President Yahya Jammeh

The State House

Banjul, Gambia

President Jammeh,

The Committee for the Restoration of Democracy in the Gambia (CORDEG) writes to express our grave concern over the foiled coup attempt of December 30, 2014, the ensuing reprisals being meted out on innocent citizens, and the worrisome developments in The Gambia, generally, since you seized power in 1994. After you assumed power, you promised Gambians to end corruption and government ineptitude. You justified the 1994 coup partly on the basis of former President Kairaba Jawara’s “tribal,” politics and thirty-year over-stay in office.

As “soldiers with a difference,” you vowed to replace President Jawara’s corrupt and tribal rule, with, “transparency”, “accountability,” and “probity” in government. Yet, twenty years later, Gambia is in a worse state of corruption and tribalism; as you have transformed the institutions of state and society into mechanisms to perpetuate yourself in power and to enrich yourself at the expense of an increasingly impoverished and disenfranchised Gambian population. In order to achieve your aim of totally subjugating the population, you embarked on a systematic destruction of the democratic institutions of the Gambian state, by amending provisions of the 1997 Constitution, which guarantees the democratic and human rights entitlements of the Gambian people, including a two five year term limits for the presidency as well as the requirement for a 50+% of the popular vote to win an election. This means the Gambian people have no opportunity to elect a government of their choosing in a free and fair ballot.

You have, likewise, continue to violate fundamental political freedoms and brought under your direct control, all institutions and avenues of freedom of expression and assembly and routinely deny Gambians a voice in the day-to-day administration of their country. In order to maintain you grip on power, you have also killed, disappeared, maimed, imprisoned and tortured average Gambians in order to instill fear in their minds and to silent both real and perceived opponents of the government. Opposition political parties and their leaders have also been subjected to gruesome repression in order to protect your rule, thereby making genuine democratic challenge to your government ineffectual if not impossible. You have also used your disruptive and brutal rule to divide and to sow seeds of discord among Gambia’s ethnic and religious groups, to serve your diabolical political and economic interests and those of your supporters.

And, while you have conducted four presidential elections since 1994- none were free and fair. All your election “victories” were engineered with the help of a corrupt IEC and its various heads. Condemnation from ECOWAS, and other international bodies, notwithstanding, you have doggedly insisted on remaining in power for twenty years now. You have made it impossible for the legitimate desire and aspirations of the Gambian people to be expressed through the ballot-box, resulting in numerous efforts to topple your government by force. And because you deny citizens their legitimate political and civil rights by blocking all legitimate avenues for dissent and to choose their leaders under internationally recognized electoral standards, you open your person and your government to military attacks as an alternative to the democratic process. Your constant interference with the independence of the judiciary and the National Assembly also amounts to a dangerous centralization of power in your hands, which further restricts political freedoms and the democratic space.

It is against this backdrop, that the December 30, 2014 attempt to topple your government must be situated. The utter lack of rights and freedoms and the autocratic ways in which you have conducted Gambian affairs in the last twenty years, provided the context for the December 2014 attacks. Let no one fool you or delude yourself to believe otherwise. When you deny Gambians the fundamental right to demonstrate peacefully, to hold political rally legally or exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, as well as peaceful resolution of conflicts through democratic means- you create the immediate conditions for a bloody revolt or mutiny, as was witnessed on December 30, 2014, and others before it.

As events unfold following the putsch, the longstanding allegations of your complicity in the Cassamance rebellion, which is well documented, has now been confirmed, as renegade members of the MFDC came to your assistance to quell the insurgency and provide your personal security, further confirming the long held view that you operate an illegal private army of foreign fighters in contravention of the national constitution.

In your desperate efforts to hold on to power at all cost, you have fomented inter-ethnic discord between Gambians and their close neighbours in Senegal’s southern province, which has the potential to develop into an international crises far beyond the borders of the Gambia. You have also endangered the security of the Gambian nation by financially, and strategically supporting the Cassamance rebellion in Senegal; which is a deliberate interference in the internal affairs of Senegal and the violation of their territorial integrity. Support for this rebellion is possible only because of your trade in illicit drugs, money-laundering, and arms trafficking. This willful violation of Senegalese sovereignty also carries with it the threat of serious geo-political implications for the long term peace and security of the entire sub-region.

In sum, your presidency has become untenable and poses a grave danger to the collective peace and security of the Gambia and the sub-region as a whole. You have become a menace to our country’s well being, as you have systematically denied ordinary Gambians a voice in the running of their lives and homeland by using systemic violence or the threat of violence against innocent citizens.

CORDEG and all her partner organizations, which includes opposition political parties in the Gambia, in keeping with our stated organizational principle of non-violence, remain committed to the resolution of the Gambia’s political and democratic deficit that you created, through peaceful and democratic means and to transition to a new democratic dispensation that respects fundamental rights and freedoms. However we also firmly believe that your continued tenure as president of the republic will make such a transition impossible to achieve. CORDEG therefore strongly urge you to Step down as president, in the solemn national interest of the Gambia and its citizens, in order to enable Gambians to establish a National Unity Government and to prepare the nation for future free and fair elections that will transition the country to genuine democracy.

Failing to resign from your now contested position as president of the Gambia will merely invite more military attacks against your regime and your person by more determined adversaries. And no amount of threat of reprisal, or hollow and unsavory victory celebrations by your supporters will stem these military attacks, as long as the toxic conditions you created to hold on to power, remain unchanged. After twenty years of your arbitrary and suppressive rule, Gambians demand change and we now know and some are prepared to shed their blood to achieve their objectives. By all intents and purposes therefore, Gambia’s “democracy” is the subjects of intensifying conflict that is in urgent need of international intervention.

Consequently, CORDEG is sending an urgent call to the international community, particularly ECOWAS and the AU to intervene in this intensifying dispute, by invoking existing international protocols, to help diffuse what is a dangerous conflict situation; in order to avert open violent upheaval taking hold in the Gambia, as it did in Sierra Leone, Liberia and other conflict areas in the sub-region. CORDEG will submit formal representations to these and other organizations.

In the service of The Gambia

Professor Abdoulaye Saine, Chairman

CORDEG

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