Recent happenings in The Gambia are intriguing. Blotted by the 1994 coup by the beleaguered President Yahya Jammeh, the country had enjoyed relative peace. It is not clear whether the tranquil in the Gambia was as result of authoritarian rule but it had been very impressive until the recent political stalemate. The Gambia is threatened to go the way of some countries where similar situations had sparked civil wars and social disorganization. The world, including the diehard cynics, applauded President Yahya Jammeh for his swift response, initially conceding defeat to Adama Barrow in the last December Presidential election. As all waited with baited breathe to see a smooth transition, President Jammeh made a U-turn and refused to abide by the election results, alleging fraud. Following the sharp twist in events, the Gambia has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Issues like Jammeh being the only surviving coup-maker still in power, his tainted human-rights record and his idiosyncratic nature, as some would call it, have all thrust to the fore.
But Yahya Jammeh has raised some issues too. He says he realised later that certain improprieties affected the election results, requiring the judiciary to settle the dispute. The Gambia itself has not got a standing supreme court and so as invites are extended to some countries to appoint judges, to hear the matter, the supposed winner of the elections Adama Barrow, was sworn-in January 19 in neighbouring Senegal.
Meanwhile, the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, has mobilised a military force, which the world is made to understand that the force is on the verge of intervening in the Gambia, which lacks the muscle to contend on that front. It is interesting, Yahya Jammeh had been given up until 12noon January 20, to step down or be forced out. At this point, the stand-off becomes murkier as matters are coming to a head and the ignominious prospect of bloodshed seemingly likely. Yahya Jammeh, we are told is undergoing the diplomatic brush, with regional leaders talking to him to stand down. Situations like what The Gambia is going through have happened before and so the permutations are not far- fetched. It could either end in the arrest of Yahya Jammeh, possibly to be handed over to the International Criminal Court (I.C.C) for prosecution. Since nearly half of the voting population voted for Yahya Jammeh, it is not out of place to assume the nation is split down the middle and that, not all the Gambian people support the international maneuvering against their country. Another flash point which could lead to war, now or later.
The third scenario reminds one of Gaddafi's Libya where fellow leaders tried to talk him out of the conflict brought about by the Arab spring, which Gaddafi refused. In the end, he died in the bloodbath. With the United Nations Security Council, weighing strongly into the Gambian affair, one may like to know whether its position is informed by dynamics such as a call to war by the Gambian people, pre-emptive measures against a threat to war or an international law that overrides the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs and sovereignty of member states? Within the gamut of events in the Gambia today, at this point, one would choose dialogue as the only way to avoid a blood-spill while a country of political asylum for the ousted leader is arranged. The audacious move by ECOWAS to try to ensure democracy takes hold in a member state is commendable. One would expect the regional block to exert pressure on even scale when similar issues that involve the regional power brokers, erupt.
The Gambian situation and the recent war in Côte d’Ivoire are hypothetical, yet in the case of Côte d’Ivoire, when former President Gbagbo refused to relinquish power after he lost an election, ECOWAS failed to act.
BY NAPOLEON ATO KITTOE, JOURNALIST.