Sins of the Father

Late Lt. Basirou Barrow

An A student; a brilliant mind, a childhood deprived of a father’s love made more complicated by the uncertainties of the events surrounding the death of her father; a father she never knew. Supported by a determined, dedicated and brave mother and step mother who both raised her and a close knit extended family, she would graduate high school and and relocate abroad for further studies. With a degree in biochemistry and bio technology, she keeps aiming higher and is now set to do a PhD in major biology; all while she is still in her twenties.

If you think she is a remarkable young lady, you are not alone. But her story is a tragic one, tragic in the sense down she was let down by a nation presided over by a leadership who’d stifle a child’s potential out of vengeance. Fanta Barrow, the daughter of the late Lt. Basirou Barrow is that young girl; full of potential and daring.

As we watched while her widowed mother and step mother recounted the challenges the family went through, we can’t help but wonder how corrupted one’s soul must be to deprive a brilliant child an opportunity to excel all because the state held a grudge against her family. But, it wouldn’t be so surprising once we reflect on who we are dealing with as head of state – Yahya Jammeh; the man who signed off on throwing a nursing mother into a mosquito infested dungeon with her months old infant daughter for holding a political opinion contrary to his. The same head of state who denied men from being buried in their homeland amongst their kin after they served their country as public officials for decades just because they held dissenting views.

November 11, 1994 was a turning point in The Gambia and almost 25 years later we are still in the dark as to what truly happened. Various witnesses appearing before the commission have not been forthcoming with the truth and it seemed all are busy trying to extricate themselves from that dark chapter in our nation’s history. This is understandable considering The Gambia is a very social country and coming out as a killer or admitting to killing in front of the whole nation is a feat not many can stomach. Being feared and ostracized in a society like ours is a severe punishment.

But here is an opportunity to put self on the back burner and focus on the families who lost loved ones and were never granted the courtesy to have the state in whose employ their loved ones died come out to offer any explanation much less consolation for the loss. This is the time to open up to the families and help them close a chapter that has been concealed from them for almost a quarter century. Mothers, fathers, spouses, orphaned children all left in limbo as to the fate of their loved ones, haunted by the memory of what their loved ones last moments must have been like and still we have the witnesses trying to outdo each other on who can best try to bury the other.

Why is it so hard to take responsibility for our actions? Why do we try so hard to make the other look bad? Why is it so fulfilling to see others suffer just so we can be elevated? Why do we find it so easy to lie to ourselves and to others without remorse? Why do we project wrongs unto others but see ourselves as flawless?

A child, completely innocent of any crimes the father may have committed, made to suffer through life because somebody somewhere convinced himself and others that the child, her siblings and by extension the whole family deserve to endure pain and suffering because they were born into that specific family.

Late Lt. Barrow and one of his children

Today, she has turned out to be an asset to all who can claim her; family, neighbors, community, town, region or country. And sadly, when her country could have elevated her, it tried to suppress her and so she did it all by herself with tears in her eyes and grief in her heart with only her family by her side. Today, she owes her birth country nothing, when she has so much to give. Whose loss is it?

Well done Barrow family, you did well through unimaginable pain and loneliness. You are admired.


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