Celebrating Sana Sabally

Sana B Sabally

We were split on the reactions towards Sana B Sabally’s testimony at the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). Whatever one’s inclinations are, it’ll help to admit one thing…

He did a rare thing; an uncommon attitude of taking responsibility no matter how bad one’s actions were. Now with us it is common to be in denial, to scapegoat Satan or someone else, to blame fate or circumstance. Anything but being accountable.

Sana had a reputation from his days in the army to his junta days, and when he showed up at the TRRC, he confirmed to all that in fact he is who he was perceived to be. Not saying everything he said was factual or truthful, but we all heard of Sana the fearless, Sana the ruthless, Sana the straight shooter, Sana the “no nonsense guy” and more.

Regarding his reaction to the November 11th alleged coup, we learnt that in fact he is ruthless. Regarding his fearlessness, we now know that had it not been for him, the planned coup of July 22nd 1994 would not have proceeded, not that that’s a good thing but he was determined to face the consequences than be dissuaded.

The tortures he endured yet remained unbroken, waltzing into the Gambia despite all his notoriety to testify at the TRRC all went to affirm that in fact this guy is who he was rumored to be. Now saying any of these is not to give any credit to Sana either, rather to set the spolight on what his testimony brought to light. Anything that is at odds with tradition, accepted norms and standards stands out.

Sana admitting to all that was thrown his way was unusual, no matter how cruel, no matter how inhuman his actions were, the focus is not on them per se, the focus was on his admission to all those wrongs when we know for certain that an overwhelming majority of us will excuse any wrong no matter how trivial. Like Alagie Martin saying the prisoners were “mercilessly beaten” but that’s not torture since beating is a norm. He was excusing his actions as normal. Everybody does it so why am I being cast as a monster for something that everybody does was essentially what he was saying. He refused to willingly take responsibility.

Sana’s testimony was a lesson for all, we need to ditch the culture of cowardice and own up to our actions. That’s all it is; cowardice. We are fearful of the consequences of our actions yet we do them hoping they’d stay in the dark. When they come to light we duck for cover behind denials, excuses, scapegoating and every other potential shield but coming out to face our conduct is the very last resort we seek if we ever get there even.

We don’t want to look bad in the eyes of those who care about us, we don’t want to come across as a disappointment because we project one image in public and in private we’re the very opposite of who we portray ourselves to be in public. An affirmation of Bob Marley’s lyrics that “if night should come to day, a lot of people would run away.”

There’s too much hypocrisy, insincerity and double standards and we go out of our way to justify blatant wrongs just because it serves some selfish end or because it makes someone we don’t like look bad in the eyes of those who hold them in esteem.

Look at our attitudes towards each other, the negative stereotypes we hold of each other that we seek to affirm at the slightest opportunity. For example, in our political affiliations certain actions are expected of certain groupings. Instead of seeing it as a Gambian with bad conduct, we deny that such is in fact common among us but only nurtured among certain groups. I will elaborate.

Barrow’s immediate hope of alliances in the political field is naturally within the UDP, the people he historically associated with. Some UDP MPs have switched allegiances and are all for entrenching Barrow and what’s the reaction; “what else do you expect from UDP?” In essence saying a character like Barrow can only be found within the UDP, a character like the greedy MPs can only be found within the UDP and God forbid a non UDP personality emerges with the same flawed character or worse (like within the NRP), the conduct becomes one of an anomaly, a stand alone case that has nothing to do with known affiliations but one of individual inclinations.

Indeed, we are all wired differently, but when distasteful conduct is witnessed, instead of blaming the culprit and condemning their conduct, we blame it on a wider culture which inadvertently makes the culprit feel safe in their conduct.

Ask any of those brown-envelope-receiving MPs and listen to their justifications none of which will acknowledge that they fell short of the expectations of their electorate and chose a path to appeasement to the president for personal gain. “We need to put politics aside and focus on the National Development Plan, we’re helping the president towards the NDP” is their stale line of argument. Everyone knows it’s greed and insincerity but they’re in denial.

We have seen exactly the same conduct at the TRRC, soldier/perpetrator upon soldier/perpetrator now comes to the TRRC blaming their ill-conduct on the “situation then” or their youthful age instead of admitting to the wrongs they committed borne out of fear, cowardice or for gain or recognition. “It’s not them, it’s the environment that they are in.” “It’s not the MPs, it’s the UDP that encourages it.” – DENIAL

There is a kind of therapy to telling the truth, to admitting wrong. So when Sana showed up and was willing to admit to all he was accused of, albeit defending some, especially the Nov. 11th 1994 massacre of soldiers. He showed a rare character, one we’re not used to and so we were impressed and some celebrated him as a hero. Maybe his supposed professional training gave him an edge over others, an understanding that the first step to healing is acceptance of a problem, we fail at that.


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