Friday, January 20, 2017 10:17 am
Two mavericks keep the entire universe in suspense this week. One is the fumbling President Yahyah Jammeh, who lost election last December 1 and is expected to step down Thursday or Friday latest. Jammeh, however, has said he would not. After an initial acceptance of the election result, he made a volte-face disputing the results and insisting he would not step down. He has reportedly filed an objection with the country’s Supreme Court, which has the constitutional responsibility to sit on such matters. The snag, however, is that there is no Supreme Court in place in the real sense of the word. Last year, in one of his numerous fits, Jammeh had virtually disbanded the apex court and there is now no Supreme Court with the specified number of justices to form a quorum and sit on Jammeh’s petition. Attempts by him to import judges from other African countries to make up the number have floundered, leaving Jammeh and The Gambia in a quandary.
On the other side of the Atlantic, we have Donald Trump who, on Friday, will take office as the 45th president of the United States of America and draw the curtains on the tenure of first Black Barak Obama. Yahya Jammeh kind of shenanigans may not be allowed in the US. If Obama’s election was epochal, Trump’s is no less. Against popular predictions, Obama managed to notch two terms but was unable to ensure his party, the Democrats, succeeds him. Trump was unusual all the way. His candidature was unusual. His campaign was unusual. His speeches and statements were unusual. His mannerism was unusual. That he won was unexpected. The policies he has said he will implement in office appear unusual. In fact, many of the appointments he has made so far are unusual. Friday will no doubt be nightmarish for those who had hoped that a Trump presidency would be truncated by any means whatsoever. The last straws that such people held on to – the Electoral College and the vote in the Senate – failed woefully to upstage Trump. The street protests that greeted his winning more electoral college votes than her closest rival, Hillary Clinton, were what many had thought would sway Americans to re-consider their choice of Trump, more so when Clinton had won the popular vote. None survived the Donald Trump blitzkrieg.
How will the world react to these two unusual events? In The Gambia, turmoil and disaster may not be far away. Efforts by West African leaders to convince Jammeh to quit after 20 years of autocratic rule have floundered. This Jammeh is not going to go away quietly – and he has the examples of the Late Sergeant Kanyon Doe, Charles Taylor, and Laurent Gbagbo, Blaise Compaore to contend with. Africa is the graveyards of dictators and sit-tight leaders. Already, important figures are running out of The Gambia; Jammeh, who had staged a coup to grab power, is expected to use the military to cower the population and rule by iron fist. He has started the clampdown already. Four opposition radio stations had been shut as at the last count and the military have left no one in doubt that they would enforce Jammeh’s orders. On its last trip to Jammeh, ECOWAS leaders are said to have ferried the president-elect Barrow into safety after failing to convince Jammeh to step down. This is learning from Nigeria’s own example where MKO Abiola, winner of the June 12 1193 presidential election, got himself arrested by vile dictator, Sani Abacha, and died in detention. And that, effectively, was the end of his mandate. If winner of The Gambia election, Adama Barrow, makes a similar mistake and gets killed by Jammeh, that also will be the end of his mandate. Remember Patrice Lumumba in the Congos in the 1960s.
ECOWAS and the African Union have barked but will they bite? If Jammeh makes good his threat to stay put in office beyond the 19th January until his petition to a virtually non-existent Supreme Court is heard and disposed off, the two continental bodies will need more than barks to get Jammeh to climb down from his high horse. Sanctions and threats of isolation may not do the job either. A Jammeh that has taken his country out of the International Criminal Court does not appear as one fearful of isolation. Like our own unfortunate case with Abacha, Jimmeh may be too willing to turn his country into a pariah to remain in charge. Force is the only language that such sick rulers understand. Are the AU and ECOWAS ready for the needful? There are many reasons for one to be doubtful. One: The past experience of the sub-region as it pertains to the civil wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali to mention but a few and the after-effects that remain up to this day do not recommend military action. Two: The global economic recession, which has not spared the countries of the sub-region, indicates clearly that not many of the countries can shoulder the financial responsibility of sending troops into the Gambia to dislodge Jammeh. If, ultimately, they do, it will be a huge sacrifice. Nigeria, which used to be the “policeman” of the sub-region and enforcer of ECOWAS decisions, is in bad financial shape. Finding the means to fund a military operation elsewhere, in addition to its own wars against Boko Haram, resurgent Biafra, and neo-Niger Delta militants, is hard to fathom. Three is the duplicity of many of the leaders of the sub-region, who are only a shade better than Jammeh at the best. Some are even said to have benefitted so much from Jammeh.
What will be Trump’s attitude to Jammeh? Will the in-coming American president simply mind his own business? If push becomes shoving in The Gambia, who will foot the bill as well as provide the military and logistics back-up? Trump or who?
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