Thursday, June 23, 2016

Jammeh: A self-loathing, Mandinka-hating tribalist

Jammeh is a self-loathing, Mandinka-hating tribalist who is displaying his true character in the face of his biggest political challenge to his 22-year iron-fist rule of one of Africa's poorest countries.

Jammeh doesn't like who he is because he feels the country he grew up in has not been fair to him and his ilk because of his ethnicity, the region of the country he claims to have been born in and the low economic status of his family.   Consequently, he developed a very low esteem of himself at a very early age, a personality trait that followed him from the Fonis to the capital city of Banjul where he attended high school.

To those who knew him as a high school student in the capital city of Banjul, he has always been resentful of his fellow students from what he considered to be more privileged backgrounds. The parents of most of these students were civil servants because, in most small and least developed economies like the Gambia, the government is the primary employer of its citizens.  Therefore, very early in his life, Jammeh sees the government as the primary cause of the underprivileged status.  It appeared that as a remedial measure, he decided to seize power once he managed to enlist in the military police and subsequently was transferred to the army.

Once at State House, Jammeh exploited the machinery of government for his personal enrichment that promoted him to the upper economic and social strata of society.  Even after accumulating a tremendous of material wealth, Jammeh is still uncomfortable in his own skin.  He still views a certain category of people, particularly the Mandinka- the majority ethnic group - that he views as the main threat to his grip on power, as political enemies.

In the words of Jammeh, "...since 1994 [when he seized power] Mandinka are the trouble makers in this country.  If you do not detest [from making trouble] I will stop you 6 meters deep."  Jammeh has convinced himself that the Jawara he deposed and whom he accused of being "an outright tribalist", was able to hold on to power for three decades because of the support he received from other tribes, including Jammeh's own minority Jola tribe.  He wondered why Mandinkas do not support him - a claim not borne by the facts because the majority of his support is from the Mandinkas.

When recent United Democratic Party-led protest demonstrations, Jammeh accused Mandinka of propagating violence which he followed with a threat.  "I will not send the police, but I will send the army and wipe you out and see who is going to talk about it."  It is statements like these that made the Special Adviser of the Secretary General of the United Nations United on the Prevention of Genocide to issue a warning and a strong condemnation of Jammeh and accuse him of incitement of violence.

The mere mention of or reference to the fact that the United Nations has condemned his "public stigmatization and dehumanization and threats against the Mandinkas," can land one in jail and subject to torture in Jammeh's Gambia.  For instance, three Gambians were recently charged with sedition for simply saying that Jammeh dislikes Gambia's majority ethnic group who make up approximately 41% of the population.

The three were tortured in jail and made to sign false testimonies before further being charged for saying that the Gambia was "at a boiling point"following the recent protests that led to the death in custody of Solo Sandeng, a youth leader and executive member of the opposition UDP.  They could each face two years imprisonment for allegedly saying last month that Jammeh "never liked" Mandinkas.  The Gambian dictator is from the minority Jola ethnic group.