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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Editorial: Stop Jammeh in his tracks

Yahya Jammeh
Yahya Jammeh
“I will kill anyone who wants to destabilise this country. If you think that you can collaborate with so-called human rights defenders and get away with it, you must be living in a dream world. I will kill you, and nothing will come out of it.

“We are not going to condone people posing as human rights defenders to the detriment of the country. If you are affiliated with any human rights group, be rest assured that your security and personal safety would not be guaranteed by my government. We are ready to kill saboteurs.”

These are the words of The Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, whose government supervised the killing of 40 Ghanaians and other nationals some few years ago. Obviously, this human rights abusers calling himself President, is not happy with the activities of human rights groups who have brought pressure to bear on his government, because of his poor human rights records.

President Jammeh’s threats should be taken seriously, because he is capable of matching his words with action. In 2004, the Gambian government, led by the same Yahya Jammeh, engineered the assassination of a Gambian journalist, Deyda Hydara, in cold blood.

President Jammeh has over the years resorted to arbitrary arrests, detention and torture of citizens, including journalists, which is a gross violation of the right to free expression and access to information, as enshrined in the Gambian Constitution. Meanwhile, this is a man who is supposed to have been democratically elected, after he overthrew Dauda Jawara in a military coup in the early 90s.

To us at The Chronicle, President Yahya Jammeh, who has held power in Gambia for 15 years, is simply getting out of control, and the earlier the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) step in, the better it would be. This is a man who was treated with kid’s gloves when the Gambian killings occurred during his regime.

If ECOWAS had mercilessly meted out the necessary punishment to him when the tragedy happened, instead of treating him with diplomatic niceties, he would not have the guts to be issuing threats to humanitarian and pressure groups who are trying to bring some sanity into The Gambia. Democracy that does not allow constructive criticism, or permit pressure groups such as human rights groups to operate, can never be said to be a proper democracy.

The Gambia does not belong to Yahya Jammeh and his cohorts - it belongs to all Gambians, so the former should stop behaving as if the country was his personal property. President Jammeh must know that every government would be strictly judged according to its performance, and we think he is leaving a very bad governance legacy in Africa.

President Jammeh should not think that he can resort to the illegal killing of his fellow human beings and go scot free. He must learn from the experience of the Sudanese President, Omar Al Bashir, who was charged by the International Criminal Court of Justice for atrocities meted out to the civilian population by his government.

We do not know the educational background of President Yahya Jammeh, but we find it strange when he threatens that anyone who collaborates with the so-called human rights groups in his country would be killed, and that nobody can ask him any questions. He seems to have a limited grasp of the various United Nations conventions. This is a President who caused a comic uproar when he claimed to have found the cure to the dreadful HIV/AIDS disease, and on another occasion set out a witch-hunting team to arrest witches in state institutions, who he claimed were undermining his rule.

The danger of a President running his country, based on superstitious beliefs, ought to concern us all, before he begins to equate himself with God.

It is our hope that the ECOWAS, Africa Union, and the United Nations would treat the threat coming from President Jammeh as a serious one.

Democracy goes with freedom of the press, and respect for human rights among others, but if President Jammeh is not prepared to tolerate any of this, then he is not fit to be called the President of a democratic country like The Gambia.

Credit: Chronicle

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