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MOJA-G: The Slow, Painful Death of A Once Potent Clandestine Movement In The Gambia


Insiders Memoirs

By **Abdoukarim Sanneh, UK Many Gambians who have been following the post 1994 military takeover of Government continue to lament that its MOJA-G (Movement of Justice in Africa- The Gambia) that contributed to strengthening the hand of the devil. MOJA-G was once the most radical underground movement, very critical of PPP in the 1980s and its painful Structural Adjustment Programme. Even with the fact in some quarters that Gambia's Structural Adjustment was embraced as a success, many have witnessed the gradual removal of agricultural subsidies in poor farming communities, masse redundancy in the public service, sectoral reforms of the Public Works Department, GPMB and other corporations and financial institutions of the Government. MOJA-G was in the front campaigning against privatisation and the emergence of a new breed of bourgeois. The Movement of Justice in Africa-Gambia section was operating as a clandestine organisation. It was advocating for a change of Government through the means of national democratic revolution based on the foundation of Marxism /Leninism as its ideological base. MOJA-G used the Mandinka slogan Balanba to advocate for such a change. As a clandestine movement, it operated in cells of five people, had ideological discussion groups in schools, villages, working institutions, towns etc. We shared among us bulks of literaturematerials from Rodney, Engel, Marx, Mao, Cabral, Nkrumah and many others. We built a bond of comradely love and relation. During the rainy season, we ran cells in the farms in rural areas. For student militants, parts of our holidays were spent with seasoned comrades posted as Government Civil Servants in the Rural Areas. In the summer of 1986 such initiatives led to my first journey to Basse when the late Ousainou Cora (may his soul rest in perfect peace) worked at the Public Works Department in the town. My grounding with the late Ousainou Cora, his love for The Gambia, ideological clarity, dynamism, energy and motivation to wider issues of life was second to none within the movement. It was not therefore, a surprise when Cora and David Jones the ex-Banjul South APRC MP resigned from the movement. The fact is that they were discontented with how the internal wing of the movement ran the show in Banjul with its lack of transparency and accountability while at the same time being so sensitive to criticism. They illusively operated in the mode of what Marxist literature defines as democratic centralism in which minority is subordinate to the majority and the majority in the congress. In our situation in those days, due to the clandestine nature of our operation and also with frequent arrests and regular monitoring of our activities by defunct NSS and CID, we were unable to organise a Congress after that of Jokadu to address issues. The Internal leadership became aloof and any challenge from the militants about the autocratic nature in the movement was seen as disloyalty to the movement. Many active members resigned, some were excommunicated from the movement's activities because they were not happy with how things went while others were suspended from the movement and in some instances branded as reactionaries or collaborators with the status quo. Despite all these internal struggles, MOJA-G as a potent clandestine movement kept functioning. In early 1987 during the hay days of the Anti-Apartheid struggle against racial segregation in the Republic of South Africa; The Gambia Anti-Apartheid Society was born as a sign of solidarity with the struggling masses of South Africa and Namibia. The Gambia

Anti Apartheid Society was a brainchild of MOJAG. It was registered has a legal structure without the knowledge of PPP authorities to facilitate the political education progress and mobilise progressive elements into MOJA-G. Another organisation was GYF- The Gambia Youth Federation, which today, operates as a local NGO in The Gambia. GYF became an effective grassroots organisation addressing development needs of communities in rural Gambia in the area of sustainable livelihood enterprise development, nursery school education, vegetable gardening and other areas of micro enterprise development. National Union of Gambian Students (NUGS) was also an affiliate body under the command, advice and direction of MOJA-G. It was in 1990/91 that the National Union of Gambian Student was liberated from the hands of Jewru Krubally at a Congress at The Gambia College and transformed it into Gambia Student Union-GAMSU. In the area of personal development of militants, some militants of the movement through the assistance from external wings were able to get scholarships for overseas training in disciplines such as engineering, medicine and Agriculture. Today, some of those individuals have returned to The Gambia, working in various sectors of our economy. People like myself, Mai Fatty, Jewru Krubally et al went to different Congresses viz: All African Student Union, International Union of Students in different parts of Africa and the wider world. During those days, MOJA-G membership was the show of my enlightenment and empowerment. In 1992 when Sir Dawda Jawara lifted the ban on MOJA-G, the exile group/external wing of the movement based in those days in Sweden, sent a fact-finding mission for consultation with the internal wing. During that consultation process numerous things surfaced. Buba Senghore, Salifu Puye, Baba Jobe and others who were the leadership in the home front were accused of mismanagement of funds sent into the country by the exiled group in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. With their shameless faces, when the 1994 coup struck, they collaborated with an inactive and docile member of the movement, Yahya Jammeh, and joined ranks. Some of these elements went on later to indecently frame other militants whom they had seriously differing opinions. The consultation of the exile group of the movement was to come and study the modalities to transform the movement into some political organization like Senegals LDMPT led by Professor Abdoulaye Bathily, which had already established solidarity with MOJA-G and a healthy working relation; a sign of international solidarity of the global left wing movements. During the first days of the 1994 coup, Buba Senghore and Buba Jobe were arrested. After their release, during my discussion with Mr. Senghore he said that they were well treated and went on to have a discussion with Yahya Jammeh. He went further to say that since the Chairman of the junta was part of us, we should support him with open-hearts, embrace the change. Later on, I decided to keep a low profile but anytime we met, he, Senghore kept lamenting to me that Yahya was asking for me. My only excuse was I was busy at Sapu because running the VISACA Bank as a Senior Project Officer was taking a lot of my time. Buba Senghore and Omar Malleh Jabang suddenly grow feathers after they became members of the National Consultative Group that was tasked with touring the entire country to discuss the path for a return to constitutional rule. That process saw MOJA-Gs daylight transformation into a July 22ND Youth Movement. Any time I came to Banjul from Sapu my discussion with these people was dominated by efforts to convince me to give Yahya Jammeh and the boys a chance. It was also the common language echoed by the majoritydissatisfied populace. I began to imagine what Marxist writers said about the lumpenproletariat and how they can be used to popularise a revolutionary struggle. I am not easy won over may be, because those days the people I regularly discussed with, people like Kenneth Best and his first editorial, Ebrima Ceesay whom I love, Ebrima Sankareh (the two Ebrimas with BBC and Deutchewalla), DA Jawo the torch bearer of progressive journalism who are critical and were able to smell the rat that things were going to run

aground somewhere along the line. It is a question I still cannot answer how Sanna Sabally a classmate at Brikama Primary School and friends and early childhood playmates in Brikama and Yahya Jammeh, a friend and MOJAG comrade can integrate. Now I have seen how folks surrender their souls. How come MOJA-G has surrendered after all those years? Are we honest to those members who have lost their jobs, others arrested and others forced into exile to disband the movement without any formal meeting to that effect? These questions still remain to be answered? To my reasoning all is a classical example of vacillating human tendency. What happened late was how power corrupted Buba Senghore and Baba Jobe absolutely. Seeing my ex-comrades name in what has become Gambias Babagate scandal just makes me loose it. Fellows who were then advocating for a classless society with me easily became Gambias new upper class. When some members of the exiled group came back, I also began to know who was who among them. The only element who was unrealistic, unethical and blindly hungry to join APRC while setting his irremovable footprints in manufacturing his conscience about the event of April 2000 student demonstration, which will remain history, is Sarjo Jallow. I have much respect for Ousman Manjang and Momodou Dumo Sarho. Ousman Manjang have been a victim of Buba Senghore and Salifu Puye's bullying. He has gone through all forms of harassment for nothing other than refusing the premises of GAMSEN-Gambia for selfemployment for July 22nd Movement Activities. To humiliate Manjang as an old number, they mobilised members of the movement to ransack the office. Another bullying and harassment was when his house was set on fire and no efforts made by the authorities to investigate what led to the inferno. GAMSEN was a resettlement package engaging Gambian women folks into sustainable development. Ousman Manjang 's and the determination of his team have really improved the condition of Gambian women farmers from Brufut, Brikamaba to Basse. The next target was Momodou Dumo Sarho. Boka Loho was and still is, Mr. Sarho brainchild, tirelessly providing skill training and discipline to vulnerable youth who could have been into the web of criminality because of no means. What happened after the April 2000 student demonstration? He was framed and for months unending, he spent in Mile two Prison; a nightmare for such a decent citizen of The Gambia. This is how MOJAG died. Buba Senghore, Baba Jobe, Salifu Puye were given power and rose to various positions until things fall apart between Yahya Jammeh and Baba Jobe.

**Abdoukarim Sanneh holds a BSc Hons. in Environmental Science at The University of Bolton in Lancashire. He is on a placement with a Local Government Authority writing his MSC dissertation in Environmental Protection at The University of Salford, Greater Manchester University, UK. June 26, 2008