Jammeh must be stopped for Africa’s sake

THE Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh has no-one but himself to blame for his troubles, and he should spare his people and the African continent the headache by stepping down and allowing the winner of the December 1, 2016, presidential elections to assume office. That’s the least we can advise.

The people of the Gambia made a choice, not without his knowledge, but with his active participation.

Let’s place this whole Gambian transitional drama in its proper perspective. Jammeh has been in power for 22 years. Last year, he followed the national constitution and allowed the electoral process to proceed to an election. When the results were first announced, he conceded defeat to his rival and eventual winner of the election, president-elect Adama Barrow. Later on, for reasons not yet made known to the public, he made a sudden change of mind, challenging the electoral outcome.

He has suggested that the results could have been tampered with and wants the courts to come to his rescue. While clutching to that straw, he wants to remain president of the country while the real victor stands by the gate.

Jammeh has gone so far as to threaten war.

That threat cannot be allowed to stand in the way of justice if Africa wants to be taken seriously. The regional grouping, Ecowas, is taking a keen interest in what is going on. The region is itself a hotspot for military coups. But more than that, the regional powerhouse, Nigeria, is plagued by the scourge of a relentless insurgency called Boko Haram whose incursions have killed thousands of innocent people. There is apparently no end in sight to this senseless bloodletting.

We want to suspect that it is because of such preoccupations by the Nigerian leadership that people like Jammeh can threaten an all-out war against Ecowas members. It is incomprehensible just what feeds such recklessness beside delusional megalomania on the part of Jammeh.

Here is a man who in the past has stood his ground in defence of his country’s national resources now threatening his own legacy through war. We want to believe soon enough common-sense, though not so common in politics, will be allowed to prevail.

But then that is to be charitable. The Economic Community of West African States is taking the political impasse in the Gambia seriously. Defence chiefs in the region are seized with the matter, the political leaders even more so.

At the recent France-Africa Summit in Mali, the Gambia loomed large as an agenda item. It was evident that leaders did not want another flare up of violence in a perennially volatile region. French president Francois Hollande, whose country has a strong military presence in the region and Mali in particular, met Barrow in a show of solidarity.

He stressed the need for peace in the region, and expressed his hope that the African Union would play a central role in ensuring that normalcy is restored in the Gambia.

The continental body, together with the United Nations, has indicated the possibility of deploying the military if the crisis in the Gambia persists, with the likelihood of getting out of hand.

Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita appealed to Jammeh to spare his people unnecessary bloodshed by vacating office to allow the election winner to lead the country.

These were his words, which we believe make sense, and are an appeal rather than a threat: “On January 19 (when Barrow should be sworn in) I dare to hope that African wisdom will convince our brother (Jammeh) that the good Muslim that he claims to be understands the greater good for the Gambia, which does not need a bloodbath.”

Indeed, Jammeh should read that sentiment as coming from Africa and beyond. It is within his power to end peacefully the current man-made crisis in the Gambia.

January 2017
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