Despite His Name, Yahya Turned Out to Be Truly a Bad Boy


It is hard to understand how this happened—how such a good name came to be given to such a man as Yahya Jammeh, the brutal, dictator and tyrannical leader of The Gambia, who was forced to flee the country earlier last week, after 22 years in power.

The name Yahya, of Arabic and Hebrew origins, actually means “kind, compassionate and tenderhearted.” So how was this Jola boy given such a name, a name that he turned out to live and act in total opposition to?

Has anyone asked why he chose the military instead of business or some other profession?

Whatever the answer, look at how Yahya turned out. It was William Shakespeare that wrote a play whose name somewhat typifies human nature: All Is Well That Ends Well. In other words, it is not how well one does in the
beginning, but how one ends that really matters.

Turn to the first Book of the Bible, Genesis, and compare Joseph, the Dreamer, with what you find in Judges Chapter 13, on Samson, one of the strongest men in history. Samson was very strong. David was handsome, highly intelligent, had unshakable faith in God and knew something about ethics and good behavior.

Samson, on the other hand, was equally blessed, but in a different way. He was mighty and strong, with a ‘Big But’: He liked too many women. And that was his undoing. Delilah, the beautiful Philistine young woman exploited this weakness in the man and used it to destroy him.

Joseph, on the other hand, though tempted, too, after his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, engaged his faith in the Almighty and adherence to His word to repel the temptation of Potiphar’s wife. Potiphar was Pharaoh’s chief of security, who bought Joseph, the slave boy who, as soon as he entered the yard, was put in charge of all the workers. Potiphar’s wife fell in love with Joseph, but when the 17-year-old refused to yield, she got angry and lied on him to her husband, who promptly put Joseph in jail.

It was in prison that Joseph demonstrated his gift as a dreamer and an interpreter of dreams, which catapulted him from prison to Pharaoh’s palace, becoming Prime Minister of Egypt, in charge, among other things, of Egypt’s agriculture.

And Joseph went on to forgive his brothers and rescue the Israelites from famine by bringing his father Jacob and all his brothers and their children to Egypt, where they became rich and prosperous.

Who knows why God enabled Yahya Jammeh to succeed in executing the bloodless coup d’état in Banjul, The Gambia, on July 22, 1994?

The coup was so successful that the Gambian people, dumfounded at the sudden and unexpected loss of their long-serving President Sir Dawda Jawara (29 years in power), soon accepted their new leader. That was a good beginning. And then . . .

We could ask the identical question, why did God permit Samuel K. Doe and his 17 enlisted men to succeed in their coup d’état on April 12, 1980? That, too, was a successful, though ruthless and bloody power grab that led them to take immediate and complete control of the entire government and country. For them, it was a great beginning…and then?

Yes, then how did these two men—Doe and Jammeh—end? Both had great names—Samuel, Hanna’s son who served in the Temple from his youth and anointed Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David; and Yahya. Neither Doe nor Yahya, however, followed the example of Joseph the Dreamer, who possessing all that power, the most powerful man in Egypt besides Pharaoh, remained kind, tenderhearted and compassionate, to the extent that he forgave his brothers who had sold him into slavery. When, finally realizing that Egypt’s Prime Minister was none other but their own younger brother whom they had sold into slavery, they knelt before him in contrition (regret, penitence), sadness and shame, Joseph asked them to arise, then told them, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

But Doe and Jammeh? The former paid the ultimate price—torture and execution at the hands of his captors; the latter, forced into exile and an unknown future. Jammeh could end up in The Hague, like Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Taylor, who has ended up a British jail.

We are sure there are many, many Gambians who are ready to testify against Jammeh in court about all the atrocities he committed against hundreds of innocent people—Gambians and non-Gambians alike.

Instead of being the kind, tenderhearted and compassionate son his parents dreamed he would have become, Jammeh used power consummately for evil, rather than for good.

Why do people use God-given power—power that comes only from God—for evil, rather than for good?

We hope and pray that all emerging leaders, most especially in Africa, will learn that misuse and abuse of power does not pay. It only leads to great suffering and misery even slaughter of their peoples and ultimately avenged by exile, imprisonment, or termination of the perpetrator (doer) of evil.


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