|Women protesting against dictator Yaya Jammeh|
Two events took place in the midst of protest demonstrations in Banjul and environs against the regime of Yaya Jammeh which led me to conclude that the international community, represented by the United States, the European Union, ECOWAS and the United Nations, is missing the point altogether.
The first is the convening of the Inter-Party Committee 23rd April meeting of political parties at the offices of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as part of the electoral process in preparation for the scheduled December 2016. The meeting was observed by the US and EU Ambassadors and the UN System Coordinator in the Gambia.
The second event is this week’s just concluded joint mission of ECOWAS, AU and UN “aimed at developing an understanding” among political parties and to assess standard of compliance for the upcoming elections. It must be noted that the mission also delved into the recent protest demonstrations which led to the deaths of still undetermined number, including of a young political activist and an executive member of Gambia’s biggest opposition party whose leader is among several others arrested, charged and detained. The mission is calling for an independent and transparent investigation.
The political turmoil the country is currently undergoing, like most political unrest, has been long time in the making and it has had its origin in the regime’s success in institutionalizing sexual predatory practices which has proven to be a potent weapon in Yaya Jammeh’s arsenal.
In Yaya Jammeh’s Gambia, rape and sexual molestation of both men and women, have become standard, state-approved modus operandi employed by Jammeh himself and all his security agents.
These heinous forms of human rights and sexual abuses, coupled with an equally institutionalized and systemic corruption in high places, have fractured the social fabric of a small but once cohesive society , bring down to its knees a once well-managed economy under Sir Dawda Jawara’s government .
|Women protesters against Jammeh vile and corrupt regime|
Known serial rapists have been employed by the regime for the sole purpose of preying on victims, usually political opponents to further entrench a regime that has been proven – time and time again – to be a violent and reprehensible toward those perceived to be a threat to the regime’s grip on power.
These serial rapists are embedded within the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) where detainees are kept and routinely raped before they are physically tortured. These monsters are provided with alcohol and drugs by Interior Minister Ousman Sonko and NIA Director General, Yankuba Badjie, before they (they rapists) are unleashed, like wild dogs, on their helpless preys. The latest victims of these rapists have been on display recently at the High Court to face incitement, riot and conspiracy charges in connection with recent protest demonstrations.
Contrary to claims by Jammeh that he has the interest of women at heart; Gambian women have been Jammeh’s primary victims of his 22-year despotic rule. Gambian women have been raped, molested, sexually harassed and forced to spend hours in Jammeh’s farms as indentured laborers. Jammeh is quick to cite the number of women in his cabinet and in the parliament. What he doesn’t say is that most, not all, have been victims of rape, molestation or harassment in one form or another. And those serving within territorial Gambia or abroad have been effectively blackmailed into silence. They are themselves victims of a system of government that uses rape as a weapon of repression.
Women are out in greater numbers than men, partly because of their suffering at the hands of one of Africa’s most vile and vicious sexist dictators. Women are out in numbers because they want to rid the Gambia of one of the most brutal, corrupt and incompetent regime. Women are out because they want Jammeh to step down now and, therefore, are in no mood to go to the polls with someone who uses rape as an instrument of suppression.
The international community is, therefore, missing the point. Elections are the last things on the minds of Gambians at this point. The problem is Jammeh. He must go. He must leave office and a transition government put in place to prepare the ground for fresh, free and fair elections. #JammehMustGo