Yahya Jammeh must go now!
Democratically rejected by his compatriots, President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, like the proverbial foolish dog destined to be lost for good, still refuses to be deterred from his determination to challenge and possibly reverse the outcome of the December 1, 2016 election. This is sad and unacceptable!
Having lost to Adama Barrow, the consensus candidate of United Democratic Party, a coalition of opposition parties, Jammeh has no other option than to respect the will of the people and vacate office.
Interestingly, his party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) has filed a petition at the Supreme Court where only the country’s chief justice, Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle, from Nigeria, is available, the outgoing president having hounded other jurists out of office, into hiding or exile.
Besides the fact that his spurious petition arrived too late behind the10-day time limit allowed for such election complaint and there is simply no court to hear the already late case, Jammeh’s plan to prevent a change of leadership in his country by using the very court that he once treated shabbily and ignored for long cannot but fail.
Smarting from Supreme Court decisions that went against his government, he sacked some judges, jailed one and has refused for over a year to appoint judges to fill the four vacancies to properly and legally constitute the apex court. Effort to get judges from Nigeria and Sierra Leone at short notice is not likely, at least in respect of Nigeria, to succeed firstly because of the work load of the judges and secondly because of the timing of the request. Mr. Jammeh’s scheming is simply odious and must not be allowed to succeed.
The group of mediators comprising West African leaders, namely Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and former Ghanaian President John Mahama have for weeks sought to persuade Jammeh to take an honourable exit but without success. Jammeh keeps blowing hot and, asserting his megalomaniacal instincts under the pretext of defending the sovereignty of The Gambia, says ‘I will not be intimidated by any power in this world,’ claiming that all he wants is ‘to make sure justice is done.’ In veiled reference to a possible military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, to enforce the electoral wish of the people of The Gambia, the 52 year-old former lieutenant asserted: ‘I am a man of peace but will defend my country…courageously, patriotically, and win.’
On this, he has reportedly been promised ‘unflinching loyalty and support of The Gambian Armed Forces’ through the head of the army, Ousman Badjie. On the other hand, however, many high ranking public officials in his government have opted out of his dangerous game. Minister of Information Sheriff Bojang considered the intransigence of his principal an attempt to subvert the expressed will of the electorate. ‘The Gambia has decided and we must accept and respect this decision,’ he said, and abandoned Jammeh’s ship. Alieu Monar Njai, chairman of The Gambia Electoral Commission, who presided over the election that Jammeh lost has left the country because of fear for his safety.
If in truth the only reason for Mr. Jammeh’s volte face, after accepting the outcome of the election and even congratulating the winner, is to make sure that justice is done, this defeated president should know that there is no justice higher than the will of the people exercised in a free and fair election that rejected him and opted for a new leader, a new political party, in sum, a new beginning for the country after 22 years of authoritarian rule. That is the highest form of justice in any system of government! If, in truth, Jammeh is a man of peace, he will do nothing to disturb the peace of The Gambia as he appears determined to do by clinging to power.
Justice demands that he does everything within his human and presidential powers to facilitate a smooth change of baton so that The Gambians can get on with their lives. And if in truth his desire is to defend his country ‘courageously, patriotically, and win,’ there can be no better way to demonstrate this than to allow the result of the December 1, 2016 election to stand. That is what defines the courage and the patriotism of a leader and a winner.
Jammeh’s current behaviour is a tragedy for him and an embarrassment for Africa. He should not be allowed to give Africa a bad name in leadership and governance any further. The road taken, or not taken, by this dictator will, in many ways, define The Gambia, the West African sub-region, and Africa as a whole. He, therefore, has the choice of a soft-landing that may include a peaceful retirement for him and excuse from an otherwise assured disgraceful trial at home or elsewhere for his sins in office.
Of course, Jammeh’s current disposition appears to call for military action to force him out but this will cost avoidable human casualties as well as scarce financial resources that the participating countries can ill afford. He has already demonstrated to the world, again, that some African leaders are still incapable of true leadership and the self-discipline it demands.
Jammeh has only one sane and safe course of action to take in the next few days: respect the will of The Gambians, ensure a peaceful transfer of power to their popularly elected president and go in peace.