Yayah Jammeh and the Manifest Destiny of History

Yayah Jammeh-The illusive Gambian Strongman

Yayah Jammeh, the egomaniac despot in The Gambia is disingenuously treading a treacherous path other African tyrants had trodden in the past. After being initially applauded for readily accepting the democratic will of the Gambian people, following the December 1, 2016 presidential elections, Jammeh was subsequently overwhelmed by his dictatorial instincts. As a result, he shamelessly rescinded his earlier acceptance of the election results and bizarrely claimed that he had uncovered fraud and cheating in the December 1st election, which was conducted by his government.

Incredibly, rather than preparing to peacefully hand over the mantle of national authority to Mr. Adama Barrow, his duly elected successor, Jammeh is shamelessly digging in. For a man notorious for perennially flouting the law, brutalizing and tormenting his opponents in his 22-year rule, Jammeh now claims that he’ll seek redress from the Gambian judicial system. The harsh reality is that since seizing power in 1994,  Yayah Jammeh has consistently obliterated the Gambian judicial system. At the moment, there is no fully constituted Supreme Court in The Gambia; many judges and eminent lawyers have had to flee the country for fear of their lives. It’s against this dismal backdrop of judicial castration that Jammeh is attempting to orchestrate a sham election hearing, as a means of hijacking the democratic will of majority of his compatriots, whom he has ruled with iron fist for more than two decades.

Recent multiple media reports from The Gambia indicate Jammeh uttering some trash talks that leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were interfering in his country’s internal affairs. The Gambian strongman, also notorious for his outlandish attires and bizarre claim, such as he can cure AIDS (acquired-immune deficiency syndrome) with herbs, was quoted as saying, “I am not a coward. My right cannot be intimidated and violated.” He then vowed to resist any military intervention in the artificial crisis that he is fomenting.

Rather than being on the right side of history, by taking an honorable exit, Jammeh’s inordinate greed for power is misleading him to opt for an ignoble ejection. All those who know Yayah Jammeh should whisper in his seemingly stubborn ears that West African leaders had heard that familiar shrieking of the cricket before. A little over 26 years ago, there was another gun-toting tyrant in Monrovia who vowed to fight “to the last soldier” and nine months later, his egomaniac prophesy was dramatically fulfilled in a macabre fashion. Instead of blindly chasing the fantasy of futility, or squandering his soul for sordidly garnered wealth, Jammeh now has a momentary opportunity to set an exemplary example for the 21st century generation of African leaders.

Because Jammeh has been brutally wielding absolute power in The Gambia for over two decades now, he seems not to be aware that “non-interference”, which is often touted by despots as an alibi to torment their compatriots with impunity, is now a trite in this 21st century and has consequently been trashed in the proverbial dust bin of diplomacy. As far back as 2001, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty had cogently established that “sovereignty” does not merely confer on State the “right to control”, but most importantly, mandates every State to protect all the people residing within its territorial confines at all times.

Of course, such cardinal responsibility of State to protect the people implies that any State or government must firmly protect the fundamental rights of the people at all times. One of such inherent rights is for the people to freely determine their political destiny through democratic means. In the specific case herein, on December 1, 2016, the sovereign people of The Gambia exercised their rights by casting their ballots for the leaders they preferred, to assume the mantle of State power at this point in time; Gambians vehemently rejected Yayah Jammeh’s 22-year dictatorship in favor of Adama Barrow’s dignified civility.

To his credit, Jammeh initially yielded to the popular will of the people, before being inundated by his despotic impulse and inordinate obsession with power to renege on his pledge of peaceful departure. Now he wants to hijack the political will of the Gambian people at gun point, while claiming at the same time that it’s his internal affairs. This is a blatant insurrection against democracy; the Gambian people have rejected him, but Jammeh is not listening, because he’s a power addict.

By grossly trampling on the right of the Gambian people to elect the leader of their choice in an unfettered fashion, Jammeh has basically shirked his primary responsibility to protect them, because he’s now subjecting majority of Gambians to psychological indignity and degradation; it’s a dereliction of duty on the part of the 51-year-old infantry soldier. The Gambia is not Jammeh’s personal farm. Even if it were, the law of decency provides that Jammeh is obliged to uphold his own words; he can’t just manipulate the will of the people and cling onto power against their will.

As for his spineless argument that the electoral crisis he’s creating is his “internal affairs”, either Jammeh is a consummate ignoramus, or he’s just not au courant with history. As far back as 1981, leaders of the sub-region had appended their signatures on the Mutual Defense Protocol. This protocol fundamentally treats the sub-region as a system, to the extent that if a problem affects one organ of the West African system known as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), it is understood to be affecting the entire system. Based on the principle of the Mutual Defense Protocol, it was in Banjul, The Gambia, that West African leaders resolved in 1990 to intervene in the Liberian crisis. Of course, on August 7, 1990, the Standing Mediation Committee of ECOWAS issued a statement from Banjul, calling for a ceasefire in the Liberian crisis. The ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), in which Jammeh reportedly served, which probably  burnished his military credential before perceiving himself as a presidential material, was carved out in The Gambia.

And so as a man who had practically participated in, or witnessed the socio-economic, political homogeneity of the sub-region to the extent practically permissible within the prism of international laws, it is utterly disingenuous for Jammeh to be shamelessly reciting the despots’ mantra about the subterfuge of “internal affairs” in this age of globalization. After the untold humanitarian disasters in Liberia and Rwanda in Africa, as well as Srebrenica in the Balkans, along with many other humanitarian catastrophes around the world, which continue to prick the collective conscience of humanity, tyrants can no more hide their devilish deeds under the dubious façade of “internal affairs” to persistently inflict more harm on their own people with impunity.

Just as it was in Liberia when power addicts were fighting “until the last soldier”, an unprecedented crisis that flushed hundreds of thousands of refugees into neighboring countries, during which the international community was being urged to provide humanitarian assistance, so, too, if West African leaders are mesmerized into being apathetic to Jammeh’s erratic behavior, the political crisis he’s creating might eventually degenerate into turmoil, most likely erupting a similar humanitarian scenario along The Gambia’s borders with Senegal. In other words, desperate refugees from that tiny country will be streaming into fellow ECOWAS countries and further exacerbating the already strenuous socio-economic conditions of those countries.

The Gambian strongman must be unequivocally reminded that the principle of the Mutual Defense Protocol, signed by ECOWAS member states in 1981 presupposes that the strategic interests of member states are intricately intertwined. Put another way, as a community, ECOWAS is a socio-economic, political system of which The Gambia happens to be one of its functionally vital organs that is pivotal to its viability and vibrancy. It’s therefore, not farfetched to contend that the reckless usurpation of the democratic process in The Gambia is tantamount to an attempt by Jammeh to singularly derail the burgeoning democratic process within the sub-region. By staging the current political arms robbery in The Gambia, Jammeh has miserably failed his responsibility to protect the inhabitants of the sub-region, by potentially exposing them to chaos and incalculable danger. As a result, he has automatically lost his legitimacy as a leader. His swift ejection is therefore warranted to ensure the smooth sail of West Africa’s democratic ship.

Filed in: Analysis

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