Thursday, July 7, 2016
Letter to the Editor of The New Times of Rwanda about the incitement of violence against Mandinka
Re: The Mandinkas and Jammeh
As Rwanda prepares to welcome the Heads of State of the African Union to their Summit in Kigali from the 10 - 18 July 2016 and the possible impending visit of Yaya Jammeh of the Gambia to your beautiful country for the Summit, I am obliged or feel the need to refer to your June 12th 2016 editorial entitled "The Mandinka of Gambia must be protected" in which your paper succinctly and soberly reminded African leaders and Jammeh, in particular, of the painful experience of your country and the need for the world to draw lessons.
The editorial was prompted by a public utterance of Yaya Jammeh at a political rally when he chastised members of the Mandinka ethnic group he accused as his "enemies" and by extension, regarded as enemies of the state. By referring to Mandinkas as "enemies", your editorial warned that Jammeh "is paving the way for impunity and the world must be worried." The Mandinka ethnic group, the largest in the Gambia represents over 40% of the total population, was blamed for being the prime opponents of Jammeh's ruling party and, by implication, the source of his political troubles before the Gambian leader proceeded to threaten them. He promised to "kill them one by one" and will "put them where even a fly cannot see them."
His statements did not only attract the attention of your paper when you editorialized that the ghost of ethnic hatred has apparently not be expunged from the face of Africa but it attracted the attention of Mr. Adama Dieng, the current United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, as well. Mr. Dieng, like your paper, was "profoundly alarmed by ...Jammeh's stigmatization, dehumanization and threats against the Mandinka" and reminded the Gambian leader that in 2005, all Heads of State and Government, including Jammeh, acknowledge the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity , as well as incitement. Mr. Dieng urged the Gambian leader to fulfill this responsibility. Your editorial of June 12th made a similar suggestion to the Gambian leader.
It is still unclear whether Mr. Jammeh will be making the trip to Kigali. At the time of going to press, the file is still on his desk waiting for a decision as to whether to travel to Kigali or not. Should he decide to take part in this year's AU Summit or in any future trip to Kigali, a sensitization tour of the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center would be a great idea. Jammeh needs it because he's completely oblivious of the consequences of incitement of ethnic violence or hate speech especially when it is coming from someone who occupies the highest office in the country. Jammeh is a very divisive who frequently employs and exploits incitement for the purposes of advancing his own political ambitions and thus needs to be sensitized about the risks involved in such endeavors.