Gambians Should Say No to Dictatorship - Witness Tells TRRC

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Banjul, Gambia

Expert witness Professor Abdoulie Saine on Tuesday, 21st January 2020 has called on all Gambians to fight against self-perpetuating rule and dictatorship.

Professor Abdoulaye Saine in his concluding remarks before the TRRC has called on Gambians not to allow leaders to overstay in power again. Saine said both ex-Presidents Jawara and Jammeh overstayed in the office of the President.

He appeared before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) for the second day on Tuesday, 21st January 2020 to discuss his research about the 22 - year dictatorial regime of former President Jammeh and Jawara's 30 - year self-perpetuated rule.

The Gambia has only three leaders for the past half-century. They were ex-Presidents Sir Dawda K. Jawara and Yahya Jammeh and President Adama Barrow. The laws of the Gambia are such that it does not provide for a term limit for the presidency.

In his deliberation, the scholar said the rights violations under Jammeh's misrule were happening at the level of the State and it was also supported and perpetuated by organisations and groups. He said these groups and organisations included religious leaders and groups like the judiciary and the bar, clandestine groups including the youth movement group dubbed the "Green Boys", the army and other security apparatus including the police among others.

He said many Gambians were complicit of Jammeh's atrocities either directly or indirectly. He said those who participated in committing those crimes were direct complicit while those who were silent where indirect complicit. He said the culture of silence was one thing that emboldened Jammeh to do what he was doing.

He said the Supreme Islamic Council (SIC) was hijacked as his tool to dictate his religious ideology and to attack the scholars who opposed him. Saine said SIC was preaching ideologies that leaders (authorities) shouldn't be challenged and therefore, the Council was complicit of the regime.

"The Gambians should begin to interrogate the role of religion. Religion has a fundamental role in society but it has been misused. This has a devastating effect in the society," he said.

He said the Bar Association should be prepared to take its prominent role in shaping the democratisation process of the country. He said under Jammeh's rule, the association was almost silent and the lawyers were living in fear.

He said the trade unions must be ready to take the lead role as they were doing during the days of the struggle for our independence.

He said all that Jammeh was doing was to remain in power and he could do whatever it takes to be in power.

Cognisant of the important role of the media, Saine said Jammeh decided to rule by repressive laws against media freedom because he knew if the media was free he wouldn't have stayed for 22 years. He said Jammeh used to arrest politicians and suppressed political activities in the country. On the civil service, he said Jammeh shifted it to a tribal control as well as was in control of the National Assembly.

Saine recommended that the army should be small and the soldiers should be trained on democracy and human rights. He said the army must understand their role in a democratic state.

Still on Jammeh, the learned scholar said the former President was driven by lust for power. He said Jammeh wanted to control and maintain power. He added Jammeh was influenced by ex-Presidents Jerry Rawlings of Ghana and Sani Abacha of Nigeria among others.

"He (Jammeh) took power with so much importance that he will do whatever to hold on to power," he said.

He said Jammeh used the law and made amendments to whatever suits him to ensure that he remains in power.

"The human rights violations were calculated for his lust for power and he perceived himself as invincible as long as Allah is on his side. He was a classical and political realist," Saine said.

He explained that the state's primary objective under Jammeh was to maintain repressive rule and ensure that Jammeh remains in power. He said Jammeh used the NIA to carry out arrest and detention of several Gambians.

"In their failure, the APRC NAMs betrayed the Gambians. There was little debate over bills and they were just an extension of Jammeh because they were doing what favoured their regime," he said.

In the end, he said all branches of the government were complicit and they were making decisions that were favourable to the regime.

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