The Chronicle Gambia

On The Statement Of The Chairman Of Csos, John Charles Njie…

John Charles Njie, Chairman of The Association of Non Governmental Organization (TANGO)

I came across some quotes in The Point Newspaper ascribed to John Charles Njie, the chairman of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in The Gambia. Something in me keeps wanting to think that these are misquotes because these words just don’t sound like they will come from someone who is leading CSOs in The Gambia considering our brutal past. But if these are his words as leader of our CSOs, then it explains why CSOs struggled to be effective in the 22 years of the sustained dictatorship in The Gambia. With a mindset like this, is it any wonder that we are almost right back to where we were minus pervasive the rights violations?

Mr Njie is quoted to have said: “Reinstating personnel of The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) who were accused of Coup d’état in the system was totally wrong,” he said, adding “what’s wrong is always wrongRewarding people that partake in coup d’états is totally wrong and I am surprised that nobody has condemned this both within the Civil Societies and the media.”

For starters, someone should tell Mr Njie that those soldiers reinstated in the security services were not “rewarded” for participating in coups. So his whole premise is way off the mark and he could have done himself a big favor by simply asking those he was with at the gathering, the reason for reinstating those soldiers.

Frustration with the SSR process should not morph into arrogating oneself sainthood simply because one could afford apathy and inertia in the face of abuse, rape and murder. Apparently, Mr Njie has no issues with the torturers, killers, and financial Junglers all around him.

If he had cared to look around the SSR process, he would have realized that of those leading the SSR process, at least two were proud ambassadors of the 22-year tyranny, and that another was in charge when Solo Sandeng was killed and opposition members brutalized for simply asking for his whereabouts. Ousainou and others should have just waited for the “law” to take its course! No wonder so few people joined them in their march to demand Solo! We are “law-abiding” citizens!

At the gathering Mr Njie made these remarks, sat many high ranking officers who minded their business while men in uniform killed our people and raped our women. But Mr Njie does not seem to think we should look at the apathy and inertia displayed by many of us critically at all. His problem is those who at least tried to do something about the killing and rape of their people! Those are the bad citizens.

For him, those people are too terrible to serve their country. Those who supported the killing and rapes through inaction and inertia are the ones that are better citizens. His reasoning: “We need to look at the issue of coup d’état critically. If we support the reinstatement of some soldiers that embarked on coup and are reinstated in the system that means some soldiers can also take up guns to overthrow a future government, who knows. The question is whether those soldiers are also going to be rewarded.” So for him, it is all about “rewards” huh? In this warped logic, soldiers already in the military will stage a coup just so they can be “reinstated” in the same military??? Talk about missing the forest for the trees.

It is so small-minded and myopic to paint anyone that has participated in a coup with the same brush and using such simpleton and lazy thinking along the lines of “wrong is wrong.” For them, it is wrong for slaves to revolt against slave masters because it is against the law. It was wrong for Mandela to fight apartheid because it was the law. It was wrong for Rosa Parks to refuse to give up her seat on a bus because “wrong is wrong.” Amilcar Cabral should have just obeyed colonial laws and accept the wanton abuse of his people. It was wrong for Aline Sitoe Jatta to resist the colonialists because “wrong is wrong.” Let’s just paint everyone with the same brush, eh?

Here’s the thing: Some of you had the luxury of obeying the law and being good citizens while Yaya killed and raped our people just like some Blacks accepted slavery and other Blacks connived with apartheid authorities against Mandela. However, there are others whose conscience simply could not afford that luxury.

It’s alright to sit high atop some law high horse and claim to be law-abiding while the same law is being bastardized right before your eyes if your conscience can afford it. But do not insult the intelligence of victims who chose to fight back against the very lawbreakers you pretend not to see. If we cannot look inward to see what we could have done as individuals while our people get raped and killed, perhaps we should not be playing holier than thou and demonizing others who at least tried to stop the rape and killing of their own people.

I can only hope that this was not the only contribution Mr Njie made to this SSR process! If it was, they should ask for their money back if he got paid to attend! Talk about misplaced priorities!

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