to the people appears to have finally sunk in. There is no going back.