By Pa Alagi
After many years of anticipation and preparation, on Thursday December 1st 2016, Gambians went to the polls. The following day, Friday December 2nd 2016, the brave and “God fearing” Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Alieu Momar Njie, declared Adama Barrow, the flagbearer of the Coalition of seven opposition parties, the winner of the election. To many people’s surprise, The Gambia’s longtime President, Yahya Jammeh, came on The Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) and conceded defeat. This was unexpected and unprecedented in The Gambia’s history.
In 51 years of nationhood, there has never been a change of government in a democratic way. If you will recall, the first President, Sir Dawda Jawara, was in power for 29 years after independence and was overthrown by then 29 year-old lieutenant Jammeh and other junior army officers. After promising to “ end corruption” and uphold the principles of ” transparency, probity and accountability”, and to “set up institutions” that will not allow anyone to stay in power for as long as Jawara did, he later reneged on his promises and hung on to power for 22 years, until he was defeated in this month’s presidential elections.
His time in office has been characterized by, among others, unlawful arrest, unlawful detention, hiring and firing of government workers and ministers and in some cases, extra-judicial killing of people who dared to criticize his government, a pattern that instilled enormous fear in the hearts of many Gambians both home and abroad. As a result, his defeat in the polls was a great relief and a source of great joy and celebration until he came back on national television on Friday December 9th 2016 and announced that he was annulling the election results and will not be stepping down after his term ends at mid night on January 18th 2017.
The announcement, even though unconstitutional, has created a lot of anxiety, uncertainty and concern about the future of the country. Nevertheless, it has also galvanized Gambians and the international community to either take action against Jammeh and/or abandon him altogether. This will no doubt lead to his second and likely final defeat: the defeat by attrition.
Since Jammeh’s infamous announcement more than two weeks ago, the United Nations Security Council has voted 15-0 condemning him and announcing that “The members of the Security Council called on him to respect the choice of the sovereign People of The Gambia, as he did on 2 December 2016, and to transfer, without condition and undue delay, power to the President-elect, Mr. Adama Barrow.”
The Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) was even stronger in their stance and has announced that it will take all necessary actions, including military action, to force him out of power. ECOWAS Commission Chairman, Marcel Alain de Souza, has been quoted as saying that, there are “stand-by forces” ready to be “deployed to restore the people’s wish”. In addition to this, Gambian individuals, groups and organizations have come out against Jammeh and have abandoned him in his insane quest to remain president despite clearly losing the election.
Perhaps the most stinging abandonments are those of more than ten of his ambassadors assigned to some of the most important capitals in the world, including Washington, DC, and that of Amadou Samba, his close confidant, supporter, business partner and maybe, “accomplice in some economic crimes”. Mr. Samba came out in the past couple of days telling Jammeh that “ the wisest course of action today is to undertake a process of respecting the commitment Your Excellency made on national television on December 2nd 2016 of cooperating with President-elect Adama Barrow for a smooth transition”. Ouch! That has to hurt very badly. Mr. Samba should be commended for not choosing “commerce over conscience” (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 2015) and not be chastised in order to encourage others to come forward and continue the attrition. The pain does not end there and it should not. Recently, we saw reports that Jammeh’s longtime supporter and former Speaker of the National Assembly, Fatoumata Jahumpa Ceesay, (a.k.a FJC), is also mulling over abandoning him. She has since denied the reports.
In any case, what all this is telling Jammeh is that, his time is up and that he should graciously hand over. He is probably not going to read his former friends’ writings on the wall and will dismiss them as opportunists. So, I would like to, on this Holy and last Friday of the year, point him to some writing in a Book, The Quran, he is always seen holding in public albeit his limited knowledge of its teachings.
For the past couple of years, in what can only be described as very unusual, Jammeh has added The Quran to the sword and prayer beads he is seen clutching anytime he appears in public. This, I believe, is part of his self-mystification and misleading display of his strong dedication to the Islamic religion. It has to be noted that we do not know of any reports stating or suggesting that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) or anybody who seriously follows his teachings has done this in the past or is currently doing this. What we do know, however, is that Jammeh does not understand what the Quran is saying. I can confidently say this because the copy I see him holding in public is written entirely in Arabic and I am willing to wager that he does not understand the Arabic language well enough to be able to read and understand what Allah is saying. As a result, I highly recommend that, in his increasing loneliness and abandonment, he uses a translated copy so that he can make better use of the words of wisdom in The Quran. In the meantime, I would like to share a few of those words of wisdom that may be very helpful to him and indeed, to anyone in his situation.
Mr. Jammeh, in Chapter 54 of the Quran (Surah Qamar), verse 49, Allah is tells us that:
- Verily, We have created all things with Qadar (Divine Preordainments of all things before their creation, as written in the Book of Decrees Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz).
This Quranic translation is from: The Noble Qur’an, Transliteration in Roman Script with Arabic Text and English Translation by Muhammad Taqiuddin Al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan. The translation is great and the transliteration is excellent for anyone who can read English but cannot or is not proficient in reading Arabic. I highly recommend, Mr. Jammeh, that you quickly get a copy from Amazon and I am confident Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) will be happy to Fedex it for free if he knows that your possession of a copy will facilitate your understanding of Allah’s words of wisdom and hopefully this will lead you to stepping down peacefully from the presidency and thereby preventing conflict in The Gambia.
Two related verses, Mr. Jammeh, are in Chapter 57 (Surah Hadid), verses 22 and 23 respectively, where Allah says:
- No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz), before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah.
- In order that you may not be sad over matters that you fail to get, nor rejoice because of that which has been given to you. And Allah likes not prideful boasters.
One more, Mr. Jammeh, in Chapter 71 (Surah Nuh), part of verse 4, Allah is saying that:
- Verily, the term of Allah when it comes, cannot be delayed, if you but knew.
In my cursory understanding of the verses above, the Sheikhs who will read this column know better, Jammeh should come to terms with the fact that Allah’s term came on December 2nd and will be in full effect on January 19th and “cannot be delayed”. So, it will be very foolish of him to try to do anything to jeopardize the handover of power to the new government. Allah is telling him that this was decreed a long time ago before it came into existence on December 2nd . As a result, there is no need to cry or complain about people who have not voted or numbers that were not added correctly or transposed and were later corrected without changing the outcome or any of the many excuses he and his people have been using to justify hanging on to power. It’s over, Mr. Jammeh, and according to his friend, Mr. Samba, the “wisest” thing to do is hand over peacefully. Do it! And let the chips fall where they may.
Failure to do that will only lead him to a lot of regrettable circumstances. It does not take a lot of digging into recent history to know what is going to happen to Mr. Jammeh if he remains stubborn. Undoubtedly, he is very stressed out right now because of his own actions and we all know that there is scientific evidence linking stress and cognition, something Jammeh is very deficient of at the moment. Because of his stress-induced cognitive impairment, I have volunteered to get some excerpts, from Wikipedia, of the story of Laurent Gbagbo, another West African president who wanted to do what Jammeh is trying to do now.
On 28 November 2010, the second round of the presidential election was held. Four days later the Ivorian Election Commission (CEI) declared Alassane Ouattara the winner with 54.1% of the vote. Gbagbo’s party complained of fraud and ordered that votes from nine regions occupied by the ex-rebels be annulled. The Constitutional Council concluded that without these votes Gbagbo won with 51% of the remaining vote. Gbagbo ordered the army to close the borders and foreign news organizations were banned from broadcasting from within the country.
Ouattara also took a parallel oath of office, based on an earlier pronouncement by the CEI that he won the election. The international community, including the African Union, recognized Ouattara as the duly elected president and called for Gbagbo to respect the will of the people. ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, also recognized Ouattara and demanded Gbagbo cede power. Gbagbo responded by launching ethnic attacks on northerners living in Abidjan with his army made up partly of Liberian mercenaries
On 11 April 2011, forces loyal to Ouattara supported by the French and UN army moved to seize Gbagbo at his residence in Abidjan after failed negotiations to end the presidential succession crisis. According to Ouattara, his forces established a security perimeter at the residence, where Gbagbo had sought refuge in a subterranean level, and were waiting for him to run out of food and water. His trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague began on 28 January 2016.
Wow! This sounds and reads awfully similar to what is going on in The Gambia or what could happen to Mr. Jammeh, especially given what we learned today about the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF), to be led by Senegal, being deployed by the ECOWAS Commission to ensure “the safety of the President-elect” and to uphold “the results of the presidential election of 1st December 2016”. This is serious stuff, Mr. Jammeh! It should be noted that Gbagbo is not the only former leader who was captured at a “subterranean level”. Two names come to mind: Saddam Hussein in 2003 and Muammar Gaddafi who was a close friend of Jammeh in 2011.
To conclude this column, for Jammeh, a word to the wise is: please go back to your original decision to hand over power peacefully and don’t even think of starting a conflict. Gambians do not deserve any kind of conflict just for you to stay in power. Against all odds, you became president and ruled (I prefer to say, served) for 22 years. You obviously did some things that will forever be an important part of the Gambia. We leave that for the historians to grade you on that. At this point in time, we are not here to praise you or to remind people of the projects you implemented, like what GRTS did last week, or to “thank you for your work in the past 22 years”, which President-elect Barrow has already done but we are here to ask you, a self-described “man of peace” to leave office peacefully. If you fail to do so and plan to “defend my country courageously, patriotically and win”, be assured that, “Bil lahi wal lahi tal lahi”, your favorite words when swearing, by the grace of God, you are not going to win. Why am I so confident of this? Because in one of the verses I shared with you earlier, the Quran, Allah’s word, is telling us that, and I repeat, “Verily, the term of Allah when it comes, cannot be delayed, if you but knew”. If you did not know, Mr. Jammeh, now you do.
So, heed the warning and graciously accept the title of “former president Jammeh” come January 19th , just like Jawara did after you overthrew him, rather than the title of “fugitive former president Jammeh” who will be facing charges at the ICC when capture from the “subterranean level” of his Kanilai mansion. If you allow that to happen, then history tells us that the final scene of your defeat by attrition will be very, very ugly. So, on this special Friday, take heed of Allah’s words of wisdom, the advice of your dear friend, Mr. Samba, and the calls to step down from people all over the world. Jumuah (Jummah) Mubarak.