Editorial: Another Coup In The Gambia?

Why The Army Is A Wrong Place For The Mandingka Ethnic Group?

Officers of the men and women of The Gambia Armed Forces-most importantly those belonging to the Mandingka tribe should open their eyes. President Jammeh is posed to jail and kill potential Mandingka officers, be it commissioned or non commissioned officers. From 1994 to date, Mandingka officers account for the greatest number of soldiers to be arrested, killed and in some instances exiled on bogus allegations of coup plot.

Just this past week, a coup plot was reportedly uncovered by the NIA. Most of the soldiers arrested were Mandingkas. No Jolla was arrested, leading to speculations that President Jammeh had a special agenda against the Mandingkas. That he wants to make sure that the army becomes a no go area for Mandingkas. That, for Jammeh to rule comfortably, he wants to get rid of long term and short term potential threats in the military.

It’s an undisputable fact that Mandingkas constitutes the greatest part of our population. Before the illegal birth of the Second Republic, Mandingkas used to man key positions in government. They hired Jammeh’s family clan as maids, watchmen, garden boys, and storekeepers.

Jammeh’s tribe were marginalized under the First Republic. Very few Jollas were opportune to attain University Education in those days. They took backseat on issues relating to national matters. Few Jolla folks send their kids to school then. Farming and cultural entertainment was their favorite hobbies.

Jollas are known to be disciplined, honest, respectful and hardworking. Even though, we disagree with President Jammeh politically, we deem it necessary to give the devil its due. Jollas cannot be condemned, penalized or disgraced because of the blunder of one individual in the person of Yahya Jammeh. There are decent and God fearing Jollas in The Gambia. These Jollas are not in support of Jammeh’s nonsense. They would be the first to disown him if he was removed today.

Admitted, Jollas were grossly underrepresented in Government during the First Republic. There are numerous reasons responsible for such political marginalization.

Innocent Jollas were unjustly punished or deprived jobs because of their alleged relationship with Kukoi Samba Sanyang during the First Republic. Most of these Jollas have no relationship with Kukoi. The mere fact that they shared the same last name with Kukoi does not mean that they had biological relationship with the rebel fugitive.

Access to promotion and highly paid jobs was also a problem. The First Republic under the leadership of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara operates under divide and rule politics. It favored certain class and marginalized the rest.

Folks like Yahya Jammeh joined the Gendarmerie out of desperation. At the time, this was the only job he can secure, because the old guard PPP preserved office jobs and Scholarships for their loved ones. The army was seen as an area for the underprivileged, the uneducated and stubborn boys.

What was considered as a backward profession had turned out to be the most lucrative field today. Soldiers are well respected in The Gambia, unlike what used to obtain during First Republic. They drive expensive cars and owned luxurious houses. You must be very lucky to be admitted into the army today if you don’t have Jolla backing. Jolla folks at the GAF Head Quarters and the NIA determined who is qualified and unqualified to be recruited into the army. As long as you are a Jolla, you don’t need to worry about background checks. Your admission into the army is guaranteed provided that you have a clean bill of health. They sometimes give concessions to sick Jollas by enrolling them into the military.

Like, other marginalized Jollas, Yahya Jammeh too had little hitches when he applied to enroll into the National Gendarmerie. Issues relating to his Gambian Citizenship was raised at the time. He was also suspected of having family ties with Kukoi. Thanks to the former Tourism Minister Alkali James Gaye, Jammeh was enrolled into the Gendarmerie. The NIA inherited NSS files touching on Jammeh’s Citizenship. Ask the then NSS Director General Kebba Ceesay and 13 Badjie they will tell you something about that.

The above information is provided as a backgrounder regarding the history of tribalism in The Gambia. The PPP too was guilty of tribalism and nepotism. The PPP was for the rich and not for the poor. The Party was insensitive to the plight of the suffering masses. Their primary preoccupation was to empower their loved ones to the expense of the Gambian masses.

To date, there are unpaid Government loans given to the former PPP Ministers and public officials. They used such loans to build luxurious houses, buy nice cars and sent their children for overseas studies. We can comfortably say that the PPP was not a genuine political outfit. Thanks to the PPP, Gambians are today exposed to untold sufferings.

Jammeh is following the footsteps of President Jawara by appointing his close friends, relatives and loved ones to key positions. The only difference between Jammeh and Jawara is that the latter was kind of bit reasonable on power sharing. Jawara never appointed square pegs in round wholes to run key Government functions, but Jammeh does. Jawara never killed the Jolla ethnic group, but Jammeh does. He killed his own tribe men, Mandingkas, Wollofs, Fullas and virtually all tribes in this country. Mandingkas accounts for the greatest number of victims who suffered under Jammeh’s rule. They will continue to suffer as long as Yahya is the President of this country. He perceives Mandingkas as a stumbling block to his long term desire to rule this country for life.

As the situation appears, the army is a wrong place for the Mandingka ethnic group. It’s a suicidal area for Mandingkas for that matter. We will not advise any Mandingka school leaver to join the army because Jammeh will prematurely end your services.

The only way forward is to end Jammeh’s rule and restore democracy and political freedoms in The Gambia. President Jawara practicing nepotism does not give license to Jammeh to repeat his predecessor’s past mistakes. The Mandingka officers in the army deserve to live and run key positions in the army.

If the current tribalism trend is not stopped, we foresee a Gambia, where the army would be mainly of the Jollas ethnic group. A Gambia, where tribes such as Mandingkas shall continue to fall prey of social and political injustices. A Gambia, where Civil disobedience is unstoppable.

Rwanda went through the same political climate. Guess what? When the oppressed masses could no longer withstand the oppression, they resort to rebellion. The Gambia too is not immune from rebellion. Jammeh is sitting on a time bomb. He should stop the tribal discrimination before this country is thrown into a total turmoil. Another coup in The Gambia? Time will tell!! We rest our case.

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