Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Jammeh, save The Gambia from avoidable bloodshed!

Today, January 18, 2017 marks the last day of legitimacy of Yahaya Jammeh as the President of The Gambia. From tomorrow, Thursday, January 19, the megalomaniac dictator who calls himself His Excellency, Sheikh, Professor, Alhaji, Doctor ceases to be the president of his country. Since 1994 when he ousted the first president of The Gambia, Sir Dawda Jawara in a coup as a Lieutenant, Jammeh has ruled his country with iron hand and a lot of repression. He curtailed human rights and was fingered in a lot of atrocities including drug and arms trafficking. He has won four controversial presidential elections but surprisingly lost his fifth attempt on December 1, 2016. Though he initially conceded defeat and actually called to congratulate the opposition candidate, Adama Barrow, Jammeh changed his mind a week later and unilaterally declared the election which he has initially praised as being rigged-proof, null and void. Though he did not declare himself the winner of the poll, he has called for a re-run.

Since his volte-face action, a lot of efforts have been made to appeal to him not to plunge his country into avoidable crisis. Economic Community of West African States leaders, in particular, Mrs. Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia who is the current chairman of  ECOWAS, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, immediate past Ghanaian president John Dramani Mahama who lost election a week after Jammeh’s electoral defeat as well as Sengalese President Macky Sall had embarked on several diplomatic shuttles  up until last Friday, trying to persuade Jammeh to honourable and peacefully leave power but he has consistently rebuffed all overtures.  Nigeria’s House of Representatives even passed a motion last week asking the country to offer him asylum. Morocco too has similarly offered him asylum, yet he remained adamant claiming that he would not step down until there is judicial review of his case at the country’s Supreme   Court. Ironically, the court which relied on Nigeria and Sierra Leone majorly for her judges do not at present have sufficient judges to form quorum. In fact, Emmanuel Fagbenle, a Nigerian judge is not only the Chief Justice of The Gambia but is also the lone judge of the apex court.

Last week, the Chief Justice had urged the aggrieved parties to settle out of court since the earliest time the court can have full complement of judges to sit over the political matter is May 2017. Initially, it will seem Jammeh agreed to that option by naming a mediator. However, he has gone further to ask the country’s parliament to extend his tenure in office as well as pass an amnesty bill which will ensure that no one involved in the political impasse from November 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017 is persecuted or prosecuted. This bill is meant to shield the autocrat and his accomplices from answering for their political and economic crimes. Furthermore, Jammeh’s party, Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction attempted last Monday to stop the inauguration of the president elect, Adama Barrow. Fortunately,   the country's Supreme Court refused to hear the application for an interlocutory injunction seeking to stop the inauguration.

Since all appeals have fallen on Jammeh’s deaf ears, African Union and ECOWAS leaders have decided on a number of actions. First is to go ahead with the inauguration of Adama Barrow as the third president of The Gambia tomorrow. Concomitantly, is the non-recognition of the dictator as The Gambia’s president from January 19. The weightiest option being considered is the ECOWAS military intervention force in The Gambia. Already, the Chiefs of Defence Staff of Nigeria, and some other West African Countries like Ghana and Senegal have started planning the troops deployment to flush out Jammeh from his presidential villa. All these have heightened tension in the tiny West African country of about 2 million people. Thousands of people have been fleeing from the country’s capital Banjul to the provinces and to neighbouring countries to seek refuge. The chairman of The Gambia’s Electoral Commission, Alieu Momar Njai was among those who first took to their heels while the country’s Information Minister, Sheriff Bojang and Foreign minister Mrs. Neneh Macdouall-Gaye have also resigned. Jammeh’s goons had reportedly shut down a number of radio stations and arrested some journalists and opposition political leaders before and after the December 1, 2016 election. 

On Monday, January 16, 2017, I was on Nigerian Television Authority news at 12 noon to analyze this ugly development in The Gambia. My take is that I fully endorse military action against Yahya Jammeh in as much as he has scorned all entreaties from the ECOWAS leaders. He has made his choice to go the way of Laurent Gbagbo of Cote D’Ivore who in 2010 plunged his country into a needless civil unrest leading to his capture with his wife and party youth leader. He’s currently being tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. I am a pacifist and would rather not want war in The Gambia, a poor country managing to survive on peanuts and tourism. However, Jammeh must be taught a lesson to respect the wishes of his people. A rat that challenges the cat to a duel must prove its superiority.

What more can West Africa and indeed Africa do for this megalomaniac? He’s been offered asylum so he could be in company of the infamous  African presidents like  Idi Amin of Uganda who fled to  Saudi Arabia  after his ouster in 1979,  Ben Ali of Tunisia who like Amin  took asylum in  Saudi Arabia after the 2011 Arab Spring, Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia who became a  refuge from law  in Zimbabwe after his removal from office in 1991, Hissiene Habre of Chad who fled to Senegal in 1990  after his ouster by the incumbent president Idriss Deby, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire who was toppled by Laurent Kabila forces in 1997 only to die as a refuge in Morocco  as well as Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso who in 2014 ran to Cote D’Ivore after the peoples uprising of that year.

If Yahya Jammeh is not very careful and retrace his step before it is too late, he may end up like Saddam Hussein of Iraq or Moamar Ghadaffi of Libya or Samuel Doe of Liberia. He would be lucky to have Hosni Mubarak of Egypt’s treatment. I urge The Gambian people to stand up to Jammeh and take their destiny in their hands. Rather than run away, they should mobilise like the Burkinabes did in 2014 and march on the Jammeh’s presidential villa and chase him out.