interviewBy Sekou B. Nyassi
Malick Jones: Your Excellency as we speak the European Union is beset with its own internal problems. David Cameroon is opting for a referendum before they join the EU, Greace might be ..... out of the European Union, because the economy is not working, the marriage between Angela Merkel and Monsieur Hollande is still being patched.
But on the 4 of January the Gambia Government and the European Union set on EU Article 8 Dialogue and they made a sort of recommendation with a time table asking your government among other things, or a commitment of your government to allow for the free operation of the independent media in the Gambia and so as other media related matters. They also asked for the uplifting of the moratorium on the death penalty and many of the things of which you have seen and have been able to dealt with. But we have seen that the people of the Gambia have been judicious enough to come to say that this is not about the president this is about us. The European Union is actually attacking the sovereignty of the Gambia. Let us take to the streets to manifest our grievances against the European Union.
I would not ask you to talk about what the European Union has said during your Gambia Government meeting but the people of the Gambia have voiced their point to the EU and the instruction. Because this is an instruction.
President Jammeh: Well, I will answer your question by asking you a question. If you Malick Jones, are you Malick Jones' views contrary to the views of the Gambia people?
Malick Jones: Not at all Sir.
President Jammeh: Well, that answers your question. But with regards to Britain or whatever country has, or whatever problem within the EU, I am alone concern with what the EU wants the Gambia to do. Anything else is their internal matter which I am not in a position to say anything about it. What I have to say about is their policy towards not only the Gambia but towards Africa, that is where I have business in. If your views are in line with the view of the majority of the Gambian people, then that has answered your question.
Malick Jones: Is it now time Mr. President that Africans say, "look our continent is our problem, we the Africans should solve our problems. So the EU have a problem, Africans should not say their problems. So why should African leaders allow EU or other countries in the West try to do with African problems?"
President Jammeh: Well, I think the answer to your question depends on the individual leaders, what they represent and what they stand for. If I am here to enrich myself and the West to get all the natural resources of the Gambia to the detriment of the Gambian people, so that my children can have free visa and the permanent stay in their countries, and when I retired or when I leave office I am free to go there with my loot, then I would do what they are saying. Unfortunately for them, I am born African, I would die African and I would be buried in Africa. And I stand for Africa, I live for Africa and I will die for Africa. I am an African, I will live an African and die an African.
So, you see, the question is don't we have free press? We have. But what is the definition of freedom. If it is freedom where you take a pen and paper and you call yourself a journalist, you can accuse Yaya Jammeh or any other person for that matter wrongly, insult him and get away with it, that is not freedom. There are freedoms and responsibilities. You are free as long as your freedom does not encroach on the freedom and lives of others.
To say an independent press, do we have an independent press in the Gambia? Yes and no. Because when you look at the majority of the press in this country, or let say newspapers and journalists, how many of them are independent? How many newspapers portray government achievements? If you are an independent newspaper where government goes wrong you should write it, where government goes right you should also write it. Now, we have the press, and we have laws to govern the same way that even policemen that are supposed to enforce laws, they are also govern by laws that would make sure they don't violate the law. Nobody is above the law.
So independent press I don't know what do they mean by independent press, but I remember in 1994, there were only two private radio stations; Radio Syd and Radio One FM. Today how many radio stations do we have if Gambia is not free? But also how many independent press are they allowing in the EU member countries? Is there not websites they are closing on daily basis and with the people that live in their jurisdiction that they know they subscribe to the Islamic views been arrested as suspected terrorists, blocking one thing after the other? Almost every month they arrest so-called terrorists. How many of them have been convicted?
Your remember some Pakistanis students who were arrested, one was later believed that they were planting a bomb only to be released after almost two years in detention because they have no evidence against him. Now Muslim clerics in most EU member states, you don't talk about jihad, you would be arrested or deported. Let's say a Muslim were to stand and defend Islam if you are against this and that, you will be deported or sent to jail, when freedom of religion and worship is sacrosanct in any civilized society. Now if you go to any Western country and you said there was no holocaust, you can go to jail for that. But if you stand there and say there was no slavery, they will clap for you. Now, you put on a veil as a Muslim in certain countries you either take it off or you are fined or you go to jail. The EU has said nothing about that. We talk about religion, only ...... for institutions whose activities are against God, against religion, there is no way we can work together because this is a country where whatever we do is in respect of Almighty Allah and in respect of our religion. Who invented democracy? As we speak, it's the Greeks. Now, what was the rest of you doing when the Greeks were practicing democracy? Tell me a country in Europe where the Greek empire imposed their democracy or their values; none. Now whereas the Greeks were practicing democracy, the rest of you were invading African countries and occupying them.
When you look at a particular revolution in Europe, one EU member state is closer to the slogan were Equality, Fraternity and Justice. After their so-called revolution for them to be free from monarchy, they decided to come to Africa and colonized us with disastrous consequences. Now who are the Europeans to tell us about democracy and freedom? It is an insult for any European countries to teach Africa Democracy. Africans are better democrats than anybody because we stayed in our continent. They left their countries because they were hungry, they came, we welcome them as friends because we are members of the human race and they decided to come with guns to colonise us and not only did they go beyond colonialism but they end up capturing the cream of Africa to make them slaves. That has greatly underdeveloped Africa because it is the cream of Africa, the farmers, the producers, the future of Africa that was being taken and sold into slavery, just to industrialise Europe and get them out of poverty. So now tell me, during colonialism, before 1950, which party existed in the Gambia? They were here for four hundred years, how many newspapers were in the Gambia if you are now turning around and say freedom of the press and independent journalists? When the British were here, give me the names of two newspapers that are Gambian owned and were critical to colonialism and its existence. Also for four hundred years, name four doctors that were trained by the colonial government. And I challenge the British to give me the names of Gambians that were trained by the colonial government to become doctors, scientists, and whatever. Gambians were only relegated standards and we end being a clerk, no matter what you are.
Now if you know that there cannot be good governance without education, there cannot be democracy without education too. There cannot be food self sufficiency without education. How is it practically possible that for four hundred years of British colonialism, they built only one high school that is the Armitage high school. You cannot also develop a country without a healthy nation, and for four hundred years the British left us with only two hospitals.
Now who said that is a better democracy? Dictator Yaya Jammeh who have developed Gambia in 18 years or the democratic colonialists who occupied and exploited this country for four hundred years given us the only one high school that was built by the colonial masters. They didn't even talk about liberalizing the market to enhance trade and investment. They didn't talk about agricultural inputs, or what we should do to improve our agriculture for us to live a healthy, self sufficient in food security, live in prosperity. They did not talk about improving the health infrastructure, or equipments so that we will not be sending our patients to Senegal or other places for treatment. They did not talk about out road conditions; they did not talk about electricity. They know that we want to build a university campus for the University of the Gambia at Faraba Banta, they didn't talk about that. All what they talk about is independent media. What do they mean by independent media? What percentage of the population are journalists? And they talk about improving the livelihood of criminals. So it seems that all they are interested is to enhance our downfall, which we will not accept. Their agenda is very clear and my position also is very clear. I am also grateful that Gambians are conscious of what their intentions are and when you look at conflicts in Africa, these are all proxy wars. All the natural resources which Africa has is a problem to them. If we don't give them what they want, the way they want it, you are a dictator. And for some would say all of a sudden the people are rising as a result of abject poverty, are able to get very expensive weaponry to fight the government and these are people that are fighting abject poverty and now are able to get multi- million dollars costing military equipment to fight government. Where do they get the money from? And one thing that is also interesting. Western media are able to locate these people, so in a crowd they can tell you who is anti government and they interview. How do they know? Because these are the agents they sent in the form of journalists in the form of so many things. They said human right defenders. I am not aware of any human rights defender in this country who has gone according to the laws of this country and is in jail.
But all those people they send destabilize will the pay the highest price. The agenda is very clear and our position is very clear. I am not a fool. I cannot be blindfolded.
Thank God Gambians have seen. So the bottom line is with regards to your question, some of us are working for them and that is why some of them you will never hear any Western Media saying bad things about them. You remember that in Western Media, a dictator is either an African or Asian. A white man cannot be a dictator, forgetting that for four hundred years, they were the colonial masters and the slave masters.
So if a colonial master is not a dictator, a slave master was not as dictator, then we wonder what the definition of dictator is.
Malick Jones: Your Excellency, recently your government announced a four day working schedule for the course of the week. It did not imply any break. Although I know for one reason, I don't know why people don't seem to take that one hour break which was between the 8 to 4 schedule. But now they are going to work from 8 o'clock in the morning to up to 6 o'clock. What is the rationale behind this new schedule? And does it imply that they would have a break?
President Jammeh: What we said was very clear at the mere fact that is already as non working days for predominantly Muslims countries. Now Sunday is for Christians, Saturdays for Jews and Fridays for Muslims and we work on Fridays, why? So we are predominantly Muslim country and we are worshiping God the Almighty Allah and so Friday as Muslims we are not going to work but to worship the Almighty Allah the same way Christians and Jews worship Allah on Saturdays and Sundays. Now, one would ask: "why are we not bringing Saturday as a working day, because in other countries they may not work on Fridays but they may work on Saturday?" The reason being it will interrupt the weekend. If it is for amusement I don't mind the interruption, but this will allow all of us, those who are serious to go back to the farm.
Now if you closed on Thursday, let's say you live in Fatoto, as an example, by the time you closed at 6 O, clock you can leave for Fatoto, you will arrive may be Friday morning. The whole Friday you can work. For Saturday and Sunday you can work on your farm. So or if you reach Fatoto early Friday morning you can go to the farm depending on whether you are a Muslim or not. So you look at how many hours you work on Friday and you distributed those hours within the first experience and so you are not losing the hours that you are supposed to work for Friday. So it allows us to be truly Muslims by respecting the Friday that all Muslims are supposed to be devoted to the worship of Almighty Allah.
But also it enhances all of us participating in agriculture. So no time is lost because for the worship of Allah, nothing can be compensated for that. Secondly, those of you who don't believe in God and pretend to be Muslims or Christians, it has given you a longer day if you are not lazy to work on your farm and produce what you eat. That is the rationale.
So only for the days, the hours that you work on Friday, we took that and distributed it between to Thursday.
Malick Jones: Your Excellency thank you very much for grating us the interview.
President Jammeh: Thank you.