Moral Battle and Must Step Down Now!
The foiled December 29, 2014 coup effort in The Gambia is yet another blow to an already embattled regime and its head, Yahya Jammeh. As it were, the foiled coup followed in the wake of world-wide condemnation of Jammeh’s strident, antigay legislation, and threats to execute gays- leaving him severely isolated, internationally. Combined US and EU suspension of development assistance, and trade support also sent Jammeh currying favors from Middle Eastern monarchs who likely share his stance on homosexuality to support an economy teetering on collapse.
Gambians awoke to sounds of gunshots on the morning of December 30, at the State House, Jammeh’s official residence, as regime-loyalists and dissident Gambian ex-soldiers, mostly from Europe, the US, and their sympathizers within the Gambia National Army vied for control over this strategic location- while Jammeh shuttled Middle East capitals in search of needed funds to feed his insatiable taste for a luxurious life at the expense of poor Gambians. In the standoff between loyalists and dissident soldiers several lives were lost on both sides- forcing dissident ex-soldiers to make tactical decisions that we are currently monitoring.
Seizing power through a military coup in 1994, Jammeh supplanted a democratically elected government and in time imposed draconian laws to limit fundamental freedoms. He subsequently held four severely engineered presidential elections to keep himself in power. Twenty years into his rule, this rouge regime has all but ruined the economy and uses torture techniques borrowed from Uganda’s former dictator, Idi Amin’s book of horrors.
Jammeh has lost the moral ground and seemingly the war too. If Jammeh is allowed to return to The Gambia, he will no doubt exhibit his characteristic vengefulness that has too often resulted in countless extra-judicial executions of dissidents and innocent citizens.
The European Union, the USA and ECOWAS, must use their good offices to persuade Jammeh to step down from office immediately and establish a Government of National Unity (GNU). Sponsor a National Conference to assess popular aspirations of citizens to rectify Gambia’s moribund economy and politics. In the same vein, the Senegalese government must employ all means to avert a catastrophic abuse of innocent Gambian citizens by making sure that he doesn’t return to The Gambia.
And, following a year or two of rectification, and ratification of the 1997 constitution, specifically- (imposing a two-term presidential limit, expunging the presidential age-limit of sixty-five, undertake a rigorous national registration exercise to afford all existing and future political party leaders contest elections in a level playing field) and, thereafter, hold free and fair presidential and national assembly elections.
Failing this, the international community has a duty to come to Gambia’s rescue to dislodge this unsavory character that is Jammeh and his underlings. Meanwhile, the EU and the US and possibly the UN, must continue to tighten the proverbial economic noose around Jammeh’s neck, impose travel bans on him, and his closest allies, freeze his assets strewn around the Middle East, Europe and the US, as well as in neighboring African countries.
Jammeh must be taught a simple but important lesson: that he cannot continue to flout international human rights norms, while expecting succor from the West. He must be brought into the twenty-first century kicking and screaming by way of the International Criminal Court, as he has a lot to answer for: deaths of Korro Ceesay, Deyda Hydara, Chief Manneh, the April 10 and 11, 2001 student killings, the nine death-row inmate executions, over forty slaughtered Ghanaians- just to name a few.
The entire Gambian population – both on the ground and in the Diaspora stands ready to play its part in birthing a new political dispensation in Gambia.
Professor Abdoulaye Saine