Kanjia: Why Gambia’s president may refuse to leave despite election loss

The Gambia had been ruled by Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, who served initially as prime minister then as the republic’s first president, for more than 30 years.

Augustine Kanjia

The country’s main political party was the People’s Progressive Party [PPP]. From the mid-1960s to the early ’90s the country was relatively quite stable and citizens accepted the status quo. Gambians were very proud of their country and had no will for political change. Peace was plentiful. The country was safe.

But since the July 1994 overthrow of Jawara — the legitimate president, re-elected in 1992 — by then army Lt. Yahya Jammeh, the country has become confused, more corrupt and paralyzed by one person.

The nation recently conducted an election which, as usual, Jammeh was expected to win easily — his confidence in winning again this time likely stemmed from the fact he’d jailed his main opposition, Oinou Darboeusa, for protesting on the street before the election. In fact, President Jammeh was accused, regularly, of rigging elections (including by Darboe, who’d lost to Jammeh in 2011).

Jammeh got the surprise of his life after the Dec. 1 general elections. He at first congratulated his opponent, Adama Barrow, and offered advice, but Jammeh later changed his mind and has since refused to hand over the presidency. The struggle continues.

Courtesy Augustine Kanjia

Gambia’s first president, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara

Augustine Kanjia, who spent years uncovering corruption as a refugee journalist in Gambia during Jammeh’s rule, examines what Jammeh might be thinking, what’s next for the West African nation, and how America’s electoral issues pale in comparison to those in Gambia.

The people of Gambia for 22 years have been living in fear under President Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh, who has earned the title Dictator. Who dares to talk loud where one is never sure if the person next to you is a government informant? Year after year, Gambians have become more fearful of Jammeh. When his name is heard on the streets, many look over their shoulders.

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 28: The Kanjias’ First Snow

We were put in a hotel when we first arrived, since no house was ready for us. To me, Worcester looked like the cleanest city in the world. I loved it.

I felt the hotel would be our home for a while, but it was only for three days. The children and I would leave the room to look at the trees that beautified the place like flowers. Flowers were not visible then, it was the colorful tree leaves that showed. Yes! It was fall — a season I would learn more about — and the leaves had changed colors. Our case worker, Chris Lamboi, was also from Sierra Leone. We thought he was going to be a very good source for development and enlightenment into American life.

Our apartment was ready, Chris came to tell us. I could not believe we were already leaving our luxurious room. Our bundles were not much; I had acquired nothing to bring over here. I had a few books and my neckties. And my photo album. Theresa, my wife, would tease me, saying, “You take delight [only] in [old] photos, addresses and phone numbers.”

This place was very cold for us, and we had no heavy clothes for it. We huddled in the corner of the room and waited for Chris to come back and take us home. Once he picked us up, we drove across the city, looking everywhere. My two kids asked me loads of questions. I didn’t know what to say, except to make up answers from what I’d learned.

For example, Mary asked, “Daddy, what seasons do they have here?” I tried to say what I knew. I said with confidence (but not in correct sequence), “Summer, winter and spring. We have the dry and wet seasons” in West Africa.

Our new house was on Ellsworth Street, not far from Kelley Square. The traffic was quite confusing. I had never seen such crazy traffic like Kelley Square, with no traffic lights. That was not my worry because I had never seen a traffic light in Sierra Leone. In Senegal and Gambia, sure, but never in my homeland.

Chris spent a long time talking big during our ride. He said he had been driving in Worcester for ages with no accident record, and that Kelley Square was no trouble for him. But we sat at the intersection for more than 10 minutes waiting for Chris to drive through. At last, we were free. It was evening.

Augustine’s last chapter: Goodbye, Gambia Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale

Sina-cism: DACA is no way to reform immigration

The current debate over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — called into existence by a whim of President Obama in 2012 — illustrates the confusion many Americans have regarding civics.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

DACA permits illegal immigrants, including many who were brought to the United States as children, to remain here, provided they pay an application fee, have completed high school, are not convicted of felonies or serious misdemeanors, and meet several other requirements.

Many of those who qualify happen to be college students. And since president-elect Donald Trump has expressed opposition to DACA, there is a growing chorus of support for the program being heard on college campuses.

Related Sina-cism: The real line on immigration, and how Obama crossed it

More than 500 college presidents nationwide — including the presidents of Clark University, WPI and the College of the Holy Cross — have signed a letter to leaders in Washington, D.C., declaring in part:

“Since the advent of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, we have seen the critical benefits of this program for our students, and the highly positive impacts on our institutions and communities. DACA beneficiaries on our campuses have been exemplary student scholars and student leaders, working across campus and in the community … To our country’s leaders we say that DACA should be upheld, continued, and expanded. We are prepared to meet with you to present our case. This is both a moral imperative and a national necessity …”

Editorial: Rooting for Romney and Brown

In choosing key members of his administration, President-elect Donald Trump is also choosing a tone and direction.

That is why this is such a closely watched, and worrisome transition. We are getting our first look at the true Trump — the man who will be the free world’s leader, and whose decisions and diplomacy will affect us personally and impact the stature of our country. This is when we begin to find out what the future holds.

So far, Trump’s selections have held to the tenor of his candidacy. Our unpredictable future president has veered from dismayingly tone-deaf in selecting far-right media executive Steve Bannon for chief strategist; to decidedly hard-line in choosing retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis for Secretary of Defense, who already enjoys broad bipartisan support; to interestingly open for tapping South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for United Nations ambassador.

Two Republicans with strong political ties to our state, Mitt Romney and Scott Brown, would bring needed credentials to the president-elect’s inner circle.

Both are principled, experienced and — particularly in Brown’s case — well matched to the offices they seek.