MEET ME IN CONAKRY – THE EXTRAORDIANRY JOURNEY OF THE 22 JULY REVOLUTIONER AND WHAT NEXT

It is not deliberate when I decided to use the title of the book that brought to fame Sheriff Samsudeen Sarr, presently Ambassador to the UN and a passionate and unquestioning loyal advocate of Jammeh, when the latter just left the shores of The Gambia by plane to seek refuge or a transit-refuge in Conakry. The title is apt to the situation and I am seduced by it.

Life is an extraordinary journey and those who lived it in the last 22 years have so much to recount. Gambians have each played a role or taken a path during this period that has intertwined our threads of life and destinies in curious and singular ways. Ex-president Jammeh’s reign has had an effect on all Gambians in peculiar and different ways. When some can really appreciate that the benefits derived from the second republic is either high political standing, a flashy government vehicle, great respect among peers, and much other benefits, others received harassment, unfair and prolonged detentions, arbitrary arrests, wrongful dismissals, discrimination, imprisonment without a fair trial, and worst still loss of life. When some can sleep peacefully at night, attend government receptions, frequent long parties with food and gifts and lavished with gifts in cash or kind, others were poorly clad, had hardly a meal a day, the salary a bare minimum and constantly traumatized with fear of being the next Jammeh victim. Gambians’ lives were different yet intertwined. We have so many good stories to tell and nightmares and horrors to recount. However, in life, nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending (Maria Robinson).

Mr Yahya Jammeh has gone to Conakry, on a path that will lead him to a new life after being a head of state for 22 years. If it had been you, one thing you will need to learn is, only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Gambians are free. We are free and Jammeh is free. It always seems impossible until it’s done. As he goes, many will cry because they will recognize that he was once their mentor, leader, benefactor, and power source; others will see off a dictator, tribalist, a disrespectful, dishonest, and authoritarian tyrant. {But} in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years (Abraham Lincoln).

Mr Jammeh is gone. At this stage, borrowing much from our African hero, Nelson Mandela, we must strive to be moved by a generosity of spirit that will enable us to outgrow the hatred and conflicts of the past. When a deep injury is done to us, we never heal until we forgive. We must all strive to be inspired by a deep-seated love of our country, without regard to race, color, gender, political affiliation or station in life. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion, or his political party, or his tribe. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite (Nelson Mandela). One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do (Henry Ford). We all have a chance to enjoy another republic, a new government, a new president.

If anyone expects that through a magic wand, President Barrow and his government can solve all the problems, we would be fooling ourselves. Here is a government that aims to create the ideal democratic environment where each and everyone has the right to participate, share ideas, level constructive criticism, argue points and counterpoints. The process of working to transform our nation to the most democratic, peace loving and prosperous nation is the contribution of everyone, irrespective of one’s affiliation, religion, race, nationality and origin or beliefs. It is a process where we do not ask how can I stall and destroy you but how to draw you closer, engage you positively and challenge you to work.

The healing process MUST begin. Our hearts must be full of forgiveness and our spirits should act like our shadows, obeying the blessings of love and generosity that every Gambian has ever been known for.

I begin by forgiving all who wronged me and would have no reservations in working with anyone of you. Life is too short to make too much a fuss about it. When I saw a good friend and advisor buried in my presence recently, I imagine that is how all of us will ultimately end and where we will be buried, alone, I hardly consider occupying my heart with hate. Love will be my answer. Let’s embrace and love each other and allow the painful wounds of our lives heal to unnoticeable scars.

Lets begin the dialogue.

Assalaam alaikum

By Cherno Omar Barry, PhD