By Mathew K Jallow
The somber looks on her face displayed solemnity that bordered on trepidation; even infuriating disquiet. There were no cracking of courtesy smiles or diplomatic grins. Metaphorically as well as literally, this was serious business. The life of a million and half Gambians was riding on this singular moment of political jujitsu, or better still, straight talk. The entire world was holding its breath and waiting. Liberia’s President, Chairperson of ECOWAS, Ellen Johnson Sirleef was on a mission. The Gambia, where the wheels had fallen off the wagon, was teetering on the edge of political and constitutional crisis that could again plunge ECOWAS into a familiar strain of score settling; mass civil unrest. The visit to Banjul, of three additional ECOWAS presidents; Nigeria’s Mohammed Buhari, Sierra Leone’s Ernest Koroma, and Ghana’s John Mahama, echo the ghosts of Burkina Faso, where similar dislodging of an anachronistic regime cast a dark and dangerous shadow that threatened to destabilize the country. In leading a mediation delegation of ECOWAS presidents to knock sense into Yahya Jammeh’s skull, and avert dragging the Gambia deeper into political turmoil, Liberia’s President Sirleef demonstrated cognizance of the gravity of her peace brokering assignment. But, Yahya Jammeh is an obfuscating megalomania whose emasculation of the Gambian people over twenty-two years, without suffering any adverse consequence, has turned him into a kind of Teflon Don. However, this time around, the dynamics have changed dramatically, and challenges to the election results are an exercise in futility. And despite the immovable wall of résistance that confronts him, Yahya Jammeh remains defiant in the face of overwhelming empirical, legal and constitutional evidence that contradicts his motives of challenging the election results.
Yahya Jammeh’s intransigence has never been put to the test, but that is about to change. When a full complement of ECOWAS leaders, United Nations Security Council and the EU rendered their verdicts, Yahya Jammeh’s fate was sealed and his foolishness will soon come to its bitter end, without drenching Gambia’s soil in the blood of its citizens. The message from the international community is unambiguous and unequivocal; Yahya Jammeh must concede power to the newly elected president. It is a life-altering decision Yahya Jammeh must soon make. The conditions are non-negotiable. There is no other choice. Yahya Jammeh has to Go. The demise of Gambia’s military regime, under Yahya Jammeh, will effectively end twenty-two years of mass killings, forced disappearances, mass incarceration and the avalanche of exodus to the safety and security of lands, near and distant. But, no sooner had the ECOWAS team of four presidents left the Gambia, than Yahya Jammeh began reiterating his non-compliance to their calls for him to step down. This bluster and stonewalling is the modus operandi he has often used effectively in disarming other protagonists in matters he has interest. The international unanimity in support of the Gambia’s election results is unprecedented, and this is unusual, since typically any country brought before the UN has some renegade supporter in the Security Council. Not Gambia. The Gambian people voted Yahya Jammeh out, ECOWAS wants him gone, and the international community is unanimous in calls for Yahya Jammeh to step down, making this is asymmetric struggle he cannot win. The Gambian people, have, for more than twenty-two years made Yahya Jammeh’s political downfall a centerpiece of their dissenting activities, with so many losing their lives in the process. That rigid anti-authoritarian diaspora position is etched in stone so long as Yahya Jammeh’s bloody rule remains.
Early this week, several things happened, which baffled, but did not surprise Gambians. Yahya Jammeh sought legal advice from a shadowy group that calls itself the African Bar Association. It is a coincidence that such a phony group of charlatans, the African Bar Association, came to Gambia soon after Yahya Jammeh ordered the illegally occupation, by a contingent of the military, of the Independent Electoral Commission, IEC, building; throwing all its employees out, and sending them home without explanation. In another twist, the dubious African Bar Association disseminated fake news on its website, claiming reception by the Africa Bar Association’s Gambia chapter, when, in fact, no such chapter exists in Gambia, This would not be Yahya Jammeh’s first time aligning with dubious, even criminal organizations, which have, over the years, provided Yahya Jammeh numerous fake honors, accolades, titles and song of his name, for large sums of money. Coincidentally, Yahya Jammeh latest epic blusterous rants and his bursts of puerile outrage are not exclusively reserved for ECOWAS, UN, US and the EU. Most recently, the Gambia’s IEC, in particular, its chairman, Alieu Momar Njai, has become a cause celebre of some sorts; an imaginary enemy, new punching bag, a demon and opposition sympathizer. Yahya Jammeh did not stop there; he ordered his soldiers to occupy his IEC offices. But, in what appears as a warning to Yahya Jammeh, Mohammed Buhari, Macky Sall and Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas cemented ECOWAS’s Abuja Resolution on Gambia, in stone. Yahya Jammeh’s tailspin began three weeks ago with the loss of the elections, but he has yet to feel the pangs of pain of the bitter end to his bloody regime. Importantly, his penchant for the dramatics is a consideration in his bluster and hyperbole, insisting still being president. The seriousness of the other protagonists in Yahya Jammeh’s election saga; the UN, US, EU and ECOWAS, cannot be overstated; Yahya Jammeh must Go. And that is final.