Below is our June 23,2000 editorial. Independent Editors’ Citizenship Questioned.
The signs of the rapidly deteriorating quality of democracy and the democratic contradictions of multiculturalism have been turned into the ideology of tribalism that overrules democratic principles. There is nothing new in the Gambia that mainly attacks minorities and the tyranny of the majority over the minority. Attacks on minority tribes in the Gambia have extended well beyond attacks on the press since the Second republic. Attack on Fulas is like history repeating itself, and it will continue to be to rhyme.
The Gambia is undergoing a spasm of tribalism. Poor Gambians take out their rage on the poor minorities living in their midst. Tribal bigotry and hatred, once an occasional malady around the county, is now a contagion, skipping from one area to another. So there is a nationalistic sense of jubilation in the country by some tribal lords.
Independent Editors’ Citizenship Questioned
23 June 2000
In 2000, editors of the Independent newspaper offices were raided by senior immigration officials who questioned the citizenship of the paper’s proprietors because they belonged to the Fula tribe. Again, the most horrendous, cruel, and inhumane persecution on minority tribes imaginable defying commonsense wanted to expel fellow citizens.
The citizenship of Independent Editor-in-chief Baba Galleh Jallow and Managing Editor Alagi Yorro Jallow has been questioned by The Gambia’s Immigration Department. Two plainclothes Immigration officers walked into The Independent offices on No. 1 Kairaba Avenue Tuesday morning and asked to see the two editors. As Alagi Yorro was not in at the time, Baba Galleh invited them into his office.
‘The two officers identified themselves and said Immigration director Sheriff Faburay sent them. They said they had been asked to check on our I.D. cards and passports,’ Mr. Jallow said.
Mr. Jallow explained that since he did not have his passport on him at the time, he showed them his I.D. card and asked them to come later to see his passport.
‘They asked if they could take my I.D. card with them, but I said no, they could only take a photocopy,’ Mr. Jallow explained. ‘I made a copy and gave it to them. I also asked them whether they wanted to deport us. At 2.00 PM, the officers came back for a copy of my passport and also Alagi Yorro’s documents.’
Mr. Jallow said it was absolutely ridiculous for anyone in his right senses to question his nationality. Born in Farafenni in the North Bank Division, Baba Galleh attended Farafenni primary and secondary schools before Armitage High School. He obtained his O’ levels in 1985. That same year, he won a place and a government scholarship to the Gambia High School Sixth Form Arts stream. At Gambia High, he was both Head Boy and President of the Islamic Cultural Club. Following the sale of the Observer in May 1999, Baba Galleh resigned from the Observer and teamed up with Alagi Yorro to found The Independent newspaper. Managing Editor Alagi Yorro Jallow was equally baffled at the news of the Immigration officers’ visit. ‘This is a joke,’ he said. ‘It is even “Yabateh.” How can they question our nationality? Let them go and question my dad at Sankwia.’
Son of Alhagie Amadou Jallow, the Grand Marabout of Sankwia in the Lower River Division, Alagi Yorro attended Pakalinding Primary School. He later proceeded to Saint Augustine’s High School, where he obtained his “O and A levels. In 1998 he was elected vice-chairman of the Gambia Press Union, a position he currently holds.
‘I think if I’m deported, my brother who is serving the Gambia Police Force as a senior police officer serving with the U.N Peace Keeping Force in East Timor will also be deported,’ Alagi Yorro said. ‘The director of Immigration or the authorities I believe should first do their homework properly, they should have checked with the Health Department to determine whether we are citizens or not.’
A few days ago, reporter Alhagie Mbye was also threatened with deportation by an anonymous Immigration official. According to reliable sources close to the Immigration department, a top official at the department of state for Local Government had called the director of Immigration and told him that both Baba and Alagi Yorro are not citizens of this country. This followed the publication of a story on last Monday’s edition of The Independent, which reported that the elected chief of Upper Baddibu district had been sacked and the APRC divisional chairman appointed chief.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning, Baba Galleh’s 80-year-old father, Momodou Jallow, called from Farafenni to say that Immigration officers there had just subjected him to a lengthy interrogation. However, as we were going to press, they still had the old man’s I.D. card.