Saturday marked a year after Yahya Jammeh phoned then Coalition presidential candidate Adama Barrow conceding electoral defeat. Then President Jammeh said he wasn’t going to challenge “the will of Allah,” describing the Gambia’s electoral process as “rig-proof.”
Gambians in their thousands filled the streets jubilating life without a man whose regime survived on extra-judicial killings, disappearances and tortures. Jammeh’s intimidating posters were uprooted. But the content of Madam Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang’s December 7th interview with the London’s Guardian that the former president who had hidden treasures at his (Jammeh’s) birthplace of Kanilai would not be allowed to leave the country shifted the dynamic. She also said Jammeh would be prosecuted instead of being allowed to leave the Gambia and start insurgency. Mr. Jammeh became paranoid beyond understanding and not knowing what to do until the electoral commission revised the results. A week after conceding defeat Jammeh stunned the world with a televised address, annulling the election results saying there was ample evidence that inaccuracies existed. The Manipulator in Chief did everything under the hot sun to cling to power. Like a sinking man, everything betrayed Jammeh who used the rubber-stamping Parliament to declare state of emergency. His own plot not to provide enough judges at the Supreme Court to prevent his opponents from having their election petition being heard came back to bite him. Besides, his efforts to have judges from the Commonwealth West Africa also bite the dust. And to add salt to his fresh wounds, Gambians threw their weight behind Adama Barrow.
Jammeh felt the real pains of isolation when his ministers started voting with their feet. Yet he didn’t see the light. His last option was to further lure the military on his side by bribing them with promotion and money. Even that too boomeranged on him when some of the newly decorated soldiers fled. Jammeh’s declaration alarmed the world, with Senegal rushing an emergency United Nations Security Council session on the Gambia. The regional economic grouping ECOWAS, the African Union and all the major powers told Jammeh to relinquish power to avoid war.
Banjul turned into a diplomatic capital aimed at diffusing Jammeh’s self-created impasse. None of the diplomatic efforts, including the one led by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari yielded desired results. The wise elderly statesman who read arrogance, confusion and ruthlessness on Jammeh’s face, decided to fly out Adama Barrow to Mali. Barrow would later live and take oath of office at the Gambian High Commission in Senegal. President Barrow’s speech on January 21st calling for support was the magic bullet depressed Gambians had been waiting for. ECOWAS military forces entered the Gambia without resistance. Jammeh had sleepless nights, running from one room to another after seeing Nigerian military jets hovering in the country.
Fearing a repeat of the 1981 rebellion incident when detainees died in locked cells, smart police officers in Banjul freed detainees and left the capital to the ghosts. Upon learning that his military easily surrendered, Yahya Jammeh knew his options narrowed. The coward who claimed to own the Gambia and ruled it for a “billion years,” was ready to begin his exile life in Equatorial Guinea, a country that has no cultural or religious similarities with the Jammeh’s Crying Coast of West Africa. President Barrow was escorted to the Gambia in dignity. Gambians lined up the streets to welcome home a man who shepherded them to chase away their Angel of Death. Everyone was brimming with confidence that it was time to reclaim not only their country but everything Gambian: culture, religion and freedom. They started smiling again. Africa’s smallest country on mainland once again became the Smiling Coast of West Africa. Barrow formed his Coalition government and embarked on a difficult journey of getting the country back on its feet, restore confidence of citizens, guarantee security, rights and freedoms. Managing a Coalition government any where is chaotic because people who share very little in common coalesce to elbow out a common enemy. A Coalition is a marriage of convenience which is often marred by melee, petty talks or bitterness until love dissipates. We expect our Coalition government to focus on solving our mountain of problems rather than paying attention to unimportant trivial issues. Citizens must also exercise patience and tolerance, for it will take decades to get rid of Jammeh’s mess.
There is every indication that Gambians feel ownership of their government that is why communities dig into their pockets to finance the one year victory anniversary. Gone are the days when unnecessary celebrations consume quarter of the national budget. We have got the Gambia we have been longing for. Yes, we have something to celebrate. It is time for us to count our successes, failures and work towards providing solutions. The role of the government is to serve the interest of citizens.
We definitely disagree with anyone who thinks the one year anniversary is not worth celebrating. As the crowned Gambian Kora King Jaliba Kuyateh put it, “some may not agree with my view but I am contented with the freedom this government has given Gambians. Even if they do nothing I will still be contented. I am grateful that we have our human dignity back. No one lives in fear any more. That is the Gambia we know and want to live in.”