Out-Going President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia sends packing Presidents Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia, the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and President Buhari of Nigeria. The two were accompanied by Ghana’s just voted-out President – as an example to Jammeh of peaceful regime change in ECOWAS. With an asylum offer to Jammeh in the back pocket, President Buhari hoped to take Jammeh with him to Nigeria to facilitate the inauguration next week of Gambia’s President-Elect Barrow.
Instead, Sirleaf and Buhari could only take the President-Elect with them out of The Gambia to Mali (to brief ECOWAS who have taken the decision to remove Jammeh by military force if Jammeh refuses to hand-over power peacefully).
And so gloom brought about by fear of war descends over one of Africa’s few “peaceful” nations (if dictatorial rule by a now-deranged dictator over 22 years can be called “peaceful”). There has nevertheless been an absence of war during Jammeh’s dictatorship in The Gambia, while all around in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali and Ivory Coast we have seen brutal wars.
So the Jammeh-rebuffed ECOWAS Presidents have gone to Mali (with President-Elect Barrow) to decide on what to do about determined Gambian Rebel-Leader-to-be Yahya Jammeh.
There is some hope yet that Jammeh may still leave peacefully on the 11th Hour – and that is what ECOWAS and everyone else is betting on to avoid war. The ECOWAS message to Jammeh from Sirleaf and Buhari on that is clear. The message from the USA is also equally clear: the US Embassy in Banjul is preparing its citizens for a likely conflict – and expressing total support for the President-Elect. While we await Sirleaf’s and Buhari’s report to the gathering in Mali, a few things can be gathered from the Friday the 13th failure in Banjul:-
The extraction of the President-Elect out of Jammeh’s potentially vengeful clutches is a very welcome move. There is no doubt that Jammeh is a threat to the lives of the President-Elect and the Coalition’s leaders.
There is also no doubt that the United States and the UK are ready to protect the Coalition leaders remaining at the Coco Ocean Base – just as the US and UK are prepared to defend their citizens and diplomats.
Come 19th January 2017, the world will recognise only one legitimate President of The Republic of The Gambia, His Excellency Adama Barrow. In the circumstances where the Out-Going President is subverting The Gambia’s Constitution, the world recognises that the Inauguration of the legitimate President, His Excellency Adama Barrow, can wait for the appropriate time. After all, he has been inaugurated by the votes of The Gambian people already and the ceremonial Inauguration can indeed wait. Formal ceremony or not, Barrow becomes the recognized President of The Republic of The Gambia on the 19th of January 2017. Period. Barrow should not return to The Gambia until Jammeh gives a public undertaking on television that he will depart on the 18th. Otherwise a desperate Jammeh the Rebel leader will be dangerous to the President-Elect – who should only return to the country once the rebellion is quashed.
Why did Jammeh allow President-Elect Barrow to leave The Gambia?
It seems that Jammeh has been seriously deceived by the loud noises that came from Halifa Sallah and Mai Fatty. Sallah and Fatty kept insisting that “JAMMEH CANNOT STOP THE INAUGURATION” – and Jammeh fell for it by simply concentrating on “STOP THE INAUGURATION AT ANY COST”. It is brilliant mind games by Halifa Sallah and Mai Fatty and it has allowed the extraction of the President-Elect out of a very dangerous situation. Sirleaf’s statement yesterday that “we cannot comment” until we get to Mali is part of the same smart effort to put Jammeh’s mind at rest – and take Barrow with them to Mali. Clearly come the morning of 14th January 2017, Jammeh will see that in allowing the President-Elect to leave The Gambia, Jammeh has lost his ace-card and may react vengefully towards the Coalition members remaining in The Gambia. But can he? Will he?
The question arises because the President-Elect’s departure may have been facilitated by the Gambian Military’s reluctance to follow Jammeh’s order and stop the President-Elect from leaving. And therein lies the hope for a peaceful out-come: now that the President-Elect is out of harm’s way, the ECOWAS military preparations to remove Jammeh and install the President-Elect will accelerate and Jammeh will not just hear it but see military movements on his narrow borders. And so will Gambia’s Army.
The hope that slightly lifts the gloom is that Jammeh cannot depend on the Gambian Army to fight for him and will take the asylum route out. The second option is that the Gambian Army will arrest Jammeh and allow the Inauguration of His Excellency President Adama Barrow to take place. It is simply not conceivable that the Gambian Army will allow a brutal dictator and election-loser, who has brutalized and killed many Gambian Army Officers, to lead them into a war with international forces.