By Emmanuel Daniel Joof (Papis)
THANK YOU ECOWAS/ECOMIG.
MERCI SENEGAL. Nous vous aimons Sénégal
First it was President Macky Sall of Senegal who defeated President Abdoulie Wade, then President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria defeated President Goodluck Jonathan, then President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana defeated John Dramani Mahama, and now President Adama Barrow of Gambia defeated President Yahya AJJ Jammeh. Except for the later, all accepted the results of the polls and handed over power peacefully.
There is much euphoria in the Gambia today following the swearing of President Elect Adama Barrow at the Gambian Embassy in Dakar, Senegal and preparations to remove one of Africa’s worst dictators in modern times by ECOWAS/ECOMIG troops.
Yahya Jammeh the 29-year-old Army Lieutenant who came to power in a military Coup detat on 22nd July 1994 which ousted the democratically government of Sir Dawda Kairab Jawara, promise development, accountability, transparency, probity and much more during his early days in power to the one million and seven hundred thousand inhabitants of the tiny and peaceful sunny West African State of the Gambia commonly referred to by the numerous tourist who visit it as “the smiling coast of West Africa.”
In the early period of his 22 years reign, Jammeh was credited with building many physical structures and edifices such as schools, hospitals and roads but his commendable efforts were soon overshadowed by his corrupt practices and extravagant lifestyle, appalling human rights record including extra judicial killings, illegal detentions and torture of perceived enemies, forcible appropriation of people’s land and properties without due process which he converted into his personal use. Jammeh also usurped all the organs and institutions of the state most notably the judiciary which he filled with foreign mercenary judges.
Jammeh heap abuses at the West, homosexuals, the private media and many more and threatened death to anyone who opposed or criticized his rule and especially Mandinkas whom he threatened to send 9 feet deep. He imprisoned almost the entire executive leadership of the United Democratic Party (UDP) the leading opposition Party for staging a peaceful demonstration requesting electoral reforms. Two of the detainees died in prison after being subjected to torture.
To show solidarity with the Muslim world, he declared Friday an official day off and started steering the country towards an Islamic Sharia State. He labelled Christians and Christianity as a fake and bogus religion. He removed the Gambia from the Commonwealth and recently declared that he was pulling Gambia out of the International Criminal Court.
Yahya Jammeh unexpectedly lost to Mr Adama Barrow a Coalition candidate of 7 parties in a Presidential election on the 1st December 2016. Although he originally accepted the outcome of the results, he renege on his acceptance and mounted am election petition challenge petitioning a Supreme Court that was not properly constituted in part because Jammeh had earlier sacked some of the Judges mostly likely in anticipation that it will be the opposition parties who will be challenging the outcome of the Presidential Election Results. It now transpires that the earliest that the Supreme Court can sit to hear Jammeh’s petition will be in May 2017. Meanwhile Gambians, ECOWAS and the international community have requested Jammeh to step down when his mandate expires on midnight the 18th January and continue with his petition when and if the Supreme Court convenes in May 2017. True to form, Jammeh expressed his intention not to step down and instead filed an interlocutory injunction to stop the inauguration of President Elect Adama Barrow. The Injunction failed as the Chief Justice who was to preside over the case was also named as a party in the injunction. Jammeh then went through his rubber stamp Parliament which on the 17th January passed a state of emergency for 90 days.
President Adam Barrow who has just been sworn in as President of the Republic of the Gambia in the Embassy Premises of Gambia in Dakar, Senegal has a lot on his plate as Jammeh had destroyed the very fabric of Gambian society. Under Jammeh, many Gambians stopped distinguishing truth from falsehood as religious leaders (except for a few) constantly showered praises at Jammeh and paid homage to him despite his appalling human rights record. The security forces from the feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Gambian National Army (consisting of mainly Jammeh’s tribes men), the Para Military, the Jugglers, the Green boys etc, etc carried out extra judicial killings and tortured perceived critics and opponents of Jammeh. Many Gambians ran away into exile in fear of persecution and for greener pastures as Jammeh had monopolized the Gambian economy with his many private businesses which were exempted from paying taxes.
Many Gambians conveniently turned a blind eye to the atrocities of Jammeh as long as it that it did not affect them personally. Jammeh usurped all the state institutions and the organs of government most notably the judiciary which he filled with foreign mercenary judges mainly Nigerians who answered to his beck and call and “fixed” the outcome of court cases as directed by Jammeh. Many Gambians became hypocritical, insincere and two-faced in their dealings while pretending to be God fearing. Religious rituals became a façade while the center of Gambian society was decaying. Some resisted the oppression of Jammeh and were jailed while a good number fled the country in fear of Jammeh’s dreaded NIA and his numerous dreaded secret services.
This is the Gambia that Adama Barrow is inheriting on the 19th January 2017.
Adama Barrow has a lot of work to do and I hope Gambians will assist him in this mammoth’s task. First and foremost, he will need to introduce justice and security sector reforms among many other reforms in all other sectors. This will be no easy fix as Jammeh has destroyed all the government institutions and even confused the psyche of Gambians. He should discourage sycophancy and “Mansa” worship, emphasized and underscore the secular nature of the Gambia and discourage tribalism in all its form. What is also very clear is that to stop Adama Barrow from being another Yahya Jammeh in the making, freedom of the media must be a priority and most importantly, the political and civic space must be opened up and people should be encouraged to engage in open dialogue especially on issues that affect them. People who had their properties seize arbitrarily should have their properties returned and those who have been unfairly dismissed from their job reinstated and or compensated.
Lastly he must disband the NIA and those NIA officers and or their agents who have committed atrocities on Gambians must he held accountable. Personnel of the highly tribalized Gambian Armed Forces must be vetted, disloyal elements dismissed, some retired and some reoriented. Finally emphasis must be given to a truth and Justice Commission before reconciliation and forgiveness.