Former Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh’s end of rule as head of state came in a controversial way, as his determination to cling on to power after he lost the last December elections had caused anxiety among citizens of the smallest nation in West African.
Jammeh, who came to power in a coup in 1994 and has won a series elections since, shocked the world by conceding defeat to Adama Barrow, a coalition-led candidate, who was declared winner on December 2 by the country’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). In a televised ad- dress, Jammeh described the vote as “transparent” and “rig-proof,” pledging to work with Barrow to ensure a smooth transition. This was welcomed by the entire nation. But two weeks later, he rejected the outcome, saying it was not fair and that it was dictated by “foreign interference.”
His reversal had brought about fear and confusion among citizens of the country that have never experienced instability in the country dubbed “The Smiling Coast of Afri- ca”. As a result, the United Nations, African Union and ECOWAS had convened to discuss ways and means to bring a solution to the political impasse, which was inserted by Jammeh, who ruled the country for 22 years as an autocrat.
The UN, AUnion, and ECOWAS all made it clear that they would no longer recognise Jammeh after his mandate expired on Jan. 19. A series of high-profile delegations, including the presidents of Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Mauritania, visited Banjul to mediate a solution to the crisis. At the same time, ECOWAS indicated that it would remove Jammeh by force if necessary. It mobilised a standby force of 7,000 troops from Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, and Niger, among other nations, and moved air and naval assets into neighboring Senegal.
Jammeh and his APRC party lat- er filed a petition to the Gambia Supreme Court but the apex court could not for a quorum since there weren’t enough judges to sit over the case, because he sacked most of them in 2015. After the court failed to proceed, he declared a 90-day state of emergency that conveniently required him to remain in power. He was later abandoned by most of his close aides including Ministers who resigned and fled the country.
Among these was his Vice President, Isatou Njie Saidy who was the last to resign before Jammeh dissolved the entire cabinet at his final day in office. The dragging of the court coupled with the determination of ECOWAS to use force to oust him on January 19 when his mandate ended and install Barrow had led to a mass ex- odus within and out of the country. Fearing unrest, at least 46,000 people most of them women and children fled to Senegal and Guinea, according to the U.N. refugee agency.
As Jammeh proved to be a hard nut to crack after all diplomatic talks initiated by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, and Ex- President John Dramani Mahama seemed to have failed, Barrow on January 19 took the oath of oﬃce from the safety of the Gambian Embassy in Senegal; ECOWAS and the AU immediately recognised him as Gambia’s legitimate head of state, and had him order the invasion of the ECOWAS force. Jammeh who was abandoned by his close aides and ministers called on Alpha Condeh, President of Guinea Conakry and Abdul Aziz of Mauritania to help in last ditch negotiations to facilitate a his exile.
After a daylong talk, he later accepted to step down before he left the country on January 20 with Alpha Conde to Guinea Conakry with some of his close military aides, who are accused of doing the dirty job for him, before moving to Malabo Equatorial Guinea, where he is given a political asylum.
For Halifa Sallah, the spokesperson of the Coalition incoming administration, Jammeh was going down, internally and externally. “The use of force was very clear. ECOWAS was around the border. The fact that he would be alone, he would have fallen like a house of cards,” he added.
The beginning of the End
The imminent fall of Jammeh’s government started in April 2015 when he arrested 19 prominent politicians, including Ousainou Darboe, the lead- er of the UDP which was the main opposition party, for kicking against the electoral laws imposed by the APRC administrative.
As a result, two party members Solo Sendeng, and Solo Kuruma lost their lives in the process due to tortures they faced in the hands of the state security agents. Many human rights organisations wrote to condemn the arrest of opposition members demanding their release, and urged the government to investigate the deaths. Jammeh seemed to care less by going ahead to send the 19 arrested members to three-year jail terms, with a promise of never forgiving them as they intended to destabilise the country. Since then he started losing public support from Gambians both in and out of the country.
Being among the self- acclaimed strongest men in West Africa, Jammeh ruled the Gambia for 22 years but many seem not to appreciate his legacy due to poor human rights re- cords. Alagie Jinkang, PhD Candidate, the University of Palermo told CherryAfrica: “Jammeh has been a public enemy – a traitor and hypocrite. He left The Gambia in more distress than he found it. He has left us in a state of wilderness most importantly from the social and economic life. We have broken infrastructure and fragile social bonds.”
“It was very clear that Gambians have had enough suﬀering from the point of human rights to their living standards. They wanted change and voted him out democratically they could not have done better.”
Asked if Yahya registered any development during his tenure, he said development is a complicated term/ ideology. “I think he was a propagandist who used slogans to win public opinion to legislate his wishes on the people. He talked about quality education, health, agriculture but none of these areas have taken any significant change. People have growing hunger, poor education and bad sanitary system. Corruption became rampant and institutionalized, prices skyrocketed and the poor majority still bear those scars,” he added. Asked if he will be missed, he said: “personally, I wouldn’t miss him and I think this is a shared truth, even progressive supporters of APRC will not miss him.”
Sainey Darboe, Former Standard newspaper editor in The Gambia and blogger currently in US said Jammeh lost the polls due to the deterioration of the national economy which caused a mass exodus of youths to Europe through the backway.
“He also managed to annihilate a key constituent of the electorate who are the ‘Mandinkas’ through a sustained rant in a rally. This eﬀectively fixed the ultimate nail to his political coﬃn. Though, he revolutionized education in The Gambia through setting up university, he will be missed for his antics,” he stated.
After being sworn in by Abdul Aziz Bensouda, the secretary-general of the Gambia Bar Association in the Gambian Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, President Adama Barrow became the third President of the Gambia and the first to take government through the ballot box since independence in 1965.
In his swearing statement, he said he would be a president for all, both those who voted for him and those who did not. But analysts said he has a lot of work to do, as Jammeh left the country in a bad shape. The human rights are not at its best, the military is divided and the economy is on its knees. The outlook is however promising since he is a president voted by the people and has the backing of the international community such as ECOWAS, AU, EU and UN.
Since he was declared winner, Barrow wasn’t provided with a security by the government due to Jammeh’s influence, which resulted in his mistrust in both the former president and the military.
As a result, he requested from ECOWAS to allow their forces to the country for his safety for a period of time. The ECOWAS has since then sent its military forces to ensure the smooth transition for Bar- row. According to ECOWAS Commission chairman Marcel Alain De Souza, there are secret weapons depots and we have consequently included the search for such weapons to ECOWAS mission. “That’s why ECOWAS forces will secure the Gambian capital and the Gambian territory for the nec- essary time. We will look for hidden weapons and mercenaries will be whisked away to create a true situation of tranquility, to secure the return of populations who fear reprisals and to ensure that the country regain its national unity,” he said.
Demonstrating his willingness to work with the Barrow administrative, Yankuba Colley, Mayor of Kanifing and APRC national mobiliser said: “I have to admit that we are still feeling the sadness of losing the election but whether we like it or not President Barrow is the head of state of this great nation.
“I personally recognize him as the legitimate president, as you can see I have pulled down Jammeh’s picture in my oﬃce and will replace it with President Barrow’s picture very soon.”
He also said that the APRC party is, “Still very much active and will soon unveil its new party leader,” who will certainly not be him. He is confident the Green party will bounce back in grand style on the coming parliamentary elections.
Speaking to journalists this week, President Barrow assured the nation that he will restore good governance, rule of law, free media and above all build a strong democratic Gambia.