The Gambia: The beckoning of Raleigh and the harrowing calls to Sweet Carolina

By Mathew K Jallow

There is growing resistance; the coalition is fortifying and the unity of purpose is coalescing around a central theme that has dominated Gambian life and politics for more than a decade and half. It is belated, yet it is coming not a moment too soon. Raleigh, North Carolina, represents more than just Imperial King, Yahya Jammeh’s cruel perversity; it is the prelude to Gambia’s contemporary history and the preface of a new Gambian dawn. Raleigh symbolizes a storied history written and told in our own weary voices; voices that echo the hopeless cries and the painful agony of our people. North Carolina is where the beautiful poems and the delightful narratives of sages and budding minds will go to slowly die, only to be resurrected again by the calamitous reality of the Gambia’s impossible story of deaths, executions and disappearances. The British High Commissioner in Gambia, David Morley, last week echoed the moment’s urgency in a damning Human Rights Report (HRP) on the Gambia, and this week, that war tested liberal denizen, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in his 2012, Gambia Human Rights Report, reechoed the British High Commission’s painfully agonizing frustration with Yahya Jammeh’s politics and Gambia’s nauseating, undeserved and ongoing fate; a country one billed Africa’s “smiling coast,” but now turned into Africa’s most notorious rogue nation. The story of how we got to this painful moment of anguish and torment will be told by Gambians yet unborn, but for now, our collective responsibility is to bend and rewrite that history so that tomorrow, they will also tell the story of our hardship and endurance to leave them a country and a people free and liberated once again.

As it is, Gambians today occupy places high and low all around the globe, and their signs of distress and determination embody an intense desire for political change and the establishment of democracy and the rule of law. Eighteen long years after the ascension of Gambia’s Imperial King, Yahya Jammeh’s AFPRC regime, the disaffection with military regime in Gambia has met with the stubborn resistance of Gambians. The Imperial King, Yahya Jammeh Machiavellian motivation is underpinned by more than just a fantasy for political longevity, but by a vexing rapaciousness that will make Ferdinand Marcos’s rape of the Philippines look like child’s play. Today, Gambia’s human rights record remains disastrous, the economy is gradually heading down the gutter, living conditions are slowly moving towards unsustainability, businesses are fleeing the alarming climate of intrusion and fear, and Gambians are as distressed and demand change. After all the pain, the silent suffering and lonely weeping, Raleigh offers an avenue for change and a promise to carve out a new political niche for the Gambia’s massive Diaspora population. Crucially too, the universally unequivocal agitation for change is an inspiring frame of mind-set that promises to coalesce Gambians around the seminal issues of unity in change. Alkali Conteh, head of GDAG, Raleigh, may still be a new name to many, but Banka Manneh, head of STGDP and CSAG, a household name and a powerful voice in the Diaspora community, are unambiguous in their resolution and determination for political change and the two organizers have the unflinching support of Gambians across the globe. As Raleigh, North Carolina promises to start the removal of the horrifying scepter of Imperial King, Yahya Jammeh from our lives, the fearsome necessity for national unity is the single most important driving force.

To date, Gambians have experienced many false starts in the struggle for Imperial King, Yahya Jammeh’s removal, but Raleigh, this year, is pregnant with the promise of hope. This year, the brilliant conceptualization of Raleigh is more than a flight-of-fancy; it is a studied architecture of the mind of a people, and above all, a true reflection of the collective will of Gambians. With the addition of Gambia’s world renowned diplomat and technocrat Dr. Momodou Lamin Sedat Jobe to the struggle, the stage for political change is set. Dr. Jobe, most recently renowned for his weekly scathing attacks on the Gambian regime on Freedom News and Radio, symbolizes the jettisoning of inertia and the rebirth of a new Gambian mindset. And, Gambia’s foremost intellectual dissident, writer, Professor Dr Abdoulaye Saine, more than anyone else, is the unsung hero of this moment, whose inspiring presence in Raleigh, North Carolina, is crucial to the Raleigh meeting. Gambians of significance stature are expected to grace Raleigh next month, including my good friend, former Vice-President Bakary Bunja Dabo (BB Dabo), and recently released, Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh. This year, the arch of history is calling, but above all, Raleigh portends the demise of our puerile abstraction of reality and cynical detachment from the relentless barbarity that has devastatingly consumed Gambia for so long. But, with Raleigh, I dream of a new Gambia where I can unfold my wings and fly again; where I can talk to the silent Jinns of fearful Mbulumang; where the haunting sounds of Dankunku and Sambang sabarrs gripped my childhood mind in awe and joy, and where from Koina to Kartong, the winds of change will once again cry out, “Never Again.”