A big, fat thief sits in Malabo, with the grin of contentment on his face making him look like the proverbial cat that has just swallowed the canary.
His name, for those who would like to pursue him and haul him before a court of law, is Yahya Jammeh, the criminal who managed to pose as a head of state for decades while he was busy robbing his people blind, and jailing, maiming, killing and exiling all those who dared stand up to him and his deranged absurdities.
The man who always carried a copy of what he made people believe was a copy of the Koran in his hand and a Colgate smile on his face, knew he was ruling over a population of ignoramuses who could be manipulated — or bludgeoned — into submission, once in a while suggesting he had a magic cure for HIV/Aids, apart from other potions that were going to allow him to rule for another billion years!
Luckily, not a moment too soon, he was shown the door by his people and when he showed signs of wanting to extend his unwanted stay, his country’s neighbours told him the game was over. Still, the big buffoon was able to negotiate his exit terms, including (apparently) that he would enjoy immunity from prosecution for all his crimes.
Sure, the people of the Gambia needed to see this monster go and the region wanted a “smooth” abdication. But was that enough to let this ogre walk free without consequences attaching to his crimes?
I saw on TV a woman who wanted to know the fate of her father who was almost certainly disappeared by Jammeh, and I think her quest for the knowledge of just what happened to her dad is enough to compel Jammeh to answer a couple of questions.
As if that were not enough, the thieving dictator took time to clean up his country’s exchequer, taking all the money he could lay his dirty hands on, and airlifting several luxury cars belonging to his bankrupted country.
It is as if, going into exile in a country governed by well-known kleptomaniacs, he had to arrive in some style.
African rulers are more like Jammeh
Now, even the most blind of our fellow Africans who have been clamouring against the International Criminal Court should be able to see the case of Jammeh as the reason why African rulers have been saying what they have been saying. When they say that the ICC is targeting African leaders, they are talking about Jammeh and his likes.
Sadly, our rulers are more like, than unlike, Jammeh. There will be many right now secretly admiring him.
But the people of Africa must tell these thieves to choose between thievery and leading their people.
If anyone comes to office promising to serve the people — e.g. Yoweri Museveni — they should not be allowed to say later that they are not servants but rather that they came to fulfil a private agenda.
If you really have been carrying out your business on our premises, and we have been paying you and allowing you to pay yourself what you have not been disclosing, then maybe it’s high time you paid us the outstanding rent for all those years, and time you apologised to us for taking us for a ride, making us believe you were working for us while you were actually a private entrepreneur.
For the past few years, I have attended numerous meetings where the theme has been of “Africa Rising” and I have listened to some of our more enlightened illuminati pointing out how Africa is the next big place for economic development.
I have had my doubts about this narrative, simply because I do not see signs of a serious continent — or even a major part of it — that has committed to the search for development and progress.
Apart from a handful of committed rulers — too few and far between — who have demonstrated a serious application of their minds, hearts and energies, what we have are varying degrees of lack of integrity, different levels and stages of Jammehood.
Look around and you will see them: Thieves, murderers, liars. Apart from that, one other thing they are all agreed on: They hate a free press and will do everything to kill it. Just look around.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]