Gambia: ECOWAS Intervention Necessary; Even Inevitable

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By Mathew K Jallow, Madison, Wisconsin

Yahya Jammeh once insulted the African Union. Now he frequently insults the ECOWAS; once, even threatening to unilaterally pull the Gambia out of the West African bloc. Insulting the US and UK are his favourite pastimes. But, recently, the one thing he relishes most is disparaging the EU, once telling the European body to “go to hell.”

If Yahya Jammeh views neighbouring Senegal as his bogeyman, it is because, to a large degree, he sees President Macky Sall as his kryptonite. Yahya Jammeh can no longer control Guinea-Bissau’s political affairs, order assassinations of political nemeses, exploit the resources of that country, causing that country’s decade of political unrest, due of President Sall.

On the surface, his acts of lunacy may not seem much, but put together, they tell a story of his consistent exposure of a touch of insanity, and a tinge of reptilian insensitivity. Yahya Jammeh  displays a disturbing pattern of behavior that is borderline megalomaniac in nature and cowardly in disposition. As bad his actions are, they don’t exemplify the worst of Yahya Jammeh’s display of pure political madness. That has to be the six instances of executions;, ranging from as few as six innocent military officers, to as many as forty-four West African s mostly Ghanaian nationals captured at Amdalaye border post with Senegal, travelling to the Canary Islands as illegal immigrants.

Since 1994, the political killings have exceeded several hundred, as Gambians have lost count, but this does not include the hundred who died in prisons, the thousands who fled to Senegal, West Africa, across Europe, and the dozens who have disappeared after their arrests by National Intelligence Agency, since 1995. The World Bank also estimates 65% of the Gambia’s university graduates have left the country; second only to the Cape Verde Islands. But, it is Yahya Jammeh’s child sacrifice killings that most defy explanation, and characterizing the practice as cruel, barbaric and animalistic, is an understatement that doesn’t do justice to a ritual practice, which is a throwback to the Cro-Magnon era.

It is hard to determine whether Yahya Jammeh is more motivated by lust for power, material greed or both. For a man who had less than ten dollars in his bank account in 1994, Yahya Jammeh is easily the wealthiest head of state in West Africa and with properties around the Greater Banjul, Guinea-Conakry, Morocco, the crown jewel, Washington, DC, mansion in the heart of the priciest real estate in America, all from Africa’s poorest country, that says something.

Yahya Jammeh is truly a composition of multiple personalities, none of them congenial, and all of them repulsive to the extreme. This is not merely my opinion; ask any Gambian. There is another angle to Yahya Jammeh few people know; he has turned the Gambia as a transhipment point for illegal South American drugs bound for the United States and Europe. And Yahya Jammeh’s  wife makes frequent forays to Washington and Paris, which some believe are Imelda Marcus type wasteful shopping sprees, but others see the trips as nothing more than diplomatic cover to transport illegal drugs to the US. Be that as it may, one thing is clear, there is only one country on the African continent where the Darwinian theory of the survival of the fittest is flaunted with mindless indifference to the sensibilities of its victims; Gambia’s majority tribes. Yahya Jammeh’s muscular tribalism is a catalyst in the decision to free the Gambia from his scathing ignorance, in order to rebuild the relations that bound our citizens together, without regard to tribe or regional origin.

Despite Yahya Jammeh’s best efforts in creating divisions of tribe among the Gambian people, at the individual and community levels, his colossal failure is routinely celebrated as an example of common sense human values. Gambians of every hue have determined that the government level is where Yahya Jammeh has the most impact in tribal discrimination in hiring, business, educational and promotional opportunities.

And despite every energy wasted in creating tribal rifts, his divisive efforts are superseded by generations of cultural and bloodline bonds, which Gambians value far more than the hatred he is implanting in Gambians’ midst.  Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that Yahya Jammeh’s departure from the canons of moral rectitude have had a devastating impact on Gambia’s marginalized tribes, who consist 95% of the population. The Gambia is, today, a perfect case study of the tyranny of the minority; Yahya Jammeh’s life worth, but it is also his undoing. In so many ways, Yahya Jammeh is a counterfeit replica of some bad men of history; his mentor Col. Mumar Ghadaffi, Idi Amin Dada, and Sekou Toure, copying their greed, savagery, perhaps, more importantly, copying their indifference to reason. After twenty-two years, the Gambia has reached an inflection point, and political change, to conform to the rest of the civilized world, and the ever shifting political paradigms of our time, is the goal of their nation, and the reason Gambians voted for political change.

Ideologically and temperamentally, Yahya Jammeh is stuck to the past; a world of archetypal dictators, tyrants and military rulers, who graduated into believing their indispensability and supreme right to not be accountable to justice and the laws of their land. But, the political world is changing rapidly, leaving these rulers far behind in the filth dustbin of history.

Yahya Jammeh needs this truism driven in his empty skull. And as the political impasse in the Gambia draws further on, Yahya Jammeh is faced by mounting challenges, as several dozen institutions and agencies submit to the will of the Gambians people, and allegiance to the Coalition. The state-sanctioned killings, forced disappearances, tortures, mass incarceration, fleeing of Gambians in search of safety in other lands, may be emblematic of Yahya Jammeh’s military dictatorship, but the recent resignation from the Gambia’s Foreign Service, the ambassadors to Senegal, United Kingdom, United States and China, among a dozen others, is singularly Yahya Jammeh’s worst storyline since losing the elections last month.

These mass resignations from the diplomatic corps and the continuing defection of members of the military and security forces, have increasingly left deplorable Yahya Jammeh more and more isolated; if not completely abandoned by the core of his civilian defence, and , therefore, his frivolous claim to legitimacy. From every corner of the globe, Gambians have sent bruising condemnation to Yahya Jammeh and his sickening regime; and speaking the common language of reason, made impassioned pleas for Yahya Jammeh to defer to the will of the Gambian people, and condemned him for his insistence of staying in power. After twenty-two years, winning four elections, Gambians are baffled by Yahya  Jammeh’s claim to power after his loss.

The common thread that runs through their logic is best summed up by an angry Gambia; by the hundreds, Gambians  lost their lives, fled the Gambia  by the thousands, scared and threatened by their government, incarcerated by the thousands, lost billions of dollars to state looting, and still Yahya Jammeh wants to drain every last drop of our blood. Yahya Jammeh’s strange fixation with power, will, this year, be met by a steely determination for political change and gymnastic contortion and artful dodging will only exacerbate  his haemorrhaging of goodwill from former supporters. Yahya Jammeh’s delusion is that ECOWAS will magically stop demanding his resignation, but Gambian’s got news for him; ECOWAS will side with the people, not a criminal like himself. The saving grace for him and his ragtag army is to step down and allow the Constitution  and the laws to work. After all, Gambians, after two decades of death and destruction, still wait to be free; finally.


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