There were rumors and then dismissal of the rumors. There were names, but only of shadows in the dark. There were screams unheard, there were gasps muffled by plastic bags. There was darkness, loneliness, stillness, and death; lots of death! All shrouded in secrecy, done under the cover of darkness and all of it vehemently denied to an unsuspecting public.
All this in a country where laws exist, to charge, try then jail or even execute suspects found guilty of crimes. But this was no ordinary country; this was a country where one man declared ownership of the land and all that it held within including the people and how they live their lives. One man who declared himself immortal and vowed to rule for a billion years; that country; The Gambia and that man Yaya Jammeh!
A state of fear grabbed the nation for over two decades and for good reason. People were clubbed to death for daring to stand by their oath of office administered by Yaya Jammeh himself. Husbands, sons, wives, aunties, mothers, daughters and uncles all dragged in the dead of night, strangled or suffocated and their bodies dumped in wells and shallow graves scattered around the country from Kombo to Foni and even across the border into Cassamance.
A band of men, willing and at the ready waiting for orders that will point out their would be victims or have the victims delivered by state operatives to be taken to their killing grounds like cattle to the slaughter, only difference being that cattle fared better. The lucky ones got shot; but how lucky are you while you’re sitting helplessly and bound when a few feet away you hear gun shots with full knowledge that the bullets just ended a live and you would be next. The footsteps drawing closer, the fear elevating and you prayed and hoped for a miracle, even pleaded between sobs but who seeks mercy from the merciless? And then they came for you, the death squad and marched you to the spot, a bullet in the head and you fell.
They cared not if their victims were in fact dead or just incapacitated by the assassin’s bullet. What are the chances that someone fell into a ditch with a fatal wound but still breathing and alert, unable to move or scream and other bodies falling on him one by one, how long did they survive like that waiting and wishing for death’s cold embrace?
Families searching high and low, children deprived of meals because their breadwinner is missing. The victims left in their wake wives and fathers, who’d walk the streets from police station to detention center to prison gates; looking and searching for a loved one, fearing the worst, never knowing the truth. All the while, they would be rubbing shoulders with the killers of their loved ones. These same killers would go out of their way to stop and exchange pleasantries with their victims’ families. The one thing they swore to never do was to utter a word about that which they have full knowledge of and are accomplices to while leaving these families to live life with worry and anxiety, walking around with heavy hearts and empty souls not knowing who to turn to.
They would even visit their victims’ homes like an old friend would do. In fact they were friends; some friend indeed! It is as if they derived pleasure at the sight of misery and suffering.
The sad fact is that in fact a great deal of satisfaction was derived from watching these innocent victims’ families wallow in misery from pain inflicted by the same perpetrators who find their suffering amusing.
The sadist-in-chief, Yaya Jammeh; the elected head of state, having sanctioned the strangulation of his own close relative made a mockery of his widow when she came to him for help. Imagine a woman paralyzed by grief; literally, unable to walk without aid and waiting her days out in her hut trying to hold on to what little dignity she was left with, only for her to be asked to come out of her hut on crutches to seek assistance from the same man who put her in that condition in the first place. That man, was the President of a nation.
Instead of help, all she received was ridicule, when she was asked by the President to let go of her crutches and stand of her own accord. She couldn’t and fell to the ground only for Yaya Jammeh, the president to double over in laughter at the sight of that poor woman’s helplessness. He turned around, got into his vehicle and drove off leaving her to her own means. The woman nursed her humiliation in silence until relief came to her in death.
Such is the sadistic callousness of Yaya Jammeh. In our culture, that widow would have been his responsibility by virtue of family relations; in fact he would have been required to marry her to ensure her needs were taken care of, instead he found it more fulfilling to use her as an object of ridicule and bemusement.
I am ashamed for my country!