Opinion

The bad idea of twinning the City of Madison with the Kanifing Municipal Council-Gambia

By Mathew K Jallow

There are many cities around the US, but very few have the political characteristics of the City of Madison, as a bastion of radical thinking. The city’s progressive tradition dates back decades, and as the center of government of the state of Wisconsin, Madison is still largely defined by its progressive heritage; a history of radical activism forever etched in the American story. It is this story of moral consciousness that motivated my choice of the city of Madison as my place of refuge, far from the haunting memories of death and dying in my native Gambia. As someone who is stridently opposed to the military regime, I soon became a target of the military regime following a scathing article condemning the presence in Gambia of Libyan mercenaries sent by Col. Mumar Ghadaffi to help stabilize the new military regime.

Last week, upon learning that the city of Madison was planning to twin with Kanifing Municipal Council, Gambia’s largest municipality, the news was more than perplexing; it was downright dumb-founding. But I was certain that rather than city Alders drifting away from the city’s radical tradition, the choice of Kanifing Municipal Council for its twinning program, was either the result of bad information or no objective information at all. And as a leading member of the dissident movement vehemently opposed to the military regime and working tirelessly with the international community to help end the rapes, torture, executions, political assassinations, mass incarceration, forced disappearances, and the fleeing of citizens to countries near and far, I feel obliged to educate the city Alders about the dire political situation in the Gambia to assist you to make informed choice.

The Gambia’s current Ambassador to the US, Shiekh Omar Faye, who I understand is coming to Madison for the twinning, was vociferous critic of the military regime, until he was bribed with a position at the Gambian Embassy in, DC. And Mayor of Kanifing Municipal Council, Yankuba Colley, doubles as the Propaganda Secretary of the AFPRC, the political party of the military regime. In 2000, right outside offices of the Kanifing Municipal Council, two dozen high school students protesting the murder of a student and the rape of a fifteen years old girl by security forces were executed by machine gun fire, which also left dozens more paralyzed for life. As we speak, the Gambia is in turmoil as protests erupt in Kanifing Municipal Council where last week, opposition party member, Solo Sandeng and two females were arrested and tortured to death, and three other females, recount in court, harrowing stories of rape and torture they endured

Recently, the atrocities of the Gambian regime made headline news around the world; Hoffpost, NBC, Yahoo News, Fox news, BBC, New York Times, Chicago Trubune; to name a few. Below is a list of a few of the other atrocities committed by the regime.

–          November, 1994, the extrajudicial executions of ten military officer

–          June, 1995, the burning to death of civilian, Finance Minister, Koro Ceesay

–          April 2000, massacre in Kanifing Municipal Council of sixteen demonstrating high students

–          December 2004, the assassination of Deida Hydara, President, Gambia Press Union

–          July 2005, execution of 44 Ghanaians and 10 other ECOWAS nationals

–          April 2006 execution of eight military and security officers

–          August 2006, forced disappearances of twenty civilians

–          November 2006, mysterious poison deaths of six witnesses of Ghanaians’ massacre

–          March 2009, arrest 1000 elderly accused of being witches, causing the death of fifteen

–          June 2009, mass rounding up and detention of a dozen journalists/media personnel

–          August 2012, execution of between nine and twenty six Mile Two Prison, prisoners

–          April 2013, abduction and disappearance of Gambian dissidents from Senegal

–          December 2014, rounding up and parading of gays on national television

–          May 2016, assassination of three, rape of three and detention of thirty six opposition

In between these landmark human rights abuses, hundreds more Gambians have been killed and over three hundred prisoners at the notorious Mile Two Prison died of malnutrition, sicknesses and lack of medical care. Central to all these atrocities is the virtual illiterate so-called Mayor of Kanifing Municipal Council. But the egregious human rights abuses are only a side of the story. The Gambia is on the verge of bankruptcy, as neighboring Senegal closes it border. And last week, the European union passed a motion to freeze assets of looted by officials of the regime, in addition to instituting a travel restrictions of regime officials. In Gambia, corruption is rampant and so ingrained in the psyche of officials of the regime, that it is no considered a crime. The so-called Mayor of Kanifing Municipal Council, Yankuba Colley, is one of the top henchmen of the military dictator.

Other things the Alders need to consider in making their decision, is that the people of Kanifing Municipal Council will not benefit from such twinning. The fact is the Municipality will hijack and convert any benefit into personal use, rather than benefit the people. Any information the Alders were told, which differs from what is said here is an untrue whitewash of the reality. There is no independent non-profit organization that will be responsible for the twinning with the city of Madison; the corrupt Kanifing Municipal Council under its Mayor Yankuba Colley will be the primary beneficiary of any twinning, and he is the right-hand man of the murderous dictator in Gambia. For these and many other reasons, the Madison Common Council is urged to reconsider the twinning program until the Council is well educated about why this is a bad idea at this time.

 Additional Reading

1.

President Obama expels the Gambia from AGOA, the Africa free trade protocol, due to severe human rights violations:

http://thegambiaecho.com/xp/president-obama-expels-gambia-from-agoa/

2.

European Union cut aid to Gambia due to human rights violations

http://www.euractiv.com/section/development-policy/news/eu-cuts-aid-to-gambia-over-    human-rights-concerns/

3.

EU Parliament to freeze aid and backs travel ban, sanctions on Gambian officials

http://us.blastingnews.com/world/2016/05/eu-parliament-to-freeze-aid-and-backs-travel-bans-sanctions-on-gambia-officials-00918153.html

4.

Gambia: The worst dictatorship you’ve never heard of; The Star, Toronto, Canada

https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2016/04/22/gambia-the-worst-dictatorship-youve-never-heard-of.html

5.

Centre for Human Rights condemns human rights violations in The Gambia

http://www.chr.up.ac.za/index.php/centre-news-a-events-2016/1621-centre-for-human-rights-condemns-human-rights-violations-in-the-gambia-and-calls-for-relocation-of-au-african-year-of-human-rights-celebrations-and-seat-of-the-african-commission-.html

6.

Unprecedented Protests Hit One Of The World’s Most Repressive Countries; The Hoffpost

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/gambia-protests-jammeh_us_5733a071e4b077d4d6f207f6

7.

New York hotel protest ‘led to Gambia’s Commonwealth exit’ The British Telegraph

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/gambia/10354216/New-York-hotel-protest-led-to-Gambias-Commonwealth-exit.html

8.

The Gambia: List of Yahya Jammeh’s murder, torture, exile victims; The Gambia Voice

http://thegambiavoice.blogspot.com/2012/09/gambiayahya-jammehs-countless-murder.html

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