By Mathew K Jallow
When the Arab Spring began in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, I told a university professor that Libya's strongman Col. Mumar Ghadafy's regime will soon be swept away in this infectious tide of political liberation. He was not so sure. But I was adamant. And today, almost nine months to the date, Col. Mumar Ghadafy's regime is no more. What seemed so impossible only a few short months ago, soon became probable when the first signs of political rupture erupted in the eastern city of Benghazi. And yesterday, the impossible became the reality. The last remnants of Col. Ghadafy's once might army have either melted away into the general population or are being mopped up by the unrepentant warriors of democracy. Today, oppressed people around the world look to Libya and see hope for themselves. They see hope in the Libyan children waving flags on the shoulders of their fathers; they see hope in high school students with AK 47s pointed upwards towards the blue Libyan skies; they see hope in the IT engineers who left the comforts of America to put their lives on the line for a cause greater than material wealth, and they see hope in the faces of aging professors and graying academics whose long war against Libyan tyranny is finally won. It is a new beginning for Libyans. Forty-two long, miserable years of murderous dictatorship has suddenly come to a screeching halt. Jamahiriya is dead at last. Libya is free.
In so many ways, the story of Libya, like Tunisia and Egypt before it, was predictable only because it was inevitable. By their very nature, dictatorships tend to have longevity, but the end always seem to come when it is the least expected; often in a devastatingly brutal fashion. And so, true to form, Libya became only the latest in a long political tradition, albeit a messy one, that dates back to the dark pre-Roman Helenian ages. Not unexpectedly, what is unfolding in Libya, like other North African and Middle Eastern countries, is an inevitable duplication of the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and the cascading collapse of so many Eastern European and Asian socialist regimes in the 1970s. Col. Mumar Ghadafy's story is not unlike that of Oedipus the tragic Greek mythological character; sad to its bitter end. As of now, the doors have forever closed on Yahya Jammeh's brother-in-need, mentor, teacher and benefactor. For a man who would almost be god to his miserable subjects, perpetual darkness has finally set for Mumar Ghadafy. Today Libya lays in ruin, and what Col. Ghadafy built, the people have gleefully destroyed so they may again rebuild on a foundation of freedom and liberty as unshakable as the fearful spirits of the whispering hills of Sare Hella. But still, for us Gambians, one big question remains unanswered.
If we draw reference from history, then the anecdotal and empirical evidence dichotomy suggests that Yahya Jammeh brutal reign, like that of his mentors, will have no happy ending. To the extent that Yahya Jammeh has taken a page out of the same dictator's handbook as his long-time mentors, Col Mumar Ghadafy and the master of mean himself, Saddam Hussein, his end is more likely to replicate that of his former benefactors. Because of the serial tragedies associated with his rule, Yahya Jammeh will never feel safe on Gambian soil; his life overtaken by a perpetual paranoia and a mortal obsession with the fear of being overthrown. Sadly enough, Yahya Jammeh has good reasons to be fearful of the coming vengeance of the long suffering people of our country. The parallels between Col. Mumar Ghadafy and Yahya Jammeh are eerily unmistakably similar; the brutality, tribalism, nepotism, ruination of the institutions of government, the collapse of the values around which citizens of every civilized society coalesce into a single unifying paradigm, and the cannibalization of our economies and national resources for their own selfish ends.
Economically The Gambia has regressed significantly for a large number of our people, even as many more have succumbed to the destructive political morass that has plunged our countrymen into the depths of despair. We as a people are faced with an enormous challenge that is more the result of psychological degeneration of our senses of self-worth, than the fear for our physical well-beings. But if we look north towards Libya for a moment, and see what seemed impossible become achievable, and think of those Libyan children proudly waving their country's flags, those young men with AK 47s slung over their shoulders, and those women whose children spilled blood so their mothers, sisters and little brothers may see freedom, and watch with pride as the sea of jubilant Libyans in Martyr's Square once again come united as one people, we can reach deep into our souls and find comfort in the fact that we too can make the impossible become reality. The legacy we are obliged to bequeath to our children and generations still unborn, must be one which one day if they look back to our generations, will proudly say; they gave all they had, and they did it all for us. For there is no greater gift we can give them than the gift of liberty and freedom.
Mathew K Jallow, a Gambian writer, journalist and human rights advocate and political activist, exiled in the U.S, is one of the preeminent writers and commentators on African affairs. He holds undergraduate degrees in Hospitality and Business Management and a graduate degree in Public Administration and Non-Profit management from the University of Wisconsin in U.S.