A Look At Gambia’s Political Crisis

By Suwareh Darbo

The purpose of my message is to share my perspectives with you and your audience.

The subject-matter that has been dominating the headlines in the past five weeks is the elections results. It seems that Yaya Jammeh wants to see a cataclysm in the Gambia by making a last ditch attempt to perpetuate his stay in power. It is a desperate move, a real show of brinkmanship. He is unwittingly sowing the seeds of his ultimate destruction and that of his cronies. Unfortunately, there may be collateral damage as he attempts to extend his stay beyond his mandate. We must not allow him to stay in power through intrigue by intimidating people, creating panic and confusion, and claiming to possess a surfeit of arms, including chemical weapons. These are the proto type methods which failing dictators use. As a student of history, I know that dictators are stubborn, cowardice and usually live a world of fantasy, always at odds with reality and Yaya is no exception.

He is counting on the army’s support which by all indications is fading fast as we approach 19th January 2017. History is full of instances where “people power” ultimately prevails. A case in point is that of Ferdinand Marcus of the Philippines who had to flee even without foreign intervention after attempting to rig the elections in 1986. While Yaya has the guns, the goons and the gold, he will be forced out by “people power” perhaps even before 19th January 2017.

It is not difficult to understand why he is hell bent on staying in power. The stakes are too high for him to leave given the atrocities he has committed. His barrage of crimes are now haunting him: the murders, the disappearances, the summary dismissals, the tortures, the disparaging remarks about people and groups of people, irresponsible, divisive and confrontational statements, squander mania, the arrogance and lack of respect for people including imams, elders, civil servants and indeed virtually anybody he comes into contact with. Yaya reminds me of one of the chief protagonists of the French revolution in 1789, Robespierre who massacred hundreds of people only to killed by the same revolution he spearheaded.

Unfortunately, discussions are disproportionately focusing on the possibility of Yaya staying in or leaving power which gives him cheap popularity. We have passed that stage now. The Gambia has outgrown Yaya; he is also an international pariah. We should now be discussing the post-Jammeh era: the composition of the cabinet, the rectification program given the immense damage he has caused, the legal challenges and attendant complexities as well as the overall development agenda. Barrow has a formidable task ahead to put it mildly. I trust that he will recruit competent lieutenants who are guided and motivated by the national interest to proffer the appropriate advice. I firmly believe that President-elect Barrow will be sworn-in as planned on account of the local support and the weight of international opinion behind him. He must capitalize on the good will of the Gambian people and the international community. Above all, he has the prayers of the Gambian people.

Discussions also tend to focus on Yaya’s concession speech and congratulatory message to President-elect, Barrow to make a case for the former’s departure. As far as I am concerned, this is immaterial and of little consequence. The fact is that he has lost the elections according to the IEC thus ending his political mandate. The question of a rerun is indeed an insult to Gambians. It should never be discussed let alone entertained.

Having said that it is a time for national reconciliation and healing as lots of bad blood have been shed during the past 22 years. A close –knit society like the Gambia can ill afford vengeance and tribalism. It is a time to come together as one nation and one people. Let us all rally behind the new government as it endeavours to correct the ills of the past and chart the future development path of the country.

I cannot conclude this speech without commending the IEC Chairman for having the courage, temerity and integrity to declare President-elect, Barrow as the legitimate winner of the elections. His name will be immortalized in the annals of Gambian history; history will be kind to him.

I wish Barrow and his government all the best of luck.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you, the incoming government and the entire people of the Gambia a Happy New Year.

May Allah bless the Gambia.

Sincere personal regards.

The author works as an Economist at the African Development Bank in the Sudan Field Office.


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