Sunday, October 28, 2012

In My Country: A Letter from the Repressed

Author: Kombeh Jobe

Dear Reader,

My country is not a free country, nor is it a free society. Life there is hard, terrible, stifled, and short. There is no rule of law. Democracy is a joke, a farce, performed by amateurs and the illiterate.

The individual, or the idea of the individual, is almost nonexistent. His or her power and opinion are irrelevant and even a threat to the state. Fact and truth, even basic truth, are not allowed to be expressed. The government is the only entity that knows or can tell what is true and what is not. For words are powerful in my country. Words are the basis of truth and of course lies. And those outside of the state who know how to use it and who use it with great strength and clarity are a danger. They will be threatened, attacked, tortured, imprisoned, exiled, killed, murdered - any means necessary to silence them.

In my country, a man was attacked and killed because he had a newspaper, in which he wrote such things as: “the President's favorite color is yellow.” This man, Deyda Hydara, smart, confident, and insisting on being honest to his fellow countrymen and women, whom he so loved, and for whom he wanted a better country with better leaders and a brighter future is no more. He had the audacity to tell the President, the Commander, a low ranking army official who took the presidency and still refuses to let go, to be honest and do honest work. And for that he was killed.

The government is just Mr. Jammeh -- no ministers, no officials, no secretaries, just him alone because the rest are dumb and silent as he kills his own people. He kills them because he can, and will continue to do so unless someone goes against him.

It is no surprise that governments kill people; not just their enemies but also their own people, their own citizens, the ones they are there to protect. Some governments kill more so than others, some are more private about it; but all of them do it. They do it because they can. And there’s no one to stop them. They are covert about it because no government wants its citizens, not just the occasional lunatics and dissidents to abandon them. Governments need their people, for if there are no people, there’s no one to rule over, to govern, and of course to kill.

My country, the Gambia: small, wedged inside of Senegal, with whom we are culturally and socially alike. We’re a proud, beautiful people, us Gambians. But since our country has offered - is offering - us nothing, we are willing to risk our lives for a better tomorrow in Europe or America. We’re willing to leave it all behind – love, family, and land – for a meager existence coupled with freedom and security. Our young men are dying trying to get to Europe, perishing at sea like ancient wanderers. And, sadly, instead of the few euros or pounds they might send every month, it is only their absent bodies we receive.

My country is sadly no different from other countries on my continent. It's just smaller and quieter and doesn’t make as loud a noise as those other bigger, better-known countries in the region.

And perhaps it’s no different from your country. Or any other country, for that matter. All leaders, all governments use us in ways we don't and can’t understand. All governments lie to us; hide truth from us. They are all corrupt and deceitful and complicit in so many crimes. The difference is in the degree of these crimes. And the means used.

I would not be able to write this in my country. Or it wouldn't be public. Not very many people would read it. You may not even know what's going on in my country.


Mariama Mansaray


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