Sarah Lund vs Carrie Mathison

It's the age of the troubled female detective. So who's the best?

Two makes a trend, right? After the winningly unsmiling Sarah Lund in The Killing, Carrie Mathison is the latest troubled female investigator on our screens. It's still early days for Claire Danes's Mathison - we don't know if she will properly lose it a la Lund and get demoted to being a traffic policeman or whatever Lund was doing in that rainy Danish seaport, but we've seen enough of Danes's wide eyes and nervous chatter to know that her trajectory will be anything but smooth. So, how do they compare:

Risk-taking

So far Mathison has managed to get a vulnerable source killed off and has been illegally filming an US marine hostage in his own home. Risky. Lund's risks similarly involve her taking matters into her own hands, but that usually involves her wandering around a deserted warehouse looking for a psychopath with only a faltering torch for company. Also risky: a draw.

Lack of empathy and assorted psychological conditions

These ladies are troubled. Lund is troubled in a below-the-radar, emotionally stunted, no personal life sort of way. Mathison is troubled in a more slap-you-round-the-face obvious way of pill-popping, exaggerated facial expressions and talking extra-fast. Her condition is unspecificed, but she has "unstable" written all over that well made-up face. Neither seems to care much that their lives are entirely dysfunctional and lacking any kind of human intimacy - but given her deep-seated issues plus the lack of a convenient sibling who is a medical professional able to dispense drugs, Lund has to win this one.

Deduction skills

With Lund, you knew when she was Having A Thought because the music would get all tinkly and she would get a faraway look in her eyes before going off on her own without telling anyone where she was going. Lund's intuition and powers of deduction are legendary. Mathison, so far, has one mammoth hunch and very little evidence - and while Lund takes her cues from otherwise overlooked actual cues, Mathison is basing her theories on her own giant case of guilt-fuelled paranoia. Not promising. Point to Lund.

Family life

Lund has a long-suffering, neglected mother; Mathison has a long-suffering, neglected sister. A draw.

Famous clothing items

Nothing Mathison has worn so far comes even close to the woollen iconography of the Lund jumper. Clear win for Lund.

FINAL SCORE: 5 - 2 Lund. The Dane triumphs! (Over Danes. Sorry. Couldn't resist).

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

LORRAINE MALLINDER
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A dictator in the family: why Ebrima Jammeh wants retribution in Gambia

“I want to see Yahya Jammeh jailed and prosecuted in this country. Justice will finally come.”

On 21 January Yahya Jammeh left Gambia. Within minutes of the erstwhile dictator’s departure on a private jet, relieved crowds began to gather at Westfield Junction, a popular meeting point in Serrekunda, the largest town in the country.

For 22 years, Jammeh had cultivated a sorcerer-like persona, claiming he could cure HIV with herbs, ordering a nationwide witch hunt and magicking away countless dissenters to fates unknown.

After losing elections in December, he brought the country to the brink of war, staring down the West African troops waiting at the Senegalese border to remove him. Unable to conjure a way out, he eventually agreed to be exiled to Equatorial Guinea.

Leaning against a car at Westfield, Ebrima Jammeh (pictured above) watched the celebrations with a bitter-sweet expression. Shouting over blaring car horns, he said that he wanted justice for his father, murdered by the regime in 2005. His father, it turned out, was Haruna Jammeh, a first cousin of Yahya. The story of how Haruna and his sister, Masie Jammeh, were “disappeared” by security forces is well known here – a striking example of the former ruler’s ruthlessness.

Days after Yahya Jammeh’s departure, I met Haruna’s widow, Fatimah, with Ebrima and his sister Isatou. They recalled the early Nineties, when “Cousin Yahya” would drop by for green tea in his army officer’s uniform and brag about becoming the next leader of Gambia. “He was very arrogant,” Fatimah said.

Haruna and Yahya grew up on the family farm in Kanilai, on Gambia’s southern border with Senegal. They would play together in the fields. Haruna, six years older, would walk hand in hand with Yahya to school. They were more than cousins, Ebrima said. People called them “cousin-brothers”.

Once they were adults, Haruna remained protective of his cousin. He was working as a restaurant manager, and was a rising star in the Novotel group. Often, he helped out the then-impecunious Yahya with money or food. Few expected the hothead lieutenant to become the next president.

But in 1994 Yahya seized power in a coup. “I heard his voice on the radio and I was surprised,” Fatimah told me. “I phoned my mum and said: ‘Look, he did it.’” By 2000 Yahya had coaxed Haruna into ditching his hotel job and returning to manage the farm. The president had big plans for the farm, which grew into a huge enterprise that controlled many of the nation’s bakeries and butchers – thriving allegedly through land-grabs and subsidies.

Fatimah and the children stayed behind in Serrekunda, but would often visit. Ebrima had happy memories of meals with the extended family. Yahya was by now a distant figure, surrounded by bodyguards on the rare occasions when he visited. Ebrima remembered his uncle telling him to “work hard at school”.

In 2004, Haruna accused some soldiers of stealing fuel and food, and started to speak out against the regime’s frequent sackings and arrests. When he was removed from the farm, Fatimah begged him to come home. But he refused. “He was a strong character, a man of his word, a man of truth. He didn’t take nonsense from anyone,” Ebrima said. Haruna did not expect his younger “cousin-brother” would harm him.

In 2005 Ebrima, by then 21, spoke to his father for the last time after he was arrested in the middle of the night. “Dad said: ‘I don’t know if I’m coming back,’” he told me. “I was scared. I was devastated. I didn’t think I was going to see him again. I knew the kind of person Yahya was and the kind of rages he had.”

Shortly afterwards, Haruna’s sister Masie also disappeared. “My aunt was bold enough to approach the president, but she went missing, too,” Isatou said. “We stopped going to the village. We decided to be quiet because we were so scared they would come after us.”

In the years that followed, Fatimah and the children kept a low profile in the backstreets of Serrekunda. Questions about their surname were common but they denied all links to the president. For a long time, they had no idea whether Haruna and Masie were alive.

In 2014 Ebrima learned the truth from an interview on a Senegalese radio station with Bai Lowe, a former driver with the “Jungulers” (an elite presidential hit squad). Lowe said he had witnessed the strangling of Haruna and Masie Jammeh in July 2005. Their deaths were recorded in a 2015 Human Rights Watch report.

The interview was conducted by Fatu Camara, a former press secretary to Yahya Jammeh, who fled to the US in 2013 after being charged with “tarnishing the image of the president”. She said Masie had threatened to see a marabout, a spiritual leader with reputed supernatural powers, if Yahya did not reveal Haruna’s whereabouts. Having already set the Jungulers on Haruna, Yahya then targeted Masie, too.

On 26 January Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow, returned from exile in Senegal. He leads an unwieldy, eight-party coalition with differing views on how Jammeh should be held to account. Barrow, who claims to have inherited a “virtually bankrupt” state, has promised to launch a truth and reconciliation process to investigate human rights abuses during the Jammeh regime. In interviews, he has chosen his words carefully, avoiding any mention of prosecution.

But, like many of those who have suffered, Ebrima wants retribution. “I want to see Yahya Jammeh jailed and prosecuted in this country. Justice will finally come.”

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times