Protests, The Gambia, Torture, Yaya Jammeh

When Peaceful Protest Desrves Death

Peace is only sustained by justice. Justice is ensured by the equal treatment of all before the law. For far too long have we, as a people endured under the yoke of tyranny and oppression. Each time an act of injustice took place, tempers flare and a call to arms is sounded from certain quarters, but thankfully cooler heads have prevailed and chaotic situations have been avoided. But everyone’s endurance has a limit, there comes a time when even the most cowered individual stands his ground and refuses to be pushed around. When that time comes, two things are at stake; his dignity as a human person or his freedom.
That time has come for Gambians, some would say it came and went several times. Hiding behind religion/faith and calling for peace and stability gets to a point where it becomes hypocritical. Such calls it can be argued, are borne out of cowardice, fear, insincerity, selfishness or some other human deficiency rather than a sincere call to maintain peace and stability.
This has sadly been the norm in The Gambia for far too long; whenever the powers that be abuse their power, only a few point out such abuses, the majority stays mute or indifferent, content with their false sense of security. When the excesses of the authorities become too much to bear the few that have been speaking out all along decides to take action, the silent majority comes out screaming peace. The hypocrisy on display in this scenario is that of ignoring the excesses of the tyrant and condemning the protestations of the afflicted. Even though you deny it, you are siding with the oppressor. Do you see why hiding behind religion to call for restraint is not heeded, but worse shows the hypocrisy that is being masked?
We have seen time and again, people refuting claims that a wrong has been committed consistently and endeavor to make their position seem neutral and objective. Propaganda is nothing short of manipulating facts to suit a certain narrative. Here is a system that consistently acts with heavy handedness each time their position is criticized and hides behind national security claims to justify their oppressive stance, little wonder we hear claims of “Gambians are peace loving”, “Let’s pray for peace”, etc. Peace; peace; peace. The absence of war or chaos does not mean the presence of peace. Peace and justice go hand in hand; one does not survive without the other, only temporarily.
If you are writing posts calling for peace, ask yourself the following:
What do you mean by peace? 
Is it the violence that you are afraid may ensue from people taking to the streets or the disruption of the order of society?
Is there a justifiable call to protest? 
The protesters claim is that citizens of The Gambia were exercising a constitutional right and got arrested without breaking any laws and their are claims of torture to death. Is it okay that three weeks on the government officials have so far remained mute as to what happened to the arrestees or even to confirm if they have anyone in custody. Isn’t that in itself disrespectful? 
Is Mr. Jammeh or those he entrust with positions of authority infallible?  
Our belief and that of every sane person is that nobody is perfect. Despite your best sincere efforts, mistakes are always a part of human efforts. If mistakes occur, is it just that the citizens, whose lives will be affected by such mistakes, express their dissatisfaction and offer alternative approaches? That is one aspect of democracy, FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION; it’s not a western concept or ideology. Because citizens demand it does not mean that they are being instigated to destabilize the country by some foreign power. Where such attempts at dissention are heavy handedly cracked down on, tyranny is the driving force behind such repression. Tyranny simply means refusing to uphold the law that guarantees the rights you fight against.
However you look at it, the opposition parties, the UDP in this case, are not out to destabilize the country. For far too long has the government treated the members of that party with heavy handedness and impunity and each time they exercised restraint, but taking the life of an innocent person who posed no threat to anyone and expecting the same level of restraint is unrealistic, even you know that. Femi Peters was jailed for using a PA system without permit, an unfair jail term; the party refrained from making a big deal of it leading some of its supporters and critics to label them as cowardly and irrelevant. Amadou Sanneh’s case is still fresh in our minds, as a top executive of the main opposition, he still languishes in jail without any protest from his party, and they respected the law even though everyone knew the law was manipulated. Kanyiba Kanyi is still unaccounted for, Ousman Ceesay was shot and killed in Tallinding during a welcome parade for the opposition convoy with no one held to account.
The list goes on and on. Each time, the UDP stood by the law to have their rights respected, where they were betrayed by the very laws they believe in, they remained faithful to the law. Even now, they are not breaking any laws by taking to the streets. The constitution guarantees the right to peaceful protest, but we all know how the exercise of this right is being treated.
Such repressive nature can only go on for so long and here we stand with the finish line in sight. It has been constantly peddled by the administration that those who oppose the current regime are unpatriotic, peddlers of tribalism, troublemakers, and agents of foreign powers bent on seizing the peace and stability of little Gambia. And the sad fact is that the supporters of the APRC buy the storyline hook, line and sinker. 
Truth is, those who oppose are citizens too, with rights guaranteed under the constitution. The peace you so cherish can only be sustained in an environment of respect and tolerance. Respect for dissenting views, accepting that we are all different and have differing views on issues. But each time such brute force and heavy handedness meets peaceful demands for reform, a little is chipped away from that peace and eventually the repressed masses will rise up and demand what is rightfully theirs – their dignity.
Whether you support the government or not, such acts of wanton disregard for the lives of individuals should be condemned by all, especially when those murdered in cold blood only committed the “crime” of daring to speak out against their unfair treatment.
It is hard to figure out what approach to take to address the issues facing our nation collectively especially when talking to the sympathizers of the regime. Do we speak to their emotions? Do we invoke reason? Do we speak from a religious pulpit? All these approaches have been tried, yet the reaction is the same – Jammeh was right, the victims were wrong. It is especially sad when young men and women, who by all accounts are smart, brilliant, articulate and holding so much promise for the future of our beloved country are the ones standing up to defend acts of repression. With so much information at our finger tips, these acts can only be deemed contemptible if not entirely selfish. One thing is for certain, they are insincere.

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