Banjul Gambia – The West African nation of Gambia prepares for a potential outbreak in violence as its current leader of 22 years who ruled with an iron fist, President Yahya Jammeh sent the African country into a tailspin this week after changing his mind to step down as Gambia’s ruling president after losing the elections in December to the now Gambian president-elect, Adama Barrow. President Jammeh surprised the country of Gambia and the international community by initially accepting his loss and conceding the election within days of his opponent Adama Barrow’s December 1st landslide electoral victory.
That concession and victory was cut short as Jammeh made another surprise announcement this Tuesday that he will not be leaving the office of the president and declaring a state of emergency in Gambia blaming the international community for tampering with Gambia’s elections, stating that “the unprecedented and extraordinary amount of foreign interference” and the reason why he he lost the election. Jammeh’s state of emergency puts the entire country on lock-down banning any and all actions by Gambians Jammeh and his security forces deem a ‘disturbance.’ In response to Jammeh’s defiance, Nigeria quickly dispatched one of its warships of the coast of Gambia then called for an emergency meeting with neighboring Senegal and other West African countries to begin rapidly deploying a ‘joint force’ to intervene in Gambia militarily if President Jammeh doe not step down on Thursday and allow president elect Adama Barrow to take office. A Nigerian military spokesperson told Reuters that “A decision has been taken that he will not remain president of Gambia at the expiration of his tenure.” The source continued by stating that “Some West African countries will contribute troops, including Nigeria, for the operation.”
As of today hundreds of Senegalese troops have been seen massing and heading towards the Gambian border with residents along the Gambian/Senegalese beginning to report seeing large troop movements headed to the border. The presence of Senegalese troops grouping along the border cobbled with a Nigerian warship directly of the coastal Gambian capital city of Banjul are crystal clear indications that the West African coalition is fed up with Jammeh’s 22 years brutal, unpredictable abeit baffling leadership and is quite serious about the removing him from power. Yet, how did Yahya Jammeh clutch to power in Gambia for so long?
Yahya Jammeh came to power as a 29 year-old-soldier who headed the Gambian military coup of 1994 where his bizarre and oppressive behavior became instantly apparent placing the watchful spotlight of the international community directly upon him and Gambia. Jammeh, who’s formal title given by himself is ‘His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Doctor Yahya AJJ Jammeh Babili Mansa.’ has made some grandiose claims during his rule that only add to the “whats wrong with this guy!?” line of thinking the international community, to include the United States, has taken. Some of highlights include being able to cure AIDS and erectile dysfunction with a secret concoction of herbs and bananas. This nabbed him an unconfirmed if not fake “Honorary Degree in Herbal and Homeopathic Medicine” from a university in Belgium. But that’s not all, Jammeh boasts that he has received over 80 foreign degrees and awards. One of my personal favorites comes from Nebraska where Jammeh was awarded Admiralship of the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska.
Jammeh touted this new Admiralship as a great honor from the United States, however Nebraska has no navy. A Nebraska spokesperson for the governors office in an article for Time magazine, clarified that “an ‘admiralship’ in the fictitious ‘Navy’ of Nebraska is meant to be a ceremonial acknowledgment of Nebraskans who have shown outstanding citizenship.” Jammeh has never been a citizen of Nebraska. During his rule, Jammeh isolated Gambia from the international community running the country like a mafia state completely dependent on his totalitarian leadership style. Jammeh cracked down hard on basic rights and freedoms of the citizenry, jailing anyone that opposed his rule. He sponsored a country wide ‘witch-hunt’ where his brutal security forces rounded up close to 1000 people suspected of witchcraft sent them to secret prisons to be tortured. Jammeh stepped up his oppressive rule by outlawing homosexuals and by passing anti-homosexuality laws that come with a minimum of life in prison, or death. In a speech given in May 2015, Jammeh threatened to “slit the throats of gay men,” while the West would do nothing about it saying “If you do it [in the Gambia] I will slit your throat — if you are a man and want to marry another man in this country and we catch you, no one will ever set eyes on you again, and no white person can do anything about it.” The West and Europe however did do something about it and cut $14.5 million in foreign aid the beleaguered country.
Scores of Gambians have fled the dire conditions in favor of seeking refuge in Europe due to Jammeh’s iron rule. The European Union has seen a 50% increase of Gambian refugees pouring into Europe adding to the flood of displaced persons from the war-torn parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Europe and the United States have made regime change in Gambia its priority to not only cease human rights abuses that seem to be rampant in the country, but to also quell the influx of refugees into Europe itself. However, now with Nigeria and Senegal demanding a full step-down by Thursday and posturing their forces in position to take military action; the game goes to the critical phase. The Gambian military isn’t set up to defend against these larger, better equipped and better trained forces. As such, analysts have posed that instead of fighting, most Gambian forces may just acquiesce and allow the joint West African forces to simply move on to the capitol. Most of Jammeh’s cabinet have either fled the country or have resigned, and only a small contingent of security forces still remain in Banjul to defend Jammeh and his version rule. The clock has been set and H-Hour strikes at midnight on Thursday, now the nation of Gambia waits with bated breath for either a new president or to watch their country be turned into a war zone.
Feature Image courtesy: AP