Monday, August 22, 2016

Stand-off at the Banjul Christian cemetery

Arial view of the Christian cemetery in Banjul, Gambia
This past weekend, a spectacular scene unfolded at the Banjul Christian cemetery site.

Approximately 250 leaders and members of all the denominations of the Christian faith met with officials of the Ministry for Local Government to inspect the cemetery site with the view to disproving government claims that the cemetery is full to capacity, as a result of which there is encroachment on the adjacent old Muslim burial site.

Earlier in the year, the regime of Yaya Jammeh issued what amounted to a cease and desist circular demanding that no more burial should take place on the Banjul site.  Henceforth, all burial should take place at the Kanifing site.

Contrary to government claims, there is still space in the current site and thus no need to cease utilizing the existing facility.  To prove their point, representatives of the Local Government Ministry were invited for a site inspection by members of the Christian community who came armed with their expert surveyors, engineers and lawyers.

According to sources, at the end of the exercise, the regime's claims were proven wrong.  What Yaya Jammeh will do next is anyone's guess.  But what is certain is that the Christian community is not taking these constant threat to the peace and stability of the communities lying down.

What is certain, however, is that the intimidation and bullying tactics of this repressive corrupt and incompetent regime of Yaya Jammeh will not go unchallenged by the Christian community whose religious freedoms have come under serious threat from the proponents and promoters of transforming the Gambia from a Secular Sovereign Republic, as prescribed by the 1997 Constitution, to an Islamic Republic.

The threat posed Yaya Jammeh to the peace and security of the country and the region had always been underestimated at best or ignored at worst.  Presently, we could ill afford neither, both as a country and as a Member State of ECOWAS.

Jammeh has threatened to "kill Mandinkas one by one" whom he described as "enemies" and foreigners", a threat that caught the attention of the Secretary General of the United Nations which resulted in a scathing rebuke from the world body.  Jammeh was inciting violence against an ethic group which can lead to genocide.  This possibility was not lost when the New Times newspaper of Rwanda, in an editorial, recounted the genesis of the Rwandan genocide and the role that vitriolic rhetoric played in fanning the flames that consumed the nation.

Jammeh has continued, in our view, sowing the seeds of discord and fomenting more trouble that can only pose a grave challenge to the peace and stability of The Gambia.  We must not stay silent as a people.  This man is dangerous because he poses an imminent threat to Gambia and the Region.