In the hours and days following the Coalition’s electoral victory, one could almost feel the smile returning to the face of the Smiling Coast of West Africa. A revolution that started at least 20 years ago borne its most tangible fruits on December 1, 2016. The electoral victory of Coalition 2016 and the heart-warming assurances from President-elect Adama Barrow were a genuine cause for optimism. Not optimism based on wistful thinking, but optimism springing from a deep feeling of pride and a genuine conviction that the incoming administration will respect the rule of law and the human rights of all Gambians and residents of The Gambia. One could almost see a Gambian renaissance.
But then the almost predictable event occurred. One week after conceding defeat and submitting that it was God’s will that he hands over power, Jammeh declares that he has rejected the election results in their entirety because of an alleged error that nevertheless did not change the outcome. If it happened at all, the error merely shrunk the coalition candidate’s lead from 9% to 4%. But of course, Jammeh will seize any excuse to stay in power, mainly because he fears he would be held accountable for the countless crimes he has committed against the Gambian people and the Gambian nation over the past 22 years.
Judging from his actions and pronouncements on the eve of the December 1 elections, it is clear that Jammeh did not think he was going to lose. He had declared that Gambia’s electoral system was rig-proof and that for this reason, no demonstrations challenging the results would be allowed after the elections. On Election Day he had both the Internet and international phone connections to The Gambian shut off. He was expecting to win big and then accelerate his oppression and tighten his grip on the already suffocating country and its population. Now that he has lost, Gambia’s electoral system has suddenly become susceptible to rigging and the electoral commission was neither independent nor God-fearing.
It remains to be seen how the Coalition leadership and the over 220, 000 ordinary Gambians who voted for them will react. But whatever they do, however they react, Jammeh’s backpedaling on his pledge to accept the results in good faith goes to show just how fake his professed belief in God is. All Jammeh cares about is his personal safety and well-being. If staying in power means he has to spill the blood of innocent Gambians or drag the whole country into an intractable conflict he will do it. All his December 2, 2016 talk about God and Islam and accepting the verdict of the Gambian people was a delaying tactic designed to allow him to think of a way to hang on to power.
Being the devious Machiavellian tyrant he is, Jammeh spent the next few days frantically looking for an excuse to declare the results null and void. He found these excuses in Barrow’s stated intention to respect human rights and the rule of law, and to rejoin the ICC and the Commonwealth, and in remarks by a coalition member that he would be prosecuted by the new government. And when it emerged somehow that there was a small error in the counting or allocating of the votes for one area, Jammeh got what he sees as a legitimate excuse to carry out his obnoxious plot to hijack, once again, the will of the Gambian people. Suddenly, God has never spoken and the voice of the people is not the voice of God. Suddenly, God did not bring to power on Friday July 22, 1994 and ask him to step down on Friday, December 2, 2016.
The bottom line is that Jammeh has further damaged himself by this ill-fated decision to declare the December 1 election results null and void. Whether he manages to cling on to power or not, this decision has further exposed his ugly nature to the universal community of human beings. It has shown that in spite of his loud protestations of belief in “the All Mighty Allah”, he in fact does not care about God or the feelings of the human beings he shares The Gambia with. He has shown himself to be a blind follower of Machiavelli’s advice that a ruler may lie, cheat, kill and pretend to be pious if that enables him “to be alone in power.” He certainly has not heard of the argument that Machiavelli’s Prince was perhaps designed to lead its original intended audience to self-destruction by its brazen advice that the end always justifies the means, that the ruler should try to stay in power by any means necessary, even if it means killing his own blood brother.
Of course, it is futile to try reasoning with Jammeh. The only thing that can remove him from power is force, whether that force is of a natural or persuasive or coercive sort. One hopes that he sees something frightening enough to make him step down and hand over power peacefully. The only other alternatives are that he either dies in office sooner or later, or he is violently removed from power. For him, God has not yet spoken after all. Jammeh will only believe that God speaks when he is completely out of power and in some sort of blazing hell, whether of this world or the next.