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Yahya Jammeh: A Dead African 'Goliath' Resurrected By Adewale Giwa

January 2, 2017

Jammeh, who portrays himself as a devout Muslim, has persistently ignored pleas and advice of the world leaders to vacate the office for Barrow later this month after the expiration of his long tenure.

Idi Amin Dada was the third President of Uganda. He ruled from 1971 to 1979. Amin Dada joined the British colonial regiment in 1946, serving in Kenya and Uganda. Precisely, Amin held the rank of major general in the post-colonial Ugandan Army, and became its commander before seizing power in the military coup of January 1971. He later promoted himself to field marshal while he was the head of state. Idi Amin's years in power were characterized by human rights abuses, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killings, tribalism, corruption, and gross economic mismanagement. The number of people killed as a result of his regime was estimated by international observers and human rights groups as 500,000. Despite advice reportedly given by his mother, who was an herbalist and diviner to temper justice with mercy, Idi Amin did not listen until he finally met his Waterloo with the military help from Libya's Muammar Gaddafi that forced him out of power on 11 April, 1979. On 19 July 2003, one of Amin's wives, Madina, reported that he was in a coma and near death at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from kidney failure. None of Amin's family members came to his aid until the former ruler died on 16 August 2003.

Like Idi Amin, Muammar Gaddafi ruled Libya for 40 years before he was overthrown in 2011. He led a group within the military called the 'Revolutionary Cell' in 1969 and seized power from the absolute monarchy of King Idris in a bloodless coup. Gaddafi became Chairman of the governing Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which he later abolished, ruling by decree. He implemented measures to remove what he viewed as foreign imperialist influence from Libya, and strengthened ties to Arab nationalist governments, particularly Gamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt. He was intent on pushing Libya towards "Islamic socialism," introducing Sharia as the basis for the legal system and nationalizing the oil industry, using the increased revenues to bolster the military, implement social programs, and fund revolutionary militants across the world. In 1973, he initiated a "Popular Revolution" with the formation of General People's Committees (GPCs), purported to be a system of direct democracy, but retained personal control over major decisions. He outlined his Third International Theory that year, publishing these ideas in The Green Book. Accused of supporting terrorism in the last decade of his rule during the "Arab Spring" of 2011, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) intervened militarily on the side of the National Transitional Council (NTC), bringing about the government's downfall. Retreating to Sirte, Gaddafi was captured and killed by NTC militants.

These two former African leaders, in addition to Samuel Kanyon Doe of Liberia, have become the major points of reference in the political history of Africa and the world at large. They ruled as if death never existed. The fact is that they would have perhaps done well if they had thought, "We brought nothing into this world and it is certain we go with nothing." Let me stop talking about the dead souls, but now on the living. One may have thought that the embattled president of the Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, must have learnt a number of lessons from the past African 'Goliaths' and quickly stooped to conquer. Rather, Jammeh's body language to the world is calling for war before he vacating the office of the president, which he has ruled for 22 uninterrupted years. What could have made a person who has been in office for this long period still want to be in control of governance? A dog destined to be lost does not hear the hunter's whistle, they say. It is glaring that President Jammeh is getting lost completely for his continued refusal to hand over power to the president-elect, Adama Barrow.

On 22 July 1994, Lt. Jammeh, with a group of young officers in the Gambian National Army, seized power from President Sir Dawda Jawara in a military coup by taking control of key facilities in the capital city, Banjul. Jammeh, a 29- year-old officer who was the Chairman of the Army group, accused his predecessor Jawara of corruption and hostility to democracy. Nobody could have ever believed Jammeh would follow the suit of his predecessor as he vehemently turned himself into 'tin gods' after taking over power. No wonder Thomas S. Monson, an American religious leader and author, says "The power to lead is the power to mislead, and the power to mislead is the power to destroy."

Having clearly lost the last presidential election to his main challenger, Adama Barrow, Jammeh still wants to be relevant in the political scheme of the Gambia.

Jammeh, who portrays himself as a devout Muslim, has persistently ignored pleas and advice of the world leaders to vacate the office for Barrow later this month after the expiration of his long tenure. Regional West African leaders have issued a joint statement urging the outgoing Gambian president to quit office. The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued its call in a statement at the end of a summit in Nigeria. The leaders vowed “to take all necessary action to enforce the results” of the Dec. 1 poll, without spelling out what the measures would be. The summit in Abuja was attended by 11 heads of state but without the leaders of four members, including the Gambia.

In the same vein, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the world body’s Security Council have also appealed to Jammeh to pave the way for a peaceful transfer of power to his challenger. Specifically, Ki-moon said all efforts to reach the embattled president was not successful as he did not respond to calls neither text messages. A statement handed over to journalists in New York last week by Ki-moon’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said the UN backed the decision of ECOWAS on Dec. 17, to support the safety of the president-elect.

Ban Ki-moon, who also implored the president-elect Adama Barrow to always embrace peace, said, "I have not been able to talk to President Jammeh despite efforts to reach him by phone, this is frustrating and uncalled for. I congratulate the president-elect, Barrow, on his electoral victory and do urge him to embrace peace. My advice to Mr. Barrow is to appeal to his supporters to show restraint and not resort to violence.”

The secretary-general, however, reiterated that the UN would support the will of the people of electing Barrow as well as the future government in efforts to promote democracy and sustainable development of the country.

Official election results from the electoral commission gave Barrow, a property developer who once worked as a security guard at retailer Argos in London, 45.5% of the vote against Jammeh’s 36.7%. Jammeh, who has ruled the small African country for more than two decades, initially accepted defeat in a surprise announcement, which he later withdrew. No matter how powerful and influential a person you may be, mother's advice should not be neglected. A young man that fails to yield to the advice of an elder gets himself blamed at last. Mrs. Asombi Bojang, mother of Yaya Jammeh, has also failed to convince her suicidal son to step down from the presidency to make way for the newly elected President of the Republic, Barrow.

She reportedly told her son to stop dishing out huge sums of money to sycophants who are only interested in misleading him. Jammeh's mother told him that his time was up and should accept the will of the Gambian people who have selected Adama Barrow as their new leader. Jammeh's mother was accompanied to State House by a delegation comprising of family members and close relatives of the Gambian dictator who suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of a real estate developer and a relative newcomer to presidential politics. Despite this, President Jammeh has gone to the Supreme Court to seek for the nullification of the election results.

Analysts and international groups have said his move could have dangerous effects on Gambia if a solution is not reached soon. Jammeh, while speaking in a video recording interview shared on the internet, said,” I fear Only Allah, the rest people threatening me can ‘go to hell’. Look at what is going on in Egypt and other countries. So, nobody can control me. I will protect the will of the Gambian people. How long you stay in power does not determine your fate, it is what you do that determines your fate. If I have to rule this country for one billion years I will do so if Allah says so. I will not bow down before any human being. I fear only Allah and God will judge me tomorrow. I leave those saying I have violated human rights to Allah. Nothing will change and nothing has changed.”

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari has sent a high powered delegation, called Mediation Support Team (MST) to the Gambia to meet with stakeholders to ensure that a successful transition of power on January 19, 2017. The development was in the discharge of Buhari's mandate as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mediator for the Gambia.


The Gambia