By Mathew K Jallow
Even by Yahya Jammeh’s disgustingly low ethical standard, this has to be a recapitalization from his customary chest-beating, mouth-foaming, and tongue spitting bravado, and detachment from social order. This may come as a complete surprise to ECOWAS, but to Gambians, Yahya Jammeh’s frequent puzzling reversals on his decisions are just another day on the farm. In Yahya Jammeh’s fantasy world, everything presumes the complexion of a game of chess, in which his revolting craftiness has the force to override opposition to his megalomaniacal decision-making.
But the Senegal-Gambia border closure, this time around, completely backfired on Yahya Jammeh face, and with authorities in Senegal apathetic to his incessant and unnecessary provocations, Yahya Jammeh was forced to turn to an institution that he has so often vehemently and viciously maligned and dragged into the mud-pit; ECOWAS. By turning to ECOWAS, in distress, with no remedy to the on-going border impasse, the regional institution suddenly has meaning and purpose to Yahya Jammeh, who in past epic fits of dementia, more than once threatened to pull Gambia out of the regional body. Yahya Jammeh eating his own vomit is nothing new, but for the first time, the withering diplomatic relation with Senegal poses a significant threat to his already tenuous hold on power. In Yahya Jammeh’s muck-filled brain, his self-serving interest, by definition, preface the Gambia’s relations with the international community, and mutual relations that Gambia develops, endure or die based on whether there are personal benefits for him. In the past, Yahya Jammeh unilaterally imposed tariffs on Senegalese vehicles and good transiting through Gambia, and like the on-going closure, each case was based not on any economic necesity, but on the fluctuation of his fragile mental faculties.
Since 1994, Yahya Jammeh has closed the Gambian border with Senegal, at least once each year, but those border closures have mostly been relatively benign, often resolved quickly after he extracts concessions from the Senegalese government. Without expert advisers and economic management expertise, Yahya Jammeh is left running Gambia’s economy based entirely on his volatile temperament and emotional wreck, which compounds his cluelessness and turns it into a riveting impediment to rationality. Each time Yahya Jammeh has orchestrated the Senegambia order closure, it was premised on his intense, almost sadistic, craving to inflict maximum hurt on Senegal’s presidents, and in the process, cause hardship to Senegal and Gambia’s economies. Yahya Jammeh’s unrelenting border closures, based on patently false justifications, have created unsettling and yawning diplomatic chasms between Senegal and Gambia, but even putting diplomacy aside just for a minute, the effects of the frequent border closures go to the heart of the primal survival instincts of Senegambian’s engaged in the lucrative cross-border trade. ECOWAS ought to have, long before now, been engaged in preventing the endless border closures, to forestall Yahya Jammeh’s continued defiance of the inter-state economic cooperation that ECOWAS seeks to establish for the region. But, Yahya Jammeh has a history of defying ECOWAS, in particular, ECOWAS court rulings against the Banjul regime, but without consequences, he has perfected the template of how to routinely exploit the institution’s weakness, and create barriers to its effectiveness. ECOWAS encapsulates the spirit that unites our people to propel economic growth, and move our citizens from the squalors of abject poverty, but Yahya Jammeh has consistently sought to thwart that effort in the Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau sub-region. This on-going border closure is the latest in Yahya Jammeh’s long list of efforts at sabotaging everything ECOWAS stands for, in the tri-state region of Senegal, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau.
The Senegalese exasperation over the outrageous border tariff hike is not without solid underpinning. In his vengeance filled small-mindedness, Yahya Jammeh unilaterally ordered the Gambia Revenue Authority to raise the border ferry crossing rate from CFA 4,000, to the shocking sum of CFA 400,000 or a raise by 10,000% for Senegalese vehicles. With the total cost of cargo in each Senegalese truck crossing pegged at far less than the tariff imposed by Yahya Jammeh, it is evident the purpose of the hike was meant more as a direct provocation of President Macky Sall, than an economically justified stunt. By every objective measure, Yahya Jammeh’s ceaseless mischief-making has cost the Gambia dearly; as the country is held up internationally as a pariah nation, scorned by many African leaders, and held down as an insignificant player in the regional and international political realms. With this latest border closure, Yahya Jammeh almost tumbled into the yawning abyss of political suicide as angst among the population begins to break out from an insane fear induced self-censorship. In an age when global political transformation is dogmatized in effective regional and international cooperation; Yahya Jammeh, in defiance of world-wide trends, relishes the international spotlight for all the wrong reasons; smashing bridges of unity and cooperation, and persistently stepping on the toes of Senegalese leaders. And for politicians like Hamat Bah, who values his personal relations with Yahya Jammeh more than he is angered by the mass suffering of the Gambian people, history will judge his Quisling character harshly. As elsewhere Africans rebel against the very concept of perpetual leadership, Gambian politicians are not showing signs they will boycott the elections or rebel against the regime’s failure to implement far-reaching electoral reforms, as they said they would. Pitiful Gambia, our hearts are heavy with grief for you..