By Buba S. Njie
He may not have studied law or practiced the craft of the learned ones, but the Salikenni-born social activist-cum-political-rabble-rouser, Massaneh Kuli-Jara, made his own mark in the the criminal jurisprudence (locus classicus) of this country.
In the 1960s support-bases of the different political parties in Salikenni were polarised to such extent that it was visible in their interactions with one another. The antagonistic contradictions were further heightened with the passing of time.
The influential Masaneh Saidy Fatajo (known to many as Masaneh Kuli-Jarra) rose to this feat and masterminded what birthed the locus classicus criminal law case of Masaneh Fatojo v. Commissioner of Police (1963-1966) 1 G.R. (C.S) 53.
In that case, the facts included, among other things, Masaneh’s incitement of militants of the incumbent People’s Progressive Party (PPP) to riot against members of the opposition United Party (UP) in the village, as part of the celebration of the commencement of internal self-government and the three days that ensued.
He was said to have persuaded those PPP rioters into believing that the laws of The Gambia would be suspended on the aforementioned days that the plan was intended to be launched, and nothing would come out of it even if someone was to be killed.
In order to further this persuasion, Masaneh assured them that there would be no consequences because the police were under the Prime Minister Sir Dawda, the leader of the PPP party. He basically created the niche for the attacks and fled at its imminence before the PPP militants took to the implementation of the plan.
He went to Banjul and sought sanctuary waiting to hear things unfold in Salikenni. As planned, so was it carried; the PPP militants rioted, vandalized and burnt properties of UP supporters. The police intervened and mass arrests ensued. It started when Masaneh was away but he returned before it ended and commended the rioters for a job well done. He was later arrested and arraigned before a court. The trial Magistrate found that what happened was as a result of his speech and convicted him of the offence of taking part in a riot. He appealed against this ruling and his appeal failed. The appellate court upheld the decision of the Magistrate in trial court.
Unsurprisingly, Masaneh shifted allegiance to his kinsman Sheriff Mustapha when he divorced with the ruling PPP and settled down with the National Convention Party (NCP), established in 1975. At this stage and moving to the 80s and early 90s the political rivalry remained. However, a paradigm shift was made from PPP v. UP to PPP v. NCP. This came at an era when the two natives of Salikenni who had their house a stone’s throw from each other battled for the Parliament seat of Central Baddibu. Thus quakes and aftershocks of political tensions and practical experimentations of realities based on partisanship were recorded in Salikenni.
Masaneh, known for his brutal honestly, aggressive personality, and his radicalism, had been challenging and questioning President Sir Dawda Jawara on political platforms.
When Sir Dawda was on his ‘meet the people tour’ at a rally held in Badibou Farafenni, Masaneh had an encounter with him. With a sarcastic tone, Jawara enquired: “Are you the only person that the people of Salikenni have to send to every political activity?” He responded to President Jawara hyper-confidently and uttered, “Not at all. Well! If our civil servants speak up against your political misbehavior they can be sacked. As for me, I am self-employed farmer whom you have no authority whatsoever to sack”. Why is a career like that of Masaneh Kuli-Jara not only unlikely but almost unimaginable? Put another way: Why is the current political atmosphere inhospitable to it?
The people of Salikenni, like other rural settlers who formed PPP and struggled for independence, became disgruntled with the Jawara PPP and labelled the political experience under Jawara as “Sembocracy”. “Sembo” is a Mandinka word meaning force or power. Their judgment was, Jawara’s PPP concealed its autocratic practices under a veneer of democratic rule.
As the opposition NCP dominated North Bank Region, its hardline supporters levelled a powerful political satire against Jawara: “We have two main problems; pigs and Jawara. Pigs are destroying our farm produces in the bush, and Jawara is destroying us ruthlessly”; such was the audacity of the cynical opposition big wigs in Salikenni, and it was their good fortune that they had an unfettered megaphone to amplify such critical voices in the person of the immutable Massaneh (Kuli-Jara-jarra) Saidy Fatajo. ‘Kebba killing kontong fula’ (one man with two surnames).
Author: Buba S Njie.