With Alagie Manneh

Momodou Lamin Sedat Jobe was born in Bansang in 1944. His grandfather, Suku Jobe, was a celebrated Sufi poet and his father, a native of Dankunku, was a health inspector. His mother was a granddaughter of Musa Molloh and his mother’s uncle, Bakary Darboe, is said to have founded Bansang. In this edition, Bantaba anchor Alagie Manneh aided by TheStandard’s chief reporter Omar Bah, picked up from where they left with Dr Jobe. Excerpts:

From the TRRC testimonies, Jammeh and his henchmen were responsible for a lot of extrajudicial killings, maiming and rape. Having closely served under him, are you surprised by the revelations?
To be very frank with you, and without the slightest intention of hypocrisy, it was only when they killed those nine people that I really knew that there were things happening underneath. And what perhaps saved me was I was not put in the picture; I wasn’t going to political party meetings. It was only once or twice upriver, I intervened in political things after Yankuba Touray pushed me but I was away from a lot of these things.

Are you saying it never occurred to you once that Jammeh was a killer?
It did not…oh it did not! I even told OJ about a few days ago, that if I had known while I was foreign minister these things were happening to you people…

Some say people like you played a part in the dictatorship, you were enablers. Do you accept that you have aided and abetted the Jammeh’s misrule?
That is for people to judge, but they should be able to judge on solid ground. They cannot talk of any activity that I have done which was not done in the interest of the state.

As foreign minister, how difficult was it for you to work for Jammeh at the international level?
It was not very difficult. I was able to convince Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s secretary of state to take a photo with him. Madeline said she wouldn’t but I convinced her and Madeline and I and Jammeh and Jammeh’s wife, we took a photo with her. He saw it as reducing the pressure from the wider international community.

You were a career diplomat and an advocate of constitutionality yet you called for a military overthrow of Jammeh’s constitutionally-elected government?
It was when Jammeh was boasting that no one can remove him either through the ballot box or coup. That’s why I said if it’s impossible to remove him through these means, any noble group of soldiers who could remove him and that would be most welcomed and a relief for the Gambian people. There was a group of military boys in America who were talking of coming to save their country. Everyone waited for what could take Jammeh out.

When did you decide to join the UDP?
Oh long ago. Very funny story.

Tell us.
Even when I was foreign minister, Ousainu [Darboe, UDP leader] was very close to me. He was in charge of the administration of my house and my tenants while I was minister. We have the same grandfather. Ousainu is my direct cousin. We all descended from Dobo Kemo. But officially joining UDP and getting a UDP membership card was two years ago when I got in touch with one Ebou Manneh, and another one call [Amadou] Taal, who is an ambassador in Nigeria, who really convinced me to join the UDP. I took my card two and half years ago.

President Barrow made you ambassador to France but recalled you.Did it have anything to do with the fallout between him and Darboe?
That is one of the very delicate things that I do not want to tread [on. But I will tell you, here is what happened: there is a rift. We are UDP sympathisers. Nearly everybody in his [Barrow’s] government including OJ, Hamat Bah wanted me to help the Barrow government. At some point, Hamat Bah went to the extent of saying that they would want me to be at the UN and so on but Darboe also wanted me to give the best of myself because of my this French thing. So if there’s a rift between Darboe and Barrow, I was not the type of a person who would come and beg to be this thing because then I would have to join his bus and I don’t want to do that. So when I was told that my contract ended, I came and Barrow was very much uncomfortable to meet me, and I do not like to meet people of his rank to be uncomfortable. This is the reason why you have not heard one word from me about my coming back. That was a very unfortunate thing. It is wrong of the people who advised Barrow to hit back by getting rid of the ‘UDP Ambassadors’ as they call them. All of us presented our credentials as ambassadors of Barrow, but there are people who want to push him to revenge. Sometimesthis is a natural human thing but I do not hold it against him at all.

When you formed the Gambia Consultative Council (GCC) during the struggle against Jammeh, a lot of people said you wanted to turn it into a political party but then you went blank and were never heard from again. What happened?
Totally wrong! It’s with that party that I went to Raleigh in North Carolina where we had a meeting with all those interested. First, they said I, in Dakar, would have coordinated certain things including opposition movements because we were nearer to Banjul. Even all these soldiers who ran away, we were able to help a lot of them. As soon as they started saying Dakar was going to do everything, Jammeh was very angry and was saying in some of his speeches that he was doing everything for Senegal but Senegal is keeping his enemies. Personally, I had a… I think everyone in Dakar had protection. Jammeh has never attempted anything on me while I was there. But as soon as the Dakar thing started having certain aura, jealousy started coming and Bakary Dabo created this one with Abdoulie Jobe in London, then you have Banka Manneh, Scattred Janneh and all these people started creating these things. I was the first person to convince the Senegalese government to allow us to make a powerful speech to the Gambian community at the Place de l’Obélisque [central plaza in Dakar]. It was never my intention to create a political party and if you are lucid enough, you will know that I am totally against the proliferation of political parties. My advice to all these political parties that are being created is: they are undermining the stability of the state; they are bringing more division in our country. I am against… to be very frank with you if I have my way, we wouldn’t have more than three political parties. And I think it is very pretentious having political parties on the ground and coming back and saying you are going to contest yet you know that you will just be wasting the time of Gambians and creating more division. This is why two-and-a-half years ago I got into this UDP thing and Barrow knew it. And I think it is wrong because he said he only wants workers, people who will help him build this country and now he is getting rid of the ‘UDP ambassadors’, he is not uniting the country.

Three years after Jammeh, how do you see the change?
I am disappointed by the fact that with the good idea of [Halifa] Sallah for whom I have a lot of esteem…they had this idea of a coalition to defeat Jammeh. They’ve tried a lot of coalitions which didn’t work because the stumbling block for them was Darboe. And I think that was very unfair to Darboe. Because all the criticisms of Darboe that he is the one who spoils all these things, is very simple if you take it by the results of the last parliamentary election. What they wanted was for Darboe to step aside and to give the leadership to somebody else. It is also, and sadly enough it is, that those who were in this coalition, with all the documents that they have prepared very solidly to prepare a solid base for a transition, I think at some point they had cold feet for the country, which is two million inhabitants. If there was cohesion and the love of the nation in the minds of each of them definitely Barrow would at no point have thought of going for five years.

Now what next for Dr Sidat Jobe?
I think for now, I am looking at the programmes at the university and giving quite a few lectures on French and English literature at the university and at the same time helping in giving courses in diplomacy and giving advice when and where necessary.

Thank you sir.
The End

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