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The Gambia: ECOWAS Vice President, Edward Singateh, more than just a political assassin

By Mathew K Jallow

It is more than a mismatch. It’s a misfit; pure and simple. At a time the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is assuming a much deeper meaning and purpose to Gambians than to nationals of any other member country, the appointment of Edward Singateh to a senior ECOWAS position feels like a profound sense of defeat. This also harkens back to an article few months ago, which lambasted ECOWAS for its lack of clear membership qualifying standards as prerequisite for joining the body. And as globalization nudges countries and geographic regions into establishing political, economic and cultural partnerships, the European Union has risen as the gold standard for establishing human rights as a benchmark of its member qualifying criteria. In contrasts, the African Union and ECOWAS operate blindly and seemingly without the benefit of guiding moral principle to highlight the philosophical creed of the institutions’ administrative procedures. The appointment of a murderer, Edward Singateh, to the ECOWAS, is the subtext of what happens when due diligence is not exercised in the recruitment and hiring processes. The shocking news of Mr Singateh’s appointment to a senior ECOWAS position is not unlike kicking someone when they are already down, something the mad dog, Edward Singateh, made a career doing, as a member of Mr. Yahya Jammeh’s murderous military regime. Mr Singateh’s cruelly, viciousness and disregard for human life has earned him notoriety as a butcher, incomparable to anyone else in the dying regime. Quite frankly, without a proper vetting process, it defies logic how ECOWAS consented to appoint a person whose brutal instincts make Yahya Jammeh cringe with disgust. Edward Singateh, an unapologetic assassin, who carries himself around as some kind of untouchable, is feared by junior officers in the military as someone capable of animalistic savagery. Like his boss, Mr. Yahya Jammeh, Edward Singateh lacks deep cultural connections to Gambia, and this identity crisis is likely haunting him to an extent where he is obliged to resort to violence in marking his territorial boundary and impress on his full-fledged citizenship.

Edward Singateh first left a horrific and unenviable impression on Gambians in November 1994, overseeing the cruel execution of nine senior military officers; Lieuts. Basirou Barrow, Abdoulie (Dot) Faal, Gibril Seye, Second Lieuts. Bakary Manneh, Buba Jammeh, Momodou L. Darboe, Officer-Cadet Sillah, Warrant-Officer Nyang, Cpl Bassiru Camara, and so many other junior military officers, but it was far from being his most gruesome act of violence against Gambians. In June 1995, Gambians woke up to the tragic news of the assassination and incineration of the body of the Gambia’s civilian Finance Minister; Koro Ceesay. The late Koro Ceesay’s hands were handcuffed behind his back, placed at the back of his government issue Mercedes Benz, which was doused with gasoline and set ablaze.  And when the embers finally died down, only the charred remains of a once popular and upcoming technocrat were visible. It was shocking, to say the least. It was as if everyone was tongue-tied upon hearing the sad and horrific news, and Edward and his brother, Peter Singateh, have since been identified as the criminals responsible for this mindless barbarity. But, the full extent of Edward Singateh’s complicity in the litany of state sanctioned political assassinations in the Gambia, since 1994, will not be known until there is change of government. Additionally, Edward Singateh prides himself as a legal practitioner, but the law degree he earned from Gambia’s degree mill, the so-called University of the Gambia, is not worth the paper it is written on. But, Edward Singateh’s hiring to a prestigious position he does not deserve or qualify for is emblematic of the pervasive bureaucratic amateurism in the Gambia, where as many as seventy percent of the country’s foreign university graduates fled to the safety of near and distant lands. Yahya Jammeh is ardently anti-intellectual; preferring and being more comfortable surrounding himself with the barely educated and subservient, willing to wag their tails and bark at his command. Edward Singateh is the product of the circumstances in which Gambian finds itself; circumstances he engineered, which will eventually consume him.  

Edward Singateh is very much an integral part of the political orthodoxy, whose weapon of choice is the violence has plunged the Gambia into a political morass and an unbearable dystopic feeling. The appointment of Mr Singateh, to ECOWAS, at this crucial time of political upheaval in Gambia, is suspect, considering the scheduled December, 2016. In 2011, after a thorough fact-finding sojourn in Gambia, James Victor Gbeho, former ECOWAS President determined that the Gambia’s electoral process was rigged, perverted and skewed in favor of the party of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC). Hon. James Gbeho’s thorough understanding of the Gambia’s subversive political environment and latent opposition oppression, declined to send election observers to a deeply flawed electoral process, and which would have undermined the objectives of ECOWAS. By roundly declining to send election observers to Gambia, ECOWAS had rejected the legitimization of the regime by participating in the much hyped observer status. Without being cynical, it would appear that positioning of the murderous Edward Singateh to a highly visible ECOWAS position is likely related to the planned December, 2016 elections, in particular, given the pressure for Yahya Jammeh to step down, after twenty-one years of killings, torture, forced disappearances and exodus from Gambia. Edward Singateh is intensely unpopular in Gambia and among Gambians, which makes his ascension to a highly visible ECOWAS that more depressing to the Gambian people. Yahya Jammeh’s parochialism and Edward Singateh’s Machiavellian ruthlessness have complemented each other throughout the years and facilitated Yahya Jammeh’s long duration in power. In ECOWAS, Edward Singateh’s overarching task as an apologist for Gambia’s regime will play out, as it recently did in an interview denying reality and downplaying the suppression of free speech and onerous human rights violations. The next six months promise to be challenging to the regime as Gambians clamor for political change, and the role Edward Singateh will play in insulating his co-criminal boss from possible ECOWAS sanctions, may determine Mr Yahya Jammeh’s fate.

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