Friday, January 13, 2017

Gambians Should not Fall for Jammeh's New Moves

Even Goats are Fed Up
Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh is currently in somewhat of a jam. This past Monday, his appeal against the election results in his country couldn't go ahead, as there were not enough judges in the country to preside over the case. 

On Wednesday he stopped a delegation of West African leaders who were on their way to Banjul to try and convince him to peacefully  handover on January 19th to the winner of the country's Presidential elections, Adama Barrow. They are due to head to Gambia today, if he allows them in.
President Elect Adama Barrow 

As if things were not bad enough, Gambian Communication Minister Sheriff Bojang, one of Jammeh's strongest allies has defected from the government and absconded to Senegal, accusing his ally of "an attempt to subvert the will" of the Gambian people, by refusing to handover power to the candidate who had clearly won the country's December 2016 elections. Sheriff Bojang had led the withdrawal of Gambia from the ICC and was a renowned Jammeh loyalist. A few weeks earlier, the country's Foreign Minister Neneh Macdouall Gaye had defected without much fanfare, wanting no part of Jammeh's intransigence.

The resignation of the ministers follows on the heels of calls by many of Gambia's Ambassadors for Jammeh to step down peacefully and respect the will of the peaceful people of his country.

Jammeh who has ruled Gambia with an iron fist for 22 years, surprisingly lost elections on December 1st 2016, after winning four consecutive elections. He had initially called the elections the fairest in the history of mankind and even briefly  accepted the results which declared coalition opposition candidate Adama Barrow, the clear winner. However, in characteristic fashion, Jammeh, after just about three days,  backtracked on his acceptance of the results, citing irregularities and called for fresh elections. The electoral commission remained adamant that the results were accurate, reflecting the will of the people and that the process had been totally free and fair.

A West African mediation group, comprising the leaders of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Liberia had made a quick trip to Gambia to try and defuse the situation after the former military strongman refused to step down. The leaders, Buhari, Johnson-Sirleaf, Koroma, and Mahama, took the step of  listening to all the parties and the electoral commission.
After the visit, the leaders concluded that the results reflected the choice of the people and called on President Jammeh to step down. They also pledged to be in the Gambia on the 19th of January, where they would be attending the inauguration of the President elect Adama Barrow.

The West African leaders later released a communique indicating their resolve to remove the president by force of arms if it became necessary. They also set about establishing a standby force to kick Jammeh out of power if he remained intransigent.

A week later Jammeh had a long TV broadcast with a group of dubious characters calling themselves the African Bar Association, who claimed to be in the country to mediate the political impasse, but spent much time on the public broadcast praising the tyrant, much to the chagrin of the Gambian populace.

Emboldened by the lavish praise from the members of the so called African Bar Association, Jammeh launched into a nearly hour long tirade, accusing West African leaders of illegally trying to interfere into the internal affairs of a sovereign country. He accused the domestic opposition of voter intimidation which resulted in a low turn out of his supporters, accused the Western countries of a chronic colonial mentality, and accused the world of a conspiracy to remove him from power because he was unwilling to bow down to the wishes of the agents of neocolonialism.

Jammeh also vowed to meet any foreign intervention with the full force of the might of his less than 2000 man military and vowed that with God (Allah) being on his side, he was bound to come out victorious. He  further accused the West African leadership of political bias, saying he will no longer recognize their mediation efforts unless they were ready to concede to his demand for a legal challenge of the results followed by a rerun of the election.

Just a few days after the election were announced, Jammeh had bought some new vehicles for top military officers in the country and hastily promoted about 49 of them to senior ranks in a move that foreshadowed his backpedaling. The Head of the Country's military General Ousman Badjie, who had initially celebrated the victory of Adama Barrow, now pledged his allegiance to his boss and friend Jammeh, vowing to defend him against any foreign intervention.

However, it seems like Jammeh's military armor is beginning to crack. This week, about three of the promoted senior officers have defected to Senegal saying that they were not ready  to fight for Jammeh, but were instead on the side of the people of Gambia. One of the officers stated that Jammeh was just a very selfish man who only cared for himself and many soldiers in the Gambian military  also knew this. He vowed that over 90% of soldiers in the country were unwilling to fight for Jammeh but were ready to side with any intervention force in order to drive him from power. He said Jammeh would face the surprise of his life if he thought the army would stand by him in the case of external military intervention.

This week, Jammeh, knowing that his chances for hanging on to power peacefully are dwindling, and starting to doubt the resolve of the military to sacrifice their lives for him, he has suddenly decided to employ a cunning and new tactic.

On Tuesday the embattled president went on national TV and in a rather subdued tone stated that the current political impasse was a test of the faith of the Gambian people by Allah. He again went through his rather short list of election grievances, but said that he was ready to work with the political parties to find a peaceful way out of the impasse without any need for foreign interference. He noted that Gambians had always found solutions to their domestic problems without external intervention and believed that as God fearing people they would do so again.
He then appointed the Head of the Civil Service and Secretary General, Musa Jallow, as a "Mediator General" for the conflict with a mandate to ensure the public service remained neutral, to help convene a national meeting of stakeholders to the conflict so that all sides will be heard, and for Jallow to work with the Justice Minister and National Assembly to draft an amnesty bill, that would prevent any "witch hunt." Jammeh also issued an executive order preventing any arrests or prosecution for events related to the election period.

Jammeh did not however say what the ears of many Gambians were aching to hear; that he was ready to step down and handover to Adama Barrow on January 19th!

Jammeh, like most tyrants, eventually grow to believe that they can control destiny. A man with extreme love for power, this latest stunt by Jammeh is just  delaying tactics to buy him some time while he hopes the resolve of West African leaders for military intervention would weaken.
Jammeh knows that without military intervention, the people of his country are of a peaceful nature and will probably not come out on the streets and challenge his rule like the situation in Guinea, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and other countries where citizens had stood up to tyrannical rulers. Jammeh knows that Gambians will mostly complain on social media and go into exile, while he finds a way to hang on to power.

The Gambian coalition should not have any part in Jammeh's bogus mediation tactics. They should continue to pressure the West African leaders to continue the current external mediation process or intervention by force if that becomes necessary. The coalition should know by now that Jammeh is only sincere when the cards are in his favor. He uses the name of Allah in a God fearing country to lend credence to his evil political machinations. Jammeh uses the name of Allah only for political convenience, but his actions show a power hungry despot, ready to murder in order to continue to enjoy the privilege of leadership.

Gambians should learn a lesson from President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. When Idi Amin of Uganda, another Jammeh like tyrant, made the catastrophic mistake of attacking Tanzania, Amin actually thought he was going to win. As the Tanzanian army swiftly captured large parts of Uganda, Amin called on his "brother" Nyerere for a peaceful resolution. Nyerere did not stop until Amin packed up and ran out of  the country for good.

Tyrants never negotiate in good faith, so it is pointless for the coalition to negotiate with Jammeh. Jammeh's period is over and it would be a mistake for the coalition to sit down for any negotiation.

As far as political conflict is concerned, there is honestly no conflict in Gambia. There was an election, it went on peacefully, and there was a clear winner. So where is the conflict that Jammeh is talking about? He is the only one creating the conflict by refusing to abide by the people's expressed desire for new leadership. 

Gambians should stop falling for Jammeh's bag of tricks. Twenty two years is too long to continue being led by the nose by a single individual.

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